After waiting almost two years to travel to Taiwan to represent the University of South Florida as a Fulbright International Education Administrators (IEA) grant recipient, I boarded the long flight from Tampa to Taipei by way of Detroit and Seoul arriving in Taipei almost 28 hours later. Exhausted from the long journey, I was ecstatic to see the driver waiting for me at the airport for the transfer to the hotel in the Ximending area of Taipei. I had a restful sleep and then met other members of the delegation at breakfast the next morning. A few of us headed to 7-11 to the ATM and then excitedly set out on foot to explore Taipei. Stops included the Lungshan Temple, Red House Theater, and exploring the Ximending district. That evening we met Randall and Astin from Foundation for Scholarly Exchange (Fulbright Taiwan) in the hotel lobby and headed out for dinner where we learned more about each other and the events to come. The next day we met the remaining group members and the rest of the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange (Fulbright Taiwan) staff. We were about to embark on a fabulous two action-packed weeks of culture, learning, personal development, and most importantly building connections with others – U.S. higher education administrators, Taiwanese higher education administrators, elementary and secondary school educators and students, public officials, and Fulbright recipients.
It took me a few days to adjust to the time. While the first night was restful, the next few were not. I was up at 3:00 am which made for long days since we had busy days with early mornings and late evenings full of program events. Powering through I made the best of it and adjusted to the time and the schedule. The hospitality of the FSE (Fulbright Taiwan) staff and of the staff members at the host universities was superb. We enjoyed lovely lunches and dinners of Taiwanese and Cantonese cuisine and I significantly improved my chopsticks skills.
We spent the first week in Taipei and the surrounding area visiting universities and meeting with their representatives, Taipei Shuang Yuan Primary School staff and students, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Cultural and attraction visits included the National Taiwan Museum, Taipei 101, Xingtian Temple, and Dadaocheng Old Street. An hour or so from Taipei, we visited Wulai to see the beautiful waterfall and took to the rails of an old logging train track for a scenic train ride to a village where we participated in an Atayal Indigenous weaving workshop. The next day we had some free time and a friend and I took the train to the Houtong cat village to visit the felines, have cat-themed snacks at a café, and browse the shops for the “purr-fect” souvenirs. A weekend highlight was a Karaoke night out.
To start the second week, we quickly boarded the high-speed rail (HSR) at Taipei Central Station and headed to central Taiwan. It only stops for a few minutes. The first stop was Taichung where we visited China Medical University. The group went on to Nantou to visit National Chi Nan University. Unfortunately, I was not feeling well and stayed behind in Taichung and missed meeting with the NCNU staff and the visit to Sun Moon Lake. I was truly touched by the number of IEA colleagues who reached out to check on me. The next day I was feeling much better and was able to rejoin the group that had returned to Taichung. The following day we headed to Tainan for a university visit and then on to Kaohsiung the following day where we met students from Kaohsiung Municipal Hsin Chuang High School and watched a mock student debate facilitated by the Fulbright-sponsored debate coaches and then toured National Sun Yat-Sen University and dined at the university’s beachfront resort. After a visit to the former British Consulate at Takao, we boarded the HSR to head back to Taipei for a visit to the Taipei City Government and then to a delightful farewell dinner sponsored by FSE (Fulbright Taiwan). The time had come to say good-bye to new friends and it was with mixed emotions that I called home that night– a bit sad that the program was over but happy to be returning home to my family. Yes, I was going to see my fiancé, parents, and pets who I missed, but I would now miss my Fulbright family who I bonded with the last two weeks.
Here are a few takeaways for fellow international education administrators from the professional visits in Taiwan:
- Consider Taiwan as a location for Chinese language and cultural immersion programs.
- Many of the universities have AACSB-accredited business schools – this will be important for your business school colleagues when developing partnerships.
- The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are important to Taiwanese universities.
- Taiwan is a leader in the semiconductor industry (hint for you Engineering college partnerships).
- Taiwan has adopted the 2030 Bilingual plan to become an English-Mandarin Chinese speaking nation by 2030 creating opportunities for U.S. university graduates to teach English in Taiwan.
- FSE (Fulbright Taiwan) supports English language instruction through the English Teaching Assistant (ETA) and English Teaching Fellows (ETF) programs.
- The FSE also supports English language speaking and critical thinking skills through its Debate Coach/Trainer program.
- University language programs can apply to FSE to host a Mandarin instructor on your campus through the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program (FLTA).
- U.S. faculty may apply to teach and/or do research at Taiwanese universities through the Fulbright Scholar program. The FSE is able to assist with making connections (Faculty Fulbright Advisors take note).
- FSE (Fulbright Taiwan) staff are able to coordinate short-term faculty-led education abroad programs for U.S. universities.
It was an honor to be selected to participate in the program and to travel with such a distinguished group of colleagues as we discovered Taiwan. I will be forever grateful to Fulbright for the opportunity to travel to Taiwan. Thank you to all who support the program and the grantees.
Managing Editor: Tsai-Jen Wu 吳采臻