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Trip to Taiwan: Study abroad experience expands cultural horizons

James+Boyer+on+the+Wai-ao+Beach+in+Yilan+County%2C+Taiwan%2C+after+surfing.
James Boyer on the Wai-ao Beach in Yilan County, Taiwan, after surfing.

James Boyer on the Wai-ao Beach in Yilan County, Taiwan, after surfing.

COURTESY/James Boyer

COURTESY/James Boyer

James Boyer on the Wai-ao Beach in Yilan County, Taiwan, after surfing.

Alayna Howard, Reporter

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One perk of attending a school with a heavy international presence is the increased opportunities for students to study abroad. James Boyer, senior international business major, is a Park University student who used these opportunities to spend a semester in Taipei, Taiwan.

“I am currently studying at Ming Chuan University,” Boyer said. He is studying a mixture of international business trade classes and language classes. “I’m (trying) to learn Mandarin,” Boyer said.

Boyer has been able to find a home abroad, living in an off-campus dorm in Taipei on the bank of a river. Boyer commutes about 40 minutes through Taipei to classes each day. He uses public transit often, as he doesn’t have access to a car without calling a taxi.

“There are trains every few minutes, and they get you places really quick,” Boyer said. “And there’s a lot of walking. The closest [train] station, if I don’t take the bus, is about a 20-25 minute walk from my dorm. Then it’s another 20-minute train ride to get to campus.”

Study abroad is a unique form of traveling because it provides the opportunity to see other parts of the world, but in an extended way – so, for Boyer, being there for a month has allowed him to make himself at home and make new friends.

“Since arriving here,” Boyer said, “I’ve made a lot of friends. One of those friends, Chanel – a local Taiwanese student – organized a road trip with a couple of the exchange students. We drove all around Taiwan and got to see lots of beautiful places that aren’t ‘tourist attractions’ so we would never have seen them otherwise.”

One of those places was a waterfall near the center of Taiwan.

“It was pretty hilly, almost mountainous,” Boyer said. “There were no signs or anything leading to it, we just followed Chanel’s directions. Me and about 12 other international students rented a couple cars and drove there, about three hours from Taipei. We had to follow this road that I kept thinking would end, but somehow continued looking less and less like a safe road.”

After parking, they had to hike up some rocks, and suddenly: “There was this awesome waterfall!” Boyer said. “A couple people went swimming, and Nolan, an exchange student from Holland, climbed up behind it so he could jump through the waterfall.”

And this was all completely extracurricular, independent of the university, an opportunity for adventure he had because of study abroad.

“There are so many benefits to studying abroad,” he said. “You get a much wider perspective on the world, and you are freed from the biases you didn’t know you had.”

“Traveling,” Boyer said, “gives you an external freeze frame picture of other cultures and the lives they lead. But studying abroad puts you in it, you live life like everyone else in that country does. It’s a much better learning experience and it makes you a part of something that you would never have the opportunity to experience otherwise.”

The lessons a person learns from studying abroad can also improve communication skills, organization skills and generally requires that even the shyest person come out of their shell just a bit. And different locations warrant different experiences. For example, a student’s familiarity with the language spoken in a country will affect the study abroad experience, as will living for an extended period of time in a place with a much different culture from the student’s own – which is what Boyer is doing.

“I chose Taiwan because a friend of mine is from here, I wanted to travel Asia,” Boyer said.

Additionally, Boyer chose Ming Chuan University because Park has an exchange program with them.

Such exchange programs are common at Park. There are programs in many countries and with a variety of concentrations. Park having partnerships with various institutions means that Park students are often able to pay a lower price for study abroad programs than students at other universities.

For students who are interested in studying abroad, the first stop should be a visit to the second floor of Herr House, where the Global Education and Study Abroad department is located.

“I talked with the study abroad director (at Park) a lot,” Boyer said, “because I don’t have much money I had to gather funding, applying for scholarships, asking for grants.” Despite having a typical college student income, Boyer was able to raise the money and earn scholarships which made his semester abroad possible.

More information about studying abroad through Park is available at http://www.park.edu/global-education-and-study-abroad/

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Trip to Taiwan: Study abroad experience expands cultural horizons