Author Archives: minhsuanchen

About minhsuanchen

“Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough/ Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades/ Forever and forever when I move,” says Alfred Lord Tennyson. Hello! My name is Melissa from National Chengchi University in Taiwan. I am an optimistic person who is always willing to embrace new challenges every day and I enjoy making friends with people from different countries. Thus, I participated in the exchange student to attend the George Washington University in 2018 spring semester to brave myself, for this is my first time studying abroad. I expect and believe that I will definitely enjoy a great time for my upcoming semester in GW. If you want to make friends with me, or you are interested in reading journals from a Taiwanese girl’s perspective, keep on following my blog! The blog will be updated at least once a week.

Deaf Grassroots Movement in DC

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  On March 8th, there was a Deaf rally in front of the Capitol Building where Deaf people and special guests who have long been concerned about the Deaf community gathered to speak out and fight for their rights, including better education, communication, and jobs. Although I took American Sign Language this semester, I am still not so familiar with the Deaf culture. Hence, it was a precious opportunity for me to get to know more about Deaf people, and how they struggle in their daily lives.

  When I arrived at the Capitol, many Deaf people had already been seated, and the speeches from several special guests had already started. Even though most guests used sign languages during their speeches, I could still fully understand them through their facial expressions, body language, interpretation, and the written lines on the screen. Through their speeches, I realized that Deaf people have been deprived of their basic rights, which hearing people have long taken for granted. Among several speeches, one of them impressed me the most. The special guest said, “We are not here to be angry. When people go low, we have to go high. It’s about education. It’s about moving. It’s about fighting.” I could barely stay calm when facing inequality, so I was so moved by the speech. Also, I was moved by how Deaf people got united in the cold and windy weather just to fight for themselves and their generations.

  Through the Deaf rally, I learned to pay more attention to other people’s needs and rights. Sometimes, we tend to forget to do so because we do not face those difficulties and inconveniences as others do. In addition, I would like to know more about Deaf community, and their situations in my home country, after I finish my exchange student program in GWU. Though it still seems to be a long way to go, I believe Deaf people will have the same rights as every citizen does, and all their efforts will pay off in the near future.

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The Differences between GWU and My Home University (2)

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   Last week, I talked a lot about the professors’ teaching styles and how students interact with them in class. This week, I would like to introduce the environment in both GWU and NCCU.

Campus

    The most obvious difference between the two campuses is that GWU is an open campus, but NCCU is a relatively closed one. To be more specific, in GWU, you do not have to go through a gate that indicates the entrance of the campus. The campus is in between other stores, residence halls, and so on. Therefore, it is a huge area where two campus buildings could be as far as a few blocks away. However, in NCCU (or I can say almost all of the universities in Taiwan), we have a specific closed area designed only for the campus. Thus, you will have to pass a gateway to enter the area and all the buildings inside the area belong to the university. In other words, people (if not students or professors) living off campus could not drive their cars or walk into the campus at their will.

Dormitory

    Here in GWU, we live in the dorm that is similar to an apartment. That is, we four people live in two separate double rooms and we share the living room and the kitchen. I really like this dorm because it makes me feel that my housemates, roommates, and I were just like a family living together. Besides, I love the kitchen because the appliances are so complete that I could cook or make almost everything I want by using them. In my home university, however, it is not the same case. In all of the dorms on campus, we have to share the restrooms and kitchens with other people who also live there. As a result, we seldom cook for ourselves because it is too inconvenient. Instead, we buy food from student cafeterias on campus or restaurants outside. Hence, those who do not feel satisfied with the environment will choose to rent a house off campus. But obviously, they have to pay a lot more if they do so because the price of the dorms on campus might be the cheapest (especially in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan).

  In addition to the courses and environment, I would also talk about the students. For the personalities or behaviors of students in GWU and NCCU, I did not find a significant difference. We all work hard, play hard, and find interns during winter or summer vacation to have some working experience. I think one of the most different part is that students here really enjoy parties. They will dress beautifully before they go to parties and they enjoy drinking alcohol. On the contrary, we do not really have the concept of “party” in Taiwan (perhaps partially because the space in the dorm is limited, so it is inconvenient to find a place to throw a party) and we do not drink so often (perhaps because of the warm and humid weather). Take myself for an example, when I want to relaxed or have fun with my friends, we will either go shopping, watch movies, or go to KTVs to sing overnight, but not throwing a party. Anyway, it is just the cultural difference as I mentioned in my previous post.

    It is really interesting to observe how people live differently in different countries, so I am glad that I have the opportunity to study abroad and share what I have observed with you. I hope you like the series of posts in this two weeks!

