Newsletter #1: And So It Begins...
Sierra Ponthier 白雪
My gate from LAX to Taipei was the very last one in the terminal. On my way to it I passed by flights departing for Singapore, Australia, Spain, and many more. Looking around I wondered who was going where and what emotions and feelings were running through their minds right at that moment. Were they going home? Vacation? Work? Travel? Were they happy? Sad? Overwhelmed? Relieved? Scared? I could only speculate about other people from my vantage point, but what I did know was how I was feeling. To answer the question I have been asked a couple dozen times, yes. I am excited. Very, VERY excited.
To kick off this blog I figured it would be helpful to just spit out answers to the most frequent questions I’ve been receiving, so here it goes.
I wanted to go somewhere where I could practice Chinese. This narrows is down to basically China and Taiwan. I’ve been to China during high school and did not necessarily feel a strong inclination to spend a whole semester there. However, I continuously hear incredible things about Taiwan and how different it is from the Mainland. Plus, my high school Chinese teacher and many of my classmates are from Taiwan and they always told me about how awesome the food scene is on the tiny island and how friendly the people are. Upon further research I came to find that this miraculous island contains numerous opportunities for both my academic and personal interests: opportunities in the environmental social sciences, vast natural features including sublime mountains that run directly into sandy, blue beaches, and of course, food that can only be described after I’ve indulged in its deliciousness. Do make sure to check out the About page to read more about Taiwan and its background.
What will you be doing in Taiwan?
Studying, of course. The program is called Communications, Business, and Political Economy and is through CIEE (a third party American provider). I will be directly enrolling in classes at National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taipei, Taiwan. NCCU has some of the best social science programs in all of Asia and is especially known for its business school. Classes roughly will include Social and Economic Change in Taiwan, The History of Taiwan After WWII, The Spatial Development of Mainland China, Economics of Fair Trade, and Mandarin Chinese.
Dorm or homestay?
Dorm with one roommate. I think Taiwanese.
How long will you be there?
Feb 16th – June 26th with plans to travel around Southeast Asia for a few weeks once the program ends.
You said you wanted to go somewhere where they speak Chinese…so do they speak Chinese or Taiwanese there?
While there is a Taiwanese language, its mostly only used by the older generations or people in the southern part of Taiwan. Mandarin is widely spoken, which I am familiar with. However, the tricky thing is the written language. I have learned simplified characters, but they use traditional in Taiwan. It will be an adjustment, but people tell me it isn’t too difficult to pick up.
What are you hoping to gain from this experience?
I have two main objectives in mind.
On the academic side: It would be nice to come out with an idea for a Senior Capstone research project. As an environmental studies major, I am always concerned about how different countries handle and view various environmental issues such as natural resource/wildlife/national park preservation, water use, food security, etc. However, recently I have become more interested in the role that business plays in combatting these issues. Taiwanese people are increasingly more aware of their environment and I wonder what role this plays in Taiwanese-Chinese business relations as well as Taiwan-Global relations.
On the personal side: I feel that Taiwan is the perfect size for a 5 month adventure. It’s not so big that I’ll only be able to see one tiny fraction of the country, but certainly not so small that I’ll get bored. I’m hoping to use my weekends and spare time to travel around and see as much of the island as possible – from national parks to road cycling to hiking to exploring indigenous communities to eating at all the night markets to snorkeling and watching wind surfers off the nearby island – there is a lot to see, do, and eat on this small island.