Winter ’11: Taiwan in Review


Today marked the last day of class for the winter term at Taida. I can’t believe my three-month course is already over!

Ever since coming back from Shanghai, I’ve always wanted to return to Asia to further improve my Chinese. I yearned to live in the Middle Kingdom. Everything seemed so fascinating. I had the option of returning to Asia for a summer to improve my Chinese, this time in Taipei, at the International Chinese Language Program. But, because I had a firm start-date in mid-June, coming back one more time became a non-issue. I never forgot about my goal to come back, and three months ago I finally returned.

Well, it’s been three months! It’s definitely been an incredibly amazing experience. I mentioned in an earlier that I had mixed reservations about my course. After staying for the full course, I can honestly say that my opinions haven’t changed. However, I don’t think I can fault the CLD for this. My teacher was fantastic. Since I was the only non-Japanese in my class, the focus of the course was on primarily speaking (which is what I wanted) than on writing.

While increasing my speaking, listening, and reading fluency was the primary goal, my goals in coming to Taiwan weren’t solely to study Chinese. Rather, I also wanted to:

1. Learn traditional characters

  • Did this every day: ordering food, watching the subtitles on TV, and of course during class

2. Get a different perspective of cross-strait relations

  • Hard to say whether this was accomplished or not, but certainly got a read on this during the 2012 Taiwan Presidential Elections

3. Climb some mountains

  • Climbed two mountains near Taipei: Elephant Mountain and Seven-Star Mountain

4. Visit the beaches

  • Went to Kending, Nanwan, and Baishawan – renowned beach areas in the south of Taiwan

5. Use the island as a base for traveling throughout Asia.

  • Went to Hong Kong
  •  Will be going to Singapore and Malaysia

Looks like I accomplished everything I wanted to get out of while here. Success!

One unexpected surprise that makes this experience abroad unique from my previous experience in Shanghai was getting to know and befriend people from all over the world.

Unlike the program in Shanghai, which consisted of only American college students, the people I’ve met here are incredibly diverse, both in terms of age and background. Some students here are still in college. Others, like me, have just graduated relatively recently. Others haven’t even started college, or have been out of college for years. I’ve gotten to meet folks literally from all over the world: Australia, Iraq, Honduras, Hungary, Japan, and the UK, just to name a few. All this diversity has taught me so much about the world, some trivial, some fascinating:

– Knowing what words like bogan and woop woop mean to Aussies
– Getting a first-hand account of being buried-alive after a bomb blast in Iraq
– Realizing just how intense the desire to migrate to America still is for many

Overall, I’m incredibly glad as well as thankful that I’ve been able to (financially afford) putting a hold on my professional career for this language program. Besides doing all of the things aforementioned, this “career-break” has really given me the time to re-evaluate what I want most out of my life, both personally and professionally. Moreover, this experience has affirmed my belief that it’s the people you meet, not the place, which makes a city feel like home.

That’s a lot of writing. If you read this far, thanks!

I’m still going to be in Asia through the end of February, but this weekend is the last I’ll be spending in Taiwan. So, if you excuse me, it’s time for me to log off and make some last-minute memories before heading back home!