Alexa

Foreign scholars help make campuses international

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Julie Montbeyre, Clara Favret, and Clara Philipp develop friendship with schoolmates at the Lanyang Girls'  Senior High School.
Julie Montbeyre shows her Chinese-learning sheet during an interview in Yilan.
Julie Monteyre takes a test at the National Lanyang Girls' Senior High School.

Julie Montbeyre, Clara Favret, and Clara Philipp develop friendship with schoolmates at the Lanyang Girls' Senior High School.

Julie Montbeyre shows her Chinese-learning sheet during an interview in Yilan.

Julie Monteyre takes a test at the National Lanyang Girls' Senior High School.

A normal school day at the Lanyang Girls'?Senior High School in Yilan saw students, as usual, studying hard all day long in the hope of doing well in the various examinations and gaining admission to good universities.
During the lunch break, several girls, with beverages in their hands, cheerfully stepped into the Office of the Counselor to meet their new classmates, Julie Montbeyre, Clara Favret, and Clara Philipp.
The three French high school students are recipients of scholarships from Taiwan's Ministry of Education (MOE) to learn Mandarin in a Chinese-speaking environment. The Taiwanese girls offered the drinks to the three French guests, who shouted "yeah" in high pitches in return for their hostess'?hospitality. During their lunch together, the girls covered random conversation topics in Mandarin until the school bell sounded to tell the students to prepare for a test in another subject.
Taiwan experience
"I love Taiwan and I wish I don't have to go back to France after the scholarship ends next July," Philipp said during an interview with the Taiwan News in Yilan earlier this month.
Philipp, Favret, and Montbeyre left France for Taiwan in late August to embark on a one-year educational journey thousands of miles away from their home.
But they are not complete strangers to the culture of Taiwan. Before arriving on the island, Philipp and Montbeyre had learned Mandarin in their respective high schools for three years, Favret, for example, had studied the Chinese language for two years. The three are big fans of Taiwan's famous singers like Jolin Tsai, Jay Chou, Michael Wong, and rock star Wu Bai. They even watched Chinese-language soap opera programs in France.
"We are very curious about how life is like in Taiwan,"Philipp continued. Favret echoed the words of her friend, saying "The environment here is better."
Learning environment
"In Taiwan, students show their teachers more respect than French students do,"said Favret. "In France, we tend to think that teachers and students cannot be friends. You don't really know your teachers because teachers come to school to teach only. But Taiwanese teachers help students do a lot of things."
Favret noted: "In France, we really care about what people think about us, but here in Taiwan, people seem to worry less about others' opinions. Taiwanese people often say 'Never mind.' They are very hospitable. It's easier to make friends here. Life here is not too complicated."
The three French girls learn Mandarin from their Chinese teacher for two hours on a weekday in the campus. On Friday, Philipp, Favret, and Montbeyre take lessons in the martial arts for an hour. On weekends and during holidays, school teachers or classmates take the three on short trips. Just like their Chinese-speaking peers, they have to wear school uniforms, consisting of a blue blouse and a black skirt. They follow their class schedule daily. Their only frustration so far has been their inability to fully understand what their teachers are saying in class, sometimes leading to their boredom in class.
When asked if they feel homesick after nearly two months in Taiwan, the trio cheerfully answered: "We all love Taiwan."
Stimulation and breaking stereotypes
For the three French scholars learning Mandarin in Taiwan, a year of living in an entirely different environment may turn into an unforgettable experience. For their Taiwanese classmates, learning to get along with international students can contribute beautiful memories to an otherwise stressful test-everyday-high school life.
Cheng Cheng-tsung, director of the counseling office at Lanyang Girls' Senior High School, said having three French girls attending classes with the local students has proved to be something very positive.
Cheng said the local students were very impressed when the three French students introduced themselves on the first day. Cheng recalled: "The three French girls were very poised and full of grace when they spoke on stage. Afterwards, when the local students found out that the three French students, who are as young as they are, speak English and Chinese aside from French, they felt motivated to learn foreign languages.
Cheng said the French people's different personality contributes diversity to the learning atmosphere, but their presence enables the local students to be exposed to different culture and customs. "The local students have more common topics. More importantly, the integration of the French students into the local life helps dispel notions like French people don't speak English. In fact, they do speak English. They sing and listen to English songs, and they are friendly."
New scholarship scheme
The MOE in seeking to make local senior high school campuses more international recruited 10 international students from abroad to study and learn Mandarin in Taiwan this year. Each of the 10 students under the new scholarship scheme "Taiwan Senior High School Scholarship for International Students," receives NT$20,000 on a monthly basis to cover expenses.
The NT$20,000 stipend includes NT$6,000 allowance, NT$12,000 for board and lodging, and NT$2,000 for insurance coverage. Overseas Taiwanese students cannot apply for the scholarship, and it is highly advised that international students take Chinese courses before coming to Taiwan. The international students can choose to stay in Taiwan for one semester or two semesters.
Aside from the three French high school students studying in Lanyang Girls' Senior High School, one American student is going through a similar education experience at the National Fengshan High School. The National Shioushuei Senior Industrial Vocational High School has received three Australian high school students. Two German students are at the Taipei Jingmei Girls High School and another American student is at the National Chungli High School.
Faculty and learning
resources
At the Lanyang Girls' Senior High School, Philipp, Favret, and Montbeyre are learning Mandarin for two hours daily basis from Monday to Friday. Their Chinese teacher is Chen Min-yu, a counseling teacher who has a certificate for teaching Mandarin. Chen personally prepared many materials for the three students. The three are required to complete 180 hours of Chinese-language learning and pass three Mandarin examinations before going back to France.
However, not every school has qualified teachers who are willing to shoulder the extra responsibility in tutoring students. The major concern of high school teachers is to help local students earn good grades and eventually enter good universities.
Lin Fu-ying, director in the department of academic affairs at the National Chung-Li High School, noted that since the foreign students are students outside Taiwan's educational system, tutoring them in the Chinese language would create additional responsibility.
Lu Tsung-hsi, a mathematics teacher who retired in 2006, volunteered to teach the American student Mandarin. Lu also teaches calligraphy and takes the student on short trips on weekends.
Lin said students in her school have positive interaction with the American student, but it is Lu's enthusiastic teaching that helps the American student learn Mandarin and get adjusted to the campus life more quickly.
At the Taipei Jingmei Girls High School, the two German students do not have a special Chinese language teacher. Instead, they go to the language center at the National Taiwan Normal University to study Mandarin from Monday to Friday.
Chou Wu-chu, director of the department of student affairs, said the fast pace of teaching in her school means that it would be difficult to assign teachers to help the two German students learn Mandarin.
"But I must say that the host families who are accommodating the two German girls are showering them with an abundance of warmth and hospitality," Chou said.