fulbright Taiwan online journal

fulbright Taiwan online journal

Reflections on Our Fulbright Experience in Tainan

When many people think of Taiwan, they think of its largest cities – Taipei or Kaohsiung. Through the Fulbright’s US Senior Scholar Program Award, this fall semester my daughter Linden and I stayed in the smaller city of Tainan in the southwest of the island. We highly recommend it. It was my fourth time in Taiwan but my first time staying longer than a couple weeks and my first time in Tainan. As a long-time scholar of aging in mainland China, my research focus was on Taiwan’s implementation of social policies to support older adults and their caregivers. 


Tainan was a perfect scholarly fit for me, because my host, the Institute of Gerontology in the College of Medicine at National Cheng Kung University (國立成功大學, NCKU), is the largest gerontology graduate program in Taiwan. The Institute’s Director, Ming-Chyi Pai (白明奇), faculty, staff, and students did a fantastic job of including me in the scholarly life of the Institute. In addition to researching aging policy and service delivery, I also had a chance to engage in scholarly work related to dementia care, menopause, and older adult’s pandemic well-being. I researched aging policy and made numerous site visits to community-based aging services where I conducted participant observation and interviews with policy experts and service providers. I participated in NCKU’s weekly Gerontology Institute Seminar on Thursdays and Prof. Li-Fan Liu’s (劉立凡) weekly graduate seminar on Aging Policy and Service Delivery on Wednesdays. I made site visits with Prof. Li-Fan Liu’s Case Management and Community Care graduate class and Prof. Li-Kuang Chen’s (陳麗光) Social Gerontology graduate class where we visited two rural communities and several urban sites. I gave six talks and attended seven conferences on aging or dementia and four more conferences on global health, medical humanities, and anthropology. I also co-authored four articles with NCKU colleagues, one with Prof. Li-Fan Liu on pandemic mental well-being in Taiwan’s seniors and the other three on menopause in Taiwan with Prof. Ching-Ju Chiu (邱靜如).

Welcoming Banquet Held By NCKU Institute of Gerontology
NCKU Institute of Gerontology Thursday Seminar
Teacher’s Day in My Office at NCKU
NCKU Gerontology Graduate Students Doing Activities with Older Adults at a Community Activity Center in Tainan
NCKU Gerontology Graduate Students Hosting Cognitive Games for Qing Fang Village Older Adults
End-of-Year Party Held By NCKU Institute of Gerontology

Tainan was also a great fit for my daughter. As a high school junior, she studied Chinese language at NCKU’s Chinese Language Center (CLC), which is known for having one of Taiwan’s best programs in learning Chinese as a second language. She also took electives in practical arts, fine arts, and other subjects at Sheng Kung Girl’s High School. Both programs were top notch, and the teachers and students were very welcoming. NCKU’s CLC not only had students from all over the world, but they also ranged in age from 17 years old to young adults to older adults This range in age allowed for amazing international and intergenerational experience. When Linden was at Sheng Kung, she was the only foreign student.  This gave her precious immersion into local Taiwanese culture.

Linden and I at the Welcoming to Linden’s Homeroom at Sheng Kung High School
Linden Sharing Vermont Maple Candy and Cream with Homeroom Classmates at Sheng Kung Girl’s High School
Linden with Her Chinese Class at NCKU Chinese Language Center

Overall, Tainan is a wonderful place! Unlike Taipei, it is sunny most of the time and rarely rainy or cloudy. Known as the culinary heart of Taiwan and the home of bubble tea, local people in Taiwan will come to Tainan just to eat the great food there. People say that the pace of life is a bit slower in Tainan and that people know how to enjoy life. Although Tainan doesn’t have a metro due to the height of the water table, it is a terrific city for biking and has convenient access to high-speed rail and regular trains. For healthcare, NCKU has a large, high-quality hospital, and there are numerous medical and dental clinics throughout the city.

So, if you’re thinking about a Fulbright in Taiwan, don’t be afraid to think beyond the largest cities. In Tainan and other parts of Taiwan, there are a wealth of opportunities and wonderful people awaiting you.

Managing Editor: Annie Citron

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Jeanne Shea 邵鏡虹

Jeanne Shea 邵鏡虹

Experienced Associate Professor with decades of experience working in higher education. Director of Health and Society Program and Global Health Concentration in Anthropology. Skilled in Anthropology, Asian Studies, Health Social Sciences, Global Health, Gerontology, Research, Teaching, Program Administration, Student Development, Intercultural Communication, International Education, Research Design, Research Ethics, and Grant Writing. Ph.D. and MA in Anthropology from Harvard University. BA in Asian Studies: Chinese Language and Literature from Dartmouth College. New book Beyond Filial Piety: Rethinking Aging and Caregiving in Contemporary East Asian Societies: https://www.berghahnbooks.com/title/SheaBeyond.

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