The Differences between GWU and My Home University (1)

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  Time really flies! It has already been two months since I arrived at GW for the exchange student program. Since I have stayed here for quite a while, according to my own observation, there are some interesting differences between students, courses, environment, etc., in my home university, National Chengchi University (NCCU), and George Washington University. Some of the differences are caused by the essential difference between Western and Eastern culture, and others are not. Just bear in mind that it is nothing right or wrong, but only distinctive ways of living.

Courses

    Before I go into details like teaching styles or approaches, I would like to tell you the difference between the length of a semester in GWU and NCCU first. In NCCU and most of the universities as well in Taiwan, a semester consists of 18 weeks. Within a semester, students have break time only on a few national holidays. That is, there is not a one-week spring break like GWU and most universities in the United States. Because of the relatively long semester, students in Taiwan often feel exhausted and discouraged during the final few weeks of a semester because they have already been stuffed with excessive knowledge and materials.

    In addition to the length of a semester, the teaching approaches professors take in GW are also slightly different from those in NCCU. From my own experience here, no matter in a big or small class, professors encourage students to raise their hands, convey their thoughts, and interact with them. Apparently, they lay much emphasis on the two-way learning. In other words, although professors are obviously more knowledgeable than students, they are also open-minded to learn things from their students and they believe the courses are designed for both the professors and students. Therefore, they have to work together throughout the whole semester to make full use of the class. On the contrary, in NCCU and most universities in Taiwan, even though there are still courses in which professors take the similar teaching strategies that I just mentioned, in most courses, professors adopt the traditional Eastern way of teaching. That is, they play the role of the authoritative lecture givers who are distant from their students. Especially in big classes with over 80 students, there is seldom interaction between the professor and students. Besides teaching approaches, students’ personalities might also have something to do with this phenomenon because Eastern people are raised up in the environment where “showing-off” is not encouraged. Gradually, they become more afraid of conveying their own ideas or feelings in public for fear of criticism or making mistakes.

  In brief, what I stated above are just my personal point of view according to my observation these days. Both of the teaching approaches have their merits and weaknesses, so they are not superior to one another. There are still some interesting differences between GWU and NCCU that I want to show you, so I will update them next week.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts

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    One of the reasons why I chose GWU as my exchange university is that its location makes it a perfect place for students to have access to rich resources. Among them, the great number of museums allow me to get immersed in the world of arts and acquire knowledge related to those artistic products. The National Museum of Women in the Arts is one of the famous museums on my wish list that I would like to visit once.

    NMWA, according to the introductory information on the website, is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. Inside the museum, there are abundant masterpieces from female artists on display. The museum itself is just like a huge palace, creating a tranquil space for the visitors to admire those works of art.

    Among the art works, “Sleeping Mask, 2014” by Gillian Wearing impressed me the most. The caption beside says, “Recognizing that self-presentation-in public, on the internet, or in written communication-is a form of masking.” Indeed, including men and women, most people in the world wear a mask in front of others for fear of social norms and regulations.

    Another work that impressed me a lot is “4 Seated Figures, 2002” by Magdalena Abakanowicz. I was not able to understand what the artist wanted to convey until I read the illustration beside. “These handless figures relate to the artist’s personal experiences: she witnessed her mother being shot in the hands as soldiers stormed their home in Poland during WWⅡ.” The story behind these figures made me feel sad about how cruel wars were and how people suffered during that period.

    I have also been to other museums in D.C until now, so I still have a lot to share with you. I might update them in the near future anyway. For those who are interested in women’s arts and how they fight for gender equality, NWMA must be the right place.

Celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year

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    Chinese New Year is the most important event to Chinese people in a year. It is not merely a holiday, but the precious moment to have a reunion with all the family members and relatives that live far away. During this period, we have different traditions and events to celebrate every day. For example, on New Year’s Eve, especially at night, we sit in a round table and eat together. Later, we watch TV or play games and then all the family members will start to distribute red envelopes to each other. This is the most exciting day for kids because they do not need to distribute their red envelopes, but keep receiving them from the elderly family members. On the first day of the Chinese New Year, according to traditions, we will go to temples in the early morning to pray for good health and luck in the following year. On the second day of the Chinese New Year, those women who got married must return their hometowns to visit their parents. In short, this is both an interesting and busy period for us. This year, for the first time in my life, I cannot celebrate Chinese New Year with my dear family. It is a pity on one hand, but on the other hand, I have the opportunity to participate in different activities in D.C to experience how Chinese people here celebrate their Chinese New Year.

