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American Literature & Creative Writing in Taiwan

Introduction      I had the pleasure to serve as a Visiting Professor in the Foreign Languages and Literature Department at Tunghai University in Taichung, Taiwan, 2015-2016. I taught undergraduate and graduate classes in creative writing and American literature, with a special focus on Asian American literature.       My teaching in fall 2015 was rewarding, but also challenging. I did not keep a formal teaching log that term. In the hopes of becoming an increasingly effective classroom teacher, I committed to keeping a teaching log in spring 2016. After every class session, I typed up a short entry on what happened in the class that day—the texts we discussed, the strong points in discussion, what worked or didn’t work, areas for improvement, and so on. My primary aim was to reflect on how to work most effectively with East Asian students who are second language learners and, in many cases, largely unfamiliar with more nuanced aspects of U.S. history, culture, and society. While edited for length and clarity, I tried to keep these reflections as unvarnished and “fresh” as possible, hopefully conveying a sense of my experience. Please note that this essay was submitted before the end of the

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Teaching in a Buddhist Pure Land: A Fulbright scholar on Dharma Drum Mountain

For one semester, I taught and conducted research in a Buddhist Pure Land! I spent the 2016 fall semester on Dharma Drum Mountain, a green mountainous Buddhist community located in Jinshan District, north of Taipei. This Buddhist community includes the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, where I taught a graduate seminar on Comparative Religious Texts. The Dharma Drum Mountain is also home to a 4-year Sangha University to train Buddhist monks and nuns as well as the international headquarters of Dharma Drum organization, known as the Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education and the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies. Life on a Buddhist Mountain My life on the mountain was ideal for health, contemplation, and research. I ate the simple Buddhist vegetarian meals of rice, tofu, and vegetables—eating breakfast and dinner in silent rows with everyone facing the same direction. At times, I found the Chan Buddhist practice of eating in silence a surprising relief from struggling to keep up with Chinese conversations at meals. I was welcomed to eat lunch with the faculty in their dining room, who were the only ones who spoke during noontime meals. But even there, I felt that there was a

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James Behuniak: American and Chinese Philosophy in Taiwan

Dr. James Behuniak reflected on teaching Philosophies in a comparative context, and shared some insights about living in Taiwan.  Dr. James Behuniak is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. His areas of research are American Philosophy and pre-Qin Chinese philosophy. Currently, he is Senior Fulbright Scholar teaching in the Philosophy department at National Taiwan University.

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Santa on Small Kinmen

    On December 25th, I celebrated Christmas without my family for the first time. I felt a little uncomfortable, and a little homesick. I’m teaching English on a smaller island off the small island of Kinmen in Taiwan. Never before had I been asked to work during the holidays, and I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to manage both my responsibilities to plan Christmas events for my students and to celebrate with my family.      Rather than decorating the Christmas tree and drinking eggnog at home, I was carefully honing my social juggling skills. I expected to work through a week of stressful Christmas plans and performances, while missing the opportunity to relax and appreciate the Christmas season.  Thankfully, I was wrong. The week of December 25th was filled with Christmas cheer and storybook surprises. One of those surprises is below…     On Wednesday the 23rd, Jhuohuan Elementary School teachers and staff, while mostly non-Christian, gathered for our annual Christmas party.  By chance, that day also happened to be the last day of alternate military service for one of our great assistants, Yu-Ming. In preparation for our party, I dressed up as Santa Claus, and

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Teaching Dewey in Taiwan

In the fall semester of 2014, I taught a seminar on American philosophy to graduate students in the Philosophy department at National Taiwan University.  The main focus of the course was on the work of John Dewey, an American philosopher who, along with his wife Alice, spent over two years in China (1919-1921).  The timing of their stay could not have been more momentous.  They arrived in China on May 1, 1919, three days before the student uprisings of May 4, 1919.  This episode is part of a period now known as the May Fourth movement, during which Chinese thinkers engaged in vigorous debates over traditional customs and values.  During his visit, Dewey travelled, lectured, and wrote extensively about his experiences in China.  As my students and I read his philosophical works, I am working through Dewey’s own writings from this period: his personal letters, essays, and lectures.  What I’ve discovered has enriched my Taiwan experience very much. Obviously, much has changed since John Dewey visited the Republic of China in 1919.  Among the most important changes is that the Republic of China is now located on Taiwan.  Despite this geopolitical change, what is most striking is how many of

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Reflection on Teaching Advanced English Writing at a Taiwanese University

