Ursinus Alumnus Earns Prestigious Fulbright Award
Jesse Wun ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship that will take him to Taiwan for one year to teach the English language and American culture to Taiwanese children.
While growing up in New Jersey, Jesse Wun ’22 gained a deep appreciation for his Taiwanese heritage. Since graduating from Ursinus, he’s become a teacher at Chinese School of South Jersey, working with American students to teach and preserve traditional Chinese language and culture.
Now, he has earned a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, which will take him to Taiwan for one year, where he will work with Taiwanese children learning the English language and American culture. It will be an experience of a lifetime, and one that brings him full circle.
“I’m very honored,” Wun said. “When I opened the decision letter, my hands were shaking. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to go to Taiwan and experience a cultural exchange between the U.S. and Taiwan.”
The Fulbright Program is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. It is devoted to increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. More than 2,000 U.S. students, artists, and early career professionals in more than 100 different fields of study receive Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants annually to study, teach English, and conduct research overseas.
Wun’s parents are from Taiwan, but it wasn’t until he attended Chinese School as a child and visited Taiwan with his family that he began to fully understand and respect his heritage.
“I think I took it for granted,” he said. “My parents spoke Chinese to me at home, and they sent me to Chinese School, but at first, I didn’t take it seriously. I could barely speak the language and couldn’t read it at all. Then, my parents took me to Taiwan when I was 12. It was transformative. Seeing the bustling markets and the serene mountains—and seeing where my parents grew up—gave me a feeling of home.”
His Ursinus experience also impacted his appreciation for his Taiwanese roots.
“I took Chinese all four years with Professor [Qian “Stephanie”] Sun,” he said. “She helped me strengthen my Mandarin and introduced me to a lot of cultural things that I now appreciate. I wanted to take the foundation that Ursinus gave me and go a step further, living in Taiwan and becoming an ambassador for the U.S.”
Wun says he sees a lot of himself in the students he teaches at Chinese School of South Jersey. “On my first day, I could tell they were a little disengaged,” he said. “I wanted to build a personal relationship with them, so I would talk to them about their interests. I talked to them about basketball and anime, I brought in mooncakes [a traditional Chinese bakery food], and I would incorporate lessons about vocabulary and geography into games we played.”
“One parent said to me, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but my daughter is so interested now.’ I got the spark going,” he said.
Wun hopes to spark the same passion and interest during his time abroad, teaching Taiwanese students about American culture. One way he envisions doing that is through his love of anime and animated movies.
“What I like about anime is that it really draws upon the human condition and human emotion. The facial expressions and exaggerated movements all have a purpose, and they make you really feel the emotion of the characters,” he said. “It also centers on enduring themes, like love, and it allows you to see perspectives from a neutral point of view instead of good versus evil. I love movies by Disney, Pixar, and Illumination, and I want to show them to Taiwanese students to demonstrate American themes and traditions.”
He also hopes to bring his love of running abroad. He was a member of the Ursinus cross country team as a student.
“Running always motivated me but doing it alongside my teammates and having them to push you past your limits was what brought out the best in me,” he said. “I want to be able to show the students at my host institution how you can build camaraderie by simply running next to another person.”
Wun, who is from Moorestown, N.J., is the third Ursinus graduate to be awarded a Fulbright in the past five years, following Ben Allwein ’18 and Jason Bennett ’19.