Taiwan and My Three Classes

At the time of writing this blog, I am close to wrapping up my third week of study abroad on the American Council’s Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan program. This last week we have a lot of final presentations due to wrap up the program, and it has been making me think a lot about the classes I’ve taken while at NCCU. The main reason why I signed up for the TMT program was to take classes on Taiwan’s history and politics, since the majors I have at my home university are Political Science and East Asian Studies. Thankfully, all of the classes have met my expectations!

My favorite class during the trip has been the History and Politics of Taiwan. Professor Lan was the first professor we had teaching the course, and he offered a compelling narrative about Taiwanese history and identity that I wasn’t aware of before this trip. I didn’t know anything about the colonization of Taiwan by the Dutch and Spanish, Christian conversion of some indigenous peoples and import of Han Chinese farmers. Taiwan has a very complicated and deep history of colonization by multiple international actors, not just China. Evidence of this past can be seen all over the island. For example, our class was given a special tour of the Taipei Guest House for foreign diplomats. It was originally built to be the Governor’s Mansion by the Japanese during their fifty year colonial period. The building contained a Japanese style garden, furniture decorated with Japanese imagery, etc. I’m glad I was given this opportunity to get a more holistic picture of Taiwan’s history through my excursions and class materials.

Although it wasn’t the focus of our program, my Chinese language class at the CLC still has been spectacular. Professor Zhen has a very informal teaching curriculum and style that allows everyone to speak freely (in Chinese of course) about relatable topics such as: social media, personality, lying, etc. She makes jokes, uses sarcasm, and expresses her opinion often. This is a very different experience from what I’ve had in my Chinese language classes back in the US, where everything was very formal and lectured based. I’m happy with this change in teaching style, because my speaking proficiency has gone up rapidly since taking this class. I am excited to go back to my home university and show my Chinese professors there how much my language skills have improved.

Culture and Society in Taiwan is the other main course we have been taking at NCCU. This course has been interesting because it focuses in on current societal issues in Taiwan and how they are being resolved. One topic we got to explore was recycling and waste management. Taiwanese people have the option to either give their recycling to the city or to an organization like Tzu Chi. Tzu Chi is a Buddhist non-profit organization that engages in community involvement and disaster relief. Our class went to go visit their recycling facility to see how they organize, process and reuse different materials. I found it remarkable that these people consider every little detail, making sure that nothing goes to waste. It was cool to make the connection with the information learned in class and the hands on encounter of the topic.

By: Matthew Jones

Program: Tradition and Modernity in Taiwan

Term: Summer 2018

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