My name is Ishaqa H. Bah and my Chinese name is Bai Isa which I like very much. I come from The Gambia (The Smiling Coast of Africa) in West Africa. I have had the opportunity to obtain an ICDF scholarship to pursue a Masters degree in Human Resource Development at National Taiwan Normal University. I thank God for giving me such a great opportunity to further my studies in Taiwan as this will enable me to discover news things in this world, especially in Asia. I am also grateful to ICDF and my Government for making this possible.

Before coming to Taiwan, I made some inquiries about what life in Taiwan would be like.  The inquiries revealed to me that Taiwan is an island in Asia, located off the eastern coast of China between Japan and the Philippines. Also, Taiwan was given the name “Formosa,” which means “beautiful island” by the Portuguese explorers 500 years ago.  Another important thing I was also told by friends who graduated from here, was that Taiwan is a very developed country, well advanced in Technology and the surroundings are very clean.

Upon arrival in Taiwan, I was very anxious because I did not know much about Taiwan and Taiwanese people and their culture. Therefore, I was extremely worried about how to adjust to the new culture and the environment. I left home on Thursday 21 August and arrived here on Sunday 23rd August 2009. This was the longest trip I have ever experienced in my life.

One will be surprised about what I have discovered about Taiwanese people.  Believe me; Taiwan is similar to The Gambia in terms of hospitality and generosity to strangers. Foreigners, who visited my country, always said that Gambian people are kind, generous, and friendly but I never thought that there would be people of a different continent having the same qualities like us. However, I discovered we share those qualities with Taiwanese people.

Taiwanese people are very polite, shy, respectful and kind. When I am in the street I am always surprised to see how the people are kind and helpful to me. Although, my Mandarin Chinese speaking ability is very poor, any time I need help and manage to talk to them, they really assist me in what I want even if I use body language. For example, one day I went to Shilin Night Market and I got lost.  Fortunately, I met a Taiwanese lady who spoke a little English and I approached her and further asked her the way to Taipei Main Station. Believe me, she did not only show me the way but she went with me up to the MRT station and bought me a ticket. While going to the MRT station, the lady asked me many questions such as: “What is your name?” Where are you from? , “Are you a student?” “Why did you choose to come to Taiwan?”, “Which university are you attending?” “What is your field of study?” How many years do you intend to stay in Taiwan?  She was very kind to me.

There is another woman who sells fruits and vegetables at Old Street Market in Linkou. This woman is great! Even though she does not speak English and I also do not speak Chinese we always manage to communicate. Whenever she sees me coming towards her shop, she will immediately smile and greet me. We have become good friends and when I need some fruits and vegetables I always go directly to her shop.

Another thing I saw here in Taiwan which impressed me a lot is social responsibility; that is; no one waits for someone else to do something or to be told but they always take initiatives and do what needs to be done. For example, even though there are no police officers on the streets, people respect the traffic lights. I am so amazed that even when there is no car coming and the traffic light is red, people will still wait for the green light before crossing the road.

I also find that Taiwanese people are humble and patient. These characteristics are exemplified in the restaurants, the MRT, the Taipei Zoo and other public places.  They always queue to wait for their turn to come.  

Safety and security is another thing that impresses me about Taiwan. Taiwan is very safe and secured. One can go anywhere without being scared of being attacked. Additionally, one can leave personal belongings in public places and be assured that they would not be stolen.  It is therefore no wonder that this country is so developed.  Any country that has such caliber of people will definitely progress.

Even though I have been searching for information about Taiwan from  relatives, government officials as well as students who graduated from here, I have discovered more than what I was told in terms of generosity, kindness and politeness. I am no more worried about anything because being in Taiwan is like being in The Gambia.


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