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33. Why I chose to study in Taiwan?

Why I chose to study in Taiwan? This is a question that I get all the time, and for me there are tons of reason why to study here. Taiwan is situated at the central point of the Asian Pacific rim and the gateway to East Asia making it highly accessible to Asia Pacific countries, it is a safe and innovative country that takes care of their people, embraces new technology and the arts. Even it is an small island, it is big in soul and heart, and has the most friendly and hospitable people I have had the pleasure of sharing this world. I have had the opportunity to live and work in different cities around the world, including Guatemala City, Oslo, New York City and Mombasa and each one of them have a piece of my heart and a piece in the journey of my life. But despite my Chinese roots, I have never had the opportunity to live or study in Asia and I feel that day by day my Chinese traditions and culture are being left behind. Of course my Guatemalan influence is stronger and I feel proud of my Latin culture, but maybe being exposed to two different cultures since I was born made me more open minded to be able to absorb different cultures and ways of living. Or perhaps is just my necessity to know more about things that I do not know or I have not experienced yet.

Before I start talking about why I chose Taiwan, let me give you an outlook of my life before.

I come from the beautiful Republic of Panama, a small country in Central America with a population of over 3 million of which over 150,000 are Chinese or have Chinese roots. They came from mainland China, in 19th century and more recently, the beautiful island of Taiwan. Having the largest Chinese community in Central America, it's very common to find many restaurants, shops and even a Chinese~ Panamanian school (from where many of my friends graduated) in Panama.

Since my childhood I have been restless and curious, curious especially, about world history, culture and art. Can you imagine me, a little Panamanian girl walking around the China Town in Panama looking at all those signs hanging on the Chinese stores, letting my imagination run wild as I imagined all kind of animals and figures coming out from the Chinese characters?

SAFETY, NICE PEOPLE AND ART EVERYWHERE!

After backpacking through South Each Asia and Mainland China for six months, at the end of 2011, I decided Asia was the next place I wanted to live in. Art is what has followed me around everywhere, I paint an draw no matter where I am and I noticed something clicked while I was in Asia. The colors, the textures, the architecture, the rice plantations, the people, the food, it all had something that just made me want to paint more. This love for tradition that most Asian countries have made me want to know more about their art, their techniques and traditional ways of doing things. In my search for finding what I loved about Asia, I stumbled upon artists who made sounds for movies the old way, I found a group of artisans who made art out of eggshells and a community who made natural products out of everything they had at hand, even the packaging was made out of something natural and all made by them. Finding people who still made art the traditional way giving it a modern twist made me realize that there’s an added value that these techniques give to their art or products and I wanted to add some of this to my paintings. As soon as I returned to Guatemala, I started working on a collection of paintings inspired by the Mayans but influenced by my travels in Asia and Africa. I hadn’t had as much fun painting as I did with this collection and this made me realize I wanted to learn more about these cultures.

Whenever we want to travel to some place new, being it for work, tourism or study, we usually research every little possible detail about this new location. Taiwan was no exception. If I were to embark into a two-year long study abroad experience, the place would need to be interesting and stimulating to the last bit.

Upon my lengthy research comparing different universities in different countries, I stumbled upon the fact that Taiwan is a multifaceted country. Their traditions and culture are a mix of both ancestral and contemporary, cherishing the past while embracing the new. Arts, technology, food and educational excellence all meld delightfully in Taiwan.

As I decided to pursue an arts related degree in Taiwan, it was especially important that environment I was to surround myself in was nurturing for creative minds, and so far into my experience of living in Taiwan it has proven right.

Arts, culture, food and music all are well represented in this island nation. One weekend you can be visiting a Salvador Dalí exhibition at a museum, the next you’re watching a kite festival at a beach and the next you’re tasting award winning traditional foods at a food fair. The list goes on and on, and you can never run out of things to see or do in Taiwan.

All this culture would be impossible to experience if it wasn’t for Taiwan’s technology and public transportation infrastructure already in place. It might already be ubiquitous for the locals, but for most foreigners it’s something refreshingly different that adds vast amounts of convenience to daily life. Taiwan’s use of technology applied to daily life has actually increased the ease of its inhabitants to go and enjoy local arts and culture affairs.

Allah has chosen Taiwan as my place of study………

Choice for me is a complex issue; a combination of prayers, hard work and faith in the power and wisdom of God the almighty.

As a young lad, I had always dreamt of pursuing education to the highest level that I can reach. And that means like many others living in the third world; I have the will but limited financially to fulfill the higher education dream. And my educational dream was not limited to the shores of my country the Gambia where I had my first degree. I had always dreamt of going abroad for higher education. Which country? I wasn’t sure even though Europe and America stood out clearly in my visualization. This is because Europe and America are well-known destinations where a lot of my countrymen go for educational pursuit. So yes, I had often times speak to my family about going to Europe or America one day for education pursuit. My saintly mother though does not fancy Europe or America or worldly riches and has never been keen on the topic of my dream. I remember always arguing my case before her to try to see reason in the liberating effect of education and that Europe and America provides opportunities which my native Gambia lacks in the fulfillment of that dream for me.

