I make this statement fully cognisant of the fact that Taiwan is almost 100 times the size of my homeland, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
However, Taiwan offers a unique opportunity for those who are adventurous enough to take up the challenge to study here. Universities in Taiwan are like veritable United Nations, bringing together students from every corner of the globe.
It is not that similar opportunities do not exist at universities across the world. However, according to the US State Department’s ranking of language difficulty, Mandarin is one of the toughest languages in the world for an English speaker to master. At the top of the Exceptionally Difficult Languages list are Japanese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Arabic. Therefore, it would be understandable if Asia is not a popular region for English speaking undergraduate studies.
Therefore, it might be fair to conclude that only a certain crop of students “have what it takes” to successfully live and study in Taiwan, especially if Mandarin Chinese is the language of instruction.
In fact, native speakers of Mandarin Chinese are often so surprised when they meet a proficient non-native speaker that one of their most popular remark is: “你學了很久吧” (You must have studied for a long time). You can imagine how they respond when they find out that you can also read and write Mandarin Chinese.
My college, Ming Chuan University (MCU) and its International College (IC), offers one of those “virtual United Nations” setting. There are students from all corners of the globe – The Americas, Asia, Europe, Africa, Asia-Pacific, etc – attending class, and holding discussion on issue of international significance.
Among other things, it is also an opportunity to learn first-hand and to re-examine any preconceived misconceptions and stereotypes about people, their cultures and the values that inform their actions. Here, one has an opportunity to fully understand and appreciate that the world is at one and the same time large and small and that tolerance is vitally important for our continued existence.
Such was the environment on October 20 & 21 at the MCU IC Student Association (ICSA) camp. The event, in keeping with college traditions in Taiwan, aimed at helping freshmen to get to know each other better.
Participants were placed in groups and had to coordinate their various skills and abilities in the interest of the whole.
The activities ranged from those intended mainly for fun, to cooking, which meant that if one’s group did not prepare food its members did not eat.
“We wanted it (the camp) to be fun – fun first and anything after,” said Allen Houng, Vice President of the student association.
My group member Brazilian Francoise Duarte gave her views on the camp:
“I think the camp was good…. I got to know a lot of people. I think it was a good idea to have this camp. I was thinking about it but I do not regret coming.”
Meanwhile Swazi student Mlungisi “Jabu” Dlamini gave the camp an overall nine out of ten points although he said the food was not the best. The activities deserved 9.5 he said.
“Brilliant stuff guys; if it were this weekend again I’d go, without a doubt!” he added.
About 150 persons took part in the camp.