Taiwan – Spending the Summer in Taipei – by Megan Beckerich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[Pictured: Jiufen, a former Japanese administered coal mining town turned tourist hot spot and inspiration for Spirited Away]
The summer of 2016 is one I won’t forget anytime soon, and not because it only just happened a few months ago. I had just graduated from Northern Kentucky University with a BA in International Studies, and I decided to study abroad one final time through my alma mater. I wanted to continue my education in Mandarin Chinese, and my solution was to study abroad in Taiwan. It was a chance to brush up my lackluster speaking and writing skills, meet new people, and take a little break after working so hard in my four years at Northern Kentucky University.
I had studied abroad once before through an exchange program offered through my university. I went to Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan for their international summer school in 2015. Having “caught the travel bug,” as they say, I needed to go abroad again, and I found out I could go to a partner school the summer after I gradate. Thus, I applied to National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan. I was accepted into their 8-week summer school, and I had the option to enroll in additional classes besides the necessary Mandarin class. I decided to take a Philosophy class that discussed I-Ching (an ancient book that used for fortune telling and discussed the basis of the universe), Confucianism, and Daoism. That class was only three days a week for two weeks, as opposed to the Mandarin class five days a week for the entire 8 weeks. I stayed in the international student’s dorm, and became close with students from Australia, England, and everywhere in between. With two of my three goals checked off, that left goal three: the fun times. Taipei is stuffed with museums, parks, a zoo (a convenient 15 minute walk from my dorm), shops, restaurants, and for those willing to go a little bit out of the city limit: impressive nature parks and historical sites.
Making your way around Taipei is quite easy thanks to the glorious public transportation. Our school generously provided us transit cards (aptly named the “easy card”), making it easier to travel by bus or train. Because classes dominated our afternoons everyday, my classmates and I would do most of our sightseeing over the weekend, or in the evening. Sunset is when the night markets would open, and almost every other night was spent exploring a market for bargains (clothes, phone accessories, jewelry, tableware; if you can think of something you want for cheap, odds are they had it) and delicious food.
[Noodles with a tea egg (egg hard-boiled in tea)]
Oh the food! In a lot of travel guides you will see people rave about Taiwanese food. As well they should, the food and drink in Taiwan is amazing. Noodles, egg pancakes, shaved ice… Just about anything you could want, you can find. That is not to omit the drinks in Taiwan. Bubble tea, rapidly gaining popularity in America and Europe originated in Taiwan, and boy does it show. One can hardly walk a block without spotting a bubble tea shop, and most stores offer a wide variety of flavors. If you don’t find bubble tea appealing, you can just as easily find milk tea and fruit tea if you want something cold, or traditional Oolong, black, green, or white tea if you want something hot. It’s familiar and different, a great reminder of the globalized world we live in.
[Lychee shaved ice (notice the jelly on top!)]
Having returned from Taiwan, I miss being in an active learning environment, and exploring new places (and the food if that wasn’t obvious). However, because of this experience I gained a new level of self-confidence in not just my language acquisition, but also in my personal leadership skills. I don’t know what the immediate future has in store for me, but I’m ready to embrace whatever comes.
Megan Beckerich is a student at Northern Kentucky University
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17 responses to “Taiwan – Spending the Summer in Taipei – by Megan Beckerich. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports”
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Thank you for the article Megan, it was very well written. I admire your sense of adventure and willingness to learn. You are very lucky to have visited both places (Japan and Taiwan) they are both definitely on my list of places to visit. I bet the philosophy class you took was very interesting; the topics you mentioned sound fascinating! As for what you said about gaining self-confidence, I completely agree that experiences like this can promote our self-awareness and self-reliance which can lead to confidence.
Megan, thank you for this article. I am intrigued by the many adventures you had in Taiwan, exploring new foods, cultures, and learning opportunities. Your comment on being in an active learning environment fascinated me and made me reflect on how traveling abroad has done the same for me. It is interesting that some people are very eager to learn in challenging and new situations like you did and that others fail to see the important lessons awaiting them. Being uncomfortable and unfamiliar has a way of feeding our self-confidence!
Thank you for sharing your experiences! I also would like to travel and study abroad in or, and most definitely, after college over. Culture is dynamic meaning it is forever evolving into new subsections. However, even though it is dynamic, I have noticed that fundamental traditions and beliefs tend to stick more than others. This is why I find culture so fascinating to study and experience. I hope to explore and experience as many as I can. What Taiwanese traditions did you experience that differ from American customs? What similarities did you notice? I am impressed that you took a philosophy course because, frankly, the subject scares me a little. I suppose that means I should take it.
I found your article to be very intriguing and insightful. Again, thank you for sharing!
