St. Thomas senior Kayden Hoang Bui placed placed fifth in Taiwan’s “Foreign Students Speaking Chinese” national contest held Nov. 12 at the National Dr. Sun-Yat Sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

Bui is studying abroad for the academic year through the Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) in Taipei in the Intensive Chinese Language and Culture Program.

Kayden Hoang Bui at the National Dr. Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan.

He qualified for the national competition after entering his host school’s Mandarin Chinese language competition under the topic “My Most Unforgettable Moment” and speakng on his experience teaching English in Thailand. He placed first, which qualified him to compete at the national level with 84 international students from Taiwan. The students ranged from beginner speakers to Ph.D.s in Chinese language and literature.

“I spent three weeks with my teacher and the staff at National Chengchi University to prepare for my speech. It took about six to eight hours of practice a week and included pronunciation, grammar and body language training,” Bui said.

He noted that he was touched by all the support from his classmates and university in general: “They all came to the competition to see me compete!”

Competitors gave five-minute presentations, which were televised, and were judged on content, posture, expression and time-control.

Initially he was disappointed with his finish at the national level, but after some reflection, he changed his mind: “I believe the first- to fourth-place winners really deserved it. They were all incredibly good, and it was apparent that they spent a lot of time and energy preparing. I am very glad to be among such great people and to be a part of something so exciting.”

Bui received a Boren Scholarship and was awarded with one of St. Thomas’ Global Citizenship Awards last spring.