Journey to Taiwan
-by Michael Anou Nakhiengchanhl, 2020 Taiwan Scholarship Recipient
Laozi once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Though, I never thought I would have the courage to take that first step. And I’m all the happier that I did.
As a history graduate from UT Dallas, I focused much of my time studying modern Chinese history as well as independently studying Cross-Strait relations. My professor, Dr. Farmer, recommended that I study Chinese in Taiwan to further my language skills. I applied for the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship (HES) and was awarded the one-year scholarship for which I am eternally grateful. I even had the honor of meeting the TECO Houston staff in person before leaving. Armed with the love and support of my family and friends, an open mind, and just a dash of courage, I flew to Taiwan with a blank slate.
The language school I attended was National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center (NTNU MTC). With very few exceptions, my experience there was absolutely amazing. The teachers were extremely dedicated to their students. Not once did I see them give up on us. We struggled and trudged our way through the myriad of grammar structures and “tingxies” (dictations), but I could see the passion and earnestness of all my classmates. They were all from different backgrounds and were just as amazing as the teachers. I found that the harder they studied, the harder I studied as well. In the end, I spent a total of two years at MTC, concluding my time there not only with a strong grasp of the language but also several lifelong friends.
However, just as important were the out-of-class interactions with the local Taiwanese. I quickly learned that I needed to make friends, so I broke out of my introverted shell and did my best to talk to them. At first, I realized that my proficiency was not enough, but as the months went by, and through the patience and teachings of my friends, I slowly discovered the “real Taiwan” outside of the classroom walls. I attended several activities such as conventions, photoshoots, day trips, and hangouts that allowed me to see Taiwan through the eyes of the Taiwanese themselves. From Taipei to Kaohsiung, from the high, cloud-tipped mountains to the blue, shiny seas, in words I cannot describe, I saw what I could truly call beauty.
After taking a break from my two years of studying abroad, I decided to take another chance to study in Taiwan. Thus, I applied for the Taiwan Scholarship in 2020 which I never thought I would receive. I must express my sincerest and deepest gratitude for the staff at TECO Houston again, for making this dream a reality. Currently, I am studying at NTNU’s Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation. I’ve found many a friend in my classmates and the professors are excellent as well.
After I graduate, I plan to stay in Taiwan in order to gain more work experience, either in the public or private sector. I wish to continue working on my Chinese language proficiency and also to continue to study other languages as well. In this age of COVID, now more than ever do we need international cooperation and understanding.