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Students studying Mandarin get a taste of Taiwanese culture

Hudson Miller, Writer

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On the 21st of December, Quaker Valley Middle School’s Chinese class enjoyed a lovely meal with a most interesting visitor.

Brought from Taiwan to the United States originally by her love for music, Su, Wan Yī (also known as Abbie) joined our small class not because of music, but rather because of dumplings.

Born and raised in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Abbie would help her mom make dumplings in the kitchen as a small child. This year, during her visit to the US, Wan Yī agreed to stop by and teach QVMS students her family’s tradition. The reason behind her trip was to visit all of her friends in the United States that she made in college.

Abbie chose to study in the US because in Taiwan, college is very independent, and friends and extracurricular activities are not as important. Wan Yī wanted to get out and meet new people.

For her undergrad degree, Wan Yī studied cello at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Now a semi-professional cellist, Abbie traveled back to Taiwan with a grown love for music and many new American friends.

Back in Taiwan, Wan Yī was hired to teach an English class. She returned to America when her boyfriend in Taiwan wanted to come to America to get his bachelor’s degree.  Because of this, she decided to get her master’s degree so that she would have something to do while he was in class.

In the US, Wan Yī and Miss Lipko, who oversees QVMS students studying Chinese, were neighbors in Point Breeze, a little section of East Liberty, and instantly became friends.

Back in Taiwan, Wan Yī would play her cello in a Starbucks coffee shop. There, she got to know the manager and staff. This led to her being recommended to corporate management at Starbucks, helping her to get a job in marketing and communications for the company.

Now, Abbie designs gift cards and much more for Starbucks. It just so happened that the timing worked out, and her recent trip back in the United States fell at a time when she could come into class and teach students her family’s recipe.

Ms. Lipko’s said, “As a language teacher who really loves food, I adore experiencing a culture through its food. When I think back to my time working in France, I hold really strong memories to certain foods and experiences I had with special people while eating them. When eating the foods now, I am instantly taken back to that experience with that particular person.”

“I really wanted my students to have that personal experience. I have had the opportunity to share very special experiences with Abbie when she lived here. She came home with me for Thanksgiving and Christmas and has had really strong emotional experiences tied to food and people. We both wanted the students to have an authentic cultural experience with traditional Mandarin food that they may never have had the chance to experience,” Ms. Lipko continued.

Abbie’s visit was a great treat for QVMS students taking Chinese.

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Students studying Mandarin get a taste of Taiwanese culture