Using English will make his dreams come true
An early October Minnesota snowfall was somewhat of a disappointment for Wel-Kang Lin of Taipei, Taiwan.
According to his host parents, Ken and Jean Wessels of Blue Earth, their guest thought snowflakes were supposed to be the size of golf balls. Nevertheless, ‘Victor,’ as he has always been called in his English classes in Taiwan, is looking forward to more snow while residing here.
Victor, and fellow foreign exchange student, Jonas Hamperl of Germany, are the sixth and seventh students the Wessels’ have hosted in recent years.
An only child, Victor was born in Taipei to Hung-Tao Lin and Shu-Ching Yuan on October 31, 1991. With a Halloween birthday it shouldn’t be any surprise he enjoys horror movies.
In addition to movies, dance, art (sketching and drawing), drama and theatre, Victor enjoys traveling with his family. As a result, he has visited Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. His stay in Blue Earth marks the fourth time he has been to the United States.
“I would like to go to Europe, too,” he says, “but my parents think it is too far away and too expensive.”
Victor’s parents work in Taipei at the Shen-Kong insurance company where his father is the vice-president and his mother an assistant manager.
Victor says Taipei, a part of a major industrial area, is a city of about three million people. Most of Taiwan’s textile factories are here in addition to manufacturers who make such products as electronics, electrical machinery, appliances, wires and cables, refrigeration equipment and shipbuilding of yachts and other pleasure craft.
Affiliated with the E.F. Foundation for foreign study based out of Boston, Victor has noted many differences between American and Taiwanese schools.
The first nine years of his education were spent at a school in his home city of Taipei. However, for the past two years, Victor has attended the Huey Deng High School in Taiwan. It is a private school located about one hour from his home.
“The school is big like a castle,” explains Victor. “There are about 3,000 students there in grades seven through 12 and we must all wear a uniform.”
Since it is a private school with classes beginning at 7:30 a.m., Victor lives in a dormitory room with seven others during the school week, then returns to his parent’s apartment in Taipei on the weekend by bus.
“Our school bus is more like a tour or charter bus,” he explains.
There are three different tracts of study students may pursue at the Huey Deng High School. Victor says he is in the first one which concentrates more on history and geography. The other two are geared more for students who someday wish to become doctors. The emphasis in these areas is on biology, physics and chemistry.
“We can choose our classes,” he adds. “We have about 12 or 13 subjects we study. These include taking all the math courses (calculus, algebra and geometry) plus the Mandarin or Chinese language, English, civics, physics, basic earth science, arts and crafts and home economics. The English conversation class doesn’t help much though, because my classmates don’t take it seriously.”
Victor says there are 42 students in his class. “We stay in the same room for all of our classes. The teachers come to us,” he says.
He is used to a much longer school day than at BEA, since his classes begin at 7:30 a.m. at the Huey Deng High School with a lunch break at mid-day followed at 12:35-1:10 p.m. by a nap break.
“Everyone, including the teachers, sleeps during this time by putting their heads on their desks,” he says.
Classes resume in the afternoon with a supper break at 6:30 p.m. By 7:40, Victor says they return to their classroom and do homework until 11 p.m. He adds the seniors must stay and study until midnight.
Victor says students in Taiwan spend Monday through Friday in class. They have nine classes, but these are not always scheduled on a daily basis. Some of the days sports clubs meet, but in the case of Victor’s section, his focuses totally on education.
The clubs Victor has participated in at his former school include choir and volleyball. He hopes to go out for the tennis and basketball teams here as a means of meeting and getting to know more people. Already, he is a member of the Madrigals, 12 Bucs plus change and has a role in the upcoming fall play at the local high school.
Because one of his interest areas is dance, he is also taking dance classes at Dancers Unlimited.
“I wanted an easy year here,” confesses Victor who is registered for choir, algebra, art, culinary arts and world cultures. There are times, however, when he says he feels guilty about not having much homework.
Besides looking forward to more snow, Victor is also anxiously waiting to experience our Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. He says New Year is observed similarly throughout the world, so he will not miss it. Among the holidays his people celebrate are the Moon Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival. The latter, he explains, is a celebration of the history of China.
So far, Victor says his favorite U.S. food is steak. He also likes the Mushroom and Swiss Angus served at the local McDonald’s.
“The McDonald’s food here is different than Taiwan’s,” says Victor. “Ours is like a cross between Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s. We don’t have the wraps or Angus products. Instead, ours are more Chinese, serving more chicken. We do have some hamburgers, but the meat is not on a bun but on a formed patty made with rice.”
He says he likes to eat and has always enjoyed trying exotic foods. He has tried fried grasshoppers, which he says were crunchy and gross, but the fried fish eyes he sampled were just disgusting.
Since he is used to eating quite a bit of raw fish, his host mother, Jean, says he is waiting for some raw fish to eat.
“We have a lot of different types of food in Taiwan,” says Victor. “We have Japanese, Chinese, Indian, American and Korean foods to choose from.”
He says one of the major differences he has discovered is the fact American foods contain much more salt. Another food quite different from what he is familiar with are the soups here.
“We eat a more broth-like soup,” he explains. “Our soup has more rice and noodles in it, but our noodles have meat inside of them.”
The climate here has also been quite different from what he is familiar with in Taipei.
“We have the four seasons just like here, but the lowest our temperatures get are about 38 degrees and the highest is about 90 degrees.
A couple things he really likes about living in Blue Earth are the Wessels’ home and the opportunity to get his driver’s license.
“In the capital city where I live, it is very crowded and we must live in a small apartment,” he says.
As for working toward obtaining his driver’s license, Victor says getting his permit was most fun for him since people in Taiwan cannot drive below the age of 18. Because of the highly populated area, he says railways, high speed rail and bus lines connect Taipei with all parts of the island, so driving is not the necessity it is here.
“America is a big place,” he says. “I would like to go to New York and Las Vegas while I am here.“
He has already gone to Chicago, the Black Hills in South Dakota, Wisconsin and to Northern Minnesota.
Although he misses his family and friends, he says he also sometimes misses his homeland’s food.
“I always wanted to study abroad,” says Victor. “My first choice was the U.S., followed by England, because I like their accent, then Australia or New Zealand.”
Using English all the time has been tough, says the somewhat shy Victor. Since he says he is not a real outgoing person, making friends has also been a challenge for him. But this experience in America has also taught him much about himself.
“American kids are a lot different from those in my country. Here, you have jobs and plan more for your future,” he explains. “We don’t have as much of a chance of getting a part-time job like you do here.”
Victor has one year of high school left when he returns to Taipei next summer. After completing school, he says he wants to be a clothing designer perhaps for the theatre or movie industry. Or perhaps he will become an actor…
“My dream is to act in a movie like “High School Musical” or all kinds of horror movies,” says Victor. “I’ll use my English ability to find a way to let my dream come true.”