Student Profile: Boren fellow adjusts to life in Taiwan

Student Profile: Boren fellow adjusts to life in Taiwan

Hailey McGleam (刘霖) is a first year MAIS student and ERE concentrator at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center. She is a ’21 Boren Fellow and currently based in Taipei, Taiwan. In addition to her HNC courseload, Hailey is also taking courses at Taiwan National University (NTU). 


Why China, the HNC, and the Boren fellowship?
Coming to the Hopkins-Nanjing Center was by accident. I was originally a marine biology major and my best friend was Chinese and I started taking Chinese to talk with her mom. I realized at some point that I understood Chinese better than chemistry and thought, “Maybe I should keep taking Chinese.” When the HNC admissions representative came to our school, and they said the HNC had an ERE concentration, it blew my mind. I was taking four classes on Chinese culture, and was also an environmental science major, so what you find with that is that China is always coming up. It’s such a big polluter and in the West, they’ll say, “You can’t solve global climate problems without solving China’s climate problems.” What they don’t tell you is that you can’t solve global climate problems if you don’t solve the US AND China’s climate problems.

I wanted to get rid of this narrative that exists in the West about the Chinese environment, that either Chinese people are too repressed to care about the environment or too poor to make the sacrifice. I thought the Hopkins-Nanjing Center would be a good place to talk to people who actually have the experience of caring about pollution and go against that narrative that we see in Western academia. 
I went for the Boren fellowship because I put myself through college. I come from a low-income family and I’m a first-gen as well. I was a Gilman and Freeman Asia scholar in undergrad, and I realized that there were a lot of opportunities for funding from the government when you study China and Chinese. I saw the Boren Fellowship when I was in undergrad, but I thought it was intimidating. I didn’t think I fit the criteria, because they want people with a lot of experience. When COVID happened, I thought that maybe their requirements wouldn’t be as intense. I had gone abroad, and was involved in clubs, but I hadn’t been to any research conferences. In my Boren essay, I talked about the greatest threat to our future, which I think is, “a lack of cooperation on climate change.” I feel like the Hopkins-Nanjing Center represents cooperation between the US and China, so really the HNC and the Boren went hand-in-hand. 

As a Boren fellow, you are studying in Taiwan and attending NTU concurrently, how has the process been, attending two schools, and living in Taipei?
Even being here for a short while I can see the influence of the various cultures that have been on the island, the Japanese, Chinese, and so on. People live their lives their own way here. Right now, I live in an LGBTQ+ hostel, so there’s a strong individual culture. NTU’s campus is beautiful and there’s so much green everywhere. It’s just a mixture of old architecture and greenery. It’s a cool mixture of tradition and modernity, nature and humans. It’s a clashing coexistence but it works somehow. 
It’s been a bit of a time [this semester] because I’m taking five Hopkins-Nanjing Center classes and then I have two classes at NTU, which is quite a handful! Although I’d like to go to China, I’m also learning so much being in Taiwan. It was chaotic in the beginning, because NTU wasn’t sure if we were going to be let in and a lot of my courses initially rejected me because of that, but it’s okay because I ended up taking a class that’s on the National Environment of Taiwan, so it worked out. Next year I’m thinking about taking Japanese, once I get more of a handle on Chinese, which I definitely will if we’re still here. I feel like the more languages in East Asia you can speak, for someone like me who wants to travel and possibly do embassy work, would be very beneficial. 


What are your short-term goals (for HNC and NTU)?

I’ve really realized in even the short amount of time I've spent in classes here that there is a strong environmental consciousness in Taiwan, so I’d like to get closer to the faculty here and see if I can get environmental specific internships. It’s kind of hard to get environment specific internships in China, so I feel like I should take advantage of this opportunity. I also need to get more comfortable just speaking Chinese. I’ve been learning Chinese on Zoom for two years and I feel like that’s been hurting my language skills. I’m ready to learn real, social, authentic Chinese. 
What are your long-term goals?
I would like to help increase communications between America and China. On the side, my thing used to be teaching. I think that if we start with kids, we'll have generations of people that are more comfortable with each other and will see that we’re all just people, rather than Chinese or American. So, I think I’ll get back into teaching. I would love to do a consultation business in China. In America we’re seemingly still arguing about climate change and if it’s real; in China, you can’t live there and say that it’s not. So, I would love to do a consultation business for businesses and homes to be more environmentally-friendly.

In my ideal business, the smaller businesses wouldn't be charged for consulting services, since it’s usually a financial barrier to be more environmentally-conscious. So that’s the ideal, the dream. And part of the Boren fellowship is working with the government for a year, and I think I’d be good at diplomacy. I can travel and increase international cooperation. Eventually I want to get my PhD at the University of Chicago, my hometown. 

What has been your favorite moment at HNC?


There was this moment in the "Social Issues of China's Modernization" class when the professor was talking about the population problems in China - the unevenness -  and it was about the economics of the unequal distribution of resources among urban and rural populations. It might not seem like the most fascinating of topics to everyone, but I had this moment when I realized, wow, I studied this in my undergraduate and now I’m studying this in graduate school, learning about how significant this was for the Chinese population and now I can talk about it in two languages. It all connects back to each other. I emailed my undergraduate professors and told them they have no idea how much their classes benefited me. 

Interview conducted by Rebecca Ash-Cervantes