Overall it's been a fantastic experience in Taiwan! Everyone at my school, Fong Si Junior High School, were so kind and welcoming to me. Everything about Taiwan is so different than back home, so almost everything I did was a new experience for me. Going to Taiwan was my first time being abroad and I think Taiwan was a great place to start my traveling adventures! I would absolutely go again if I could!
One of the most valuable learning experiences comes from the students and teachers that I met. The teachers taught me a lot about the school system in Taiwan, and I got to see the differences between schools in Taiwan and schools in America. The students taught me a lot about Taiwanese culture outside of school. They would tell me all about life for students outside school and what they did on the weekends. The students also taught me a lot of Chinese words and some basic Taiwanese words! It was a lot of fun for them to see me struggle to say the Chinese words. Overall the biggest learning experience was about the culture of Taiwan and how it compares to American culture.
One of the most memorable experiences that I had was when a few of us went to Xiaoliuqiu Island. It's a very small island near Taiwan that has its own type of culture and is a fresh breath of air from the city life of Kaohsiung. The best part of this island was just riding around on the electric bicycles all day. We're so used to walking in Kaohsiung that riding the electric bicycles around was a completely new and refreshing experience. On that island, we also snorkeled with sea turtles! Because the weather wasn't great that day we only saw a couple of sea turtles, but it was still a really cool experience.
What did you not expect?
Something that really surprised me when I came over here was the school schedule. The teachers are at the school 40 hours a week but are only contracted to teach 20 of those 40 hours. So the other 20 hours is free time to lesson plan, grade, and do whatever they need to do for their classes. Considering we teach 6-7 classes a day in America, this was completely new and a little hard to adjust to all the free time at first. During my free time, I would usually lesson plan and when I was done I'd walk around the school to find students to talk to or play with them during their PE classes. It was a lot of fun talking and playing with the students during my free time so this is definitely a schedule that I will miss.
What advice would you give?
My advice for other students is to be open to anything. Try to eat and do everything that you can while you're abroad. Taiwan is an island, so there is naturally a lot of seafood which I do not like. But when I was in Taiwan, I still tried all the seafood that was given to me because it doesn't hurt to try. There were some things that I just didn't really want to do, but I forced myself to do them, and they usually ended up being a lot of fun! I would also say that it's important to try to do everything you can but make sure that you take time to rest. I feel like when you're abroad, there's a lot of pressure to be go, go, go all the time, but it's important to take some time for yourself.
How has this experience impacted your life?
This experience has impacted me in so many ways I don't think I'll ever be able to list them all. As a person, it really helped me come out of my shell and gain confidence in trying new things. There are a lot of things I did in Taiwan that I definitely wouldn't do in America, so it was a great personal growth experience for me. Being in Taiwan has really helped me grow as an educator. When teaching math, knowing how to do the math and knowing how to teach the math are two different skills. Being in classrooms where the students don't speak a lot of English has really helped me build my skill of knowing how to teach math. It's really helped me dissect how I teach and how I can make it more understandable for ESL/ELL students.
How did you learn about this experience?
I originally wanted to study abroad for a whole semester sometime during my time in college, so I started doing a lot of research about studying abroad through ISU and found out that you could do 8 weeks of your student teaching semester abroad. Then I did a little more research about what countries were offered, applied, interviewed, and then ended up in Taiwan.International Connections