2018 AID Summer
志工感言 (Reflection) >> Maryland
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Chen, Maggie (陳每其)
My experience at Shulin Elementary School was an overall positive experience. I would say that the best part of my service there was being able to meet and interact with the kids and the teachers; the kids are very sweet and bright and you can really tell that the staff at the school cares a great deal about them. Because I'm used to living in a suburban/urban area, it was hard adjusting to living in such a rural area, but the staff at Shulin did their best to provide as positive an experience as they could and there really isn't much else you can ask for when you are living in the countryside (the area around Shulin is pretty much all residential, so you have to drive a car in order to get to any real store). This was really unfortunate because I feel like other student volunteers were able to do more unique activities with the kids and we just weren't able to do the same things due to the lack of resources. I also wish that we had received more information about specific topics the kids had learned about before arriving at the school, because some of the lesson plans we created at Chientan had to be entirely replaced due to the fact that when we arrived at Shulin, the kids had already learned a lot of the vocabulary we had prepared. Creating entirely new lessons ended up taking a lot of time so most of us were exhausted every day, but the two weeks still passed very quickly. Despite the difficulties we experienced and the adjustments in living conditions, I am still very glad for the opportunity to meet and teach kids at Shulin and I will always be grateful for the staff there for being so kind and taking such good care of us.
Hwang, Maggie (黃詩蕾)
My experience at Wanfeng Elementary school was one of a kind and truly unforgettable. Children in rural areas don’t always get the best education opportunities and after teaching at the school, it really opened my eyes. Even though it was only 10 days of teaching, I really enjoyed getting to know the students personally and bringing out their strengths and improving their weaknesses. I feel like most times, people tend to forget that although a student’s level might not be as high as others, each student had at least one characteristic that brought the best out of them. The AID program has definitely given me lifelong friends and memories.

Going into the program, my main goal was to give the children all that I could provide, but I didn’t expect so much love and appreciation in return. Whether it was taking notes from power points, singing songs, or playing new games, the children were very grateful and they were always eager to learn. The children’s English levels took me by surprise. My group only had four people and my friend and I taught the older group which consisted of 3rd to 6th graders. They knew most things we taught them and most of the time, they were cooperative, and participated. Their enthusiasm skyrocketed as each student fought for participation stickers. Leaving the students was difficult because I felt like I had a strong connection with each of them.

Cheng, Emilie (鄭予瑄)
For AID, I was assigned to Hot Spring Elementary School in Taitung and was in a group with three other girls and four guys. We taught in pairs (boy/girl) and each pair had about 8-12 kids. Going into the program, I was told that Taitung was beautiful but mostly mountains and that our school was filled mosquitos, snakes, and monkeys. I expected the worst—imagining a run-down school in the middle of nowhere—but was pleasantly surprised. The school was well maintained and well equipped with everything you would need to teach. Unfortunately, there is no AC in the classrooms. However, Hot Spring is special because it has SMART learning—meaning that there are carts of iPads that we took advantage of to let the kids play Kahoot. The teacher in charge of us was extremely friendly and tried her best to deal with our rowdy group. We gave her a really rough time but she was always accommodating and understanding. There were also definitely mosquitos, snakes, and monkeys that paid frequent visits at the school. In terms of living, we were also really lucky to have the chance to live in a hotel for those two weeks, complete with a swimming pool and breakfast buffet.
The kids were respectful and it honestly was life-changing to teach them. They were sweethearts who really cared about us volunteers. They are so unlike American kids in that they would not dare truly disobey or insult the teacher. Although they were at times shy and unenthusiastic, they always listened and were so willing to do anything we requested out of them, such as cleaning or participation. Sure, there was always a troublemaker but even they were cooperative after a few stern words. Unlike some other schools, I feel like the kids at Hot Spring understand the divide between 老師and 姐姐or 哥哥. So I had no problems with the kids addressing me as either because they still treated me as a teacher during class and as a sister during break.
The only glaring complaint I have about teaching during AID was that we always seemed to have an eye on us. We had the teacher who was basically in charge of us during training, two other foreign English teachers who were tremendous help, and an overbearing director at the school. It is understanding since the program is after all, in charge of us for so many weeks but my time at Hot Spring was singlehandedly tainted by the director at our school who seemed to follow us wherever we went but somehow was missing when we needed her most. She was extremely insensitive to any of our complaints and unwilling to help. She also cared an unhealthy amount about insignificant things (such as poster font) and was (somewhat understandably) obsessed over our safety to the point where she would not let us volunteers go outside in fear that we would be tanned to dark. I learned from this experience that I really dislike structure and having the freedom of walking outside being taken away.
Overall, teaching at Hot Spring was a rewarding experience. I think most of my group members would agree with me that it turned out better than we predicted. While I was there I feel like there were more things I was unsatisfied with but I can’t recall them now so they must have been insignificant. It was my first time actually teaching children and a time I will never forget.

