Making their mark and starting a tradition

Some of the finest CCU students make it a habit to accept adventurous educational opportunities, and two of them will be traveling to Taiwan in February 2022 to study Chinese.

Megan Shoop and Tiffani McNeil have been awarded the prestigious Ministry of Education (MOE) Huayu Enrichment Scholarship (HES) through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO). Put simply, these Edwards College students have earned full tuition and expenses to study Chinese for one semester at their choice of universities in Taiwan. Shoop and McNeil will be the first Edwards College students to travel to Taiwan to study language.

Ever since I started going to college, I’ve been making a habit of going outside my comfort zone,” said McNeil. “So, even though I’m nervous about this experience, I’m doing it because I’m nervous about it. I think it will open a lot of doors for me."

The honor is a result of the students’ hard work and talent combined with a new, growing, and dynamic program in Chinese language and culture. Shoop and McNeil both brought knowledge of the language with them to CCU. Shoop, who began studying Chinese in sixth grade to better communicate with her best friend, is currently at the highest level offered at CCU. McNeil began Chinese classes in high school, which generated her interest in the language and the culture. Both students learned about the scholarship opportunity from Xinyi Tan, associate professor in the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies. Tan joined CCU in 2018 and built the Chinese program from scratch. A minor in Chinese was added to the undergraduate catalog just months ago, in Fall 2021, and it currently has 15 students enrolled.

McNeil, a senior double major in marine science and language and intercultural studies (LIS) with a minor in Chinese, said she feels some trepidation about the experience since she’s never studied abroad or been overseas before; however, taking advantage of opportunities has been a key part of her university experience.

“Ever since I started going to college, I’ve been making a habit of going outside my comfort zone,” said McNeil. “So, even though I’m nervous about this experience, I’m doing it because I’m nervous about it. I think it will open a lot of doors for me.”

Shoop and McNeil, who have taken the same Chinese classes, credit Tan and other professors with providing a solid education in the language.

“I love Xinyi Tan’s classes; she does an amazing job with them,” said McNeil. “She had one focusing on speaking and conversational Chinese, and one on characters and their components and the meaning behind them. It was one of my favorite classes.”

Shoop, who is a junior triple major in marine science, political science, and LIS with minors in applied mathematics and Asian studies, added that the courses have prepared her for the upcoming experience.

“In our Chinese speaking class, we had a lot of topics that were super relevant, like asking for directions, using public transportation, renting an apartment, finding a doctor, those kinds of things – very practical information that will be really helpful once we get over there,” said Shoop.

Shoop and McNeil, who have lived in CCU dorms during their college experience, will be finding and renting an apartment in Taipei on their own as roommates.

One other Edwards College student, Aubrey Oien, traveled to China on a Chinese government scholarship in 2019, just before the COVID pandemic began in Wuhan. Oien and Joseph Grate also earned the HES scholarship for Spring 2022 but deferred for the semester.

Tan is proud of her students and thinks their experience may serve as an example for other students.

“I wasn’t surprised they won the scholarship, but I am very proud and happy for them,” said Tan. “[Shoop and McNeil] are excellent students. This program offers a lot to our students, and we need trailblazers like Audrey, Tiffani, and Megan who can realize these trips and come back and share their experiences with other students, who may follow their path. We have students who are interested but still on the fence. Once their peers have that experience and assure them that there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain, I believe more students will be likely to apply for the scholarships and consider this kind of study abroad.”

Shoop and McNeil also hope their example encourages other students to seek out study abroad experiences through these and similar scholarships. In addition, they expressed gratitude to their professors for making this opportunity available to them.

“Thank you to our wonderful professors for encouraging us to apply and bringing these opportunities to our attention. They’re good, strong support systems,” said Shoop.

McNeil concurred.

"All of this is because of the professors. I’m very thankful for them.”