Taiwanese culture is a kaleidoscope of beliefs and customs that have its roots in ancient China. Natalie Hsiao, one of this year’s Fulbright Language Teaching Assistants, is bringing the colorful culture of her home in Taipei, Taiwan to Notre Dame. Specializing in Mandarin Chinese and supporting professors in the Chinese classes here at Notre Dame, Natalie is already making a huge impact on the students in East Asian Languages and Cultures.
Before journeying to Notre Dame, Natalie was a teaching assistant at Taipei American School, a K-12 school focused on an American-style curriculum. When Natalie wasn’t teaching, she loved solo traveling and anything outdoors. Her adventurous spirit has led her to visit 17 different countries, with the cities of Berlin, Bangkok, and Barcelona fondly remembered as being among her favorite places to visit. She tends to prefer the lifestyle of a big city, and she surprised herself when she decided to come to Notre Dame as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA)
Natalie was drawn to teaching because of her affinity for children. She says that they make every day on the job interesting, and she loves that she can interact with young people and help shape their future. While teaching college-level classes has presented interesting challenges that help her grow as a person and teacher, Natalie is excited to return to teaching lower grades upon completion of her fellowship here in the United States.
Natalie discovered Fulbright after searching for ways to advance her job at Taipei American School. While she enjoys being a teaching assistant, she is determined to take a stronger leadership role at her school. In her quest to bolster her resume, Natalie received her master’s degree in education from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). She is excited to see how her career will change following her completion of Fulbright.
While at Notre Dame, Natalie is shadowing Mandarin classes and functioning as a second set of hands in the classroom. She helps students improve their speech and pronunciation, and also works as a teaching assistant by grading both writing and oral assignments. Outside of her teaching, she is taking two classes: one in the theology department and one on early education. She hopes that these classes will give her a wider skill set. Natalie has enjoyed engaging with the Notre Dame community through social events like football games and participation in the Vietnamese Student Association of Notre Dame and the Taiwanese Student Association.
Natalie has echoed the sentiment of other language teachers about the importance of learning a language. Learning another language “opens doors for you, both professionally and personally. Gaining fluency in new languages has been critical in helping me not only communicate but also to connect with other people. It has expanded my horizons and helped to develop my character.” Despite the strong emphasis Natalie places on language learning, she recognizes that learning a new language is challenging. However, she wants to encourage students to remain persistent, as there is a great payoff in the future for them. “Don’t give up on studying a new language. When you master a language you will have so much fun, and you can mingle with the target group much better.”
If you are interested in learning Chinese, East Asian Languages and Cultures offers beginner, intermediate and advanced classes in language through multiple Chinese programs of study. They also offer a wide range of courses in English to help students at Notre Dame explore the culture and literature of China.
Luke Van de Walle (‘24) is a political science and global affairs major who specializes in current event writing and conducting interviews.
Featured image photographed by Laila Ibrahim ('22), an anthropology major who specializes in presentation design, digital media design, and researching open source images.