This May, the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation supported the return of the Chinese study abroad immersive language experience with a trip to Taipei, Taiwan, organized by Associate Professor in Languages Dr. Wenjia Liu. Kendra Baldwin ’26, Dani Brumbelow ’25, Trey Hoopchuk ’23, Emma Sampson-Green ’25, Margaret Sampson-Green ’25, Kolya Souvorin ’24, and Dominic Stevens ’24 attended four weeks of Mandarin classes and Taiwanese cultural excursions in a joint program with the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) at the University of Taipei.
As the sole faculty member of the Chinese and Asian Studies department, Dr. Liu knew this study abroad experience would be essential for advancing students’ experiences with the language and build buzz for her department.
“Since our one-person Chinese program only offers Chinese language up to 200 level, this program is an essential opportunity for those who want to advance their Chinese learning beyond that,” she said. “Research shows that Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn for English speakers, so learning it in an immersive environment is more crucial to gain proficiency.”
The students’ mornings consisted of Mandarin classes followed by cultural courses in the afternoon, such as calligraphy and painting lessons; exploring Jiufen Old Street to study lantern culture; visits to the National Palace Museum; and day trips to historic and natural sites like the Old Caoling Tunnel and Fulong Beach.
“My favorite moments were the planned excursions such as biking along the coast or going to night markets together and looking at all the shops and food stalls,” Murphy Scholar Kendra Baldwin ’26 said. “At the same time, I loved the last-minute plans we made as a group after class. The improvisation and exploration helped me find things I enjoyed just as much as the popular ‘must-see' sites.”
Similarly, Murphy Scholar Dani Brumbelow ’25 had some of her favorite experiences beyond the classroom like in mountain top town of Maokong. “It is hidden in the thick forest atop a mountain,” Brumbelow said. “One of the only ways to reach it is through the gondola systems. We ascended and I could see the beautiful countryside with farms along with the busy city.”
“Interacting with and immersing in an Eastern culture teaches students a completely different perspective on the language,” Dr. Liu noted. “It is the cultural shock, resulting from the huge differences between the east and the west, that will help students grow into more mature and more thoughtful speakers and people.”
“It is very empowering to take what I have learned in the classroom and apply it in real-world situations. Through this experience, I gained confidence in my speaking capabilities. I hope to continue learning Mandarin for the rest of my life,” said Brumbelow.
Photos provided by Kendra Baldwin and Dani Brumbelow.