According to the statistics of Ministry of Education, there are more than ten thousand foreign students coming to Taiwan for studying since 2011. They grow up and finish school life in Taiwan; some choose to go back to their home country while the others choose to stay and work in Taiwan.
To understand their motivation, and how the experiences in Taiwan affect their life, Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education hold an interview with four students. Two of them plan to go back home, and the other two are willing to stay. They live entirely different lives, but their stories are all inspirational and worth considering for anyone who has the idea of studying in Taiwan.
Explore Asia based on the island: Taiwan is just like a book
Fryda Marcela Sales Bogle comes from El Salvador, she works for the local NGO “Sus Hijos His Children’ after obtaining master’s degree in Taiwan. We interviewed her via video chat on Messenger, and she answered all the questions with earnest and smile even though she couldn’t see us because of the poor internet connection. Taiwanese culture was totally different from that of El Salvador, and everything was new to Fryda. She couldn’t come up with any words but overwhelming to describe life in Taiwan at the first. After she got used to the new environment, studying in Taiwan became the best trip she ever had.
Fryda graduated from Graduate Institute of International Human Resource Development, National Normal Taiwan University. Because the courses were all taught in English, and students of different nationality were also mixed together, interactions between different cultures were common on campus. College’s arrangement for international students also helped her adapt to the new environment. She regarded Taiwan as a book for anyone with curiosity to read and explore.
Cleisha-Bernise Springer from St. Lucia, had a similar experiences of studying in Taiwan as Fryda did. After she finished college, she longed to study abroad and learn about the different culture. Cleisha-Bernise applied for studying in Taiwan as soon as she knew about the Chinese learning project for international students. At the first, she couldn’t even recognize the location of Taiwan, “I never thought I would be in Taiwan per se. Because I was not exactly too sure where Taiwan was, not to the point where I confused with Thailand, but I just was not too sure what it was like.” She attended Chinese Fu Jen Catholic University for Chinese courses, and then applied for program for International Masters in Asia-Pacific Studies, in order to explore Taiwan and the whole Asia via the social science training.
After graduation, Cleisha-Bernise chose to stay, “there are something I was missing, something I still have not been able to catch. Being here for 3 years is good in the academic setting. But outside the academic setting, there are so much more I need to learn. So especially when it comes to using what I have learned in the academic setting outside, that is the important thing.” She then explained in Chinese, “Going back to my parents was a failure to me.” With the determination, she worked as an English teacher and administration stuff at language cream school. “It was really hard for me at the beginning,” she grinned. It was her first full time job in Taiwan. Without teaching experiences, Cleisha-Bernise spent a year getting used to handle the naughty kids. Now she is excellent at her job, sharing her hard days and interesting memories of the past one year with us.
Making the key step of successful career; flying with the Chinese wings
Besides Cleisha-Bernise, Jovian Gautama was also our interviewee of the day. Jovian Gautama comes from Indonesia. Comparing to the others, he has an unusual journey and relatively good Chinese ability. He did not came for learning Chinese, but for the scholarship for studying in Taiwan. Jovian applied for the cooperation program held by his mother school, Catholic vocational school in Indonesia and Wenzao Ursuline University Languages in Kaohsiung, and majored in English. His Chinese was very fluent not only because of his school life but also the solid two year on-job training.
“At the time (2014), I was supposed to go back to Indonesia, otherwise I had to get a job before graduation.” Therefore he uploaded his CV to Taiwanese job searching network at the last spring before graduation. “I thought my English was good enough, and I was also interested in trade, so I wanted to work as a salesman for international trade company.” After a few interviews, he started his first job at a stainless steel trading company in Kaohsiung. As a stainless steel salesman, Jovian was required to have professional knowledge such as ingredients of stainless steel. Although it took efforts to be well-prepared with all the necessary skills at this job, Jovian still thought it was worthy. Moreover, through his personal connections from work, he learned about the startups and even joined one in technology industry, which was his current position.
Staying in Taiwan for work was a self-challenge to Cleisha-Bernise and Jovian. They all grabbed the chance to start the new phase of their life. However, to those who chose to go back to the home country, how would life in Taiwan affect them?
We may found parts of the answer to such a question from Lynn Li. She attended Hanoi University of Business and Technology, Vietnam. The university had a cooperation project with Chung Yuan Christian University, providing Lynn with an opportunity to study in Taiwan. “Chinese courses in Vietnam did not prepared us with daily conversations but some professional terms, so I didn’t really understand what people were saying in the beginning,” Lynn shared her awkward moments with us in a fast tempo. Culture differences did not bothered her for long; Lynn got adapted to the new environment and started to experience the overseas life. After graduating from department of finance, she decided to apply for business administration graduate school while other students chose to go back to Vietnam. Lynn had strong competence with fluent Chinese and solid professional knowledge. Some Taiwanese enterprises even came up to her with higher payment (than average payment of Vietnam’s entry level jobs) in Vietnam branch before her graduation.
During the interview, we found Lynn with a natural accent, speaking phase, and wording just like all the Taiwanese girls did. To maintain her Chinese ability, she kept practicing hard, even asked her Chinese colleagues to talk to her in Chinese (just for fun). Therefore her Chinese was still as good as before even though she had left Taiwan for almost two years.
Vietnam is closely cooperating with China and Taiwan in economy, and Chinese learning centers are common to be seen in Vietnam. But Lynn thought there were big differences between learning Chinese in Taiwan and in Vietnam. “Chinese courses in Vietnam lacks of practice with native speakers; as a result, I couldn’t understand a word when I came to Taiwan years ago.” She pointed out there were a lot Taiwanese companies planning to have branches in Vietnam, and suggested the young generation in Vietnam who were still hesitate about studying abroad to give a try. In her point of view, understanding of Taiwanese culture and language was very helpful to the future career.
Finding one’s self in foreign country; entering the world from Taiwan
On the other hand, Cleisha-Bernise and Jovian all agreed, “trying to communicate with people actively is a must; you shall not be beaten by failures when looking for jobs.” They knew very well that they had to learn from the others rather than focusing on school assignments. With his second job, Jovian attached importance to courage to overcome the difficulties when looking for jobs. He also emphasized on insistance on ideal future rather than choosing jobs without passion only for staying in Taiwan. “We couldn’t avoid to be seen as a foreigner no matter how good our Chinese are, and this is how are aware and get to know about ourselves.” Living in foreign countries provided more chances to communicate with people of different background and brought the new ideas up. Going through all the experiences, they suggested, “There were always more opportunities in a foreign country than in hometown.”
（Written by Chin-Yeh Kuo）