I’ve been very busy with traveling and enjoying my last few weeks in the US for a while, so I apologize for the lack of posts. Now that I am back, I wanted to write a quick update about my work with Mandarin and my continuing struggles with funding.
My arrival in Taiwan for the International Chinese Language Program is a mere 2 weeks away. I have spent the past six weeks independently studying in the hopes of testing into the second level course at ICLP. I have no real idea how close I am, but I do feel that my ability has grown by leaps and bounds. Jumping from 0 to 1 on a scale of 100, while subjectively feeling infinite, is still a single drop in the very large bucket of proficiency. I realize I am still taking baby steps, but as long as I can stay optimistic and continue to feel forward movement, my enthusiasm and passion won’t abandon me.
I think getting my speaking as far up to speed as possible is not only more practical but far easier. For about the first month, I tried to advance my reading, listening, writing, and speaking simultaneously. While the long-term goal is to be proficient in all, the simple fact is that reading and writing slow me down immensely. Therefore, I have shifted my focus and now spend a disproportionate amount of time on listening and speaking. I would rather hit the tarmac in Taipei with at least a passing familiarity with the spoken language even if I remain illiterate.
I doubt this is the best course of action for everyone, but it is the one that I think is working best for me.
The Continuing Financial Struggle of Studying Abroad
So as I have written several times, as a professional adult looking to study abroad for a year, I have been woefully unsupported by the American government. There is no aid available for federal or state student loans, thus my past Indiegogo campaign. As the campaign came to an end and it was apparent I could use more funding, I figured I would fall back to my last option: a private loan from a bank. Since I don’t own a home, I knew a signature loan with no collateral would have a higher interest rate. My credit is good, though, so I figured I could still secure something reasonable.
Well, a funny thing has happened since 2008: banks don’t really give out unsecured private loans anymore. Seems their own predatory behavior burnt them badly enough that they no longer offer such loans, even in meager amounts to those who have multiple accounts with said bank. When I went to my bank, they didn’t even take my name or account information. They simply said “We don’t do those loans anymore.” End of discussion. Another bank took my application and then denied me the loan because I will not be working as a full-time student in Taipei and thus the loan was too risky. Now I am not going to complain about banks not giving me a risky loan, but it does suck that loans that had been freely available to people with good credit for decades are now largely gone. For me, it is just another obstacle to overcome.
Lack of support for professionals looking to study independently remains the stark reality in which I live. As I have stated before, if not for the extreme generosity of the Taiwanese government, I would not be able to do ICLP this year.
While I am fortunate to be able to still do the program despite the lack of support from the government or private banks, there are many people who are unable to further their education outside of specific programs. With the job market still recovering from the crisis of 2008, the federal government should be making it easier, not harder, for Americans to gain valuable education and experience.