This summer, through the LTE Grant, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a permaculture farm in Taiwan and to attend a class on Food Security taught in Mandarin. At the farm, I worked in exchange for a place to stay and food. I lived with fourteen different native Chinese speakers that came from Taiwan, Malaysia, and Hong Kong while learning about permaculture through hands-on experience. In regards to my Chinese level and improvement, this experience allowed me to interact with people who have different accents (not just the “Midwestern accent” equivalent my Chinese professors have), as well as interacting with native speakers from generations ranging from a two year old named Da Ble to elderly women that came to the farm for a class. Not only did my “Life Chinese” and “Agriculture Chinese” skills increase, but my confidence when speaking Chinese increased as well. Even more important, I made close relationships with actual native speakers of different backgrounds.
Along with learning Chinese through a hands-on avenue, I also had the chance to combine Chinese and career goals together for the first time. At the farm, I learned about actual ways people are pursuing sustainability and are teaching others about it as well. Also, the food security class showed me how governments and food companies view food, and view food security, which was nothing of what I thought it would be. Now I have more of a grasp of how to combine Chinese and my career interests closer together. Even though, I have to apply for nationally competitive scholarships already, this experience has brought forth the opportunity to apply for ones I never thought I could apply for, like the Udall.
The experience the LTE grant gave me has been a pivotal moment in my life thus far, and I would encourage anyone who wants a unique experience that suits their aspirations and goals to definitely pursue and to apply for the LTE Grant for it.