Why did you choose this particular country?
I wanted to stay here for the summer because I find Taiwan’s political status fascinating. It has a completely separate governing system from that in Beijing, and despite a shared heritage Taiwanese people increasingly identify as distinct from their counterparts in China. Yet because of the growing cross-Strait military imbalance, Taiwan cannot make any move toward de jure independence without risking the prospect of conflict with Beijing. Thus Taiwan occupies one of the most tenuous positions in the international community today, with major diplomatic and economic consequences. Talking with Taiwanese people, listening to their perspective on these issues, and trying to gain a deeper understanding of these dynamics have already made my stay in Taipei extremely rewarding.
What was the biggest lesson you took away from this experience?
Learning a language is hard work. There is no getting around that simple truth, and there are absolutely no short cuts. Especially with Mandarin, I think it is natural to feel as though you are putting in an extraordinary level of effort, yet still find it difficult to converse with people in everyday situations. I’ve definitely learned that everyday presents new challenges, and it takes consistent commitment and endurance to make progress. Nonetheless, I am immensely grateful for this opportunity, and my hope is that this summer will be a springboard for successful future studies in Chinese.
What are two interesting things about Taiwan that people may not know?
First, Taiwan’s topography makes for some absolutely beautiful scenery. I have climbed various mountains in Taipei that overlook the city, and also hiked Taroko National Park in Hualien. These places rank with some of the best views I’ve ever seen, and I want to continue exploring the rest of the summer. Second, night markets are a huge hit in Taiwan. Taipei in particular has numerous such locations that sell everything from local food, to clothes, to bubble tea (which was invented here). My favorite local food is “baozi” (包子) and beef noodles. I still haven’t worked up the courage to try the stinky tofu, however. In conclusion, I want to say thank you SSP for enabling me to be here this summer and experience life in Taipei!