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Students Learn About Taiwan’s Environmental and Social Challenges

December 13, 2019

The inaugural Taiwan Studies Program summer study abroad course, Exploring Environmental and Social Resilience, concluded earlier this summer with a whirlwind tour of Taiwan and hands-on education experiences focusing on the environment.

The program included thirteen UW students, ranging in academic discipline and undergraduate year. They were led by Dr. Yen-Chu Weng, Lecturer in the UW Program on the Environment, on a five week journey throughout Taiwan. During their time abroad they navigated the cities of Taipei, Changhua, and Kaoshung, while also exploring the immense natural beauty of the Taiwanese countryside. Their mission was to gain a hands on and first person experience into the current environmental and social challenges facing Taiwan, as well as Taiwan’s accomplishments in leading a path forward to address these relevant issues.

Much of the success of the program comes from the valued collaboration between four Taiwanese universities: National Taiwan University, National Changhua University of Education, National Kaohsiung Normal University, and National Pingtung University. The students on the study abroad program had the opportunity to share their unique perspectives with roughly seven to thirteen students from each university. As one of the program’s students remarked, “It was interesting to hear the slides from the NTU’s students because although they were a huge part of our program, the program was very different for them than it was for the UW students, so it was nice to see the ways in which they interpreted the topics given and connected it to their own lives. I can only say that I am so grateful and thankful for them, and I truly think they are all wonderful people.” Additionally, about five to ten staff and faculty members from each university accompanied the UW study abroad group as well. These included a variety of experts ranging from professors and staff of the office of international affairs, to a university vice president.

The program involved academic lectures, experience sharing from local environmental groups, site visits, and several field trips. Some of the most memorable experiences included tending an organic tea plantation, observing organisms in an intertidal zone that is now facing pressure for wind farm development, and hearing stories from an aboriginal community relocated due to their homeland being destroyed by a typhoon. Upon reflection of this experience, one student concluded, “because their home is beyond beautiful, and it is something worth protecting.”

Students co-authored a daily blog to document our journey. You can learn more about our trip here:

We look forward to Dr. Weng teaching the course again in Summer 2020. More details about the course and the application can be found on our courses page, or here. We encourage UW students to consider taking part in this special opportunity.