29 CLS Program Recipients Take Mandarin Courses at NCKU to Enhance Proficiency and Explore Taiwanese Culture

Written by Lin Yun-Mao. Image credit to NCKU News Center
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program, supported by the U.S. State Department (DOS), is designed to cultivate proficiency in critical languages and foster cross-cultural talents. This summer, as a partner in the program, NCKU is hosting 29 students for an 8-week intensive Mandarin course, complemented by various cultural activities. The scholarship recipients this year hail from 29 universities across 18 states in the U.S., including prestigious institutions such as Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University. The opening ceremony for the program took place on June 24th. The participants experienced a mix of excitement and nerves, but they also anticipated significant improvement in their Mandarin proficiency and a deeper understanding of Taiwanese culture, hoping this will lead to a brighter future.
Sun-Yuan Hsieh, Vice President of the Office of International Affairs, encouraged the CLS awardees to immerse themselves in Taiwanese history and culture during their stay at NCKU.
Many distinguished guests graced the opening ceremony, including Jonathan Hwang, the Political Section Chief for the AIT Kaohsiung Branch ; Patrick Ho] , the Assistant Director General of the MOFA Department of North American Affairs ; Katie Plank , the representative from the American Councils for International Education; Sun-Yuan Hsieh, Vice President of the Office of International Affairs; Shin-Mei Kao, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts ; Chia-Huang Chen, Vice Dean of the College of Liberal Arts ; Hsing-Chuan Tsai, Department Head of the Department of History ; and Mei-Ying Wu, Director of the Chinese Language Center . Additionally, over 30 host families attended the event. Vice President Hsieh welcomed the 29 students, encouraging them to explore Taiwan's rich historical and cultural heritage during their stay, and wished them success in their studies as well as in forging lasting friendships.
The CLS recipients look forward to this intensive 8-week Mandarin Chinese program.
Zachary Pracher, a biology graduate student from Duke University, spoke on behalf of the CLS participants in the opening ceremony. In his speech, he shared that one of his motivations for learning Mandarin was the significant number of Chinese colleagues in his research lab. Because research required everyone's cooperation and effort, he hoped that this 8-week program will greatly enhance his Mandarin proficiency, enabling him to engage more effectively in international research collaborations and develop greater empathy. He was also eager to understand the concerns and challenges faced by Taiwanese people during his stay.
Since 2016, NCKU has partnered with the DOS for the CLS Program. This enduring partnership has now entered its 9th year in 2024. The CLS students are required to complete the equivalent of a full year of Chinese courses offered at American universities within an intensive eight-week period. They will also immerse themselves in Taiwanese culture through interactions with host families and one-on-one language partners, as well as through participation in cultural courses and excursions. Upon completing the program and meeting the post-program requirements , participants can receive 2 units of undergraduate academic credit from Bryn Mawr College.
Lindsey McKhann, a student at Stanford University majoring in International Relations and National Security Studies, shared that her mother is Chinese Singaporean and her father is American. Although her background has allowed her to speak Chinese with her mother from a young age, she is still eager to further enhance her Mandarin skills. Learning Chinese in Taiwan brings a mix of anticipation and nervousness for her. On one hand, she is focusing her university studies on Asia, and being in Taiwan offers her a valuable opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of regional geopolitics. On the other hand, it is her first time being fully immersed in a Mandarin-speaking environment, which makes her a bit nervous.
Xavier Davenport, a student from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, shared that he has been studying Mandarin Chinese since high school and has also earned a master's degree from National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University. While is was comfortable with everyday Mandarin conversations, he aims to elevate his Chinese proficiency to a professional level to pursue a teaching career in Taiwan. Thus, he looks forward to the intensive 8-week course with great anticipation.
The students and the distinguished guests took a group photo on the opening ceremony.
The CLS Program is a U.S. government-funded scholarship supported by the DOS, and partners with universities and nonprofits around the globe to provide summer courses of 13 critical languages. Since 2016, the NCKU Chinese Language Center has partnered with the CLS Program, offering courses that consistently push students to their learning limits while providing deeply immersive experiences.
The CLS curriculum at NCKU integrates language and cultural learning through various methods, including small group classes, discussion sessions, and one-on-one lessons. The cultural components are designed to emphasize local engagement and community service, facilitated through interactions with host families, partnerships with language partners, and participation in cultural activities and organized excursions. This year, 31 families have been recruited to serve as host families, and 34 NCKU students from diverse fields such as humanities, social sciences, engineering, and medicine have teamed up to serve as one-on-one language partners to assist the CLS scholarship recipients in practicing their spoken Mandarin and exploring Taiwanese culture.
Provider: NCKU News Center
Date: 2024-07-08