First Community Dinner

As over 120 Scholars and guests crowd into the unassuming basement of the Taipei Teacher’s Hostel there is a growing buzz of anticipation.  “Why exactly are we all here?” students may ask, looking at the dozens of new faces sitting at their tables.  After all, everyone in this room has been flown in for two-and-a-half weeks of experiential learning in Taiwan, plenty of investment in program design, coordination and detailed planning by Bai Xian Asia Institute.  So why has BXAI deemed this event so necessary that they would go to such lengths to make it happen?  The answer will be revealed as we follow the activities and reflections of the participants in the program.

Overwhelmed and a little travel weary, there is the typical awkward trepidation as students slowly introduce their names and universities.  But as they begin talking about common understandings and surprising cultural experiences, this quickly transforms into laughter and cheers over generous servings of Taiwanese cuisine.  There is certainly great diversity, that is obvious, but there is also tremendous commonality.  Nervousness gives way to excitement as students wonder what the next few weeks will give them and where these new friendships will lead.

In this room you cannot make any safe assumptions about anyone’s background.  Talking freely over dinner, students reveal surprising layers of movement and heritage that go far beyond their ethnicity or mother tongue.  All of them have lived in countries different from the ones in which they were born.  Some have found themselves caught between different cultures, not really sure where they stand.  Many speak more than two languages.

As different and as diverse as these students may be, they all share a love for Asia and a willingness to branch out into the new.  Hopefully they will carry this spirit of goodwill and adventure as they undergo their next two weeks in Taiwan.