Sunday, June 29, 2014

Maggie in Taiwan

Hello Asia on E Street Blog readers, 

My name is Maggie Wedeman and this summer I am attending the International Chinese Language Program (ICLP) at National Taiwan University on a Sigur Center language fellowship. As a brief introduction, I am a rising junior in the Elliott School and I am double majoring in international affairs (security and Asia concentrations) and Chinese language. During my childhood, my parents’ work often took our family to China and I have lived in China (Taipei, Nanjing, and Kunming) for about three years cumulatively. Having been exposed to China at a young age, I suppose you could say I caught the 'China bug' and I have been making all efforts to study China and the Chinese language since beginning college at GW. Last summer I attended the CET intensive Chinese Language program in Kunming, Yunnan and the quick and vast improvement in my language skill I saw there encouraged me to attend a similar program this summer: ICLP. 

I have now been in Taipei for just over two weeks and in this blog post I would like to share my general impressions of Taipei the city and the ICLP program. 

Having last lived in Taipei as an eight year old in 2002, it has been very interesting to return and experience the city as a twenty-year-old full time student. There are some aspects of the city that have not changed, others were just starting to emerge when I lived here, and some parts of the city are completely new.
This is the ally I lived on in 2002 - nothing has changed, it even still smells the same 
One aspect of Taipei, and Taiwan in general, is that is incredibly forested and green; all surrounding hills and mountains are covered in plants and mosses. Just from looking out my window, you can tell you are in a tropical climate because of how vibrant the plant life is. As a California whose state seems to be in perpetual drought, I find this greenery quite refreshing. However, there is no wonder the forestry is so lush as every day is incredibly hot and humid and the afternoons would not be complete with a quick tropical rain. Before classes began, I had the opportunity to go hike up Yangming Mountain (阳明山)and experience the greenery up close. A very friendly old man offered to lead us on a 40 minute hike to an open green field. It was beautiful to see cool, crystal clear streams flow down the mountainside. I hope that later in my stay, and studies permitting I have the chance to go on other hikes in the surrounding mountains.

A stream on Yangming Shan
When I was living here in 2002, Taipei 101 was just being built and was going to be the tallest tower in the world. In fact, one spring day during my stay a strong earthquake on the island caused construction cranes to fall from the top of their building point. Since then, of course the building was completed and other buildings have taken its title as tallest building in the world. However, in Taipei, Taipei 101 still is by the far the tallest building, there are many more modern buildings and highways than before. The city is shinier and seemingly less polluted.

One aspect of Taipei that has really evolved since I last lived here is the expansive public transport system, and more specifically the bikeshare program. Taipei knows how to do public transportation and understands how to incentivize its use for citizens. Taipei’s bike share program is second to none. Unlike Capital Bikeshare where you must buy a week, month, or yearlong membership, U Bike (the Taipei bikeshare company) is accessible and free as long as you have a registered easycard (like a smart trip). The first 30 minutes are free and after that it is 10 NT for every 30 min (about 30 cents US). The ease of public transport here makes exploring the city easy and convenient, which I really have appreciated.

One difference I have found with Mainland China is that here when you attempt to use Chinese to communicate with locals, they are more likely to respond in English. I suppose this is a result of having better English education in grade schools, however, as a language learner, this is somewhat frustrating. When I venture out into the city I want to practice my spoken Chinese with people and perhaps even pick up on colloquialisms that I would not be taught in a formal classroom setting. One reason I love studying Chinese in China is that, in my past experience, locals are often extremely happy that you have come to their country and are making attempts to learn their language. When locals are in awe of my (very broken) Chinese and respond in kind, it feels like I have made some progress and I am encouraged to study more. This has not exactly been the case in Taipei. However, while the larger prevalence of English speakers in Taipei has been a little discouraging, it’s not an insurmountable challenge. 

On the note of learning Chinese, here is some general information on the ICLP language program that I am attending. From what I gather, ICLP is the most rigorous, intensive language program in Taipei. There are many other programs that offer solid training, but ICLP is for students who have come to Taiwan to learn Chinese as their primary goal (as there is little time in the day to do anything but study Chinese). Each student has three classes a day, two large classes (with 4 people) and a one-on-one class for individual instruction. Each class expects you to prepare extensively the night before, and cumulatively can require up to six hours of homework/preparation. In addition, ICLP emphasizes speaking and while on the premises of the program, there is a language pledge to only speak Chinese. Last, once you have completed either year two or three of Chinese, you are able to pick whether to study traditional or simplified characters. To me, this was one of the most appealing aspects of this program. However, despite my fourth year placement one of my textbooks is still in traditional characters (rendering me somewhat illiterate). Regardless, the teachers have been quite accommodating in helping me struggle through the traditional characters.

To be completely honest, so far the ICLP experience has been quite stressful. Even having completed a similar intensive program on the Mainland, I am finding it hard to adjust to the ICLP teaching method. However, the ICLP students are top notch and are for the most part incredibly dedicated (not to mention they come from all walks of life). In my opinion, having classmates and teachers who are just as dedicated to Chinese language study as you are is vital to improvement, as you work together and push each other to advance. In weeks to come I hope to learn how to more effectively/efficiently prepare and retain all the new vocabulary and grammar structures I am learning, so as to ease stress and enjoy the language I love to study. While it is currently hard to see my improvement, I know that by the end of my summer I will have made great strides in my ability to speak, read, and write Chinese. 

