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Makenzie Cook: Taiwan

My name is Makenzie Cook and I’m a senior from Greenville, South Carolina. I major in Mandarin Chinese and minor in International Affairs and Film & Digital Media. This past 2022 fall semester, I participated in a study abroad trip to Taiwan for 3 months.

The specific program I traveled with was the CET Taiwan program, which connected us with the language department at National Taiwan University NTU. I chose this program not only because it is a requirement for Chinese majors to study abroad, but also because of how important Taiwan is in terms of international affairs.

By choosing this country and program, it gave me an opportunity to safely study Mandarin and learn Taiwanese culture while also giving me first hand experience of living in a country whose politics and international relations I had been studyingfrom afar.

As our program at NTU was only for language courses, I mostly worked in the language department. For those classes, we each had to take listening and speaking tests in order to be placed in levels that worked for us. That experience itself was different from Wofford, where everyone is placed based on previous years of mandarin lessons rather than testing. One similarity my class at NTU shared with Wofford is how small it was. Here at Wofford, a Chinese class will typically have around 4 to 8 students at any given time, which was close to my class count at NTU, however, that class also had other international students from all over the world and of drastically different ages. The actual class time at NTU wasvery different from here at Wofford. A typical Chinese class at Wofford is usually everyday for an hour if you are in first and second year Chinese, while at NTU, we had class everyday for 3 hours. My Mandarin increased greatly because of all of the hours we spent in class and from actually speaking it in Taiwan.

While in Taiwan, two of my favorite places to visit were Ximending and Xinyi where Taipei 101 is located. Ximending is a big neighborhood and shopping district in Taipei, Taiwan where I spent a lot of my time and money. It’s known as the Harajuku or Shibuya of Taiwan, and is a hub for Taiwanese fashion and Japanese culture. It is also home to a lot of cool restaurants and hidden bars.

Xinyi district is the hub of the Taiwanese city government and the financial district due to all of the shopping malls and entertainment venues it has. My roommates and I spent a lot of time in this area because of all the tourist attractions available.

For living accommodations, the program rented out apartments for us all over Taipei. Because of how strict society was with covid while we were there, it was better for us to live off campus with only participants from our program rather than live on campus with locals. Each apartment was different, with different amounts of roommates and different commutingtimes to school. Because we lived off campus, we had to figure out the rules for apartments and how to live in the city, for example, how and when to take our own trash out.

Due to the Chinese program at Wofford being small, there were only two other Wofford students who traveled with me to Taiwan, and we barely saw each other due to our living situations, however, this did not take away from my experience. I got to meet cool students from all over the world and I really got to learn how to make friends, even with language barriers in place. It allowed me to take part in an independence I’ve never experienced, even on Wofford's campus.

I encourage everyone who chooses to study abroad to really learn about the culture they will be entering and, in addition,learn the history of where they’re going. It’s so important to have some sort of knowledge before diving in head firstbecause it can save some time and embarrassment for both parties if misunderstandings arise. I also think it’s importantfor students to research the weather and fashion choices of where they’re traveling. Being able to blend in with clothing helps locals also feel more comfortable around you as well. Finally, always make sure you have important documents near you in safe places in order to be prepared for any situation and start on those applications as soon as possible.

- Makenzie


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