Tyler Prochazka, Western Kentucky University, Capstone 2015-2016

2016-2018 Taiwan Student Fulbright Recipient,  National Chengchi University, Asia-Pacific Studies

From 2015 to 2016, I had the chance to study in Tianjin on the Flagship Capstone program. During my Capstone year, I also learned a lot about myself. Living in in China for a year was much different than my previous summer-long experiences. It was far more difficult -- and far more rewarding. During that time, I had to navigate a lot more unexpected cultural differences. Over time it became frustrating that I was treated as a foreigner in nearly every interaction I had. However, this forced me to constantly reflect on who I was and where my perspectives differed with my Chinese friends.

 

On the academic side, Capstone gave me access to a tutor several times a week who helped me with my various projects in Chinese. Over the year, I completed a research project studying a welfare policy in Tianjin with primarily Chinese research. My tutor helped me contact the local social welfare bureau and interpret many of texts. My direct enrollment professor also provided many of the texts that I used. This research later became my Economics thesis, and the data I collected has been presented at an international conference and published in the South China Morning Post.

 

In my first semester, I took a direct enrollment course on Chinese Economic History. The professor later became the supervisor for my internship as an economics research associate in the second semester. Throughout the second semester, I provided research memos in Chinese to my professor and wrote essays on agricultural economics. I met weekly with his graduate students to discuss our various projects and coordinated with them on the research. The professor also had us rapidly compile and interpret Chinese research and write essays within two hours. This internship prepared me for working in a real-world research environment in a Chinese context, and also drastically improved my working ability in high-level Chinese.

 

Finally, it is likely that I would not have had the opportunity to receive a Fulbright had it not been for Capstone. In addition to the Chinese abilities, my Capstone year gave me the tenacity necessary to be successful in Taiwan. While I complete my Fulbright Master’s program, I am working with local and international experts to establish an NGO in Taiwan. During this process, I have conducted many meetings and presentations entirely in Chinese, and it was almost certainly Capstone that gave me the requisite skill set to do so successfully.

 

Undoubtedly, the Chinese Flagship program has had a profound influence over the direction of my life, probably more-so than any other program. Capstone in particularly has opened many opportunities that would have otherwise been impossible and created innumerable professional and personal relationships that I will have for the rest of my life. It was not easy, but Capstone is one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had.