At the end of April a group of five students, accompanied by their lecturers, Dr Niki Alsford, Director of the Northern Institute of Taiwan Studies, and Dr Lara Momesso, Deputy Director of the Northern Institute of Taiwan Studies, went to Taiwan for the first Taiwan Travel Seminar. The aim of this experience was to allow a group of selected students who attended the module Taiwan in the Asia Pacific, to get to know Taiwan first-hand.
The week was organised along a tight schedule of activities, events and meetings. The group visited three universities: National Chengchi University in Taipei, National Taitung University in Taitung and National Dong Hwa University in Hualien. While the students were introduced to the campus facilities, attended lectures, and met with local students, the two lecturers were busy exploring new opportunities of exchange and cooperation between UCLan and the Taiwanese universities. Along with academic exchanges, a series of other activities were organised to introduce the students to the Taiwanese rich culture, unique history and complex society.
In Taipei, the group visited the Maokong area and enjoyed Taiwanese local food in one of the teahouses, went for a day trip to the fascinating Tamshui district to explore its colonial history, and immersed themselves in the long history of Taiwan through the National Palace Museum and the nearby Shung Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines. In Taitung, they had a chance to experience the Austronesian roots of Taiwan. They visited the Bunun aboriginal village, went to the National Museum of Prehistory, learnt the barkcloth technique to make their own bags from a tree bark, and overnighted in the Amis aboriginal village in Dulan, where they met the famous Amis singer and songwriter Suming Rupi.
The excitement continued in Hualien, where the group experienced another feature of Taiwan society, its migrant community. Hence, they had an exchange with a group of marriage migrants at the Boai Baptist Church and listened to the stories of their lives. They passed their last night at one of Taiwan’s most beautiful sights, the Taroko Gorge.
The group received a warm welcome from the Taiwanese institutions and the Taiwanese society as a whole, which made the whole experience even more precious. The hard work to organise the Taiwan Travel Seminar was rewarded by seeing the little changes that occurred over the week: students showed an increasingly confident way to interact with each other and with the surrounding environment, they asked more and more in-depth questions, and they gradually sharpened the angle to understand Taiwan society, culture, history and politics.
“The Taiwan Travelling Seminar was the highlight of my year! It was a great opportunity to experience what I have learnt in the classroom in real life and being able to visit such a beautiful place is something I never thought would happen. I learnt a lot about myself along the way while also discovering new areas of research for future projects as well as meeting so many AMAZING people! If you haven't been Taiwan I recommend going!” Atlanta Waples
“The travelling seminar to Taiwan has, by far, been my favourite experience at university. It allowed me to link what we had learnt in lessons to actual places and helped me develop the confidence to ask questions and speak to people who I had never met before. If I had the opportunity to go back in time and do it all over again I 100% would! Thank you to Niki and Lara for providing such an amazing opportunity for us to explore part of the world we had never been to before, I will forever be grateful!” Lorren Woodgett
“The travel seminar to Taiwan really broadened not only my knowledge on Taiwan as a whole but my personal ties and experiences with the island, there are some things that you cannot possibly understand by taking a class alone, the travelling seminar allowed me to experience a part of Taiwanese culture that was really unique.” Matthew Parker
"The Taiwan travel seminar was a unique week of travel and learning. The activities set out by Lara and Niki spanned from history and anthropology to modern politics, giving us context to our lessons throughout the year and seeing Taiwan as its true identity in Asia and the Pacific." Henry Groves