Jarret Zundel Studies Mandarin in Taiwan with Scholarship Program

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(Brady Liao, Photographer0
Jarret Zundel (right) with his new friend Marilyn Shi, a study abroad classmate, spent a Saturday night at a famous mall in Hsinchu, called Big City. Zundel, a junior at Miramonte High School, studied Mandarin this summer through the National Securities Language Initiative Youth Scholarship program.

    Orinda resident Jarret Zundel says the six weeks he studied abroad this summer were the craziest, most memorable and most magical in his life.
    “I arrived sweating in Taiwan with suitcases and in complete awe of this new world,” said Zundel, a junior at Miramonte High School. “I left having made friends, mentors and the feeling that I had gained a new home.”
    Zundel was selected in the National Securities Language Initiative Youth (NSLI-Y) Scholarship program. One of 44 United States students selected under the umbrella of the Mandarin Language, Zundel was placed in Taiwan. The American Council on Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) administers the program. Field trips and independent exploration educates the students about the history and culture of the targeted country.
    “The NSLI-Y acceptance rate is 18%,” said Zundel. “Along with a high school senior girl from Oakland, I represented the San Francisco Bay Area in this nation-wide program.”
    Zundel added, “NSLI-Y is a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) which promotes the study of Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian (Tajiki), Russian and Turkish.”
    He said the Chinese classes he took were rigorous.  
    “We had quizzes daily and a test every Friday,” said Zundel. “Since my class had only one other student, I formed a very close connection with my teacher. I was happy to get up and go to class every day. We talked about everything from serious issues, like China’s aging population and immigration to the best restaurants in the city.”
    Zundel said he loved the Chinese classes but felt it was important to experience Taiwan outside of the classroom.
    “In Hsinchu, you can go to the Big City Mall, which was the most modern, elaborate shopping center I’d ever seen,” he said. “I also went to the City God Temple.”
    He suggested it was rewarding to use the newly acquired language skills to meet people from the host country at shops, on the street and at his host school.  
    “I made some lasting friendships with high school and university students. They took me to fancy restaurants, beaches, shopping malls and a lot of places only natives know about,” said Zundel. “Language really is the key to forming friendships abroad.”
    Zundel believes studying abroad, while in high school particularly, makes one an independent person.  
    “You have to advocate for yourself in a foreign language, a foreign culture,” he said. “You have to learn to use public transit, manage your spending, plan out your time, plan where you are going to eat dinner, keep your dorm clean and do your laundry. You really do grow up fast.”
    For students interested in applying to the NSLI-Y program, visit https://www.nsliforyouth.org. The application deadline is Nov. 3. All applicants must be U.S. citizens, currently enrolled in high school, 15-18 years old at the start of the program, have a minimum 2.5 GPA and meet other criteria defined in the application.
    The program seeks applicants who represent the diversity of the United States. Students of all racial, ethnic, religious, gender identities, sexual orientations, disabilities and socio-economic backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
    “Having completed this intensive program, I hope to share my experiences with the community and encourage more high school students to apply,” said Zundel.

Bobbie Dodson can be reached at bobbiedodso109@gmail.com.

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