UMD: A Globally Connected University

Sofia Fernandez-Poyatos

Program: UMD-Winter: Taiwan (CHIN/HONR)
Term: Winterterm 2019
Major: Computer Science

Studying and living in Taiwan is without a doubt my favorite experience abroad. I met incredible people, ate delicious traditional dishes, traveled to different parts of the island and strengthened my Chinese skills. I had never been on the opposite side of the world and it definitely challenged me to go outside of my comfort zone.

Being knowledgeable in Taiwan's history contributed to my understanding of Taiwan's architecture, monuments, customs, etc. While abroad in Taiwan, I solidified my international perspective. If we don’t occasionally step outside of our own society, we often lose sight of the big picture; when I'm on campus, I am so focused on my classes that I forget to inform myself on what is happening around the world. It's important to be cognizant of different countries situations and their relation to the U.S! 

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: As a Computer Science major, I found it challenging to go abroad for a full semester, but was not deterred. A winter term was the perfect amount of time to go abroad; in 3-4 weeks, I was familiarized with Taipei, significantly improved my Chinese and tried everything from stinky tofu to every kind of bubble tea under the sun. ​

I’ve been studying Chinese for several years, but have never had the opportunity to put it into practice outside of a classroom. In Taipei, I went to Chinese class with other international students from countries in Asia, like Indonesia, Vietnam, and Korea. Since I was the only UMD student who was placed into Level 2 Chinese and my classmates spoke very little English, my most used app on my phone not surprisingly became the Chinese dictionary app! My classmates often encouraged me to be more outspoken and reminded me that it was okay to make mistakes while speaking Chinese. Thanks to them, I'm more confident to voice my perspective inside and outside of class, in both Chinese and English! 

Within the first week, my classmates and I bonded over our interest in dancing and trying new foods. One day after class, my classmates took me to an arcade to dance and a night market to go to try different food stands. That day, they asked me about American culture and we compared everything in our cultures from education to politics to dating customs. I'm very grateful for the long-lasting friendships that I made in Taiwan! 

Here's my blog I kept in Taiwan with more stories: https://exploretaiwan.home.blog/ 

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: I definitely recommend taking the time to learn simple phrases in the foreign language where you plan to travel in order to be able to navigate or order food. A language can easily become an obstacle and the more you communicate with locals, the more you'll learn about the culture and country!