Traveling Experience in Taiwan – Part 3

For this post, I would like to talk about some interesting cultural differences I noticed when I was a volunteer English teacher and interned in Taiwan. During my orientation at the elementary school I was going to be teaching at, the director ran down the daily schedule with us (there were other volunteers). He told us that class would start at 8:30 AM and the children would have an allotted 30 minute block to clean the classroom. When I first heard this I was surprised. I had heard from my parents that they had to clean the school back then, but this time I could actually see it happen. The director then told us that blocks were going to be about 1 hour each with 10 minute breaks in between. For lunch, the children would have to drag a cart from the kitchen and then serve the food to the other children. This was another surprise.

I really appreciated this concept of having children clean the classroom and serve food to their classmates. We set up a rotation system so every student had to do it. It honestly was a shock to me. My parents also told me that countries like Japan also have the same system of students cleaning their classrooms. Even though this may not be directly correlated to having to clean in school, but the streets in Japan are basically free of any garbage. Sometimes in Canada I see garbage not properly thrown away on the streets or people not picking up after themselves. I think the act of serving other classmates allows you to think of others before yourself. Usually when you compare the West versus Asia, the West is more of an individualistic society and Asia is more of a collectivist society. To me, I felt that more of the servant attitude was being instilled in the students in Asia compared to the West. It was quite the experience being able to see major cultural differences.

When I interned in Taiwan, I got a peek at how students in Taiwan went through everyday life. I was a research assistant under the professor at a medical university in the sports medicine department. Other students in the lab consisted of undergraduates and masters students who would be our supervisors. My work hours were from 9-5 with a lunch break. The research which I undertook in this lab was completely different from my expectations. Generally when you join a lab, you will work alongside graduate students in helping their projects. However, when I was interning, we were told that we would design an experiment, collect results, and make a presentation. Alongside this, we would have to make weekly reports in form of a presentation in order to inform of our progress to our fellow students in the lab. Lastly, we would also have to find a journal related to our experiment and then do a thorough analysis in presentation form as well.

In the beginning, I was scared. There was so much work to be done and I was already worried if I could get good results or even create a good experiment! There was also an American and Chilean in the lab with me. We discussed amongst ourselves about the difference in expectations as we thought we would work on already existing projects in the professor’s lab. I asked my friend who was working in a different department and she told me that she was working on existing projects. Even though I honestly did not want to design a new experiment, carry it out, record the results, and report it, I thought this would be a great learning experience for me to experience something new. It pushed me to work closely with my supervisors to meticulously brainstorm and revise my experiment. I learned a lot of new skills such as using a machine to measure certain indices which test for chronic kidney disease and learning new software such as MATLAB or IBM SPSS for statistical analyses. Our supervisors also took us on field trips to other universities around the areas to observe their research. One more great thing was that in Taiwan, apparently, right after lunch, there is a culture of napping for at least one hour! I got so used to napping after lunch!

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