Nikki Lee – Camp Counselor, Martial Artist, and Volunteer English Teacher

UC San Diego, La Jolla, CA

The most important part of being a counselor is to not just to help campers learn more about the Taiwanese culture, but to look for those who may be potential leaders within the Taiwanese American community.

Who are you?

I am a 2nd generation Taiwanese American and college freshman at UCSD who’s passionate about working for the advancement of the Taiwanese American community. I have been involved in the TA community ever since I participated in the Journalism Internship Program (JIP) hosted by the Taiwanese American Citizens League (TACL) during my junior year. Through the internship, I volunteered at many events that helped me understand more about Taiwan’s political situation. I also met many Taiwanese American leaders who inspired me to become a leader within the community.

Outside of my Taiwanese American community, I have been practicing martial arts for eight years and am currently an assistant instructor. As an assistant instructor, I help demonstrate new and difficult techniques to lower level belts. I was someone who struggled in the beginning to grasp basic techniques, so I feel like it is my duty to motivate other struggling martial artists to always give their best. I plan to continue my martial arts career by joining a team at UCSD this fall.

Tell us about your organization / project, your role, and its impact?

This summer, I was a volunteer English teacher at Sin Fa elementary school (新發國小) in rural Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The school was a few minutes away from the area where Typhoon Morakot hit last summer. With a partner, I taught first graders who in the beginning had no motivation to learn English. We had to think of many fun activities to encourage students to learn. I learned more about the lifestyle in Taiwan, how to manage a noisy classroom, and became a little more fluent in Taiwanese and Mandarin. Although the students didn’t have much compared to students in the U.S., their energy and eagerness to participate during class made teaching one of the most memorable experiences in my life.

Besides the Journalism Internship Program, I have been involved with the Leadership Identity Development (LID) camp that is also hosted by TACL. Last summer, I attended as a camper. This summer, I had the opportunity be a camp counselor. My co-counselor and I were in charge of a small group of shy seventh and eighth graders. I learned how to step out of my comfort zone in order to encourage my campers to participate in social camp activities. The background planning and bonding with campers are my favorite parts of camp. But the most important part of being a counselor is to not just to help campers learn more about the Taiwanese culture, but to look for those who may be potential leaders within the Taiwanese American community. Being a counselor required hard work and no sleep, but it was definitely rewarding in the end. My goal is to become a camp coordinator and see all my campers become counselors one day.

Where do you find your inspiration and motivation as a student leader?

I look up to my dad who is also a Taiwanese community activist. He has dedicated his life to working toward Taiwanese recognition, which has motivated me to do the same.

I also look up to Erica Ling, who directed the ITASA West Coast Conference at UCSD in April this year. She inspired me to dream big and to play an even larger role within the Taiwanese American community.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

I am proud of my Taiwanese heritage because it is just who I am. Nothing and no one can change that.

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

The future of Taiwanese America will have more Taiwanese Americans making the spotlight in the U.S. media and politics. There will be schools for people to learn Taiwanese. Thomas Shu’s Taiwan Tea will be sold at Starbucks across the nation. Adam Wang will win an Oscar for “Best Supporting Actor” for his role in a new movie with Johnny Depp. Squatting toilets will be in style. Tsua-bing will be the new frozen yogurt. And finally, Taiwan will be recognized as a country by everyone around the world.

Any additional information you would like to share?

I have a birthmark shaped like Taiwan.

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