California State University, Fullerton

Wang Scholar to Spend Junior Year in Taiwan

Sept. 13, 2012

Young woman in a green dress.

Mary Aguilar

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Mary Aguilar has already flown the 15 hours it takes to get from Southern California to Taiwan and has adjusted to life in a country half a world away from home.

But for this junior international business major, a year away from home is not quite so unusual.

“My father has an international consulting business, which enabled the whole family to travel abroad,” said Aguilar. “During high school, we traveled to Italy, Switzerland, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and China.

“I love traveling and meeting new friends, as well as learning about new cultures.”

The 20-year-old from Menifee is spending this year at National Taiwan University, thanks to the support of a California State University Wang Family Scholarship, a Freeman Asia Scholarship and the assistance of study abroad adviser Kathryn Morrisey who “helped me figure out my finances and helped me see study abroad as a tangible goal.”

So at the end of August, Aguilar got on a plane for Taiwan. It gave her time to settle in and see a bit of Taipei before school started.

“I've been to the National Palace Museum, a couple night markets, the jade and flower market, Taipei Zoo, and hopefully, Taipei 101 [formerly the Taipei World Financial Center — a landmark skyscraper with 101 floors above ground and five underground] very soon! I also hope to visit the hot springs during the winter time. From what I’ve heard, it’s a great place to relax and unwind,” she reported.

“Public transportation is a major necessity here in Taiwan,” she noted. “The majority of the population ride the MRT to and from home, work and school. It has been quite an adjustment for me since I’m used to just getting in my car and driving myself wherever I want to go. I have used the MRT every day since I arrived. It is so handy!

“One day, my friend and I decided to take the bus instead of the MRT. We got to the our destination just fine. It was coming back where we got lost and apparently missed our stop and went across this bridge to the other half of the city!” Aguilar said. “Luckily, we met this elderly Chinese lady who was so nice and willing to help. She got off the bus with us and we all ran across the street (through oncoming traffic). She helped us flag down the right bus to take us back to school! What an adventure that was!

“Oh, and 7/11 stores are everywhere! A 7/11 is more than just a convenience store, it plays a major part in the Taiwanese lifestyle! They come to fill their MRT/Bus cards, buy groceries, coffee, make copies, etc.”

Aguilar is attending the International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan, which, she says is a highly intensive program. She has already taken two semesters of introductory Chinese.

“I actually had my first day of Chinese classes today!” Aguilar said in an email Monday, Sept. 10. “They are are really quite difficult in comparison to the courses I had taken at CSUF. One of the rules is we’re not allowed to speak English — not just in the classroom but in the whole building, which has been quite a challenge.”

Making new friends has not been a challenge, however. “Everyone here has been so friendly and nice. I've only been here a week and I’ve made friends from all around the world — Spain, Germany, Japan, mainland China and Singapore — to name a few.

“I’m currently living in the Prince House Shui Yuan dorms that are located relatively near my school, and I can get there in 15 minutes walking. The majority of the international exchange students live in these dorms so its always great to meet new people in the lobby or elevator!”

By the end of the year, Aguilar says she hopes “to be close, if not fluent, in speaking, as well as listening, in Chinese. I know that sounds like a lot, but I plan to make my first priority immersing myself in the culture and language.”

Following the year in Taipei, Aguilar hopes to complete her degree by 2015. Her ultimate goal after college is to work in the banking industry as a financial consultant managing foreign investments.

Wang Family Scholarship

Aguilar is one of two scholars who are studying in Asia with the financial support of a Wang Family Scholarship. The other scholar, Nikki Dao of Westminster, a senior majoring in international business, is studying in China.

The Wang Family Scholarship was established by former CSU Trustee Stanley Wang and his family to “provide students with an opportunity to learn in an international environment and another culture.” Each year, 20 scholarships of $4,000 each are awarded — 10 for study at either Peking or Shanghai Jiao Tong universities in China and 10 for students studying abroad at National Taiwan or National Tsing Hua universities in Taiwan.

To be eligible for the scholarship, CSU students must demonstrate a strong academic interest in China or Taiwan, be accepted to study in China or Taiwan with the CSU International Programs and have financial need as determined by the Financial Aid Office. Selection is competitive.

In addition to the Wang Family Scholarships, there are students studying overseas thanks to such scholarships as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Freeman Asia, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships, Japanese student services Organization Scholarships, United States-Japan Bridging Foundation.

This year’s recipients and the countries where they are studying include:

Ambassador Scholars

Brenda Gaytan of Orange, senior, international business, and Michelle Hotta of Redondo Beach, sophomore, communications - France
Charlotte Miller of Daly City, junior, history - Sweden
Maki Murai of Torrance, junior, communications studies - Japan (also received a JASSO award)
Jasmine Suggs of Lake Elsinore, senior, art-entertainment art/animation - Italy (also received a Gilman award)

Gilman Scholars

Annie Chang of Lakewood, senior, health science - Spain
Nikki Dao of Westminster, senior, international business - China
Grace Na of Anaheim, sophomore, liberal studies- China

U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation

Kyle Shintaku of Brea, senior, international business - Japan

By: Pamela McLaren, 657-278-4852

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