Even after she came to terms with the fact that my overseas educational dream was a worthwhile venture, my mom always has one statement to make; “if your good luck lies there, may Allah make it work for you” Simply put, rather than blindly approving the idea of my educational pursuit in Europe or America, my mom believes the most important thing is God’s approval. In other words, if my luck does not lie in America or Europe or if I would not find peace in these destinations, then it is her wish I rather stay at home or go somewhere else where I will find peace and good luck.

It is firstly all about pursuing your goal, your dream and becoming that person who you wanted to be in the future.

But above all it is about coming and going back to my country to help my nation build a better brighter future and to tackle the issue of food security with regard to the changing weather patterns or to be more specific, “Climate change”.  

It was always been my dream to travel abroad to a developing nation like Taiwan  to pursue my goal for further studies,  to observe the different level of education here  and to learn far more new innovations.

However, before leaving and coming to study in Taiwan, I could not make up my mind and it was not an easy decision to make especially to travel to a destination far off from home. I took sometimes to think about it and finally I came up with a positive outlook with the encouragement of my family, my friends and all those who were always there for me, I accepted the offer and I came.

Therefore, I would like extend my sincere gratitude to my family, friends for their kind support and I.C.D.F for funding my scholarship and above all I would like to thank the Almighty God for offering myself this great opportunity, truly He is a Good God.

When I got the application form and saw how long the doctorate degree program is, that hooked me in and wanted to pursue my studies in Taiwan.  Frankly I have very little incentive to pursue further study as for one, I am over the age that I personally thought is suitable for an active mental discipline.  Secondly, the retiring age in my country, Kiribati is 50 years and calculating the many years that I will spend in school again will eat up all the little remaining years that I have.

However, what really drives me into going back to school life once again is the maximum qualification requirement (MQR) that I had set for the workforce for the position that I am currently holding.  My job at home is the Director for the entire Agriculture Department (AD) and a few years back our Public Division Office (PSO) calls for all Ministries to restructure their Department organizations along with setting the MQR for each position in the organization.

It is my pleasure to be given this opportunity to contribute an article towards the 33rd TICA Newsletter on the topic “Why I chose to Study in Taiwan?” Well, first I would like to thank God for being with me all the way from the small Kingdom of Swaziland to the beautiful island country, Taiwan. I have many reasons why I chose to study in this beautiful island country. Safety is one of the main reasons why a beautiful country like Taiwan was one of the countries I preferred to further my studies. Taiwan is a safe, peaceful country with a convenient living environment, provides scholarships, the people are very welcoming to foreigners, and the majority of Taiwanese are extremely eager to help and get to know foreigners especially blacks like me. Taiwan’s society is known throughout the world for its sincere hospitality and diverse cultural cuisine therefore, whether you are a visitor or a resident your cultural epicure experience will be filled with memories of a society that strives to offer you, the very best.

In essence, every prospective student worldwide seeks to identify suitable courses and place to continue his or her educational goals. However, the pursuing such dreams involves soul searching effort before establishing oneself into a place to study. There are countless universities worldwide for one to choose and continue his or her education. But universities differ in requirement and accessibility to scholarship. Thus, Taiwan is an exception, the Island opens its doors for the world over to come and benefit from its educational dispensation. The testimonies of my brothers and sisters that attended Taiwan universities have indeed enticed me to choose Taiwan.

 However, I was indeed motivated by the ICDF alumni association in our country to choose Taiwan in order pursue my educational goal. The Island has an outstanding higher education system that provides opportunities for international students to study a wide variety of courses, ranging from mandarin language, agriculture, genetic engineering, business, Electronic engineering, and business Administration among others.

 Taiwanese cherished education and invests heavily in scholarship for both the nationals’ and international students. The Island is a beacon of hope for prospective students interested in pursuing undergraduate and postgraduate programs. I strongly believed that I will be abreast in the Island with new experience of meeting people of diverse socio-cultural background. This will have a profound influence on my career or personal goals.  However, Chinese culture is uniquely interwoven in the fabric of modern society. Cell phones, luxury sedans and skyscrapers coexist with traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting, with tea culture and ornate temples, and with ancient holidays such as Chinese New Year, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Lantern Festival. This rich culture is indeed enticing to me and will service me a memorable life experience.  

After my appropriate consideration about study abroad, I decided to explore the paradise small island, Taiwan, located on the Northwest of Thailand. The country’s size is similar to the province’s size of Thailand. I never regretted on my decision because I am interested in research opportunities and Taiwanese cultures. Moreover, I have a passion for Mandarin language. I always think that I made a right decision. Therefore, I chose to study Ph.D. program at the Department of Tropical Agricultural and International Cooperation (DTAIC), majoring Agribusiness Management at National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST). This university is the biggest area and well-renowned university in Agricultural study in Taiwan.

The main reasons that I selected Taiwan for study abroad are the quality of classical Mandarin education and the research opportunities in agricultural field. The research opportunities here are close to my studied field. Since agriculture plays an important role to the Thai economy and labor forces, my research will surely be useful and benefit to the agriculture sector in Thailand. An extra bonus as the perspective of the international student here is the openness and readiness of Taiwanese education system for the purpose of harmonizing and integrating many cultures of the students from all over the world. Learning from my classmates, I got a glimpse of study experiences in places as diverse as El Salvador, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Gambia, etc. My program also has local Taiwanese students who are the friendliest characteristics that I have ever met. Life as international student at NPUST has been filled with the intellectual spirit of this diverse and affable student body.