What an awesome way to spend your summer after college! Seeing as you studied in both Japan and Taiwan… which was your favorite? Where your experiences pretty similar or very different? How was taking the philosophy class? I bet it was really interesting and something completely different! I keep reading things about different foods across the country and every time I read these articles it makes me hungry! What was your favorite thing that you tried while studying abroad?
This sounds like an amazing experience! I am so glad you mentioned the ‘travel bug’, because before I traveled abroad I did not think I would become a victim of this, but I did as well! It was great to hear some background about the origin of bubble tea. I did not realize that Taiwan was the country of origin for this type of tea. I also think it is great that you were able to capitalize on your education and further your traveling abroad experiences. Did you notice any major differences in your travel abroad experience in 2015 vs. 2016? Any major similarities? I hope to hear more about your experience!
Thank you for sharing your interesting experiences! It is a bold and adventurous move to choose to spend time after graduation abroad. It sounds like it was a simply incredible experience to learn both in school and on the streets of new places. As someone who would consider doing an abroad experience myself after I graduate, it would be interesting to hear if you received any pushback from friends and family about this decision. Were people supportive? How do you think that move impacted your career?
Spending a summer after graduation emerged in such a beautiful culture sounds amazing! After having the “travel bug” I’m sure returning from a trip like that would be difficult. I would have been looking for jobs while there instead of enjoying my experience. I’ve never heard of an egg noodle until you mentioned it here, however. I’m very interested in this concept. What kind of tea is it cooked in? Can you do different kinds of tea to make different types of tea eggs depending on the dish? I hope you’re able to experience more adventures soon!
I hope after I graduate I can take a trip like this also. Living in the dorms with people from all over the world would be very interesting. Not only are you learning so much from living in Taipei, a lot was probably learned from the people you were living with and meeting everyday. All the posts I read bring up food and how good it is. I feel I could take a trip to China or Europe and only spend money on all the different types of food I want to try. Lastly, learning a new language is hard but living in that country and hearing it everyday is probably the best way to learn it and to connect with the culture. I hope you have many more opportunities to travel and learn more about the different cultures around the world.
Thank you for sharing your experience in Taiwan! Studying abroad seems like such a wonderful experience but being able to do it twice in your college experience must have been amazing and full of adventure and learning. I agree that whenever going somewhere new the food tends to be a huge gateway into the culture. It must be interesting to be surrounded by people from many different places while studying in Taipei. Great Article I can’t wait to hear more!
Wow, what a wonderful experience ! Having the opportunity to experience another country plus continue your education at the same time is awesome! I could only imagine how tough it could of been being in another country while having the “travel bug”. I also didn’t know that bubble tea was originated in Taiwan which is pretty cool. That is awesome that you have had multiple traveling experiences, did you see any extreme differences? or any close similarities? Great post! I hope you continue your travels!
Thank you for sharing your experience Megan. I am glad you were able to take so much from traveling abroad. Bubble teas is something I have never heard of before and can not wait to try. Also the picture of the shaved ice looks really delicious. How was the Mandarin class and the Philosophy class? How did the National Chengchi University compare to Nanzan University?
Megan, I really enjoyed your article and it is great to hear about your experiences from Taiwan. I am interested in doing a study abroad trip myself, and the knowledge that one gains from such a trip seems invaluable. You were not only able to dive deeper into the language, but you gained many cultural skills and diversified your own sense of the world by immersing in the culture. Super cool. I also find it fascinating how although Taiwan is so far from the United States, we are also similar as you mentioned there are many museums, zoos, and other tourist attractions. This familiarity must be comforting since you are so far from home. This ties into globalization as you mentioned the types of tea and how it is a true staple of the people in Taiwan. I guess the U.S. is more known to have coffee drinkers, but it’s the subtle similarities that humans enjoy warm drinks that can be shared with others.
Hello! I loved reading your post! You sound like you had a lot of fun! The food looks good! It sounds like the dorms were in a pretty central part of the city. I too have caught the travel bug, last summer I visited San Diego for a couple of days and I want to go back so badly. I feel like there’s so much to see and I’m excited to get out there and experience it all. Just out of curiosity, how did you chose to study Mandarin?
This was such a refreshing piece! Maybe because I can just vividly recall the taste buds that cried ‘deliciousness’ at bubble tea. It takes a great deal of responsibility to incorporate and apply your education to the basis of your daily life. Going back to food, I think globalization has panned out fairly well in that area of all of our lives. Food is such a huge part of our identity and it is a blessing in disguise to rave and appreciate food/drinks without having to categorize an origin.
Wow! This post is amazing, with such a diverse perspective from your point of view. The food looks so yummy in your photos you provided us. The noodles with a tea egg remind me of my culture’s traditional dish, which is Pho from Vietnam. Whenever I eat Pho, it takes me back to my roots and origins. Even the smells bring me back home as my family prepares the meal together. Thank you for reminding me of home and my family that I dearly miss. I hope to travel aboard in the future, to explore new places and importantly learning their culture.