Yes, I did wear a hazmat suit on my flight back to Taiwan last summer and no, it was not my choice.

The anxiety I felt about college increased tenfold when I decided to spend my first year of college in Taiwan—7,505 miles away from the rest of the student body where I would have to live, quite literally, nocturnally. However, this anxiety was considerably alleviated after my first email correspondence with Olga López-Cotín, the head of the RC Spanish Program and my professor for Intensive I. While I had originally emailed her about the format of her class, Olga immediately shifted the focus of the conversation onto the time difference and its impact on my ability to participate and succeed in the program. Her prioritization of my wellbeing over her class and academics—something I never expected from a renowned University—took me aback and was the first of many instances which proved that the care and dedication of RC professors to their students spans thousands of miles, literally. 

I partly joined the RC because of the ability to be closer with my instructors, but this was given an entire new meaning when brought into fruition. While Olga was my first experience with the unwavering effort of RC instructors that helped bridge the gap between my computer and Ann Arbor and made me feel like I was just a walk away to East Quad, she was certainly not my last. Other instances include a Zoom with Steve Pokornowski solely dedicated to ranting about the 2020 elections, a 15-minute office hour appointment with Wendy Gutiérrez-Tashian that turned into a one-hour discussion on real-world issues, as well as a conversation with Sandra Nuñez where I was able to share a part of my culture with her and talk about my family’s Lunar New Year traditions. 

Of course, it is not only the RC instructors that have made my year as normal as it could be. The community-aspect of the RC has not only allowed me to feel connected academically to my peers, but also given me a social life that I thought was only possible in-person. The discussion-based format of RC classes encouraged conversations between students that have given me plenty of opportunities to get to know my classmates as well as to actively participate in the RC community, despite being so far away. What started as a couple of rectangles on my screen turned into friends that I FaceTime daily and feel comfortable enough to confide in. I always joke that I’m saying “I love you” to people whose legs I’ve never even seen, but this just goes to show how strong the sense of community is in the RC. 

During this past year, I have felt more a part of Michigan and a sense of normalcy in my RC classes than my larger, LSA classes. The RC truly is a student-first program and this year has shown just that. I could not think of a better way to acclimate to an entirely new environment without setting foot in the state.


About the Author

PinYi Lee is a rising sophomore in the RC planning to major in Biology, Health, and Society and minor in Moral and Political Philosophy. She is unsure about her plans with Spanish, but hopes to at least minor in it. Outside of academics, she’s involved with TASA, AMSA, and America Reads. She is thrilled to be in Ann Arbor in August and finally be able to meet her friends and explore the city.