Hollywood native studying within the San Francisco State University Chinese Flagship Partner Program. I am currently traveling abroad in Asia and sharing my journey. I have recently been to Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei. My focus is to visit cities and countries in which the native tongue is Mandarin Chinese. During the Summer of 2019, I will be studying within the International Chinese Language Program at National Taiwan University. I will be sharing my journey through Gilman Global Experience Blog.
After spending almost three months in Taipei, Taiwan and returning back to San Francisco, CA, I have spent a lot of my time recalling friends and the experiences that I have made in Taipei. I have been back in the U.S. for one week now and I am still readjusting to life, establishing my routines, and reconnecting with friends and family. Along with adjusting to my American lifestyle, I am also readjusting to speaking English on a day to day basis as in Taipei I pledged to only speak Chinese.
Now that I am back in the U.S., I am taking notice of many cultural differences that I am now much more aware of between America and Taiwan: the accessibility of foods, bike rentals, public transit, mopeds, the number of pedestrians on the street, and the daily attire people wear. Here in San Francisco there far less people walking the streets and there are little to no moped users. Additionally, there isn’t a bike rental service in almost every block as there is back in Taipei. I must note that the weather is significantly different. As Taipei is in a Tropical region, and San Francisco is notorious for its cold and foggy days. A complete contrast. But regardless of these differences, there is a difference in people and the pace they live in.
As I notice all these differences, I also cannot help to notice the differences in lifestyle from my friends in the U.S. and those I have made in Taipei. Being part of the LGBT community and experiencing the lifestyle and recent legalization of same sex marriage in Taiwan, I was exposed to a community that was in a thriving and developing phase. There was a uniqueness of this in Taipei. As I have also been in Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, and Hong Kong, in Taipei the LGBT was visibly flourishing and it is also being nurtured by the community and the law. The friends I made in Taipei really added to my experience abroad. Without these new friends, I would not have been able to practice my Chinese in public places, visit amazing places in Taiwan, and create a network of friends in a country that I at first knew little to nothing about.
Now I am home, and I do miss Taipei. I miss the people, the experience, and I hope to return to reconnect with friends and pick up where I felt I just started. I have begun to make plans for my graduation and to continue my Chinese studies. I have looked into NTU for graduate school as it would be a great transition for myself as it felt almost like home. I am also planning career options that would allow me to work between the US and Taiwan as I feel that I could truly contribute to both nations. I am home but I am home as a new person and I anticipate what I will do next.
Before coming to Taipei, I was met with great anticipation of making this experience the most opportune that it can be. Along with studying abroad, there was a great assumption of my time being focused in daily lectures, classes, and events organized by National Taiwan University. But what I have learned about studying abroad, is that one’s focus should not be in just the university but also in the communities and people outside the university. A truer immersion.
Studying in Taipei allowed me to immerse myself with many locals and actually practice my Chinese speaking skills in many scenarios. From ordering food, asking for directions, and having coffee with locals while getting to know each other. The skills in my communication greatly increased and allowed me to have greater fluency in the language and a better understanding of the local culture. This was greatly due to meeting locals outside of the university.
During my time in Taipei, I made it of great importance to meet with locals that shared in the same interests that I do. And these locals that I have met with, I can proudly call them friends. Sharing similar interests, goals, working in similar industries, and having our own creative outlets, truly allowed for this to be a greater experience that I could have imagined. A greater immersion. My study abroad experience has contributed to my personal development, taught me current issues affecting Taiwanese’s communities, immersed me in Taiwanese Culture, and exposed me to academic and career opportunities in Taipei.
I can say now that I am a greater person after living in Taipei during my program. I have a new perspective of life and the people around the world. I also can say that I have a greater appreciation for Asian culture and people. Seeing and being part of their daily lives has really opened my eyes to new world.
After this experience, I plan to continue my academic plan in mastering the Chinese language. I have learned about other programs that are offered by NTU that I can enroll in after graduation. Also, this could allow me to rekindle the friendships that I have made in Taipei. I look forward to my last two weeks here in Taipei as I finish up my program, reconnect with local friends, and continue to make the most of this immersion. As I prepare for my return to the U.S., I cannot help to wonder how much different home may feel after Taipei feeling just like home.
As I am studying in Taipei, one of my biggest goals is to connect with a local. Would it not be great to be able to immerse myself further by meeting someone who knows the ins and outs of the city? Additionally, would it not be great to meet people who are on a similar trip as myself to share in the experience?
Through the National Taiwan University (NTU), I was able to connect with a local Chinese (Mandarin) speaker who is also studying within the same university. Her name is Ting (周庭瑄) and Ting is now my language partner. We met through NTU and we have been meeting weekly to speak in Chinese and to explore the city. The main purpose of our meeting has been to further emphasize a real-world Mandarin speaking experience. One of my favorite meetings with Ting was at Taipei Zoo (台北市立動物園)。Here we were able to walk around together, speak in Mandarin, get to know one another, and enjoy seeing some great animals at an amazing zoo!
Along with meeting Ting, I have been able to connect with other Mandarin learners and locals. Within the International Chinese Language Program at NTU, I have connected with other students from the U.S., students from National Cheng Kung University, and with a fellow SFSU Flagship student who currently lives in Taiwan. There has been great emphasis on us traveling within Taipei, exploring neighborhoods, stores, museums, restaurants and more.
At Shida Night Market (師大夜市), we had the opportunity of finding a great Hot Pot restaurant and we were able to order in Mandarin and speak it with each other as we enjoyed the bubbling hot soup. Finding other people who are just as interested to speak Mandarin has made this experience so much greater than what I could have imagined. Additionally, being able to connect with local Taiwanese natives and building a friendship has really opened up a new perspective for me. I look forward to sharing how this new change in perspective has changed and influenced me in my next post.
Studying a foreign language is something that everyone has anticipated doing at least once in their life. Yet, finding the most opportune time to do so and to study abroad can be a familiar challenge.
My name is Jonathan and I like to call myself a forever learner. I am currently studying Mandarin (Chinese) abroad in Taipei at the National Taiwan University (NTU) at their International Chinese Language Program (ICLP), which is rigorous and intensive summer program for flagship students. I am a senior majoring in Information Systems at San Francisco State University and I am enrolled in the Chinese Flagship Partner Program. I am happy to share my challenging journey in immersing myself in only speaking Chinese during the duration of my summer abroad and acclimating to a cultural environment foreign to that of the US.
Studying abroad is indefinitely a challenge in the beginning, as one is preparing to adjust and acclimate to a new environment and culture that can be virtually unknown. As I departed and arrived in Taipei there were feelings of stress, which made me second guess and long for home. To remedy these feelings, I relied in finding a sense of familiarity in where I was traveling to and received a reminder of all the great things I will be seeing. This reminder of exploring a new world that fit right into my language goals, the people I will meet, and the opportunity to speak Chinese with native speakers. The first exploration that I was able to do outside of the classroom was go to Ximendin (西門町). Here I was able to see some familiar stores, but I was also able to try great foods sold by small vendors in bisecting allies.
Of the many goals that I have in Taipei, trying unique cuisines is on the top of my list. There is great pride that Taiwanese people take in their food and it is especially more apparent from small vendors on the streets and allies. Another great thing about trying their food is asking for it in Chinese! This simple activity allowed me to relieve stress of being abroad and allowed me to use my language skills. It provided a sense of comfort and began to make me feel as if I fit in and was right at home. In my next post, I will share another great goal: making a local Taiwanese friend. I believe by connecting with a local, I will be able to better immerse myself in Taipei.