One-semester study becomes an extended stay for experience
September 28, 2009 —
“Enjoy every phase of your life,” wrote creative writing senior and Foundation Scholar Luke Deming, passing on the same advice given to him by his older brother.
This sentence, typed out at a computer halfway around the world, has come to describe the life of the SVSU student whose decision to remain in Taiwan for an additional year was the first choice to transform his life plan.
“I don’t know what I am going to do in the future, but I know that I am going to make sure I love it,” said Deming.
In the fall of 2008, Deming made plans for what has come to be one of the greatest experiences of his life: a study abroad program at Shih Hsin University in Taipei, Taiwan.
He knew he wanted to spend a semester in another country, but it was important for him to create an in-depth experience with a true reflection of an outside culture. This drove Deming to choose an environment in sharp contrast to that of SVSU.
“If you study abroad, you need to go to a culture where you will be uncomfortable,” said friend Ollie Zemanek while advising Deming on what location to choose.
Deming, following the advice given, chose to study in Taiwan through a free exchange program with SVSU’s partner school Shih Hsin University.
The Taiwanese university proved an easy choice for Deming because of the opportunities it provides for its students.
These include the freedom of class selection by international students, Chinese courses designed for nonnative speakers, and many chances to get involved on campus.
Cultural differences proved to be immense. Americans and Europeans are infrequent in Taiwan, and this infrequency has created a celebrity status. Many Taiwanese request the chance to take photos and speak with an American.
This year, Deming made the hard choice to remain in Taipei for an extra year. The extra study-abroad time, decided Deming, would give the chance to gain greater fluency with Mandarin Chinese. The fear of losing the language with the return to the United States cemented Deming’s decision.
The strong connections developed by the senior also contributed to his decision to prolong his studying abroad.
“Do I love people in Taiwan more than I love the people in America? No,” wrote Deming.
But without the support of the family- like relationships that have been established, he would not have been able to stay.
Deming makes sure he is truly “enjoying every phase” by remaining extremely active in Taiwan. Deming divides his weekdays between studying at the Mandarin Training Center, attending classes at Shih Hsin University and playing on the university’s basketball team.
“SVSU was like driving 85 m.p.h. on a 70 m.p.h. [highway], but in Taiwan, it’s about 110 m.p.h.,” he wrote.
Deming also works as an English substitute and tutor, both of which are extremely fulfilling for the SVSU senior. This newly discovered passion has begun to present future possibilities of teaching abroad for Deming.
Despite his time there, Deming still feels loyalty to his home university and country, to which he plans to return in 2010.
“SVSU will always be ‘my’ university,” Deming commented.
The senior plans to complete his degree at SVSU and earn a TESOL certification to continue his work with nonnative English speakers.
“I have never loved life more.”