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Tina from Taiwan

"America - Through the Eyes of a Stranger"

Interviewed by

Teen Editorial Board member, Kendra Cogdon

December 1998

Tina, an exchange student from Taiwan, is a 16 year old high school senior in Wisconsin. Even though she has only lived in the United States for two months, she has been watching everything around her and learning a lot about American kids and culture. She has much to share about her own country. She also has some interesting observations about America as seen through the eyes of an outsider.

The InSite: Before coming to the United States this fall, as an exchange student, had you ever been here before?

Tina: Last summer I came here to California for sight-seeing in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. After that I went to Boston and lived there for a month. I didn't speak any English though, because I went with my father who had to work in Boston for that month. He had to solve all the problems, so I didn't have to talk with anyone.

TI: What are some of the differences you've noticed between the people of Taiwan and America?

Tina: People here are MUCH more outgoing, a lot more warm. Asia's people are more shy, but not me! {Laughing}. A lot of people there are more shy, and the people here work very hard. Actually, people in Taiwan work hard too. I don't know - because America is a really good country, so every country is looking to be America. So they learn something from America. So Taiwan, especially the cities at least, is kind of like (America). (Also) Americans put emphasis on everything being equal, every people is equal, even parents to children! In Taiwan, the parents are more powerful, it's kind of not as equal, but it's improving now. In my parent's generation, the oldest son is the most powerful in his generation. The girls are not really important, but right now it's OK though. We are looking to America now.

In Taiwan, the parents are more powerful...

TI: Is violence greater in America or Taiwan?

Tina: (Where I now live...) these are like small, peaceful towns. Of course like in New York or Boston they have more of that stuff. I think, comparing to Boston or New York, that Taiwan is much better.

TI: We always hear of how the punishment in Asian countries is so much stricter.

Tina: It's not really (in) Taiwan, but have you ever heard of the country Singapore? Even when you chew gum on the street, they give you a paper and you have to pay a fine. The country's really weird. But in Taiwan, we have if you kill people, then you have to be killed.

TI: What is the Taiwanese government like?

Tina: We have a president and a democracy, so it's just like here. The people in Taiwan are all Chinese. But it's a lot different from China, because we have totally different governments.

We [Taiwan] have a president and a democracy, so it's just like here.

TI: How are schools in Taiwan different from American schools?

Tina: Because there are a lot of people in Taiwan, and the country is really small [ so every class has a lot of people. We have like 50 students in one class, with one teacher. It's (also) a lot different because we can't choose our courses. We have to stay at school from 7:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon, so we have "nap time." It's really cool because it goes like lunch and nap for one hour, and when you're elementary or middle school students, everyone has to take a nap. But in high school you have one hour and you can do whatever you want.

TI: What has been the hardest thing for you to adjust to?

Tina: Reading! ...because I'm taking world history and I'm learning the ancient Greek history and ancient Egyptian history. I've learned those in Chinese but when they are in English, it becomes terrible for me. The book is huge, and it's really weird for me, because our books are really thin. And then the huge book with a lot of vocabulary words for me, and I have to look up vocabulary every night. It's really hard for me though.

TI: What activities do teens in Taiwan like?

Tina: It's pretty much like here, but we don't have hockey, we don't have football. Football is kind of like the sport in America; I've never seen football before. I've seen it on TV, but we don't have the game in Taiwan. We don't have football fields, and when I first came here, I was like "I don't know what those big guys are doing. They just hit each other and then take the ball." Because we don't have ice, so we don't have hockey. Sports, besides those two, are very similar. In our free time, most teenagers go to movies, KTV or MTV. KTV is a little room and you go with about five people, and there is a huge screen, and a book where you can order the songs, and you have microphones so you can sing. It's kind of like karaoke. MTV is not like the (cable TV channel), it's .... a little room and a huge screen. You can choose a videotape or (recent American) movie. You can choose Titanic now I think. There's a lot of movies you can choose....but that's usually just for couples you know, for boyfriend and girlfriends.

In our free time, most teenagers go to the movies...

TI: I've read about the Mid-Autumn Festival in Taiwan. Can you tell me anything about it?

Tina: We just had the Mid-Autumn Festival, because my friends just emailed me about it. We have special cakes for it. The story for it started a long time ago. There was a very beautiful woman .... the wife of some very important governor. And that governor was producing some medicine which can give eternal life. After you eat it, then you will never die. He was really cruel. (His wife) ate all the medicine then she flew into the sky and became immortal, and wouldn't be human anymore. She went into the moon and the stars, so the people in Taiwan always think there is a beautiful woman in the moon. The cakes we eat in Mid Autumn Festival are shaped like a moon, or a circle. The inside is like yellow. During the festival the moon is really huge.

TI: You're very out going, so how has it been making friends?

Tina: It's not really hard to make friends. I think because I'm a senior they don't care a lot. They're kind of crazy though, but that's really fun. [laughing] Because they are seniors they do a lot of crazy things. I think it's really funny when they write "seniors" on one cheek and '99 on the other of their face. I went to them and said "I wanted to do that," or I just talked to them, so we became friends. I think the people here are much more friendly.

TI: Is there one philosophy from Taiwan that people live by, or one philosophy that you live by?

Tina: People in Taiwan have different philosophies for everyone. But for me, "Just ... treat other people like you want to be treated."

Just...treat other people like you want to be treated.

TI: That sounds good to me! One last question, Tina. If someone was saying to you, "I want to become an exchange student," what advice would you give them?

Tina: I think (being an exchange student) is really, really worthy. Even though this year of schooling won't count in my school, I'll still have two more years in my high school, but I think it's really worthy. I've only been here for two months, but I've learned a lot and I've seen a lot here. When you go to different countries then you experience different cultures and different people. Asian people and American people have different attitudes even for the same things. Asian people don't do things very quickly because they think a lot. But people here act very quickly. It's really good to see a different kind of country, especially when you're an exchange student and you live with an American family, or you're American and you live with an Asian family. You can know more about life and you can experience the true style of their life. My suggestion is you can try to go to Rotary because it helps a lot. They give you an allowance for every month, like I got seventy dollars here for every month. They help you to find the host family and they always get a good quality.

When you go to different countries then you experience different cultures and different people. Asian people and American people have different attitudes... Asian people don't do things very quickly because they think a lot. But people here act very quickly.


Contact Tina or Kendra at:
[email protected] 

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