Tseng, Angela (曾安琪)
This program has given me a chance to make so many new friends, see new people, and experience so many new things. I thoroughly enjoyed the time during the program, despite the disorganization and the hurriedness of the scheduling. The first week of the program was not very helpful, but the free time allowed me to interact with new people and make friends that I would hang out with during the tour week, and later after the program. We were welcomed very warmly by our host school, provided with so many supplies and they tried their hardest to adhere to our needs and wants. I particularly appreciated their planning for the weekend tour, and the small Tainan delicacies they bought for us. I realize the extent of the costs they spent on us, and I am deeply grateful for their efforts. The children were quite mischievous, but very kindhearted. Many of them have remained in contact after the program, and wish to see me next year, too. I was able to experience the quiet environment of the countryside, away from the busy cities or suburbs I have always lived in. As for the tour week, although the scheduling was very rushed, I thoroughly enjoyed the free times we had because it was during those times I truly bonded and made friends. Something I enjoyed greatly was simply lazing around in someone's room with my friends. The actual tour was okay, I enjoyed the shopping but not much of the historical sites that required walking in the heat. I wish we could have chosen our buses, too, as all my friends ended up on separate buses.
Hu, Elena (胡珮慈)
I initially applied to the program in thinking that it'd be a fun experience in Taiwan, my second home. I really did not think it would make much of an impact on my life. When I first arrived at Chientan, I had the first day jitters, like the ones you get on the first day of high school. Going in, I knew no one and to my dismay many others went in with their friends from back home. As a person who has trouble making new friends, I was terrified. Everyone was already in their social circles and I thought these next couple of weeks would be pretty lonely for me. After checking in and going up to my hotel room, I met the people that I would be spending the entirety of the next month with- my groupmates! After hearing that some of my groupmates did not come with other friends either, I was relieved. We began forming friendships with them, bonding over the fact that we were lonely. I initially thought that these friendships would be short, sweet and a one-and-done type deal, but little did I know that I would be keeping some of these friendships even after the program ended.
The first week went by pretty slow. We went through sessions of teachers teaching us volunteers how to teach the kids we were about to meet. Honestly, I did not remember much from those sessions. The only thing I remembered was one guest speaker telling us to not expect the kids to learn much, but rather, have them get excited about and want to learn the English language. He was saying how these kids are generally in rural areas and have little access to basic things, not to mention a plane ticket to America. "So, we have to bring America to them", is what he said. Everything else was pretty much a blur from that first week.
The second and third weeks were by far the best experience out of the entire month. Sure it was a lot of work, constantly doing late night preparations for the next day's lesson, but in the end it was all worth it. Spending time with just your 8 groupmates was both a really fun and bonding experience. Fighting your way through the difficulties together (i.e. tiredness, the heat, cockroaches), and just spending a whole 2 weeks with just 1 particular group of 8 (as opposed to 433 other volunteers) really brought a lot of my groupmates and I together. We taught during the weeks and went out on the weekends and had a blast. The teacher, zhuren, zhuren's wife, and the principal took great care of us, providing us with everything we needed and more. But aside from all that, the kids that I taught most definitely defined my AID summer experience. The kids I taught were so adorably cute. Every single one of them. And after learning that most of the students I taught came from difficult backgrounds, teaching them became more meaningful. I wanted to give them my all. This entirely made leaving them very difficult. I definitely wish I could go back and give them more. Hopefully, I made the same impact on my students as much as they had on me.
Wang, Dana (王黛娜)
“7/7/17: As we loudly sing karaoke on the tour bus to Feisha Junior High the tinted windows are filled frame after frame of Yunlin County, a small, rural county on the western coast of Taiwan. We pass farm fields after farm fields with patches of rice patties, papaya trees, and fish farms. The houses are torn and rusted. Half of them are metallic whereas the other half are concrete. Dusty. Worn out. Roof panels are missing from every roof, trash bags are on the streets, and the road is filled with cracks. Yet the local people smile brightly. They are content with what they have and I can only imagine what it is like to live in their peaceful yet joyous lives. They're mesmerized by the luxury tour bus that brings us into their home. Their faces reflect the purity and simplicity they find in life. I have not even gotten off the bus to take a breath of the local air but I already know it will rejuvenate my body and my spirit. Despite the rainy day and rough appearance, I know Yunlin will welcome me as I will welcome it into my heart. I cannot wait to see what Yunlin and Feisha has in store for me as I am excited to see their culture.”

