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Newcomer to EHS Chinese Program Earns Prestigious Scholarship for Study in Taiwan

After two years of Latin classes at Episcopal, Isabelle Bechtel ’20 took up the challenge of learning Chinese, signing up for her first course last fall. The decision clearly paid off.
Isabelle has just been selected for a competitive government-backed scholarship to study Mandarin in Taiwan this summer, becoming the second consecutive EHS student to receive the honor and the eighth overall.
“The message here is very clear: It’s never too late to start something new,” said Julie Xiaofen Wang, Isabelle’s Chinese teacher.

Isabelle will spend much of this summer in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, as part of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which awards some 660 merit-based scholarships to high school students each year, accepting only about one in five applicants. Run by the U.S. Department of State, the program aims to develop a cadre of young Americans with skills in Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, and other less commonly taught languages.

Isabelle sees the scholarship as an opportunity to become more of a global citizen and deepen her knowledge of the Chinese language and culture.
As part of the program, she will take intense classes in Chinese and live with a family in Kaohsiung.

She found the language switch to Chinese challenging because Latin is not spoken, but the complexity of Latin prepared her for the intricacies of Mandarin. “I think I have a slight advantage because Latin has so many declensions, and I’m able to pick up on some things more easily,” she said.

Julie said the scholarship program seeks strong scholars but also applicants who, like Isabelle, embrace new challenges. “China is so different from America; how the students will adapt to the new environment and become comfortable there is very important,” she added.

Other EHS student to earn the scholarship since the program began in 2006 are: Leigh Ainsworth ’08, Christine Joo ’08, Alex Schuyler ’09, Kaitlyn Ugoretz ’13,  Kate Oldham ’15, Joy Ashford ’18, and James Dixon ’19.