During the first few weeks in Taiwan, I keep hearing about this programme hosted at NTU called the International Companions for Learning (ICL). The programme sounded interesting so I signed up for it. In ICL, foreign students are paired with a local partner and are assigned to a Taiwanese elementary or junior high school. The goal was to get to know about each other and share about our cultures.
My local partner was called Pamela. She is a political science student in her first year. Every week we meet up and host a Skype call with two students from Datong Junior High School which was located in Miaoli. Their names were Denise and Rebecca. Our school assigned themes for each week and so we discussed different things such as our local foods, festivals we celebrate, and even our hobbies. It was tough trying to have a conversation due to the language barrier but my partner Pamela helped translate between us. I learned a lot about their lives as Taiwanese citizens and in turned I shared about my life as a Malay Muslim living in Singapore.
A highlight of the ICL programme is the free trip to the schools affiliated with the programme. Therefore, during the term my and my partner went on a visit to Miaoli to visit Rebecca and Denise. At Datong Junior High, they had planned some activities for us. The first activity was making a terrarium. Denise and Rebecca guided us for the activity and brought us to places around the school where we could find naturally growing moss to add to our terrarium. The second activity was a race around the school to do various minigames. At the end of the visit, they gave each of us a bag of authentic Oolong Tea leaves grown in the area. It was fun being able to finally physically meet my ICL buddies. Unfortunately, since it was a 1-day trip, the trip felt very short and we couldn’t spend as much time together as we wanted.
A big draw of the ICL Programme is the ability to sign up for trips to other schools that you are not affiliated to. I signed up for a 2 day trip to schools in the Chang Hua County. On day 1 we went to Da Rong Elementary and YuhShin Elementary School. On day 2, we went to Chia Yi Elementary School. It was a fun trip with a lot of interesting activities such as sweet potato harvesting, leaf printing and Kendo. At the end of day 1, we stayed over at a motel decorated with plenty of vintage toys and posters. We also walked around the area to explore. During the trip I managed to interact with other NTU students both local and foreign and got to know more about them.
I would very much recommend anyone going to NTU to join this programme as gave many opportunities to interact with both locals and people from other countries. I would have joined more trips but most of them clashed with my classes unfortunately.