Tam Hong Nguyen ’19 talks to us about doing a Language Immersion in Taiwan.
Q: Why did you choose Taiwan and Mandarin?
A: I was studying Mandarin in China when I was 12, but I was only studying it for practical purposes—like talking with friends or buying groceries. I could not write or read. I always longed to have a better foundation for the language. When I was in my 2nd year at Quest, a friend told me she went to Taiwan for three months and had a great time there. I knew I wanted to do it! I applied for a scholarship to study Mandarin in Taiwan for six months, and I got accepted.
Q: What challenges did you encounter?
So, I’ve shared that I went to China when I was a child. After coming back to my home country of Vietnam when I was 14, I forgot all my Mandarin! Returning as a college student, it was difficult even to order food and communicate with people. It took me a while to adapt to this new environment. I could not understand difficult topics and that’s one major weakness of mine. When I went to social events, it was difficult to even understand the texts or the posters. I think I missed a lot of interesting stuff.
Q: Was it exciting to live in Taiwan for a while?
It was exciting because I could experience another culture. I met a lot of new friends and joined the university’s table tennis club. I went to some championships and met a lot more people. It was super fun and memorable.
A: What was the biggest insight you got from your time there?
I realized it’s important to learn, but also not forget to meet and talk with people outside the university. I went to a lot of meet-ups during the time I was in Taiwan and it taught me a perspective I could not have learned in schools.
Q: Was there a specific moment that was especially important to you? Like a major lesson, or something interesting, either academic or non-academic?
I realized how important learning Mandarin is in these coming decades. People from all over the world are paying attention to China and Taiwan, and want to make good connections with these places. So it is definitely a good investment.
I also learned the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in that environment. You have a chance to learn so much about its culture when you study the language in that country.
Q: How do you think your Language Immersion will help you with career plans or further education?
This Language Immersion was during my gap year, so I had the time to think about my future directions. It helped me tremendously. Taiwan was also a great country, in which I feel a very strong sense of belonging. If given a chance, I will choose to live there.