I’m Katherine Chan, and I recently went on a developmental internship in Taiwan. From Monday to Friday, I taught English to the students at a local elementary school and every Tuesday and Wednesday, I did a side project where I tutored specific children in Grade 5 and 6 that needed to learn basic fundamental English.
It wasn’t that hard for me to adjust to Taiwan. However, I did need some time to adapt to the new environment. It ranged from big things such as seeing all the signs in Chinese, needing to speak Mandarin, and trying to find my way around the city to small things such as drinking a lot more tea whenever I went out with friends. (People, especially the young adults, love to drink tea based cold or hot beverages. Therefore, it is normal to see three to five beverage shops on one street alone.)
I found it useful to ground myself to something. For instance, The teachers at Jee An Elementary School are welcoming and friendly. They always made sure that I am well taken care of and helped me a lot along the way. Therefore, it was easy to make friends and feel comfortable around them. As well, I love children. I found them very cute, especially the preschoolers. Whenever they see me, they would yell out my name to greet me, despite the fact that I am half way across the school. They are extremely sweet so they brighten my day. Also, I maintained contact with my family and friends in Vancouver, basically the people who I can talk just about everything with.
It helped that the local LC, AIESEC CKLC (National Cheng Kung University) took great care in helping me to adjust to Taiwan. They had arranged a welcoming party for me and a new Exchange Participant from Brazil, Fabi. They also arranged different events throughout the three months period so that we were able to keep in touch, such as going to see a movie.
For anyone thinking of going on exchange, I my advice would just to be open-minded. There are always things that didn’t turn out the way I wanted. However, I wasn’t here to get pampered, I was there to experience something different. Therefore, I didn’t let the disappointments get in my way too much. On exchange, I was able do things I have never done before. For instance, because Madou, the place where I was staying at, is in a small town, I was able to go to the field and pick oranges. As well, I was able to create a picture using real flowers and leaves—the Flower Art.
During my free time, I did a bit of travelling with friends and experienced the Taiwanese culture. The highlight of my trip is to go to Sun Moon Lake, which is located in the middle of Taiwan. I went with Fabi (the EP from Brazil), Amy (The EP from Malaysia), as well as two other elementary school teachers.
Also, close to Madou, which is about half an hour away, is Tainan. It is one of the oldest cities in Taiwan. Little is known before the Dutch came to Taiwan during the 1600. However, the Dutch occupied it for only about twenty years before the Chinese came and banished them off. After, during the end of the 1800, the Japanese took over Taiwan and had stayed for almost fifty years. As a result, Taiwan’s architectures are influenced those by the Dutch, Chinese, and the Japanese. Particularly in Tainan, there were a lot of historical monuments around the city. I was able to go around Tainan and got to learn about the history and geographic of the place and henceforth, Taiwan.
For those who are still deciding, I really recommend going on a exchange. You get to meet different people, do things you never thought you will ever do, and pick up a new language along the way.