I've been learning Chinese for about two years now. Since I plan to travel to Taiwan this summer and stay with a Taiwanese host family, I needed a Chinese name, similar to how Chinese students who come to America select an English name. Although most Taiwanese people can speak some English and wouldn't have a hard time pronouncing my name, the host family application form required a Chinese name.
If you're unfamiliar with Chinese names, they're a little different than English names (besides being in Chinese, of course!). Chinese names place the family name first, then the given name. The family name is only one character (which means one syllable), and the given name is one or two characters. While English names usually don't have an explicit meaning (for example, my name "Jennifer" doesn't mean anything obvious unless you look up its history and meaning), Chinese names oftentimes do. In addition, given names are often masculine or feminine, just like English names. The Chinese language also has many homophones, and you don't want to choose a name that sounds similar to a word that might have an unpleasant meaning. As you can imagine, it's difficult for a non-Chinese person to select their own name!
When I took my first Chinese language class at Confucius Institute, my Chinese teacher there gave me a name, 康洁 (pronounced Kāng jié), which means clean or healthy. She chose this name for me because the initials are the same as my English name, and it's also a pretty sounding name. Although I like this name, I preferred a name with three characters, and one that had more meaning to it.
I've had the same Chinese language instructor at my university for all of my classes, so I asked her to select a name for me. She chose the name 寇思臻 (pronounced Kòu sīzhēn). It sounds like "Kruse Jen" (about as similar as you can get with Chinese). She also told me she thinks I'm a "very serious girl when it comes to caring about her future". 思 means to think, or to think about. 臻 means the best, attain, or succeed. The surname, 寇, means "bandit" or "villain", and isn't a very common Chinese surname, but I liked it anyways.
Just to double check, I asked my Chinese language partner of her opinion on this name. She said the surname was a little odd and the meaning wasn't good. I asked again on Reddit's Chinese language subreddit and was told that in mainland China, the character is mostly used in the word "日寇", which refers to the Japanese army that invaded China. Oops! I decided to choose a different surname.
In the end, I chose the surname 夏 (Xià). I like the sound and I like how it sounds with my given name. 夏 means summer and I think it's a pretty character. I got some second opinions again and the feedback I received was good.
Questions? Comments? Don't hesitate to contact me!