Park City High School student selected for international program in Taiwan
Three years ago, Evan Lawing said goodbye to his sister as she left for Oman for a seven-week language immersion program. When she returned, he heard about the positive experiences she had and decided that, as soon as he could, he would follow her footsteps.
Lawing, who will be a junior at Park City High School in the fall, recently departed for the same program in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to study Chinese. Like his sister, he was awarded the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He is set to return in August.
Lawing was one of 670 students from around the U.S. selected out of more than 3,300 applicants to participate in the program. Other students will be studying Arabic, Hindi, Korean, Persian, Indonesian and Russian in countries around the world, according to a press release.
The NSLI-Y program was created in 2006 to encourage U.S. youth to learn critical foreign languages and develop a deeper cross-cultural understanding.
Lawing is eager to do both.
“I’m nervous because it’s a new culture and something I haven’t experienced before. But I am excited because I get to live with a Taiwanese family and I get to learn about their culture, their food and their language,” he said.
Lawing’s interest in the Chinese language and culture began as a child. While living in Virginia, he took courses in Chinese, which he has continued to take since his family moved to Park City. During the application process last October, he was asked to select at least two languages he’d like to study if selected. He only listed Chinese because of his dedication to the language.
As part of the application, he wrote essays, received letters of recommendation and did in-person interviews. Then, a few weeks ago, he received an email telling him that he was selected for the program and would be living in Taiwan.
Lawing is perhaps most excited to be immersed in the language and culture. In addition to living with a Taiwanese family, he’ll attend classes with other teens from around the U.S. for half of the day. After classes, he plans to spend time with his host family and explore Taiwan with his classmates.
He hopes to come away from the experience with the ability to help teach people in the U.S. about Taiwanese and Chinese culture. He said that learning about other people’s way of life is important to him.
“More and more in the news, I’m hearing about things that (show) people trying to separate the world,” he said. “Everyone is thinking that we are so different from each other when, on a basic level, we are all really similar.”
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.