I wrote this paragraph the day I arrived at Feisha Junior High, not knowing what laid ahead in my 2 weeks of teaching. I felt a mix of nervousness and excitement stir up in my stomach (and I knew for sure it was not heart burn) as we pulled up to the school. “I am a teacher now,” I told myself. As I realized that the students’ education was in my hands, I felt the pressure slowly compress on my shoulders. But I was not worried. I had excellent teammates by my side; companions who felt like friends of many years. That’s that first thing I learned in AID Summer. My teammates were my family. They were the people who would comfort me through tough times and learn new things alongside with me. People who will always have a place in my heart even though I had only met them a week ago.

As the next 2 weeks flew by, I not only bonded more with my teammates and the staff but also with the most amazing students I have ever met. My students were not shy in becoming my friends. They joked with me, danced with me, sang with me, and laughed with me. They taught me martial arts and encouraged me to practice, practice, practice. But most importantly, they listened. That’s the second thing I learned in AID. Respect goes both ways for a student and a teacher. I felt that I had to put in the same amount of effort my students had put in for me during and outside of class. I worked harder every night to give my students a better lesson with each coming day because I felt obligated to show my love for them. This is what it meant to be a teacher.

Finally, in the last week of the program my teammates and I toured Taiwan together. As I rode the bus filled with other ecstatic volunteers, I watched the scenery changing through the bus window. The trees are greener and the cities are more populated than the ones by my home in America. When I encountered the people of Taiwan, my heart was filled with a warm, bubbly kindness. The Taiwanese were very friendly and welcoming. We toured from site to site, looking at the majestic views of Taiwan. My, my. Taiwan certainly is breathtaking. Their lakes sparkle with colorful glitter, their streets are decorated with history, and their movements are perfectly synchronized with each other. I loved it all. That’s the last thing I learned from AID – getting in touch with my roots. During the month of July, I embraced the richness of Taiwanese culture and history, and rekindled with my Taiwanese roots. I became more appreciative of my culture as it has taught me the beauty of being an ABC. That is, the perspective and elements I bring into America is unique and teaches my fellow citizens to understand Taiwanese culture better in hopes of creating a more tolerant society.

Overall, AID Summer has taught me the treasures that a teacher can bring to their students, as well as helped me make lifelong friends and get in touch with my Taiwanese roots. I will never forget this experience as it is one that will shape my future.

