A Recap Of Part 1 Invitations
I’m back for the second installment of how my responses to a series of invitations led me to Taiwan. If I had declined any of those invitations, I would not be here. Other invitations would have led me down other roads. Of course, when an invitation comes along, there is no way to know where it leads. One opportunity presents itself, and a decision is made based on its own merits. It’s part of the adventure. To be honest, I only became gradually able to accept the fact of moving halfway around the world. If I had known at the beginning of this path where it was actually leading, I may have talked myself out of accepting invitations that put me in line for something I didn’t feel ready for. But more about that when we get to the next invitation. For now, I think it’s good to only see one part of the path at the time. Taking on each of these experiences was done without knowing what the results or consequences would be. It is only in retrospect that I can see the path. In a way, I suppose it was more like trailblazing, if trailblazing can be considered an unintentional activity.
The first seven invitations on the path are listed below. The details can be found here.
- Invitation 1: New Job Position
- Invitation 2: Entering a Master’s Program
- Consequence: Decision to Complete BA
- Invitation 3: A Marriage Proposal
- Invitation 4: Joining the Honors Program
- Invitation 5: Becoming a Writing Center Mentor
- Invitation 6: Taking a Second Major
- Invitation 7: Considering Graduate School
Invitations 8 and 9: Apply to the Roberts Fellowship Program
These were technically more college invitations, but the consequences were significant. An invitation to apply for the Roberts Fellowship comes in the form of a letter. I was not successful in my bid for the program when I responded to Invitation 8. It wasn’t until 9 that I was even called in for an interview. In 2003-04 I was accepted into the program as part of the Roberts Fellows as part of the 5th year’s group. The link above provides information about this program if you’d like to know more.
I can’t begin to tell you how transforming that first year is. Friday morning seminars and a variety of activities, meetings with leaders, cultural experiences, and bonding with the others in the group as we explored our potential as individuals and as a group.
As an aside, my fellowship experiences enhanced my coursework in ways I could not have imagined. As part of a sociology class project, I had the honor of interviewing the benefactor of the Roberts Fellowship, Donna Roberts. That led to an idea of creating a memory book of the first five years of the program. It included her biography, as well as reflections from key people in the university. The President, the Director of the Program, and the Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Robert Yien. (Remember that name. He issues an invitation later.) I sent emails to the all the Roberts Fellows from all five years inviting them to offer written reflections for the book. Many responded, and I edited the volume, while another Fellow from an earlier class took care of the graphics and cover layout. At that spring’s banquet to welcome Year 6 Fellows, we presented the book to Donna Roberts (as a surprise!), and every one of the Fellows also received a copy. (The tradition was continued when the Year 10 class also put another book together in 2009.)
In October of 2003, as I was experiencing everything that being a Roberts Fellow meant, my husband and I were married. His love, devotion, and support helped me through all of the work involved with the extra activities that had come into my life. I have never doubted for a minute that he wants what’s best for me and for us. When I doubt myself (which I am prone to do from time to time) he is there to remind me that I can do whatever I put my mind to. With him by my side, I finished the activities of the Fellowship year and prepared for the culmination of that year–a trip to Asia.
Consequences: Travel to Asia
I can’t begin to cover everything we did in two weeks. Our May 2004 trip included stops in Taiwan, Beijing (where we climbed the Great Wall), Hong Kong, as well as three cities in Japan: Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokushima. Maybe in a future post, I can give more details about some of these stops, but for now I’ll briefly review our time in Taiwan, because it affects the final invitation and acceptance that brought me to teach here. While in Taiwan, we stayed at the Grand Hotel and spent most of our time in Taipei, with visits to the Taipei 101 building, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and the campus of Shih Hsin University before heading to the Taoyuan campus of Ming Chuan University.
During our time in Taiwan, Dr. Robert Yien joined us there to guide us around Taiwan and share his knowledge with us. On a bus ride after we had visited Shih Hsin University, I asked him about starting an English Corner for international students at our university, similar to what we had seen at the Taiwanese university. He was receptive and the following semester, he funded the start-up costs for our own English Corner.
Consequence: Shift in self-perceptions
The best way to demonstrate the shift that happened to me as a result of being a Roberts Fellow can be demonstrated in my entry in the memory book:
This program has challenged me to reconsider many of the ideas and believes I’ve carried with me all my life–especially the ones about myself and what I can hope to accomplish. I found myself believing in possibilities that used to seem out of the question. I have taken advantage of opportunities I might have passed up even a year or two ago. The best part is that it hasn’t just affected my life: it affects the lives of my children and those with whom I interact. I have always encouraged people to reach for whatever they wanted in life and to embrace their talents and gifts, but I have a new sense of urgency and excitement whenever these gifts and dreams come up in conversation. I actively encourage everyone within my circle of influence to think differently and to believe in themselves and in the power of what they can accomplish, both individually and as part of the groups to which they belong. I am excited about this new vision of the world.
Competing Possibilities: A Fork in the Road
While in Japan in 2004, our group also visited Tokushima University in Japan. While there, I felt an urge to consider teaching English there for a year. I did some checking and came home and discussed it with my husband. He was willing to join me in such an endeavor. But there were many challenges. My youngest child was still in high school, my parents were recovering from a major car accident, and my age put me in a situation of having to choose between two competing goals–teaching overseas or going to grad school. At that time, it didn’t seem I could do both, so I went to graduate school.
Invitation 10: “Come to Taiwan to Teach!”
When I emailed Dr. Robert Yien (I told you he’d be back), to ask him for a letter of recommendation, I discovered that he, too had accepted an invitation. While I had been in graduate school, he had accepted he not only agreed, but he suggested that I come to Ming Chuan University and teach for a year or two. I took a few weeks to think about it. I knew I would like spending time in Taiwan, but it was a long way from my family and friends. On the other hand, I already had a few contacts and would certainly make more. With SKYPE, I could talk with my parents and my four children. In the end, my husband and I decided that I would go alone, and that if it turned out to be longer than a year or two, he would join me. In the meantime, he kept things going in the US. When things extended to a third year, he did the major work of dismantling our household and joining me in Taiwan. When I flew back for year three, he was with me. I am now in the middle of year four, and we are planning to be here at least through year 5.
And now our home is in Taiwan. The invitations converged, resulting in an unexpected opportunity that went far beyond teaching. I’ve been involved in writing and editing projects involving accreditation, academic journal articles, and historical documents for groups and individuals. I am involved in research about teaching writing and the writing process to English language learners. I’m even coordinating the development of a new in-house textbook project, which involves eight new books for the new curriculum of our University’s English language program.
I had no idea that any of these invitations would bring about such a major factor in my career trajectory. These years in Taiwan will forever change my life. For me, that’s the gift of this experience–making a difference in the lives of my students while doing the work I love. I have found a home half-way across the world, a place where I can flourish in spite of the physical distance between me and my loved ones in the US.