It’s been exactly two weeks since we’ve returned to America. While it is great to be home and see familiar faces, eat food I’m accustomed to, and be able to read street signs, I do truly miss Taiwan and wish I could go back. Having the ability to go abroad with this program was really eye opening and helped me learn a lot about other cultures, international business practices and struggles, and even more about myself––who I am as a person, and who I should be in various situations. I guess you really learn a lot about people and life itself by stepping outside of your comfort zone. Also, by being outside of your comfort zone you learn to be really appreciative of the basic luxuries you’re afforded on a daily basis such as communication. When you’re in a foreign country where you lack something such as basic communication with people, you can really see the value of the little things such as being able to converse with someone and genuinely understand one another. These little things often go unnoticed and unacknowledged back at home, however, when abroad, the true value and purpose of these “little things” are revealed.
I truly recommend anybody interested in LINC to go for it! Not many students have the opportunity to travel across the world with people they barely know and experience a different culture, especially their freshman year of college. I now look forward to engaging in future study abroad or international excursion programs, as this tiny glimpse of Taiwan has given me a taste of traveling and now I can’t wait to get back on the road, or plane, or high speed rail train to explore the world again.
It’s bittersweet to part with this trip. It was a great experience and it is sad to know it is over––one week goes by so quickly! But, at least I can walk away knowing I have gained a lot of irreplaceable memories and.. I have a lot of pictures to reminisce!
P.S. Here are a few pictures from the trip, there will be a followup post with more!
The Temple’s interior
Beautiful architecture and a stray dog.
The group’s collective favorite drink of the trip: Kiwi Juice. We each probably drank 3-8 cups per person (unlimited refills)
Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
Inside a “99” NTD store, kind of like a dollar store in America. There were many random items.
Taiwan has been an amazing trip for me. I am actually from Taiwan, so some things on this trip were not new to me, such as the different types of food, the crazy taxi drivers, the cheap merchandise, etc.
What was new to me on this trip was all the different companies that we visited. I had never viewed Taiwan as a business location. It has always been that summer vacation place my parents took me to when I was young. I really enjoyed visiting and seeing Taiwan as a place for business. It has really showed me so much about the Taiwan business perspective.
This LINC experience has really led me to be interested in global perspectives in terms of business and the importance of culture in business.
I can’t believe that I am back in California already! Taiwan was so incredible, vibrant, and welcoming that I never wanted to leave. Some of my favorite places were Taipei 101, Asus, the dragon and tiger pavilions and the Shilin night market. Below are some pictures of some of those places.
Right now I am writing up my final paper for the LINC trip and reflecting upon some of the business lessons we learned through the company tours. In the group paper I am writing about the marketing differences between the United States and Taiwan. One of the biggest differences I observed was that the Taiwanese signs and billboards were often cluttered and crowded whereas in the US, most advertisements and signs have more negative space.
- Lauren Barth
It has been only a few days since I have returned from Taipei, Taiwan and although I am happy to be home, eating food that I can actually identify, speaking the native language and being able to go more than five minutes without sweating through my shirt there are several key differences between the culture here in Los Angeles that make me miss Taiwan.
The Taiwanese are markedly more hospitable and generally kind than Americans. I noted several experiences where a Taiwanese man or woman would kindly go out of their way to reach out and ensure that us American tourists were enjoying their homeland. I remember hearing a story from a friend in my LINC group: she told me about a time on the subway when she asked a woman for directions, and instead of simply pointing out a location on the map, dropped what she was doing for the day and guided them on a comprehensive tour of the city! There was no shortage of this type of altruistic kindness in Taiwan. The locals and workers alike showed absolute respect and kindness towards us, even when we didn’t like their food!
Experimenting with food in Taiwan was very exciting for me. The majority of items on any given table were unidentifiable which made things mysterious from the start, but that never stopped me from trying! Each meal I would sit next to a classmate who was familiar with the cuisine, asking them not to reveal the identity of the food before I tried it- this way I would have no bias against any of the dishes… this became somewhat of a blessing and a curse. I experienced delicious flavors that I probably would have shied away from otherwise, but I also nearly gagged on a couple dishes too!
Reflecting on my LINC experience, I have nothing but pleasant memories. I made lifelong friendships and stepped out of my comfort zone on many occasions, broadening my scope of foreign cultures and making myself a better world traveler.
Today is Saturday May 24, 2014, our only free day to explore this city on our own. Me and three other girls decided to capitalize on the MRT, the expansive (and cheap) subway/metro system that covers a large area of Taipei. Even without being able to read most of the signs, and using a map completely in Chinese, we successfully traveled to the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, Innovation Park? (not sure if this is its real name but the concierge told us to go here), and the Grand Palace Museum. Not only were these locations culturally enriching, they also granted us insight into Taiwanese history. The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial was beautiful, vast, and very intricate. Today the sun was actually out so we spent most of our time in the shade admiring the building rather than exploring it, but nonetheless it was a great experience. Not going to lie, we got a little lost trying to find the Innovation Park, but this added to the excitement because we had a limited time for sight seeing before our final dinner. The Grand Palace Museum was definitely a must see. We were warned not to go here on the weekend because it is when all the tourists go, but we did not follow this advice due to our limited time in Taipei, so it was really crowded when we arrived.