Fang, Isabelle (方正馨)
On the first day of the program, the kids were very shy. When we performed during our opening ceremony, the kids were quietly listening and weren't clapping along as we thought they would. At first, we thought they either didn't speak English at all, or were uninterested in anything we were doing. However, as time passed and we started playing games and working together, they started to open their shells, and I realized that they were all really smart, hardworking, and sweet kids. They loved to participate and dance and sing along to all the activities we did. Although learning English was difficult for them, they always tried their best to repeat after us and imitate the pronunciation. When we played the Hello Song, all the students stood up and started to dance in the craziest ways, and I think that was the cutest thing I have ever experienced. During the breaks the kids would come up and talk to us and ask us to play with them in the playground. Sometimes the students would get noisy and out of control, but I know they are just excited. All of the other teachers and staff would help us in those times, and could always be reached whenever we need them. Overall, this experience was tiring yet absolutely worth it. Everyone, the teachers, the staff, the students all felt like family and I will miss every second here at this loving school.
Sher, Jasmine (佘修晨)
I really enjoyed the teaching experience with the kids. I really did not enjoy the people in my group. One person in our group never did any work and was always late ever since the training week. Another always complained everyday about how annoyed she was at everyone. And the last person kept talking about how he hated all the kids and wanted to hit them. The counselors were really fun and took good care of us. Sometimes the events were somewhat disorganized and counselors would be confused so us volunteers would stand around confused while the volunteers would try to figure out what to do. The tours were pretty fun for me but I think that some people thought they were boring. The food and accommodations were very nice. Sometimes our teacher was not very clear with directions that she gave out about our assignments (daily journals, deadlines, teaching demos). The actual time spent teaching and hanging out with kids was super fun. There were never any problems with the transportation that drove us around. Our principal was very hard working and always took us out on as many trips as possible and always made sure that we were taken care of. All of us volunteers were well taken care of in terms of food, living spaces, and materials.
Wu, Eric (吳承霖)
The OCAC Youth English Teaching Program will always be an unforgettable experience and has really opened my eyes to home and domestic issues in developing nations such as Taiwan and made me realize how blessed I am to live in the US with loving and caring family and friends. Taking on the challenges of being an English teacher for several weeks from July 1st to July 20th has been more about being a mentor to the kids rather than a teacher. Some might argue that a good teacher acts as both a mentor and teacher, but over the past weeks here in Taiwan, I have learned about and helped my students overcome issues they have among their peers and even at home: mentor comes before teacher.

Empathy is also what made me a quality teacher that could relate with the students. Often times in class if students don’t listen, the local teachers would punish them or give them a strict lecture, but very quickly I learned that a better approach is to talk personally with students during lunch or after school about any issues they may be facing, and talk about those issues first, then make up the missed classwork as a teacher only after I have finished acting my part/role as mentor. Students in the more rural parts of Taiwan have many family issues. Some live with their grandparents because their parents spend so much time working just to support their family, others can’t even stay at home because of domestic violence or other parental issues. Seeing these kids come to school despite their grueling hardships is a really touching experience each morning. I would be lying if I claimed to have always had the ability to have empathy for others. I have always tried to be sympathetic, but I have never been truly empathetic until I came to Taiwan, when I had deep conversations with kids during lunch, when I visited them at their homes after school, or when I stayed after school to play with them. I really learned to experience hardships by listening in and putting myself in their shoes.

As the program comes to a close and I am getting ready to head back to the states, the most important life lesson I have taken away from this program is to think others first. Try to understand other people’s situations first before jumping to a conclusion. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation and some genuine interest in their personal life to make them feel like their thoughts and concerns are being heard and they are cared for. The Youth English Teaching Program has really opened my eyes to family and life matters that plague this world beyond my daily first world issues.

Martin, Rebecca (谷貝貝)
My friend attended this program last year, and she had a blast. When I told her that I was signing up, she was really excited and really encouraged me to go, but to be quite frank, I did not know what to expect. I knew that, if I got in, I would be teaching English at an elementary school in Taiwan, but I had no idea about all of the other amazing things we got to do.

