Crossing cultural boundaries with play

‘Life changing’ is not too strong a descriptor for Study Abroad Taiwan Fall 2010.

HDFS majors took time to mix business with play, incorporating time spent singing and dancing into their whirlwind study experience in Taiwan.

“On September 5, 2009, 14 undergraduate HDFS majors,  teaching assistant Megan Pritchard Pratt, and I set out on a great adventure!” says associate professor Sharon Rosenkoetter.   

“For 10½ weeks we lived together in a hostel at Fu Jen University in Taipei, Taiwan, did 16 hours of coursework together, explored urban and rural sites, stayed in the homes of Taiwanese families, talked with government leaders, and traveled about the island nation. We wish that every HHS student could have such an enriching experience.  ‘Life changing’ is not too strong a descriptor for Study Abroad Taiwan fall 2010″.

“We visited the mountainous region and worked with aboriginal children and families of the Sedjik Tribe of the high mountains in Central Taiwan. They have a rich culture but extreme poverty. Their villages were severely damaged and many people were killed in a very bad earthquake about 10 years ago. They are a happy people with lovely music, dancing, and weaving. We also spent time in  four Taiwanese schools. We snorkeled at a coral reef. Most of us studied Mandarin Chinese with two charming instructors. In groups, the students visited night markets, restaurants, movie theaters, and dance clubs. They took turns cooking and serving foods that were representative of their own ethnic heritages. Students wrote lots and lots and lots of reflective papers and journal entries. Some of us attended a modern ballet performance in the elegant national theater. We spent many hours with Taiwanese students, learning from them, coaching them on English, answering questions about our ‘American culture’, and just hanging out. We made wonderful friends and generally had an unforgettable fall term.”

“This was a remarkable group of young adults, whom I feel very privileged to have come to know. Students cared for one another, included one another, and reached out to others. The personal and professional growth that Megan and I observed was amazing for such a short time period. All of us increased in our capacity to handle ambiguity (including that presented by two typhoons touching down on other parts of the island!).”

Using bubbles to break the language barrier, OSU undergrad Nate Merlin dove into his Study Abroad Taiwan experience.

Nathan Merlin, pictured at left, recalls that “The initial reaction of the families when we first arrived was indescribable. The kids were so excited and eager to meet us that it was easy for us to match their excitement. The only issue we had was the language barrier. The bubbles were just one of the ways that we were able to get past the barrier. Through games and songs we were able to really reach and interact with the children. Visiting the aboriginal villages was an amazing experience that I will cherish forever.”

Brittany Joseph says “Studying abroad in Taiwan was amazing! Not only did I make a lot of new friends but I also learned so much about the culture.  I learned a lot about poverty both in the U.S and internationally and how it feels to be in a country where you don’t know the language. Everyone in Taiwan embraced us and treated us as if they had known us for years  – something you  don’t often find in the U.S.  This experience will help me become a more culturally competent nurse.”

“This was a remarkable group of young adults,” commented OSU Associate Professor Sharon Rosenkotter.

Amelia Bywater, pictured above right with children, is studying to become an elementary school teacher and says “The thing that surprised me the most about Taiwan is the importance of education and English.  I really respect how the Taiwanese value education, however the children spend so much more time in school and cram school (night school to study for tests) in Taiwan and don’t focus on extracurricular activities as much.  Their day consists of going to school, coming home and eating dinner, going back to cram school, coming home and doing their homework for the day and going to bed to do it all over again.  What a hard schedule! We enjoyed lots of different activities with the students at the Taiwanese schools.  We interviewed them about school, played ping pong, sang songs, and drank lots of tea!  My favorite Taiwanese foods were jiaozi (Chinese dumplings), potstickers, bow sun (steamed pork bun), Taiwanese fried chicken and plum spice fries, green onion pancake and lo ba bong (stew pork rice)”.