Last summer, the famous TV program, Grandpa over Flowers, which aired on tvN network, attracted great attention from audiences in Korea. I learnt for myself about the trend of traveling to Taiwan when I found Taiwan travel book on display as a bestseller in bookstores. People of all ages have opened their minds and narrowed the psychological gap between Korea and Taiwan, compared to the past. As an exchange student, I left for Taiwan carrying the happiness of this trend.
Start with Confidence
In September 2012, I applied for an exchange program. Against all expectations, I selected Taiwan even though I was a student majoring in English and didn’t have any language certificate qualification in Chinese. In addition, I would have to spend an entire year at the senior period in Taiwan. It was going to be a real challenge. However unfavorable my situation seemed, I was ready to seize the opportunity of a lifetime. During the interview, although I wasn’t able to introduce myself in Chinese fluently, I used my eagerness to explore a broad range of cultural areas and perspectives to impress interviewers. Interviewers sensed my determination, and I was chosen to participate. I was grateful for the chance. I stayed in Taiwan from February 2013 to January 2014. I attended National Cheng Chi University (NCCU), which is located on the south east of Taipei. NCCU is one of the most prestigious universities in Taiwan and well known for its concentration on social sciences, law, commerce, communication and MBA programs. When it comes to amenities, it takes just 5 minutes by bus to go from the university to the nearest metro station, Taipei Zoo Station. NCCU has more than 40 campus building facilities and sports fields for swimming, tennis, baseball, basketball, and even wall climbing. Besides these campus facilities, the riverside, a bikeway, a hiking trail and a gondola ferry are located near the campus so I enjoyed campus life more.
Look Excitedly Towards Campus life
At NCCU, the first thing I did was to find language exchange partners. This was not only a great way to learn Chinese without paying for private lessons, but I could also build close relationships with local students. Especially, at NCCU, a number of students major in Korean, so Korean students can easily find local students interested in learning Korean culture and Korean language. Also, dormitory living required frequent visits to the fire station and safety education because earthquakes often occur in Taiwan. Before living in Taiwan, I’d never imagined experiencing an earthquake, but soon after arriving—within in ten days—experienced a strong earthquake during a class. It was my first earthquake experience ever. I was so surprised, I couldn’t speak. However, during the lecture, nobody seemed to worry about the situation. In fact, local students were surprised that I’d never experienced an earthquake. I felt a bit dizzy and was scared first, but later, I calmed down and even felt a bit excited.
Various Activities and Interesting Classes
The Office of International Cooperation (OIC) in NCCU offers various English-taught courses only for exchange students like Taiwanese History and Culture, Taiwan’s Economic, Chinese Opera, and Global Media and Marketing, so I never worried about my number of semester credits as I could register for non-major courses. In addition, since I majored in English literature and language at SMU, I could take native English professors’ classes with local students and practice English consistently. Besides regular courses, I learnt Chinese at the Chinese Language Center (CLC) on campus. Learning Chinese in Taiwan was fun because Taiwanese people do not use simplified Chinese characters like in mainland China; instead, they use traditional Chinese characters just like Koreans. I felt more familiar with the traditional characters and it made learning Mandarin great fun. NCCU offers students lots of club activities, so I joined the make-up and tennis clubs to bond with others actively. Furthermore, as interest in Korean cosmetics has risen recently, Taiwanese students were interested my Korean friends and I. We were able to engage in more intimate conversations with locals. Besides club activities, during the semester, many colorful and interesting events are held on NCCU’s campus such as festivals, performances, exhibitions, and competitions. Last spring, I participated in a Korean song competition. As a foreign student I couldn’t sing Korean songs. Instead, I had to sing a Chinese song. Preparing for the competition was hard. I had to memorize the lyrics in Chinese and it was hard to pronounce the words correctly. However, some of my Taiwanese friends helped me and cheered me on. Also, jieun, who went together with me to NCCU from SMU, encouraged me a lot. Even though I didn’t win a prize, it remains the most impressive and memorable event of my time at NCCU.
The End of Life in Taiwan Marked a New Beginning
I can say that my one year in Taiwan was the best time of my life to date. The most important factor behind my claim is the people of Taiwan, not just the Taiwanese locals, but also the foreign students from a variety of countries. Everything was perfect in Taiwan and I miss it a lot; however, I miss the most of people I met. I didn’t think the people I would meet in Taiwan would be so kind and helpful. I cultivated more profound friendships and broaden my view much wider than I thought I would. I went on an exchange to capitalize on the chance of a lifetime. I really thank the Sookmyung Times for giving me the chance to reminisce about my time there.