Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wasai---Making friends in college

The education experience in Taiwanese colleges is very different from my experience going to college in the United States. In America, going to college seems like a bigger rite of passage than it is in Taiwan. Many parents as well as their children come to help move in, and there is sometimes a tearful farewell. Perhaps this is due to the fact that most students do not go home to visit their parents and families every week, as many of the students I've met have told me they do. Therefore, it seems harder to get to know other fellow floor-mates and spend a lot of free time with them. Whereas most American college students really treasure their times in college, it seems like going home every weekend does no allow the same kind of relational bonds to form in Taiwan. I also noticed when I went into the dorms in Taiwan to visit a friend that most students seem to stay within their rooms and play computer games. In fact it seemed like a lot of the students didn't know their floor-mates, or even their next-door neighbors. In America, all of the doors in a hallway are open, and people go in and out; students end up getting to know easily 30 friends like this as they see each other daily, hang out, play board games, eat together, play sports, and go on trips together. These bonds are strengthened by the fact that many students stick around campus on weekends. However, this kind of open life does not seem to happen in the dorms that I've seen or according to the students I've talked to.

In addition, America's college students do not have as strong a departmental identity as Taiwanese students. Rather, most of the friendships and relationships formed happen within the dormitories or student clubs (fraternities, sororities, and other social clubs). Students do meet many other students in classes, but a lot of their friends come from outside of their classes. It was strange to hear of intramural basketball teams created here within the math department or the civil engineering department. That would be really odd and even mocked as nerdy in the United States, since most people just create teams among their dorm floors, club, or friends.

Submitted to Wasai Taiwan by: Allen Chen (Hsinchu)


related post:

I was born and raised in the States by parents that moved over from Taiwan after college to study. Growing up, I have visited Taiwan on multiple occasions to see relatives, and most recently, I have moved back to Taiwan to stay here for a year.
One cultural difference that I have noticed here, especially this time around, is the strong sense of community that exists here, notably at the university level, since I am spending most of my time with college-age students and can compare them to students at UC Berkeley back home. There is a unity within university departments that is hard to find back in the States, and it seems like everyone belongs to some kind of club that they can call their family. There seems to be much less individualism and fewer loners here in Taiwan. From my conversation with students here, it seems like familial loyalty is also more pronounced here than in the States, where you hear more stories of sons and daughters happy to be out of the house and ready to rebel against their parents’ authority once they begin college.

Jonanthan Chou (Hsinchu)

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