I am really excited to represent the UW as a student blogger and even more excited to have the chance to be the first student from the UW writing about his experiences on the island of Taiwan. I am happy to promote Taiwan as a place to study Mandarin in addition to simply an interesting place in its own regard.
Even though I’ve never been to Taiwan, I know without a doubt I’ll love it there. The history and culture of the Far East have always fascinated me. When I first started learning Mandarin Chinese, I was immediately intrigued by the language. There are only a handful of academic courses that have ever been as engrossing for me as Chinese. My first Chinese teacher, who was from Taiwan, like many others to follow was always keen on sharing and teaching about her culture and language; still she was often surprised by my insatiable desire to learn more. I was her only student who studied both the traditional and simplified Chinese script. She was always proud of her Taiwanese heritage yet held a strong sense of humility. She taught me a lot. Still today some of the warmest and most down-to-earth people I have ever met were from Taiwan.
As I learn more and more Chinese and learn more about east Asia, I have realized how much I really do want to learn the language and live abroad someday. Last year, I worked especially diligently. In addition to language classes, I sought out as many language partners as I could handle. The whole experience changed me. I began to notice even more similarities between my partners and me than ever before. Differences of heritage, language background, etc. were somehow not even present in my mind any more. Studying and language that intensively really opened my eyes to see people from the other side of the globe with a whole new clarity. Those experiences as well as previously studying in China are what motivated me to study abroad for the year. To me, after that, Taiwan was a natural choice. It was somewhere I wanted to go for a long time, and somewhere that is great for studying Mandarin.
Over a span of several years, I’ve learned a lot about Taiwan and I’ve grown quite interested in it, too. Moreover, I’ve also learned that America has a growing Taiwanese-American community. In fact, the recent basketball star Jeremy Lin is a Taiwanese American. However, Taiwan is still an exotic place to a lot of people. It’s not a place people often think of. With that said, I guess I shouldn’t had been surprised that many of my relatives and friends, back home, had many questions about Taiwan. And some of them never even heard about it before. But for the most part, they did know that lots of things were “made in Taiwan” and that there is much political controversy surrounding Taiwan. But nearly none of them could point to it on a map, and some of them asked me if it was in China or Japan. Someone even asked me if I meant to say Thailand.
Although I cannot, and couldn’t, tell the complete story of Taiwan, I hope that, by writing this blog, I can at least introduce you to Taiwan.
Here’s a brief introduction to Taiwan:
Taiwan is a small island with a fascinating history and unique culture. The people of Taiwan are mostly of Chinese origin, but Taiwan is also home to several aboriginal peoples. Many people have mixed heritage. The history of the area has also been greatly shaped by numerous other foreign entities such as the Portuguese, Dutch, and Japanese. Taiwan is sometimes described as the “heart of Asia” and as a marriage of modernity and tradition (ROC Tourism Bureau). With decades of rapid economic development starting in the sixties like its northern neighbor Korea, Taiwan ranks “very high” on the human development index, with cities full of skyscrapers and high-tech transport. And many international well-known brands in the electronics industry such as HTC, Acer, and Asus are based in Taiwan. Yet, simultaneously, Taiwan still boast many stunning natural landscapes, especially on its rugged east coast, and its culture retains many century old traditions. In fact, many traditional aspects of Chinese culture and language that no longer exist in mainland China — such as the traditional Chinese script, the observance Chinese folk religions and festivals, and widespread teaching of Confucian texts — flourish in Taiwan. Taiwan is a fascinating place that has both served as an gateway into understanding Chinese culture as well as a unique destination that is constantly developing its own culture and history.
Thank you for reading my blog!
I hope to write again soon.