When it comes to higher education international cooperation, besides formal bilateral cooperation and the memorandum of cooperation, the most familiar system is student exchange. According to the statistics from ministry of education, there are more than 15000 foreign students come to Taiwan via student exchange in 5 years. They spend half to one year taking courses in the school, learning to live independent life, and joining different learning programs to reach different corners of Taiwan and experience the foreign culture.
The bilateral design of learning and life experience makes the international students see the novel side of the world and acquire the treasury life experience through a brand new sight.
Create chances to communicate and make the foreign country second home
To learn more about the student exchange life, we visited the office of international cooperation, National Chengchi University in Muzha, Taipei City. As soon as we walked in the 8th floor of Administration Building, we saw all kinds of activity posters on the billiard board and the vivid atmosphere.
The dean of the office, Dr. Mei-Fen Chen told us that the 20s foreign exchange students must be uneasy about everything unfamiliar when they arrived Taiwan. Therefore the school provided as much help as they can from academic to living aspects, in order to get the exchange students fit into Taiwanese life.
“We have nearly 2/3 foreign students who do not speak Chinese, so one of our crucial tasks is to make the foreign and local students closer by creating chances and spaces, “ Dr. Chen said.
There are foreign students from about 71 countries in National Chengchi University. The chief sectary Ching-Fen Tsai thought sports was a good way to make students gather together. For example, students from National Chengchi University, National Taiwan University, National Chiao Tung University, and National Taiwan Normal University were all invited to join the 8th Cross-School Sports Competition. “Via ball games, the minds of team members of different nationalities would be sync, they would make good friends after games.”
Besides the campus events, the office also promotes the bi-lingual poster, encouraging the activity posters issued in Chinese and English, in order to help the international students join campus activities held by Taiwanese students. In fact, the friendly design can not only be seen in National Chengchi University but in other colleges in Taiwan, which refers to the achievements of higher education development in Taiwan.
Attaching importance to the details, providing the international students with one-stop registration service
Karin Okamura comes from Japan, and she is now studying in department of diplomacy, National Chengchi University. She grows up and attends school in Tokyo, and this is her first time to leave her family for studying abroad. She was worried about the unfamiliar environment when she just arrived Taiwan. Although she had learned Chinese in Japanese for 2 years, but her teacher came from China. She was taught her in the accent and wording that was totally different from that of Taiwan.
Fortunately, through the “buddy program” held by National Chengchi University, she got into contact with Taiwanese classmates and learned about the academic credit system before she came to Taiwan. During the summer vacation, she visited I-Lan and had a good impression about Taiwan with her classmates. She felt excited about the whole year of exchanging life in Taiwan.
Alana Buto comes from America and has learned some Chinese in the State, but she has some special affair towards Taiwan. Alana’s father is a Japanese, so that she is always interested in East Asia, and the two-year learning experience of Chinese brings her to Taiwan. Alana’s reason to choose Taiwan instead of China is the diversity and liberal culture spirits of Taiwanese society. “I need to share my life with friends and families via social media without any barriers!”
Alana hopes to stay in Asia for long term cultural experiences. Therefore she took as many courses as she could in America to avoid postpone graduation due to student exchange. Alana is now teaching English in the affiliated school of National Chengchi University to enrich her exchange life. We can tell from her plan that she is on the way to realize her Asian dream.
When it comes to the favorite thing about Taiwan, Karin and Alana both choose the warm-heartedness and friendliness of Taiwanese people. They always received help no matter when they had problem in the class or got lost outside the school, which made them really appreciated.
For international student to fit in the foreign life, besides the attitude, the mature school system is the key factor. Yi-Chen Lee, the executive responsible for student exchange affairs said, “National Chengchi University does the entire work in every dimension including academics, activities, daily life and even psychological aspect, making sure every student meet the requirements in limited time.” The office called it “one-stop registration service,” which also showed National Chengchi University’s efforts in all kinds of details.
“Flipping the education” by visiting remote area; bringing Taiwan to the world
Besides the courses, Taiwanese colleges provide the exchange students with different kinds of living experiences for them to share with people in home country via diverse ways. “Internship is one of the important international trends; although Taiwan still has to work on related policies, ministry of education has already started to give tries and make changes.” Dr. Mei-Fen Chen thought Taiwan Experience Education Program (TEEP), the popular program with international students was one of the important tries.
One of the TEEP programs “Connecting the World with Your On-Site Experience in Taiwan: Exploring the Beauty and Innovation of our Rural Education” was held by National Chengchi University. This workshop had been held in primary school in remote areas of Taiwan since 2015, and there were more 100 international students involved.
Dr. Mei-Fen Chen had deep feelings towards the workshop, “During this program, everyone gave positive feedback to the dedication of teachers from school of remote areas, children’s passion for learning, and the efforts of the government.”
These international students had to give feedback after every visit, and do the presentation with self-made short film in the end of program. They also had to share the short film on their SNS to spread the achievements and potential of Taiwanese education to the young generation of other countries.
“Most importantly, we thought this was a one-way program at first, but we then discovered these children also made significant changes.” Dr. Mei-Fen Chen gave an example about a French student asked the children what countries located around France in the beginning of the program in 2015. The children’s answer was America, the country they heard a lot. However, the same question was asked again this year, and some children gave the answer includes European countries such as Germany and Italy. The positive result of two-way communication made the worlds of both the international students and children from remote areas wider.
To see the world in another sight is the most charming part of student exchange. Except for the knowledge learned from the courses, the more important thing for the international students to explore is the different looks of the world and the novel life experiences. “I believe Taiwan would last forever in the minds of those international students, indeed,” said by Dr. Mei-Fen Chen with insistence.