Studying abroad in a country where you don’t speak the native tongue may sound scary at first. But according to College of Public Health and Human Sciences students who participated in the Fu Jen University Exchange trip to Taiwan, it’s an experience of a lifetime.
“This trip changed my life and was the highlight of my four years at Oregon State,” says Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS) student Sarah Okimoto, who studied abroad in Taiwan in Fall 2014.
As part of the CPHHS/Fu Jen University (FJU) Exchange Program, 10 CPHHS students, a graduate teaching assistant and a faculty member travel to Taipei, Taiwan every other year, where they immerse themselves in the Chinese culture and experience firsthand the differences between the two living and learning environments.
“As students, we can read all we want about other cultures and countries, but it is so different to be a part of the culture in another country,” Sarah says. “There is no better way to learn about a culture than to live it.”
When Oregon State students aren’t traveling to Taiwan, Fu Jen students and faculty members travel to Oregon to attend OSU and Linn Benton Community College classes and tour local organizations related to human services, health and nutrition.
The college is currently recruiting for the 2016 exchange, where students will begin a 10-week journey of a lifetime, while earning 16 OSU credits.
“Two of the courses taken at FJU are regularly taught at OSU, which means students make timely progress on their degrees while being able to study abroad for a full term,” says Assistant Professor Leslie Richards, who will lead students in Taiwan during the 2016 trip. “The classes taken with Taiwanese students allow us to research similarities and differences that are rooted in family practices, educational systems and communities.”
In addition to taking college courses, students get the opportunity to travel around the country during off-site visits, field trips and self-guided explorations.
“I spent two weekends with two different Taiwanese friends and their families outside of the Taipei area,” says HDFS student Whitney Cordes, who participated in the 2014 exchange. “I grew close to them and felt like I was a part of their family rather than a tourist.”
“The most memorable part of the trip for me was the nine-day tour around the island,” Sarah says. “We piled in a tour bus with the funniest tour guide you’ll ever meet and stopped at seven different locations around the island. We learned archery from an aboriginal tribe, rafted down a river, rode bikes, hiked, cooked and spent the night in the mountains with another aboriginal tribe, snorkeled in the ocean of tropical southern Taiwan, rode a Ferris wheel on top of a mall and sang songs with a famous Taiwanese aboriginal artist.”
“This trip has allowed me to open up and become more confident and try new things. I often think to myself that if I can get around in a country where they speak Chinese and I don’t, then I can do anything.”
Students interested in applying for the 2016 exchange are encouraged to do so by February 1, 2016. Only 10 spots are available. Applications are available online through the OSU Office of Global Opportunities – preference is given to CPHHS students.
“This study abroad experience will challenge students in ways they never imagined, force them to look at their own country, community and family in a different light, and allow them to form close ties with members of the OSU group as well as FJU students and faculty, all while having a lot of fun and stretching intellectually and socially,” Leslie says. “Living in another country changes you.”
“I certainly look at everything differently and much more globally now that I have studied abroad in Taiwan,” Sarah says. “This trip has allowed me to open up and become more confident and try new things. I often think to myself that if I can get around in a country where they speak Chinese and I don’t, then I can do anything.”
Once chosen to participate, students will begin preparing for the trip during spring term. They will make travel plans, complete activities designed to develop group cohesion, learn about Taiwan and hear about expectations and activities they will encounter on the trip.
They will also have the opportunity to participate in activities with a group of 10-15 FJU students and faculty who will visit Oregon State during Winter 2016.
“I made many new friends on this trip, both from OSU and FJU,” Sarah says. “I still keep in contact with friends from Taiwan, and I think that was the biggest personal gain from this trip.”
“This exchange allows students in the college to take courses relevant to their majors while gaining knowledge and experiences that help them become global citizens,” Leslie says. “It strengthens the ties between two similar universities, offering opportunities for joint research and other collaborative projects. Students often describe the exchange as the most important thing they did as an OSU student.”