When I arrived at Chientan, the whole experience was overwhelming, however I made friends quickly and made the best out of my time there. The training week was filled with presentations from many AID coordinators, and they really made the idea of teaching English more comfortable for me. By the end of the week, I learned how to make learning English exciting for kids, went to Shilin Night Market, and was ready to start my journey in Tainan.

I have been to Taiwan multiple times before, but I’ve always stayed in Taipei with my family. At first I really wished that I got to teach in Taipei, but I don’t think I would’ve appreciated my experiences as much as I did in Tainan. My first impression of Shulin Elementary School was that it was a lot bigger than my elementary school here in the states. My group and I had everything provided from sleeping bags (we slept in the library) to food to even laundry detergent. The school’s director, principal, and team coach never ceased to make our stay as comfortable as possible.

As far as teaching went, it was a bit frustrating because my partner and I taught first graders that had only been introduced to the alphabet. We were told during the training week to try to only speak English, but we quickly realized that that was not an option. All of the students eventually respected us as teachers, but quickly got bored. By the middle of the first week, I had figured out that the students responded well to games and anything that would give them points toward winning a prize. Because the kids didn’t know any English, we focused on teaching a few letters a day, as well as reviewing from previous days and preparing for the closing performance.

On the weekends, the school’s director, principal, and team coach made sure to give my group and I the best impression of Tainan, and they really did deliver. They took us shopping, eating, and sightseeing all over. My tour continued during the last week of this camp. We went to many famous places such as Sun Moon Lake and Feng Jia Night Market.

Overall, my experience with AID was amazing and a memory I will treasure forever.

Lin, Dahway (林大偉)
My AID experience overall was fulfilling and entertaining. At first, we greatly overestimated our students; we prepared one weeks worth of material that was too hard, and we had to adjust the material so that the students could understand it. Otherwise, the students
Wang, Jamie (王安佳)
Going to AID was one of the best experiences of my life.

Even though when we first got to Chientan everybody in the group hated all the different rules (you can't leave Chientan, you can't go into the room of the opposite gender even if you leave the door open, you can't wear shorts/open-toed shoes/non-regulation shirts, etc), everything changed as soon as we got to the school. You would think that because it is the first time you are meeting the kids, they would be awkward and shy. But as soon as we entered the classroom, there were shouts of greeting. Over the next two weeks, we not only became their teachers but more importantly, their friends. The kids were able to go from only knowing uppercase A and B to the entire alphabet both upper and lowercase, which made us really proud. Even the so called "bad" kids started warming up to us as soon as we brought in the pizza.

Bottom line is, even if you are regretting it horribly while at Chientan, just know that it will all be worth it for the kids as soon as you get to the school. Just a warning: you will cry at the end of the two weeks and it won't be pretty.
Cheng, Kyle (鄭文碩)
When my mom first approached me, asking me if I wanted to apply to the AID summer program, I initially told her no; that I didn't want to waste my precious summer vacation. Despite my protests, she made me apply anyways and I did so, secretly hoping I would be rejected so I would not have to participate. When I found out I was accepted, my mother was ecstatic while I was the exact opposite.

Despite my initial reservations, I found myself getting more and more excited as the start of the AID program got closer and closer. By the beginning of June, I could barely wait. I got even more excited for the weeks to come when I arrived at Chien-tan and met the 7 other people in my group. Little did I know that I would remember these people and the time we shared together for the rest of my life. The two weeks after the training week were some of the best weeks of my life. Everyday was an adventure, with the first half of the day dedicated to teaching English to some of the cutest and funniest kids Ive ever met; the second half of the day reserved for basketball, movies, and whatever else the eight of us decided to do (after finishing our teaching materials for the next day of course).

Leaving Nanzi elementary school was one of the hardest Ive ever had to do and both teachers and students were crying. Even now, I miss my children and my AID group and would give anything to be able to go back to Nanzi elementary school and continue teaching and spending time with my friends.