“I think travelling abroad and immersing yourself in other cultures is quintessential to develop into a better, [and a] more understanding person.”
A Living Classroom Overview
In this year’s summer Global Seminar, UBC Chinese Language Program offered students to learn Chinese in a living classroom in Taiwan. An overseas language course that involves learning not only the language but also the culture, both spoken and unspoken, of the people who speak that language daily and the ways they live and think. This is a six-week intensive Chinese language course designed to help students develop and apply their Chinese language skills while being immersed in the unique environment of Taiwan and interacting with local people.
Through this study-abroad language course at the intermediate level, students learned practical knowledge and topics regarding their daily life. This allowed them to apply acquired knowledge in their stay in Taiwan as well as benefiting them in their future travels and living experiences in Chinese-speaking societies and communities. The course was brought together by Professor Hsiang-Ning Sunnie Wang, along with An-yi Lee and Li-Jung Lee.
Learning in the Living Classroom
“I felt the design of the course was unique and perfectly designed for this program in Taiwan. The small class was effective simply because [it] allowed us as students to not only interact more personally with our classmates, but as well our teachers. These classes allowed us to learn Chinese in a comfortable environment that felt organically made by the joyful atmosphere the class and teachers strived for.”
The classroom component of the six-week intensive Chinese language course of CHIN 234 covers both materials of CHIN 231 and CHIN 233. Through interactive exercises and contextualized activities inside and outside of the classroom setting, students develop language proficiency, accuracy, and build up problem-solving abilities in real-life situations.
Students mentioned that they were able to immerse themselves in a foreign place and continually practice the language in daily life with locals, as well as putting their skills and knowledge learned into practical application. Students believed that their experience surpassed all expectations as there was a lot of knowledge that cannot be found inside a textbook or learned in a classroom setting.
At the end of the program, students worked on an ethnography-based vlog project — 14 Ways on Understanding Taiwan. In this final project, students had to observe and document a particular societal or cultural topic that interests them the most during their stay. Throughout the program, students are required to complete weekly vlogs and self-reflection, and also a final presentation based on their chosen topic. The main objectives of the project were to encourage them to apply their language and analytical skills to understand Taiwanese culture and the people living in that community, as well as to reflect on their perspectives and identities.
The students’ works aimed to explore the following 4 major themes:
For their projects, students learned to step out of their comfort zone and reached out to various local communities using Chinese. One of the student groups, Phoebe Autio (小月) and Liam Annis (安谅), explored the differences between North American and Taiwanese health and medicinal practices for their final project. They joined local seniors at the park and chatted with them to gain insights into their daily health routines, and experienced local medical treatment in a local osteopath’s clinic. Another student, Sabrina Dang (汤雅文), explored Taiwan’s youth subcultures for her final project. She attended a local street dance competition and visited various fashion stores to uncover how people her age express their individuality.
Students felt that the final project lets them communicate using Chinese in an authentic environment, and it was an effective way of improving their language in a short time frame.
Click 14 Ways of Understanding Taiwan “14种台湾” to check out more about our students’ amazing projects!
As the old Chinese saying says, “Traveling ten thousand miles is better than reading ten thousand books,” apart from learning inside classrooms, students also ventured outside of the class to places such as local restaurants and streets.
Co-curricular activities were structured that students could immediately apply learned content from the classroom into practical situations in real life. Through these educational field trips, students were greatly encouraged to immerse themselves in the local society deeply.
Let’s take a look at some of the activity highlights captured!
Students explored around Taipei CIty’s oldest city to learn about its historical development, as well as to understand the importance of Chinese medicine culture and temple culture towards the local community.
Through picking tea-leaves in the fields, learning tea brewing techniques, and tasting tea, students gained a more in-depth understanding of Taiwanese tea culture.
Green onions are an essential ingredient, especially in Chinese cuisine. Students were also taken to a farmhouse in Yilan where they experienced to make scallion pancakes, which deepened their knowledge on local food culture and local farmers’ life.
On the week that students learnt the topic of sports, they visited the National Taiwan Sport University (NTSU), and experienced Taekwondo and Rope courses. They also interacted with Olympic Gold medalist, Mr. Chu Mu-yen (朱木炎), as he taught them various Taekwondo techniques and sports culture in Taiwan. Furthermore, students practiced team-building skills and being interdependent with one another during the rope course.
Students were challenged to river trekking, where they participated in a physically adventurous journey while practicing Chinese. Through the experience, students were in a collaborative learning environment where they supported one another, practiced team building, and interacted with the local community.
The practicum trip allowed students to utilize knowledge learned and apply them outside of classes while exploring different local areas by themselves. The goal of the trip was to enable students to experience communicating in Chinese with different people, including passers-by, drivers, and respective landlords in an authentic setting.
Each student was filled with unforgettable experiences in Taiwan.
Halfway through the program, we were happy to have Asa Schaeffer’s mother (Lauren Schaeffer) to join us in Taiwan with her son. Mrs. Lauren Schaeffer’s visit was an excellent surprise for all students and instructors! Schaeffer indicated that she was very impressed with the course structure and the teaching style of the program as it allowed students to engage in individual conversations with the teachers which made learning more personalized.
We would love to thank Mrs. Schaeffer for her support, and we were glad that she had a wonderful time with us!
Wrapping up, huge thanks to the Department of Asian Studies and National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) for putting the global seminar together. We would like to thank all the students for their hard work during the program and students’ family members for their support.
Last but not least, congratulations to all students for successfully completing the course with huge pride!