Cheng-Chieh “Jenny” Chang, an exchange student from Taichung City, Taiwan, just finished her junior year at Waunakee High School. At her young age, she already felt that it was important to learn about other countries and cultures, so she applied to the Rotary Youth Exchange Program and came to the United States last August.
After applying, she received an email from the Rotary in April 2018 letting her know that she would be studying in Wisconsin. She has rotated with a few different families in town, enjoying her time at each.
When asked what has been her favorite thing here so far, she exclaimed with a huge grin, “Snow!” She explained that in Taiwan there is only snow on the mountaintops and lucky for her, this winter did not disappoint. She enjoyed building snowmen, snow forts, and throwing snowballs with Gabi and Ethan Evans, the children of one of her host families. And she also got to enjoy ice skating for the first time in her life.
Her favorite class in high school was math, and she was involved in the Pay It Forward and Badminton Clubs. She also joined the A Cappella Singers. The students, teachers, and faculty have all been very welcoming, she said, and it helped to make friends by joining these clubs. With a sense of humor she recalled how students and teachers had a hard time pronouncing her name, so everyone agreed to call her Jenny.
The most challenging aspect has been the language barrier, especially when she first arrived. Speaking Chinese as her first language, it is hard to understand people when they talk quickly in English. And at first she wasn’t comfortable with her English. “Before I was very shy,” she said about speaking the language, but as she has gained confidence in her English-speaking abilities over the year, talking with others has become easier.
Besides her family, she has mostly missed the food back home although she does enjoy noodles of any kind here. One of her favorite things to attend in Taiwan is the Night Markets, a fun atmosphere where people can play games and buy food, as well as purchase clothing and other consumer goods. She also noted that because Taiwan is small, but very populous, it has a great public transportation system. The bus and high-speed rails, as well scooters, transport people where they need to go because finding parking for cars is too difficult.
When she goes back to Taiwan, she’ll have one year of high school to complete. She thought about pursuing a career as a police officer, but she is only 158 centimeters tall (approximately 5’2”) and to qualify, she must be 160 centimeters. If that door stays closed, she would be interested in becoming a forensics investigator, but did note that it is a very competitive field.
She is also interested in traveling to other countries, such as Canada, and also hopes to visit Europe in the future. She enjoys sharing her love of Taiwan with others and would welcome the friends she has made here to visit her someday back home. She will leave the United States in July having gained a tremendous experience studying and living abroad.