“Xuexi wenhua zai taiwan shi hen you yisi,” says Farm Saechao in describing her study abroad experience at Fu Jen University in Taiwan winter term. “Studying the culture in Taiwan was very interesting,” she translates, “but the friendships I made with the Taiwanese students was the best part.” Farm’s ancestors are from China and her parents emigrated from Laos in the ’70s. In a show of respect for her family and her Mien culture, she is learning Mandarin.
Jeanie Tram’s family emigrated from Viet Nam in 1981, and this trip was Jeanie’s first out of the United States. She grew up in Oregon speaking Cantonese, Vietnamese, and English and found enough similarities in Mandarin to help translate for OSU students during her study abroad experience. “I only wish I had stayed longer – the people are so generous and the island so exotic.”
Farm and Jeanie were among a group of 10 students in human development and family sciences who studied in Taiwan for the inaugural 10-week program. Associate professor Sharon Rosenkoetter and her husband, Larry, psychology faculty, served as traveling faculty for the group that shared classes and social events with Taiwanese students
at the 20,000-student university in Taipei, the country’s capital and home to 11 million people.
The OSU curriculum focused on understanding human and family development in the Taiwanese culture. The “real world” curriculum included making lasting friendships with the Taiwanese students, traveling around the country, eating Taiwanese food, and spending a week in an indigenous village to learn how young children from a rural mountainous community are shaped by their school and culture. “Their culture is more physical, so we taught the children through movement, activities, art, singing, and dancing as opposed to traditional classroom teaching in Chinese or English,” Sharon explains.
Without exception, both OSU and Fu Jen students found their time spent with each other the greatest gift. “By making friends my age, I learned the unwritten rules of the heritage and culture,” one student recalls. Another admits that “bridging cultures is a complex task, but by showing people how much you care about their culture, you also show them how much you care about them.” As a testament to friendships made and experiences shared, interest in an exchange program is keen.