     There are a series of special events to celebrate Chinese New Year this week. After searching for information online, my friends and I planned to go to Kennedy center to enjoy traditional Chinese music performance, cook and have a nice dinner together, and watch the New Year Parade at Chinatown.

    The Kennedy Center is a nice place for all kinds of performances. Some of the performances require tickets, but some do not. The one we participated in on Friday, which was one of the special events for Lunar New Year Celebration, was free. We got immersed in the music banquet with the beautiful melodies played by traditional instruments like guzheng, flute, pipa, and so on. For those who are interested in the free performance held every day at six o’clock p.m., I recommend you to go earlier in case you cannot find a seat.

    On Saturday morning, I went to supermarket with my friends to buy all the ingredients we would need to cook for our dinner. At night, we had hot pot, salmon fried rice, curry chicken, tofu, salad, and we drank beer to celebrate Chinese New Year. Although I cannot eat with my family, the friends I meet here are just like my family and I had an adorable night with them.

    On Sunday, we went to Chinatown to watch the annual Chinese New Year parade. We got there a little bit late, so the street had already been crowded with people when we arrived. Thankfully, we could still find some space in between. During the parade, we saw a lot of national flags of Taiwan, so we were extremely excited. It felt like D.C was our second hometown! The parade was gorgeous, for all the people in the parade dressed so beautifully and the performances were all unique. It was my pleasure to participate in this celebration and I was really glad to see that so many native speakers came to know more about Chinese culture. This parade put a perfect ending to my celebration trip for Chinese New Year. I believe that every single event that I have enjoyed this week would become one of the most memorable memories in my life. Anyway, Happy New Year and may everyone keep healthy and happy in the year of dog!!!

 

 

My First Try of Ice Skating

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    Taiwan is located between a tropical and subtropical area, so it does not snow in winter. Therefore, apparently, we lack exciting activities like ice skating or skiing to enjoy. If people want to participate in these activities, they might choose to go to countries nearby such as Japan or Korea for an one-day trip. Last year, when I went to Chuncheon, which situated in northern Korea, I seized the precious opportunity to learn skiing. Although it was extremely cold, I felt nothing but excitement and bliss. With the experience, I made up my mind to try any winter activities at least once. Fortunately, TRAILS has arranged an ice skating plan that is free for all students, so I registered right away.

    We walked to Washington Harbour Ice Skating Rink, which is just a few blocks away from GWU. The admission fee for an adult is 10 dollars and if you need to rent the skates, you have to pay 6 dollars more. For me, the price is reasonable but a little bit expensive, so I decided to make full advantage of it. I was so nervous at the beginning because it was really hard to maintain the balance. I kept screaming and hold the penguin (a cute tool for beginners to keep in balance) still and tight to avoid falling. But after a few hours, when I tried to believe in myself and skated in strides, I could catch the tips step by step.

    It was an extremely memorable and exciting experience for me, especially when I skated with my dear friends. But time always flies! We had to leave the ice rink after hours of skating. With the beautiful sunset and harbor, I accomplished my first ice skating trip. For those who enjoy ice skating, Washington Harbour Ice Skating Rink may serve your needs. You can also enjoy a great meal in the restaurant by the harbor, admiring the scenery at night with a sense of tranquility.

Let’s Cook for Ourselves!

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    In my first days at GW, we exchange students ate at restaurants a lot, so I spent too much money. So, I decided to find a great market to cook by myself. By doing so, I could not only spare some money, but also make several kinds of dishes that I like. In an extremely cold morning, my friends and I went out for our shopping journey.

    I love GW so much because you can almost find every place you want to go nearby, and the supermarket is no exception. The market we found is called Trader Joe’s and it was on the 25th Street. The things that the market sell are mostly fruits, vegetables, ingredients, foods, and so on, so if you want to look for household devices or daily products, you may want to search for another market.

 

 

    If you feel tired or cold when you first got in the market you can go to an area where the market kindly offers customers free hot coffee. You can make sweet latte if you want because they also offer you hot milk and vanilla cream. It is always the best thing to drink a cup of warm coffee in winter, isn’t it?

    There will be some special discounts from time to time, so if you pay attention to it, you can save a lot of money from your pocket! Also, there is an area for free food samples. It is great to have free delicious foods there, but you might easily spend money buying the things that are not on your list because the clerk who was promoting the special dishes there is so adorable. Take us for example, we bought a pack of frozen potatoes there after trying one!

    We really enjoyed our time at the market and we bought a lot of ingredients in a cheap price that we can cook for several meals throughout the week. If you are looking for a great food market, go to Trader Joe’s and grab your stuffs.