Since graduating from Ursinus, Jesse Wun ’22 has become a teacher at Chinese School of South Jersey, working to teach and preserve traditional Chinese language and culture. Now, he has earned a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, which will take him to Taiwan to help Taiwanese children study English language and American culture. For Jesse, it will be an experience of a lifetime, and one that brings him full circle. Get to know a Fulbright scholar.
Jesse’s parents are from Taiwan, but after attending Chinese School as a child, visiting the country, and coming to Ursinus, he began to understand and respect his heritage.
I think I took it for granted. 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. It was eye-opening, but I’d say that I didn’t fully embrace my Taiwanese roots until I was a student at Ursinus. I took Chinese all four years with Professor Stephanie Sun. 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.
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. 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.
Jesse loves animated movies and anime (a traditional style of Japanese animation) and plans to bring it to the classroom during his Fulbright experience in Taiwan.
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. 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 also love movies by Disney, Pixar, and Illumination, and I’d love to show them to Taiwanese students as a way to demonstrate American themes and traditions.
His Ursinus experience taught him a lot about the value of community.
I had a personal connection with all my professors and peers that really impacted me. Being in a research lab, running on the cross-country team, and being a member of the Southeast Asian Student Association gave me a sense of camaraderie that ultimately helped shape who I am. I want to bring that to my Fulbright experience and maybe start a running club with students. 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. 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.
Although he is a teacher now, he aspires to have a career in medicine.
By immersing myself in the culture of Taiwan, I hope to become a physician who can build relationships with future patients by drawing upon greater familiarity with different cultural values to establish a stronger human connection and improve healthcare. I would also like to take this opportunity to strengthen my Mandarin, further facilitating comfort for Chinese-speaking patients. In the future, I plan to volunteer with the Tzu Chi International Medical Association and provide international relief to areas in need.
The Fulbright Program is the world’s largest and most diverse international educational exchange program. Jesse is the third Ursinus graduate to be awarded a scholarship in the past five years.
I’m very honored. 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.
Editor’s note: The Fulbright Program 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.