I have been teaching ESL for many years, both in the United States and in several foreign countries. My students hail from a variety of ethnic, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Over the years, I have taught a wide spectrum of English classes, including speaking, listening, study skills, reading, literature, and composition. When I was informed that I would be teaching an advanced English writing class at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) in Taipei as part of my Fulbright award, I was very excited. I looked forward to meeting my Taiwanese students and helping them develop their English writing skills. I had been informed that my class would consist of English majors, so I was even more interested in teaching the class. However, as I have taught many Asian students over the years, I expected that the students in my class would be a bit shy and reluctant to participate actively in class. Because I have had a great deal of experience teaching many Chinese, Japanese, and Korean students, I naively believed that I understood East Asian culture. My first class at NTNU, however, did not go as I had anticipated. I walked into a classroom filled with nineteen Taiwanese college

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My Reflections

    Taiwan is a welcoming, multicultural environment offering wonderful opportunities to international scholars. I have known Taiwan for 30 years, having first come at age 28 to teach English for a summer at the Tainan YMCA, and returning a year later for Chinese language study at the Stanford Center at National Taiwan University.  After earning my PhD in East Asian Studies from the University of British Columbia in 1990, I have made several more trips to Taiwan:  as a research scholar at Academia Sinica in the summer of 1996, as a guest professor of history at National Chengkung University in the spring of 2012, and now as a Senior Fulbright Scholar at Tunghai University.  Tunghai University is a highly regarded private university in central Taiwan, founded in 1955 by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia.  Its motto is “Sustainability on the Foundation of Liberal Arts.” In the course of my fruitful five months at Tunghai, I have dedicated myself to collaborative work between Trinity University and the International College at Tunghai University.  I have contributed to the strong relationship between these two institutions and our two countries in three areas:  service, teaching, and research.    

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Robert Anthony Siegel: An American Novelist in Taiwan

    Robert Anthony Siegel is an associate professor in the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is the author of two novels, All the Money in the World and All Will Be Revealed. His awards include O. Henry and Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the Michener/Copernicus Society and the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown. He talks about his Fulbright experience of living, writing and teaching at Tunghai University, in Taichung.   美國小說家in台灣:這一年來的寫作及教書經驗分享(包括用錯中文的趣談)     席博安教授是美國北卡羅萊納州威爾明頓創意寫作學系的副教授。他曾出版《All the Money in the World》和《All Will Be Revealed》兩本小說。並榮獲歐亨利文學獎、手推車小說獎、北卡羅萊納藝術協會、米奇納-哥白尼和普文斯鎮藝術工作中心等機構的獎學金。他將和大家分享他在台中東海大學的生活、教書以及寫作的經驗。

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Finding a Home

     “Where is home?”  For most people, this is a very straightforward question. But for me, it’s a little more complicated. Although I was born in the United States, I spent most of my life living in Asia, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing. I have grappled with the concept of “home” for as many years as I can remember. I knew my Fulbright year would be special, but when I reflect on my experience, I realize that I walked away with lifelong friends who are a second family to me, and with memories that truly symbolize the feeling of “home” I have for Taiwan.      Before I went to Taiwan, I promised myself to live every day to the fullest. I ran two marathons, traveled throughout the country, attended religious and cultural ceremonies, and even earned my Taekwondo black belt.      However, it was my work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) that really meant the most to me. On weekdays, I worked with a local English teacher, where I co-taught to over 1,000 elementary students. Teaching in a foreign country had both its rewards and challenges. Whenever students were excited to learn, it was

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Cross Cultural Collaboration: Lessons Learned

The role of the Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) advisor is multifaceted. When people ask what we do, we explain the job responsibilities as facilitating TEFL teaching workshops, observing classes and holding post observation conferences, responding to weekly English Teaching Assistant (ETA) reports, and conducting research. However, we discovered that the key to fulfill all of these duties is our ability to communicate with one another. Throughout the past five months of working together, we have found great value in facilitating discussions that lead to greater understanding of one another’s culture.      We believe that through our own interactions, discussions, reflections, and co-constructed knowledge base, we have discovered successful strategies for collaboration. We have gained a deeper understanding of the Fulbright mission through our own joint efforts and now better appreciate the essence of what “a world with a little more knowledge and a little less conflict” means in the context of the Fulbright ETA program. In this essay, we hope to articulate the lessons that we have learned about communication and how they might be applied to the co-teaching relationships which are the cornerstone of the Fulbright ETA program. Compromise      Great collaboration does

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