The 4th Annual Taiwan-Florida Higher Education Conference 2012 in Taiwan

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Master’s student and Student Services Coordinator, Kate Broderick is studying in Taiwan for a three-week intensive study of Chinese language and culture, based at Tunghai University in Taichung. The program was made possible by a scholarship from the School of Arts and Communication at Florida Tech. She will be chronicling her experience over the next three weeks on our blog.

Monday, July 2nd, 2012.

My leg is jerking uncontrollably, as if some outside force has possessed my appendage and testing to see how hard it can twitch without making me topple over. Thank goodness a podium blocks my legs from view. I swallow, try to look at the audience without really seeing them, and begin my presentation.

Today is the Fourth Annual Taiwan-Florida Higher Education Conference 2012, a global initiative to strengthen the ties between Taiwan and Florida. President Catanese, Executive Vice President and COO Dr. McKay, and the Assistant Vice President for International Programs, Dr. Hsu, have been invited as special guest speakers to represent Florida Institute of Technology. From the Taiwanese side, the Director-General of the Taiwanese Ministry of Education, the First Secretary of the Bureau of International Cultural and Educational Relations, along with the presidents of Tunghai University, Tamkang University, Chung Yuan Christian University, Lunghwa University of Science and Technology, the National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, and the National Taipei University of Science and Technology are all in attendance. The air felt in the room felt electric—these are the people that literally shape the way we learn.

The first issue addressed was out of all of the countries in the world, why is producing a fruitful partnership with Taiwan a high priority? Quite simply, there are no simple reasons: there are many, many, many benefits to the partnership. The Fulbright program has made Taiwan an increasing priority because studies have documented that American students who spend one year in Taiwan return to America and secure positions “among the best of the best” – your leadership skills are honed, you are more flexible, engaging, with enhanced analytical skills. As Chinese is the “in” language to learn, as it is only second to English as a lingua franca, Taiwan is the perfect host country to learn it in: in fact, instead of mainland China or Hong Kong, the US Government exclusively conducts its Chinese language learning in Taiwan.

Additionally, we share a similar quest to establish a holistic approach to education—which is why even though Florida Tech is a “tech school,” we have a thriving School of Arts and Communication, performing arts series, and music program. The same is true across the board at the leading universities in Taiwan, where education consists of the “whole person” education of mind – body – spirit. Having studied abroad in Europe previously, I can attest to the fact that this is not the case of many universities at the global scale.

We also share a similar devotion to democracy. Taiwan is also known as the Republic of China—when the presidency of China fell to communism, the seat of the government relocated to Taiwan. While the name Republic of China sometimes confuses Americans into thinking Taiwan is a communist state or dependent upon the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan is in fact a bastion of democracy, known for its humane laws and protection of human rights. Moreover, the standard of living in Taiwan is similar to the U.S.—in fact, while Taiwan is the size of Maryland, it has the 4th largest currencies reserves in the world.

We share a similar past of colonization and freeing ourselves from foreign oppressors. Moreover, we both are a country founded by immigrants, producing an open culture that is more similar than it is different. After hearing the esteemed speakers at the conference, the only regret I have about my own experience in Taiwan is that it is only three weeks long!

So, to return to my twitching knee and shaking hands, you are perhaps wondering what on earth I was doing at this conference? I am only a student—no doctorate degrees or awards or fancy titles, and easily the least qualified person in the room to give a presentation. And yet here I am, thousands of miles away from home, about to address an audience in Chinese (I should point out at this point that I don’t speak Chinese).

Why am I here? Because these great, great leaders and innovators in education wanted to hear a student perspective. Because while they are great, great pioneers in the field of academia, they know that for the partnership to work, they have to have student input. This single fact is why I love our school, Florida Institute of Technology, and why I know our partnership with Taiwan is going to be a success. They are not building the program and relationship because it looks good for the school, but because they know it could become an essential part of our holistic educational experience. We were allowed to sit in on the entire proceedings, and it is beyond signing agreements of cooperation. They are keeping the needs of the students at the forefront of their discussions—how are we going to benefit from the experience? How will they make the program affordable to students? What is our support system going to be like?

I sincerely hope to see our relationship with Taiwan continue to grow. The past week has been a life changing experience, one of the markers in my life where everything will be dated B. T. or A. T. (Before or After Taiwan). The time to study abroad in Taiwan is now—for my student perspective, such that it is, it is the right time, the right country, and the right administration.

You can read more about the Study Abroad: Taiwan experience here!

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