UI student awarded Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan

Laura Wang
Laura Wang, who will receive a B.A. in English and Chinese from the UI this May, is the winner of a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Taiwan for 2016-17.

Laura Wang, who will receive a B.A. in English and Chinese from the UI this May, is the winner of a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship to Taiwan for 2016-17. As a Chinese-American, Laura plans to use her time in Taiwan to become a translator of Taiwanese literature. In addition to starting a bilingual reading series, she plans to organize a book club where students will read Chinese translations of American novels and discuss how these books reference and influence American culture, as well the important differences between original texts and their translations.

Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Degree and field of study: B.A. English (creative writing), B.A. Asian and Slavic languages and literatures (Chinese) (University of Iowa)

What will be the focus of your teaching?

I will teach either elementary or junior high school students (I haven’t been assigned yet but I’m very excited!) English. I studied abroad last summer in China and found that the most effective lessons were those that taught me both how to speak Chinese and how to speak like a Chinese person. I want to do the same for my students by contextualizing new vocabulary in American culture, whether through holidays, music, or history. My love of language began with an interest in creative writing, and I hope to use creative writing exercises to inspire a joy for English within my students.

What drew you to this field of study?

My parents immigrated to Iowa from China, so I’ve lived a multilingual, multicultural, and transnational experience since birth. Speaking Chinese and learning about China has made me smarter, kinder, and braver. If I can give other kids a similar chance to broaden their horizons, I absolutely would, which is why I jumped at doing the Fulbright ETA.

How do you see this Fulbright grant advancing your work?

I’m committed to advancing the conversation about East Asia. U.S. news provides thorough coverage of East Asian economics, politics, and environmental degradation but very little in terms of its culture. Few of my peers even know what or where Taiwan is. If the U.S. is to continue developing its relationship with East Asia, I think both parties can only benefit from better cultural understanding. This is the big picture. I hope to fit into it by promoting what I love most—literature. While at the UI, I’ve studied literary translation, and now my goal is to get more translated Chinese language literature published, particularly Taiwanese literature, to which I’ve taken a liking. During this next year in Taiwan, I plan to improve my Chinese reading skills and connect with the Taiwanese literary community to aid and inspire future translations.

How do you envision this will change your life?

I hope my understanding of what is “Chinese” expands and gets more nuanced. I hope that I become a stronger advocate for Asians and Asian Americans. Beyond the obvious, it’s hard to imagine how the Fulbright will leave me changed but I’m sure it will.

Would you have any advice for future students interested in pursuing a Fulbright?

Start early. Pay attention to deadlines. Stay in contact with your recommenders and Karen. Those are the obvious tips. I’d also advise to start thinking about why you want to go—why your particular country, why your particular project. That was the hardest question to answer, but when I did, my entire application suddenly came together.

The highly competitive Fulbright Program, created by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1946 and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, provides grants annually for international research and teaching in an effort to foster global partnership and cultural exchange. For more information on applying for a Fulbright through the University of Iowa, visit our Fulbright page.

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