Asian Charm & Majesty: Studying in Taiwan

by Valerie Bordelon

Stunning natural scenery where a mountain range runs directly into lush sandy beaches? Incredibly detailed architecture and a lively population? Taiwan’s got all that and more, and offers quite a bit for study abroad. Taiwan is an often overlooked destination due to the proximity of China, Hong Kong, and Japan, but make no mistake: this island nation is equally endowed with natural beauty and cultural richness.

Countryside in Taiwan
Taiwan with its beautiful tea landscape. Photo by Austin Yoder

Beauty And Conflict

Also known as the Republic of China, Taiwan is located right across the Formosa Strait  from the People’s Republic of China. The relationship between the two nations has been rocky. Before China became part of the United Nations, Taiwanese people were accepted into their country; however, after the conversion, Taiwan was expelled. The geopolitical status remains very sticky, and a fascinating subject to study.

Like many other Asian countries, Taiwan was once a foreign settlement: initially for the Portuguese, who called it Ilha Formosa (beautiful island) and then for the Dutch in the 17th century. During the first half of the twentieth century, Japan occupied Taiwan. Japanese culture and legacy still remains in Taiwan in the form of roads, railways, hospitals, schools, government buildings, bathhouses, and most importantly, cuisine.

About 98 percent of the Taiwanese population is made up of Han Chinese, sometimes referred to as the “descendants of the Yan and Huang Emperors.”

Tasty Taiwan

This country is often called the Food Capital of the East. Here you’ll find quintessential Asian dishes such as duck tongue, stinky tofu, bamboo soup, seafood, and beef noodles. The cuisine here is influenced by China, Japan, and the island’s aboriginal people. Most restaurants are “tapas” style, with small plates of food, and roadside stands everywhere also serve xiao chi (small eats). These include fried buns, oyster omelets, and peanut candy. You will also find yourself in heaven if you love dessert!

Taiwan's local cuisine

Take an evening stroll, and you will find all sorts of stops serving some fresh, flavored shaved ice such as mango, passion fruit, or red bean. Taiwan is famous for its “boba,” or bubble milk tea: a delicious blend of coffee, milk, and tapioca balls.

Another fun place to eat is at the night markets! They provide cheaper alternatives to restaurants and you will find most Taiwanese people gathered here. One great example is the Shilin Night Market located in the Shi Lin area and extending in all directions.

Tea-Riffic

Taiwan is known for producing some of the best tea and the loveliest tea houses in the world. The Taiwanese tea culture includes traditional tea ceremonies, tea arts, and the social aspects of tea consumption. Many of these cultural idioms can be viewed through calligraphy, flower arts, and incense arts.

Top Attractions In Taiwan

Here is a list of beautiful scenic areas, architectural masterpieces, and historical landmarks to catch when studying abroad in Taiwan:

Sun Moon Lake. Located in the mountains of central Taiwan, it is famous for its sparkling blue, clear water against a picturesque mountain backdrop. It is especially spectacular during sunrise and sunset. If you are planning to study abroad in Taiwan during the fall semester, don’t miss the Mid-Autumn Festival. Here you will see more than 10,000 swimmers take a 3-km. swim challenge across the lake.

Temples. Taiwan is known for its astounding Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian temples. All temples are open at all hours, allowing tourists and natives to come and go as they please.

The National Palace in Taipei. This palace dates back 8,000 years, when artifacts were brought over from mainland China for protection during the Chinese Civil War. They have stayed here ever since. This art museum has a magnificent permanent collection of nearly 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese artifacts and artworks. Besides being one of the largest art museums in the world, it is incredibly beautiful, and so important to the history of Taiwan.

Yehliu Geopark, Taipei

Yehliu Geopark, Taipei

National and City Parks. Taiwan is made up of immaculate natural areas, including many green spaces within the cities. The National Parks have volcanic landscapes, special fish species, lofty canyon landscapes, war legacies, white sand, and diverse ecological environments.

Education

While most majors would benefit from studying abroad in Taiwan, business and economics majors find it an exceptional place to for a study program or internship abroad. Taiwan has experienced extreme rapid economic growth during the 20th century, and is now considered an advanced industrial economy. Due to these changes, Taiwan is considered one of the Four Asian Tigers, the term used to describe the highly developed economies of Asia.