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2020 Taiwan Tech Summer School: An International Experience at Home

 

While the Covid-19 epidemic has made group gatherings and on-campus activities impossible in most parts of the world, Taiwan Tech has been fortunate to operate more or less normally during the “corona-semester". Even the Taiwan Tech Summer School, jointly organized by our College of Engineering and the Office of International Affairs, was held again, although international travel restrictions made it impossible to recruit foreign students for short-term study. But Taiwan Tech decided to go ahead and organize a week of fun and learning on the topic of  "Smart Technology and Sustainable City" from 27 July to 2 August 2020.   

 

 

In the planning phase of the event, we were confronted with the question: What can Taiwan Tech as Taiwan's leading institution in technical education and internationalization, do for Taiwan's young people in a situation when all international exchanges are suspended? 

 

We decided to open our summer school for students from senior high schools and vocational training institutions to give them the chance to experience Taiwan Tech campus life during their summer holidays. Getting a taste of Taiwan Tech's academic and living environment for five days and four nights, we hoped, would broaden their horizons, and make them look forward to their university studies in the future.

 

This idea turned out to be attractive: A total of 42 students from 18 senior high schools and vocational schools from all over Taiwan joined the 2020 Taiwan Tech Summer School, which was divided into two phases: The first phase took place from July 27 to 30 on Taiwan Tech campus, the second was held in Hualian on the campus of National Dong Hwa University.

 

On the first day, the teenagers were introduced to Taiwan Tech's academic environment.  Deans of colleges, department chairmen, and program directors came in person to present a wide choice of study opportunities to the young audience. They all stressed the importance of internationalization and praised Taiwan Tech's achievements in this field. English skills are indispensable for university studies, regardless of whether students would choose Taiwan Tech or another university in the future, was the main message. During the Q&A sessions, students raised many issues of concern, such as diversified admission channels, foreign language proficiency requirements, and post-graduation development.

 

 

On the following three days, students had the chance to join courses on the topic of Smart Technology and Sustainable City, which were held by professors from the departments of Chemical Engineering, Construction Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Design, Industrial Engineering, Architecture, and by an engineer from Daming Robot Co., Ltd. Other highlights, which received unanimous praise, were the workshops on "Design and Smart Society", organized by Shuo-yan Chou and Fang-wu Tung , and "How Wooden Architecture Can Shape a Sustainable Modern City" taught by Meng-ting Tsai. Although participants were Taiwanese students this year, courses were all taught in English, to give them the real Taiwan Tech Summer School experience.

 

 

Participants were divided into small teams and foreign students were recruited as team leaders to assist the event and take care of the young guests. In the evening, senior students at Taiwan Tech invited the guests to join student club activities, such as brain-stimulating board games, hot dance, and baking of hand-made cakes and pastries. For some students, it was the first time to stay away from home. The experience of participating in club activities and staying on campus overnight gave them a feeling of university's free spirit and mutual trust. Also, for most of them, it was also the first time to engage with foreigners. Communicating with their foreign team leaders in English was quite a challenge in the beginning, but when the ice broke, they enjoyed talking to them, and quite a few ended up making friends. 

 

On Friday, 31 July, we moved to the campus of National Dong Hwa University in Hualian to take part in the "2020 Summer Walking Hualian Camp". In addition to the summer camp participants, we invited our Taiwan Tech international students to join the event. Thus, foreign students who could not return to their home countries during the summer break because of the Covid19 epidemic, were given the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of eastern Taiwan and aboriginal culture. Our Taiwanese teenagers, on the other hand, had even more chances to practice their English, with more foreign students joining the event.

 

 

The program, organized by Language Center of Dong Hwa University, was varied and interesting. We took strolls through Fuhsing village of the Ami tribe to learn about life styles of aboriginal people. We had classes on English presentation skills, an introduction to the plants on the beautiful Donghwa campus, and we did a unique campus canoe trip. The 2020 Taiwan Tech Summer School ended with a whale watching trip off the Hualien coast.

  

When we got off the boat, we were quite convinced, that this would be the beginning for another journey for most of the young participants. According to a post-event survey, more than 70% of the participants are now considering to enroll at Taiwan Tech. This result does not only show how much they enjoyed the summer school, it is also an acknowledgement of the organizers' efforts and intentions. We now feel even more encouraged to work on the internationalization of Taiwan Tech, and share our resources and experiences with the local community. Thus, the idea of "Internationalization at Home”is no longer a catchy slogan only, but becomes filled with life!

 

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