More later! 

Maggie Wedeman 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

ADB NARO Student Associate Program

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) North American Representative Office (NARO) in Washington, D.C. is seeking applicants who are nationals of the United States or Canada to participate in a student associate program at ADB’s office in Washington, D.C.

ADB seeks to engage a student interested in international development, on a voluntary part-time or full-time basis. The associate will gain close insight into the work of a major international development organization, work collaboratively with experienced professionals, gain a deeper understanding of development finance; and contribute to ADB's work through research and support of public relations activities.

ADB welcomes motivated, open-minded and self-directed students to apply. The student associate program is a research-oriented learning opportunity for graduate students to research thematic and development issues and to network with representatives from other international organizations in the Washington, D.C. area.

  •  Must be enrolled in a Master's- or PhD-level program at a school in the United States or Canada, both prior to and after the internship assignment;
  • Must be engaged in academic study in a field directly related to ADB's work;
  • Must be a United States or Canadian national. ADB is unfortunately unable to sponsor this work;
  • Must be familiar with using social media tools;
  • Must possess an excellent command of English, both orally and written; and
  • Should have relevant professional experience.
Preference will be given to students in graduate school MBA, MS Finance, MS Economics, or majoring in international relations, development studies, development economics, political science, or other related fields. Students should demonstrate research and writing skills, and knowledge of Microsoft office applications.

To Apply
Please apply by submitting a cover letter, resume, and two writing samples to Michael Reyes at by June 30, 2014. Indicate in your cover letter the university and program you are enrolled in including expected graduation date, and what days and times you would be available to work. More information about ADB's work can be found at:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Internships at CECC

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China ( is offering paid internships to qualified undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates this coming fall in Washington, D.C. Interns must be U.S. citizens. The application deadline is July 1, 2014 for the Fall 2014 internship that runs from September 1 to December 15, 2014. Fall internships are part-time; interns are expected to work from 15 to 20 hours per week. See application instructions below.

CECC internships provide significant educational and professional experience for undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates with a background in Chinese politics, law, and society, and strong Chinese language skills. Interns work closely with the Commission and its staff on the full array of issues concerning human rights, the rule of law, and governance in China (including criminal justice, democratic governance institutions, environmental problems, religious freedom, freedom of expression, ethnic minority rights, women's rights, etc.). Interns perform important research support tasks (often in Chinese), attend seminars, meet Members of Congress and experts from the United States and abroad, and draft Commission analyses. Click here for CECC analysis of recent developments in the rule of law and human rights in China. Interns may also be trained to work with the Commission's Political Prisoner Database, which has been accessible by the public since its launch in November 2004 (click here to begin a search).

Fall 2014 interns will be paid $10/hour. Those unable to apply for Fall 2014 internships may apply for the Spring (February-May) or Summer (June-August). Further details are available on the Commission's Web site at

  • Interns must be U.S. citizens.
  • Interns should have completed at least some China-related coursework. It is also desirable that they have some background in one or more of the specific human rights and rule of law issues in the CECC legislative mandate.
  • Interns should be able to read Chinese well enough to assist with research in newspapers, journals, and on Web sites. More advanced Chinese language capability would be a plus. The successful candidate for an internship often will have lived or studied in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan.
  • Although our interns are generally undergraduates, graduate students, or recent graduates, others are also welcome to apply.
Application Instructions for Fall 2014:
Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information for two references, to the CECC via e-mail to Judy Wright, Director of Administration at by July 1, 2014. Applications must be received by our office no later than 11:59 P.M. Eastern Time on July 1. Please discuss in your cover letter how your professional goals, interests, and background relate to the Commission's legislative mandate regarding human rights and the rule of law in China. No phone calls please.

Taiwan Fellowship Accepting Applications through June 30, 2014

Similar to the Fulbright Scholarship, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of China created the Taiwan Fellowship to promote scholarship in the social sciences and humanities on topics related to Taiwan, cross-Strait relations, mainland China, the Asian-Pacific, and Sinology.

Qualifying applicants are professors, associated/assistant professors, post-doctoral researchers, doctoral candidates, doctoral program students at related departments of overseas universities, or research fellows at an equivalent level in academic institutions abroad. Alternatively, candidates may be recommended by a Taiwan overseas mission with a field of study on Taiwan’s foreign relations or cross-Strait relations. Ineligible individuals are those who are currently conducting research, teaching, or studying in Taiwan.

Selected fellowship recipients will receive direct, round-trip airfare subsidy and a monthly stipend (three months to a year depending on duration of research) to pursue advanced studies at Taiwan’s universities, colleges, or research institutes.

For more details on the Taiwan Fellowship, including the online application process, please visit the National Central Library’s Taiwan Fellowship page at

If interested, apply quickly, because the application period ends on June 30.