Home | View by Topics

5. The learning experience

The excellent interactions between Professors and students made studies at the National Yang-Ming University not only interesting but enjoyable. I would say, they made me feel part of the system. In addition, students assist and help each other both academically and socially which is very encouraging for me as a foreign student.

Me at the flower garden in Taoyuan

One of my most memorable learning experiences began over a year ago at National Yang-Ming University where I am presently a second year masters’ student in the International Health Program of Public Health.

One evening, I was sitting at my desk in my room at the Women’s Dormitory when I heard a knock on my door. I opened the door and there standing was this shy and beautiful young lady with a gift in her hand. She said “my name is Fish and I am your next door neighbour, I am not fluent in English but if you need anything please let me know. We are celebrating the Moon Festival and this is my gift for you”. I smiled, thanked her and then told her, I am not fluent in Chinese but if you wish I will teach you English and you will teach me Chinese, and thus began what has been one of my most memorable and enjoyable learning experiences in Taiwan.

I hate writing the expression by nature? Actually for nothing more than I cannot writing it on perfect way. Anyway after I read what my friend's wrote I willingness to participate. And I can summarize my participate to two parts, first part is about " my living experiences in Taiwan " and the second part is " two impossible stories for me happened, in Taiwan?! ".

Well, when I talking about my living experiences in Taiwan I will taking a lot of times, So I would like to talk about some of my living experiences in Taiwan. But before any things else, I would like to say Taiwan as a place is wonderful place by all what this word have of meaning, thrilling nature, weather is nice, safe place to live, and peaceful people. I think two yeas is not enough to know or to understand a lot about any country culture and civilization. Because we are have not enough free times to learning about it we have others have to learn at our lab so I am not authorized to talk about the Taiwanese culture and civilization. So I take about food. I felt that live is not impossible?. May be you would like to ask me what is this (live is not impossible ) dos it mean?. Ok, in fact we (all Moslem )have a big problems to found food can we eat in Taiwan, and If we found it "It is very expensive". Let me give you example of my suffering with food , we are dreaming if we think we can eat fried chicken like (KFC)in Taiwan. Because the way of slaughtering this animal is not by ISLAMIC way (it called "HALAL"). So to can eat chicken should be exported from USA or Australia or New Zeeland or any other Christian or Islamic country (because Christian country also slaughtering the animal by the same way). And this condition is impossible because(H5N1) viruses.

I’ve been here in Taiwan now for almost 7 months, and to talk about learning experiences, I would have to start since the moment I got into all the ICDF activities when I just got here and up to now that I am studying in National Taiwan Ocean University. It all started with the Chinese classes that for me were very difficult, mostly to differentiate the pronunciations of every word that is written the same, but if you give a different tone to it, I can be saying hello mother or hello horse to my mom !!!! ….. well but right now I am really practicing the tones because I don’t want to have any misunderstandings with anybody. After Chinese classes, I learned a fan dance, it was excellent, now I can even teach it back in my country, well actually I would have to take some fans from here, because the fans used in the dance are not the regular size fans, they are bigger ones.
All of these activities helped us to get to know each other much more, not only with people that will study with us, but also people from other countries that in a way have been united as a big group by ICDF.

Life in Taiwan for me, like so many other foreign students, has not always been easy. Many times I had to remind myself that this is not the Western world or culture that I am used to, and the struggle to conform my thoughts to that reality was one of my biggest challenges. So now I would like to share aspects of my experience that I feel others could find encouragement, a little humor and some comfort by.

Some lessons seemed easy and obvious enough, like learning to eat with chop sticks, adjusting to the different cooking styles and flavors - foods without the spices and seasonings I am used to and love. These were easy lessons because I knew I was not in Belize.

One lesson that took some time for me to learn came as a result of living in a dorm. Before coming to Taiwan to study I never lived in a dorm or had to share my living space with people not in my immediate family. Now I was faced with living with strangers, each of us having different personalities and preferences, and each of us trying to cope with the discomfort that sharing a small space brings. Lesson: humility! None of us is greater than the other and we each must sacrifice a bit of comfort for the greater gain: friendship and peace. That takes humility.

