Written by Kate Ross (Brandeis University), Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Summer 2019
Dear Prospective Student,
I’m writing this as I enter my final week studying in Taipei this summer. If you’re interested in studying Chinese with CET and you are deciding between one of the numerous programs that CET runs in China versus the single program in Taiwan, I can’t tell you that must choose Taiwan instead of China. Hopefully, I can share some of my top five things that have influenced my trip, and that they will help you with your decision.
1. Taiwanese People
Taiwanese people are so generous. The other day in class one of the sentences that came up in our text was “台灣人對外國人很好,” which loosely translates to “Taiwanese are very friendly to foreigners.” I couldn’t agree more. When I was visiting Shifen Old Street, I heard a large thumping sound coming from behind me and a man was running after me to return my wallet that had fallen on the ground. Whether it is acts of sheer kindness from random strangers or even the wonderful NTU students who become your roommates during your time in Taipei, I can absolutely stand by the phrase we learned in class and say “台灣人對外國人很好.”
I’m a Phoenician. For 14 years I have had the opportunity to call Phoenix my home. Something that Phoenix does is it prepares you for surviving in dessert heat, monsoons, and haboobs. My experience in Arizona never prepared me for coming to Taipei with the insane humidity. It certainly didn’t prepare me for feeling aftershocks of a 6.0 earthquake, quickly followed by Typhoon Lekima.
Even though the weather didn’t always cooperate during my time here, I think that part of the beauty of the island originates from the weather. The moment you leave Taipei, you enter into a world full of lush, vibrant, green trees. Without the heavy rain and ridiculous humidity, those pockets of nature would be completely lost.
3. Summer Internship
As a college student, getting job experience in a field is often done through an internship. As a CET Taiwan student you have the opportunity to get placed with a local company and intern with them during your time in Taipei. Once the on-staff internship coordinator places you at your internship, your experience is what you make of it. Students this summer ended up working at accounting firms, the China Post, at a biomedical patent company, and many other places around the city.
Fortunately, I had the chance to work at the Democratic Progressive Party (one of Taiwan’s two main political parties) while they were preparing for the upcoming January 2020 Presidential elections. Since the primaries occurred over the summer, I had the opportunity to come into the office the same day that President Tsai Ing-Wen announced her campaign with full support from the party, and I got to shake hands with her. In addition to shaking hands with the current President, my internship primarily was independent work. Over the course of my time at the DPP, I ended up writing reports about current events pertaining to the relationship between China, Taiwan, and the US in English, while also translating them into Chinese.
4. Partial Language Immersion
Language immersion. It’s hard. No doubt about it. At ICLP, students take a “Chinese ONLY” language pledge that means no English is allowed to be spoken in ICLP classrooms. However, outside of the classroom you are allowed to speak English. It definitely relieves some stress that completely language immersion programs have. With the language pledge in place, over the course of the summer in classes I definitely saw an improvement in my Chinese. I’m still not at proficient speaking speed when I communicate with others, but I have noticed that I began to understand and comprehend more with others. Improving your Chinese with the amazing teachers at ICLP is completely inevitable. It’s bound to happen.
5. The Amazing Sights
One of the last things memorable were the wonderful experiences and places that I got to see. Taipei is HUGE and with 12 distinct districts, there are things to do at every corner. Better yet, if you ever feel tired of Taipei the next province with new sights and journeys is just a hop, skip, subway ride away.