I’ve been trying to decide what I enjoyed more: finding these tourist attractions or the attractions themselves. Traveling on our own through the subways of a country completely foreign to us with people who, for the most part didn’t understand us, was really exciting. It made us rely on each other, our senses, our friend’s limited knowledge of Mandarin, and the locals. I think just exploring the city on our own helped us learn a lot about not only Taiwan and its people, but also about the how to communicate and approach others. It was very helpful that the people of Taiwan really are as friendly as people describe. We got a lot of help and attention from the locals because we were obviously not from Taiwan.
I’m really sad to be leaving tomorrow. This LINC group has gotten really close during this trip. There are a lot of inside jokes we’ve formed just from living with each other and experiencing a whole new culture during this past week. We’ve learned the little things that annoy each other, how tired you can get from company tours, the sufferings of high heels (to future LINC-goers.. flats. No heels, not even 1-inch heels, just flats), the magic powers of ASUS’s beautifying camera app, how EVA airlines has unlimited “hot tea,” who can and cannot fall asleep on buses (along with how they sleep… often with mouths wide open), and most of all, how much fun so many different people can have together when they run off to a foreign country. All jokes aside, we really learned how much fun people can have when they diversify their friend group and really try to explore their surroundings and exit their comfort zone with people they may have not otherwise done so with.
I hope to get to have another experience like this soon. See you soon LA, then San Jose (my hometown). Wish I could cancel my return flight and stay here for a little longer.
It’s already Friday, May 23, 2014––more than halfway through our trip. We’ve had so many different experiences already in just a few days that I am at a loss of where to begin.
Beginning with the basics, the hotel is very nice and the workers are very accommodating. Every morning we get to eat breakfast at the hotel’s buffet that has a variety of foods from dumplings to omelets, and meat buns to french toast. The food is fantastic and it’s great to see the tired, but usually smiling faces of our classmates at the early times of 7-8am.
The area surrounding the hotel reminds me slightly of New York and a little bit of SF’s Chinatown (similar in style, but obviously different because this is Taipei not China) fused together. We’ve gotten to explore a little bit beyond the area of our hotel when we went to Taipei 101, the fashion district, and the Shilin Night Market. Taipei 101 used to be the tallest building in the world. Although the plum rains have hit Taipei early for the season and there is record rainfall, we were still able to see glimpses of this vast city through patches of clouds. Both the Shilin Night Market and the Fashion District were two places that will forever stay in my memory. Never again will I see such unique fashion at such a cheap price. I’m already regretting not buying more, but I guess I still have a few days to potentially buy some more goods.
Interestingly, at the Shilin Night Market about 20 of us decided against eating the street food––most of which was stinky tofu, a food many of us Americans are not particularly fond of––so we went to this “Mexican” place reminiscent of Chipotle. This place looked exactly like Chipotle; it was a knock-off Chipotle actually. The whole restaurant had the same vibe. The menu was almost identical; the workers wore the same shirts; it had the same customizable style; the bags even had the same “chips” logo but their logo was actually a sticker pasted on regular elementary school brown lunch bags; they tried, but it most CERTAINLY was not Chipotle. It turns out the owners are actually from LA and recreated the Chipotle idea in Taipei, I’m not sure how successful it has been, but they got a lot of business from our LINC group that day.
After the Shilin night market, me and three other girls went to try and find some medicine at a local pharmacy near our hotel. We actually had no idea where a pharmacy was, so the first half of our journey was dedicated to finding someone who spoke enough English to point us in the right direction. The next leg of the journey was trying to follow the directions in broken English or limited Chinese, along with looking at signs of characters that we couldn’t understand. Right when we finally got pointed in the right direction it started to rain one of the hardest rains of the trip. We were getting really wet, walking through puddles in sandals, and only had one umbrella so we bought ponchos from 7-11. It turns out the pharmacy that was “a block away” was not actually one block, but multiple. Finally, as we were giving up we ran into a man from Canada who was eating at a pizza shop owned by a Taiwanese man who had been teaching himself English. This man left his shop, gave me an umbrella to keep, walked my friend to the pharmacy and translated for her. This experience could have been straight out of a movie scene, and, like Shilin and the Fashion District, will forever remain in my memory. In this situation, we were hopeless, lost foreigners, but were able to find what we were looking for through the help of others.
It has been an interesting trip thus far. I’m beginning to love the quirks of this city. Too bad there is so much to see but so little time left.
You’ll hear from me soon––
The trip so far has been filled with cultural, political, and economic enlightenment. We have visited a wide variety of companies ranging from HCG, a toilet manufacturing company, all the way to ITRI, a research and development institute for industrial technology. Each and every one of our hosts has been gracious and welcoming and quite a few of them have been Trojans! Seeing how eager they are to give back to their alma mater makes me grateful to be a part of the Trojan family.
One of our first evenings in was held at the Regent Hotel, where a group of USC alumni told us about their experiences working and developing business in Taiwan. We enjoyed a delicious buffet of fresh fish, and other traditional Taiwanese dishes.
All in all, the trip so far has been informative and fun. After finishing our company visits for the day, our group explores the city, going to night markets when the weather permits and mingling with the hospitable locals. A little more than half way through the trip, I am delighted to say that this experience has exceeded all of my expectations.