Even from the plane I noticed nice, shiny lights all over this beautiful country. I was expecting the weather to be cold because it was 11.00 at night. I was surprised because it was sooo hot! The guy that helped us with our luggage was sweating like crazy.

We had a fast trip from the airport to Taoyuan County. It was nice, and different, way different from my country and my culture. I liked the night markets, its very interesting to watch how people work hard and even until very late hours! I admire how Taiwanese people work.

From left to right, that is Diego, and Me eating at a night market. Getting used to the food was a challenge, but now, I love many many Taiwanese dishes, like dumplings, chicken with onions, and also the mooncakes, a very traditional Taiwanese treat.

The acquisition of knowledge is the biggest weapon in one’s life. Most of the holy books implore their believers to seek knowledge in any way possible. This has been a driving force for me to pursue knowledge in this beautiful country of kind people called Taiwan.

Finding myself in a class with people from different cultures has been a good experience for me. I believe I learned from my classmates and they also learned from me. Though I am from an English speaking country, my English is influenced my first language, Wolof. This was a little bit of hindrance for me in the beginning because most of my lecturers and classmates find it difficult to understand when I speak. Faced with the Taiwanese idea of the lecturer or the teacher is “unquestionable, I was very disturbed in the beginning. In my country all students have the right to challenge a lecturer and it is the duty of the lecturer to listen and also give his/her opinion. This is not the case in my program. Though not all my lecturers acted that way, some of them feel that they should not be questioned and that what they say is ultimate. In the first semester I do argue a lot with some of the lecturers in some topical issues but by the end of the semester, it became apparent that they are not happy with my arguments. It then daunted on me that I have to adapt to the way of learning of the Taiwanese people.

Studying in Taiwan has afforded me a great opportunity to experience another culture and school environment. I have come to realize that studying in a foreign country (in this case Taiwan) somewhat different from what I am accustomed to in Belize. In an effort to integrate into the learning culture of our department, International Workforce and Education Department (IWED), I had to quickly get myself accustomed to these differences. I also brought to the classroom the Belizean student’s ways of interacting. Similarly, other foreign students also added their dynamics and inspiration which attributed to the wholesomeness of our brilliant system that I have grown to respect and admire. The presence of various nationalities brought numerous cross cultural ideas which positively contributed to our lessons. In addition to these noteworthy importance, my time here has been undoubtedly challenging and had its ups and down, but that is the ‘likes’ of all systems around the world.

In IWED we were offered a wide array of course selections that were suitable to equip us with the foundation to become effective international human resource managers or better managers of human capital within our countries, i.e. the know how of developing competence and effective workforce. The teachers in our department were very instrumental in facilitating discussions, presentations and debates. I absolutely appreciated were lecturers who related real world experiences or personal experience. These experiences were pertinent and offered ideas that I could implement when I return to my country. This is because some of our teachers have had the experience to work in other institutions or consulted for other organizations. Therefore, they were able to relate these experiences and in turn we were able to actively discuss the positive and negative impacts. Furthermore, these fruitful ideas gave me much needed insight into really cases which previously I never paid considerable attention.

When I come to a foreign country or city there is usually just one way for myself to get to know the city in its structure and its lively culture I walk. I have been to some different cities around the world and in general I spent most of the time in just walking through the city with open eyes. I love it to walk and probably because of me being a student of architecture I am very interested in urban areas and of course buildings. I am convinced that I learn a lot through my walks due to the fact that by walking you see more things than in any other way – no matter if it is bicycle, motorcycle or car. With these vehicles you have to concentrate on the traffic and it’s impossible to pay the same attention to the city as by walking.

In February I came to Tainan and decided to start my normal way of exploring a city. But I soon realized that this is impossible here. For the first time in my life I had no space to walk. Either there were cars or motorcycles parking on the pavements or there was temporary shops which were blocking the way or there were simply no footpaths at all.

In Tainan most of the people go by car or by scooter. And the few people who are walking through the city simply walk on the street which implies that they are in a great danger because the motorised traffic doesn’t really care about them.