OGDEN, Utah – Jason Palmer is trying to cram in as much study of Mandarin Chinese as possible before he leaves for Taiwan at the end of July.
Palmer, who graduated from Weber State University in May, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to Taiwan in the field of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. He will spend 11 months working as a teaching assistant with elementary school students in I-Lan County, approximately an hour outside of Taipei, Taiwan. It's a dream opportunity for a student who earned a bachelor's degree with a dual major in elementary education and anthropology.
"It excites me to see beyond what the tourists see," Palmer said. "I want to do what the locals do and become immersed in the culture, the daily routine."
The Bountiful High School graduate is well-versed in speaking foreign languages, having served an LDS mission in Bolivia and spent a month in Spain during his studies at WSU. He completed his student teacher training this spring by working with fourth- and fifth-grade students with limited English proficiency at Edison Elementary School in Ogden.
Despite his experience, which includes two years teaching English as a Second Language classes, Palmer's work in Taiwan poses serious challenges.
"I've never gone into a country knowing so little of the language," he said. Palmer has been working with an instructor who is teaching him Mandarin, but he admits learning an alphabet with entirely different syllables is challenging. His ultimate goal is to become fluent in Taiwanese, the indigenous language of Taiwan. He said past experience has taught him that learning local dialects helps cultivate greater acceptance.
Palmer will spend a month in orientation and classes. The training includes how to use a scooter, the common form of transportation in a region without mass transit. He expects that he and his wife will experience some initial culture shock.
Upon his return to the U.S. next June, he hopes to land a job teaching in an elementary school. Palmer said his dream job would be to teach in a Department of Defense school. The Fulbright opportunity might be a step toward that goal.
Palmer is the second WSU student in the last three years to receive a Fulbright grant.
The Fulbright Program, America's flagship international educational exchange program, is sponsored by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Since its inception, the Fulbright Program has exchanged over a quarter of a million people: 98,400 Americans who have studied, taught or researched abroad and 162,600 students, scholars and teachers from other countries who have visited the United States. The program operates in more than 150 countries worldwide.
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