Overwhelmed by America

Written by Finlay Scanlon, (University of Texas at Austin) Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Spring 2019

I love my country. I love standing in Yellowstone National Park looking at a black bear and its cub. I love eating halal food in Central Park. I love riding the city bus in my hometown with an incredibly diverse cast of people going to school or work, carrying groceries and talking in languages indistinguishable to me. I have always loved the U.S. but that fervent patriotism comes with constant disappointment. I watch a country complacent to equality and sustainability, where powerful people are staying powerful despite millions of citizens calling for change on all fronts. However, the mindset in the U.S. remains the same. We are it. We’ve figured out governance, democracy, culture, economics. But I’ve always known, there are other options. There are other countries tackling the same issues as us using completely different tactics. No country is perfect but everyone’s better off if we don’t pretend to have all the answers and instead learn from others. I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but after two election cycles of personal disappointment, I knew I needed to gain an international perspective. Not just for the sake of learning a language and appreciating another country, but so I could learn and appreciate my own.

Taiwan is the opposite of Texas. A country smaller than my own state, with fast paced Chinese speakers and a Buddhist culture in contrast to my neighbors Southern drawl and Bible Belt religious affiliations. I’d been studying Chinese for three semesters and knew that studying abroad in Taiwan would not only fulfil my lifelong love for East Asian history and cultures, but be the perfect change in scenery I needed. I knew a girl from my Chinese class who had gone to Taiwan with CET this past summer and love the experience. She described the night markets and beautiful natural landscape, with revolutionary and politically-active people who maintain a devotion to tradition. My goal with my study abroad was to become conversationally proficient in Chinese, while also enhancing my knowledge of political relations and public policy in the area. The intense language learning program coupled with a study of the China-Taiwan relationship allows me to fulfil both my language requirement and an Asian studies class requirement for my Asian studies concentration in my International Relations major.

The minute I arrived in Taiwan, I knew I had made an amazing and life-changing decision. My first week with CET I was able to not just coexist with my Taiwanese roommates but learn and have fun with them. We’ve stayed up late talking about the differences and similarities between the Taiwanese Tomb Sweeping holiday and Dia de los Muertos. I feel part of a neighborhood with a perfect balance of experiencing new things, and being able to settle into a daily routine.

All in all, the decision to come with CET to Taiwan was multi-faceted. I will grow as a student and a Chinese speaker, being able to come back to my university with credits and knowledge to continue my studies. I will be able to be fully immersed in Taiwanese culture and daily life, making everyday one of personal growth and eye-opening experiences. And lastly, I will be able to see the whole world from a more international perspective. The whole rest of my life, I will not be able to think only from my American perspective but a Taiwanese perspective as well and that is truly a valuable experience, for my own mentality and hopefully my future as a globally-minded policy maker.