Today we travelled to the beautiful city of Hulien. In a two-hour train ride, we left Taipei City, traveled through the countryside and arrived in Hualien on the eastern side of Taiwan. Then we took a bus to National Dong Hwa University (NDHU) where we were promptly greeted with warm smiling faces. The University generously provided us lunch that had everything from stuffed dumplings to pizza with shrimp! My favorite part of the meal was the pearl milk tea and the chocolate donuts! 🙂
During the lunch we were able to converse with students and faculty about their University and counseling/clinical psychology program. Afterward their students gave us a campus tour of their gorgeous university surrounded by mountains. I loved the peaceful lake that was on the campus and their beautiful library. Along the tour Mizzou students and Dong Hwa students got to know one another. I learned that I shared many interests with a few of the students. Not only did we all study psychology, but we also liked similar TV shows and music. I was amazed when I heard that the students who took time out of their day to eat lunch with us and give us a campus tour had their final exams this week and that they had to go back to the library to study as soon as we left.
I could not believe that they gave up important study time to welcome and spend time with us. This kind of generosity and kindness has been shown to me time and time again from students, faculty, and even strangers that I have met while in Taiwan.
As a small town girl from Minnesota, the quieter streets of Hulien are much more comfortable to me than the busy streets of Taipei. In addition, the breathtaking scenic views of the ocean and mountains easily make Hulien one of my favorite places. My day was complete when I was able to ride a bicycle along the coast while breathing in the ocean air and watching the town light up as the sun went down.
Before coming on this trip I was very anxious about what my first cross-cultural journey would look like. While growing up I never dreamed that I would one day get the chance to visit Taiwan. I had never been outside of North America and had never been in a place where I did not know the language or customs. However, the kindness shown to me from the people living in Taiwan has made my first cross-cultural experience enjoyable and memorable. “Minnesota nice” has nothing on “Taiwan nice”. For example, a few days ago I was feeling very ill after a long car ride to Jioufen. While I was sitting in a Seven-Eleven waiting for my classmates a lady approached me and, even though we could not speak the same language, she tried to help me any way that she could by giving me hot water and some oil to put on my forehead. Her actions really touched me in my moment of need and I cannot express how appreciative I was for her help. These types of interactions with people from Taiwan and the experiences I have had over the past week have helped me to understand another culture and open my mind to new ways of thinking. One cannot completely understand what it is like to be in a collectivistic culture solely by reading a book. Being immersed in the Taiwanese culture and stepping outside of my comfort zone has challenged many of my prior assumptions and extended my worldview. Although this trip has impacted me greatly, I know that this is just the start of my life long cross-cultural journey.