One of the first things I noticed after getting off the plane in Taipei, was how unchaotic and quiet the airport was. Having traveled to mainland China in the past and being from the east coast of America, I was expecting to be met with the same raucous and slightly overwhelming noise that the cities in such places are known for. Although, I was aware of the cultural differences between Taiwan and China before traveling to Taiwan, confronting these differences in real life was surprising. After acclimating to the different cultural norms of the area (and being politely shushed several times), I began to appreciate the peacefulness of Taiwanese culture. In my opinion, one of Taiwan’s and particularly the city of Tainan’s greatest assets are its wonderfully kind and patient citizens. I feel that particularly for language immersion students, Tainan is an ideal place to study.
Unlike other large cities in mainland China and Taiwan, in Tainan, people rarely speak to you in English. In fact, most people make a concentrated effort to help you improve your Chinese language skills even in common day to day scenarios. For example, at the small buffet style café my fellow students and I often frequented for lunch, you were able to select choices from the prepared food in the display case, which I at first tried to accomplish by simply pointing at the dishes that I wanted. However, the proprietor of this institution rather than try to politely deal with my pointing, instead made it her goal to improve my knowledge of Taiwanese cuisine. Even if there was a very large line she would not rush me while ordering or try to speak to me in English. Instead, if I didn’t know the name of one of the dishes, she would patiently say it once, then have me repeat it, and then say it again to help me perfect my pronunciation. If I came back the next day and still didn’t understand she would tease me a little and then help me re-learn whatever word it was that I had forgotten.
In addition to the wonderful citizens of Tainan, the professors at National Cheng Kung University, are one of the elements that make the American Councils Taiwan Intensive Summer Language Program so worthwhile. NCKU’s Chinese language Professors are among the most dedicated and talented in the world. They constantly put in the extra effort to help you improve areas of your Chinese language learning that you are having trouble in. One of my favorite portions of the curriculum at NCKU was the morning one on one classes. In these one-on-one classes we were able to speak with professors individually about our personal areas of interest, as well as to ask questions regarding any problems we had with the material and grammar discussed in the larger lecture classes.
Finally, one of the more immersive elements of the program is the pairing of students with local college aged language partners. This enabled me as a foreign language student to obtain a more genuine insight into what it means to be a college student in Taiwan, and allowed us to experience certain elements of the culture of Tainan that would otherwise be inaccessible to us as foreigners. I would highly recommend this program to students who are looking for a unique and intimate Chinese language learning experience.
By: Hannah Yindra
Term: Summer 2018