Chelby Joseph is an alumnus of the 2018-2019 NSLI-Y Chinese program. Chelby has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Television Writing from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Currently, Chelby is an intern at Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

It has been almost five years since Chelby returned to the U.S. after her NSLI-Y program in Taiwan. Since then, she graduated from NYU and has interned at various entertainment companies such as HBO, SNL, and Sony Pictures. Although she was initially interested in International Relations, Chelby decided to switch her major to Television Writing after gaining more confidence during her study abroad experience. While her parents have always been supportive of her, she was hesitant at first to discuss this with them. Before the switch, she attended a live taping with Stephen Colbert and asked him how she should approach her parents about pursuing her interest in comedy writing. Fortunately for her, he ended up calling her mom and convincing her himself! She is excited to be following her passion, and notes that she has always had the ‘artist bug.’

Before spending a year in Taiwan, Chelby began studying Mandarin during her sophomore year—the same year the Mandarin language class first became available to her high school. She really enjoyed learning more about the language and culture, and appreciated how her teacher made lessons very engaging. She was introduced to the NSLI-Y program through her teacher and was inspired by the opportunity to leave her small town in Illinois. Her parents were nervous but encouraging, whereas Chelby was excited to see a new part of the world, especially since she knew few people in her hometown who had been outside of the country. Before departing, Chelby felt nervous since she was unsure of how she would be received as a Black woman in Taiwan. However, she found her host family to be very welcoming and an amazing part of her experience.

Although her NSLI-Y experience was years ago now, Chelby still talks about it like it was yesterday. She enjoyed hanging out with her three younger host sisters, describing her favorite memory as when she would pick up her host sister from kindergarten and bring her home where she would prepare dinner and play guitar for her. While she was at school at Wenzao Ursuline University, Chelby joined a beatbox a cappella group, which received a lot of support from the local campus. She is also thankful that she had the opportunity to study various topics that allowed her to be creative like the calligraphy class she took. Prior to the NSLI-Y program, she felt a bit shy about some of her artistic interests, such as improv, but she felt braver and began to explore her passions soon after the program began. The sense of independence she gained after studying abroad made her feel as if she could accomplish anything, so she is now unafraid to be open about her interests.

Chelby Joseph with H Fam

Chelby is thankful to NSLI-Y for providing her the opportunity to form unique connections with others due to the language skills and experience she gained abroad. She enjoys meeting others who speak Mandarin as it allows her to practice the language more often. She has noticed that these conversations often form instant connections with others that would not have expected it. Recently, she began a mentorship program and was matched with a Taiwanese-American mentor, whose family still lives in Taiwan. This allowed her to form an instant and unique connection with him. She feels that NSLI-Y has given her a special ability to make lasting impressions and build meaningful relationships with others.

Despite experiencing homesickness and culture shock, Chelby does not regret a single day of her NSLI-Y experience because she knows it gave her more perspective on life and has made her braver. She encourages others to study abroad since the challenges that accompany it will make them better in the long run. While she can relate to feeling apprehensive about studying abroad as a Black person, she still believes it is always worth it to see the world.