I walked into a room filled with others my age. I started sweating as if I was still outside in the hot, humid weather. I went up to the table where the AID coordinators sat. These people were relatively young Taiwanese people that would be in charge of making sure we, the younger volunteers, did what we were supposed to do.
“What is your name?” One of them asked in nearly perfect English
“Ariana. Ye Xiaojin.” I answered back. It was a little tough getting used to speaking Chinese to everyone around me. The coordinators could speak English, but sometimes it was much easier just switching to Chinese if there were parts I couldn’t understand. The problem was I wasn’t confident at all in my Mandarin and would often hear words I didn’t know. I felt like an outsider. After arriving in Taiwan, I suddenly wished my parents kept up the Mandarin speaking in my home rather than assimilating and speaking English.
I’m in Taiwan to attend the AID Summer program. This program consisted of volunteers getting sent to disadvantaged schools all over Taiwan to teach English. The first week was going to be our training week in Chientan Youth Activity Center in Taipei. The rest of the weeks we will be sent to our designated schools to teach.
The first day at Chientan consisted of mass confusion. I went up to the room I was assigned and found a bunch of guys in there. I had to go downstairs with my luggage (The elevators were taking way too long. It’s not easy having hundreds of volunteers use three elevators) and talk it over with the coordinators.
Turns out I was actually living in the building next door. I went over there in the sweltering heat (95 degrees with humidity) and brought my luggage up 3 flights of stairs. Finally, I got to my dorm room.
I met the other three girls who I would be working and leaving with for the next few weeks. We were from all over: Washington DC, Illinois, and California. I liked that the program let us meet people from all over the United States.
After getting settled, we started orientation, hosted by the coordinators. The coordinators introduced themselves with a fun song and goofy dance. We then played a few icebreakers to get to know others around us. I met the three guys that would be part of my group. The seven of us would work together for the next few weeks. The long orientation wore me down, but finally at 9 pm, I got to meet my group’s coach, Ida.
The school my group would be sent to was Sanzhi Junior High School, in the city of New Taipei, about a 1 hour drive from Taipei. We will be teaching 6th and 7th graders. Our coach was an English teacher over there. Ida introduced herself and told us the plan for the next few days. During the week, she would be helping us finalize lesson plans and give us advice. She seemed super motivated and caring towards us. Although I had a bit of a difficult start, by the end of the first day I was positive and hopeful for the future.