Being Taiwanese herself, Heidi Yen (Pre-med, 2015) wanted to volunteer in her country, so she spent her summer teaching English to students in the town of Shanlin in the Kaoshiung County of Taiwan. Shanlin is surrounded by palm tree covered mountains and fields of pineapples.
"My biggest motivation was to work with these kids," Heidi said. "While they try and compete with other students in the city for jobs and colleges, they are at such a disadvantage because their schools do not have adequate English teachers."
Heidi and other volunteers received training in Taipei before driving six hours to Shanlin. However, after the first hour with her elementary students, Heidi realized she needed to be quick on her feet and ready to improvise. The students’ English skills were lower than expected and some of the students didn’t see the point to going to school over working on their family farms. Even though she faced challenges during teaching, Heidi enjoyed getting to know the students and seeing how they lived their lives.
"One of my first interactions with the kids was when a boy taught me how to fish with a stick and some bread. His dreams of one day becoming a doctor for their small town motivated him to do homework and practice his math even though he was in charge of taking care of his young siblings and cousins and working in his family’s pineapple fields."