This summer I went to Taipei, Taiwan to intern at the Taipei Zoo. Through the Taiwan Tech Trek program (TTT), a summer internship program for children of Taiwanese emigrants, I was able to find the internship in the zoo and meet other Taiwanese-American/Canadian/other-nationality children like me. As most interns were from North America, it was interesting learning about what they were doing in uni, and likewise people were fascinated to learn about the University of Edinburgh and why I go there. At the zoo, I worked with three other girls on a research project concerning a baby cockatoo that was being feather plucked by its parents, an abnormal behaviour. Even though we had limited time and resources, we were able to put the project together and present it at the end of our internship.
Before coming to Taipei, my main concern was communication. For the first time ever, I was coming to Taiwan with neither of my parents and I was to live and work there for two months. My Mandarin Chinese is not good as I never formally learned it (I learned Chinese from my parents who speak to me in Chinese at home); therefore, the Chinese I knew was more conversational. Since I never formally learned Chinese, I could not read or write Chinese either. How was I supposed to communicate in Chinese especially when I don’t know any scientific terms? How was I supposed to order food in restaurants if I can’t read the menu? Could I really live in Taipei? To reassure myself, I told myself that there must be other people in TTT that were like me so it shouldn’t be too bad.
By the end of the internship, I learned that Taiwanese people are willing to try their best to speak English with you if you really don’t understand Chinese. There were times when I couldn’t understand certain terms, and people would try to explain them to me in simpler Chinese or tell me the term in English. I was also lucky enough that my colleagues who were in TTT were fluent in Chinese and could read and write Chinese, and they were willing to help me out when I had difficulty with the language. I felt sorry to them for not being able to help them with translational work, but they reassured me that it was fine and that I could work on something else.
The overall experience was amazing and I got to meet so many great people. I had a nice supervisor who would speak English with me so I could understand everything he said. I made good friends who would help me order food or act like an idiot with me by pointing at a picture of food and saying, “我要這個” (I want this). I am grateful to everyone I worked with and I will miss everyone I met this summer.
Entrance to the Taipei Zoo
Night view of Taipei
Famous Taiwanese dishes: (clockwise from top left) Oyster pancake, beef noodle soup, stinky tofu, mango shaved ice