Elizabeth King is a MA student at Ball State in the English General Studies program. She received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) to Taiwan for the 2016-2017 school year. Since August 1, 2016, Elizabeth has been in Taitung, Taiwan, a rural county popular with tourists for its beautiful landscape. She has been spending part of her time working with local Taiwanese English teachers in elementary or middle school classrooms, and also improving her language skills and investing in the local community.
Winning a Fulbright is a big deal. What do you think made your proposal stand out?
I think there were two main things: one, I knew Taiwan was the right country for me to apply to, and two, I knew how my past experiences added up to make that the right place, and the ETA the right grant. I studied abroad in Xiamen, China back in 2011 and moved there to teach English for a year after I finished undergrad in 2012. After I came back to Indiana, I was a substitute teacher and was able to do some long-term subbing before I came to Ball State, where I have been a TA for the Writing Program. It was a lot of haphazard teaching experience, but when I started my application for Fulbright, I could see how it all added up, and how to demonstrate that experience in my essays.
Also, I worked with Dr. Andrea Wolfe to revise my essays, which taught me so much about that genre of writing. I’m not sure my application would have been successful without her help.
What drew you to want to visit Taiwan?
While I was studying abroad and after, I tried to learn as much Chinese history as possible. A lot of people here in the States don’t even realize that there is any sort of relationship between Taiwan and China—much less the complicated history and current political balancing act. Learning about current world politics, and especially how they’re rooted in history, fascinated me and led to a lot of research on Taiwan that I might not have done otherwise. Also, while doing research for my linguistics courses here at Ball State, I found that I was really interested in a lot of the linguistics research coming out of the Taiwanese universities as well as their Mandarin language study programs. This gave me a field-related reason to want to go there.
But, on a more practical level, I have close family friends from Taiwan. My best friend from mainland China studied in a university just outside of Taipei. So I had all these personal connections that drew me there. I think that’s really important, actually, how the academic and personal interests complement each other.
What specifically will you be doing there?
Primarily, I’ll be an ETA in a local school, though likely two schools since I’ll be in a more rural area. I’ll be paired with a local English teacher in elementary or middle school classes. I expect to gain more knowledge about teaching and language acquisition through this opportunity. On my application, I also proposed doing a creative writing project with my students based on some I’d seen in US elementary schools, so hopefully I’ll have the chance to do that as well.
Outside of the classroom, Fulbright offers a lot of opportunities to get to know the grantees who are conducting research. They also have TESOL professionals to help with our development as teachers. I am planning to take a Mandarin class as well—I am conversationally functional in Mandarin, but basically illiterate, so I have a long way to go with my own language skills!
How do you hope your experiences in Taiwan will help shape your future career?
Here at Ball State, although I’ve pursued (and will soon have) a General English MA, most of my coursework has been in Linguistics. I love the study of language and all that it entails. Whether I continue as a teacher beyond this next year, look into translation work, or eventually pursue a Ph.D. in Linguistics, I know that this experience will enrich my knowledge and skill set. Working with international students would also interest me. Ever since I studied abroad I began to see myself in an international context, whether I was actually living in Indiana or on the opposite side of the globe. This Fulbright opportunity will help me bring together my professional and academic pursuits with that global context in a meaningful and hopefully long-lasting way.