Naimul Chowdhury spent the summer of 2017 immersed in the sights and sounds of Tainan, Taiwan. The Florida native had not considered living abroad before, but the Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program (TISLP) changed that. Today, Naimul is back in Florida, finishing his final semester of university, but plans to look at graduate schools abroad. “I want returning to and temporarily living in Taiwan to be a part of my life story,” he said.
What story do you tell the most when people ask, "What was your program like?"
Hands down, Taiwan Night! As a final project, we all had to perform a skit or song that showcased everything we'd learned in the past eight weeks. We knew about the assignment since day one, and to be honest, I dreaded having a potentially embarrassing moment. As the performance day came closer, my classmates and I spent several days writing, deliberating, and practicing our performance. And when the time came, rather than feeling nervous on stage, the process was fluid and exhilarating. Seeing our teachers, language partners, and colleagues erupt with laughter at the jokes we had written felt like two months of intensive study and hard work coming to fruition.
How has the program affected your goals?
Before attending TISLP, I hadn't given much thought to the idea of living abroad. After only two months in Tainan, I came to love the Taiwanese lifestyle: the warm-hearted people, the night markets lined with street food, and even the sweltering, summer heat. I want returning to and temporarily living in Taiwan to be a part of my life story. It would have never occurred to me that I would consider teaching English or attending graduate school abroad.
How are you involved in the global and or local community today?
Ever since returning to the U.S., I've realized how valuable the experience of learning a foreign language abroad can be, and so I've made a small mission of encouraging other people in my community to consider doing the same. Most importantly, I've realized just how much opportunities to have casual conversations in your target language can improve your speaking and listening abilities, so I've gotten a few classmates together to regularly visit a local high school and provide that environment for other students of Chinese.
Tell us about someone who impacted your experience.
As part of the immersive experience, each of us was assigned a Taiwanese graduate student to live with in a college dorm. When I first met my roommate, he seemed hesitant about me. It didn't help that I was bound by a language contract and a very limited speaking ability, so the first two weeks we didn't speak much. I assumed that my living situation was doomed to be awkward, but eventually we discovered we shared a common love: food! He regularly went out of his way to take me to unique, local restaurants, give me tours of the outskirts of Tainan, and introduce me to dishes that I only could have tried with his help. Without my roommate, my whole study abroad experience would have been all the more shallow, and I'm proud to call him my friend.
Why are experiences like this important?
I have never put so much concentrated time and effort into learning a language. Apart from gains in listening ability, fluency, and comfort in speaking Chinese, I developed effective and efficient strategies for learning on a time crunch.
Bonus question: What was the best thing you ate while on program?
I'm counting down the days until I eat my next bowl of 土魠魚羹 (tǔtuōyúgēng, Spanish Mackerel Soup). Crispy fried mackerel, thin rice noodles, and veggies in a hearty broth. If you find yourself in Taiwan, I cannot recommend this dish enough!
About the Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program
The Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program (TISLP) enables dedicated students of Mandarin Chinese to complete a year's worth of academic study in only eight weeks. The program is hosted by the Chinese Language Center at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan, Taiwan. TISLP combines twenty hours of weekly small group and one-on-one language instruction with regular cultural workshops, excursions, interactions with language partners, and a weekend homestay with local host families to create a truly immersive learning environment.