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Submitted by a TNL reader.
Leaving Budapest this morning and waiting for my flight back to Taiwan in an airport in London marked the end of my college graduation trip. While sitting at the terminal, I couldn’t help but start thinking about the past few years I spent abroad as an overseas student.
I went to Cornell University, which has a history of 150 years and a total of 14,000 students, but less than 30 Taiwanese undergrads.
Two years ago, my friends and I applied to found the Cornell Club of Taiwan (CCT).
CCT is different from TASS (Taiwanese American Student Society), which is seen in many U.S. campuses. Besides socializing and promoting Taiwanese culture, CCT also cultivates the ideal of professional competence. The club helps Taiwanese students by expanding their social network and preparing them for the future careers.
Since CCT was founded, we have actively cooperated with the Cornell Alumni Association of Taiwan, inviting distinguished alumni to share their expertise in various industries.
For example, we worked with the New York University Taiwan Alumni Association once and organized a Taiwanese business forum in New York. The Chief Executive of Boxed, Chieh Huang, and other successful entrepreneurs shared the secrets behind their success and strengthened the link between the work and academic field. The event received tremendous response and coverage by the local Chinese newspaper.
Around four months have passed since I left Cornell. From founding the club to passing it on to the current president and become an alumni myself who’s working hard for my future, I feel time flying by.
Thinking back, it has already been seven years since I started studying overseas. I left home when I was 15 years old and most of my values were shaped when I was away, so I understand why many overseas students choose to settle down abroad.
As overseas students, we missed the days of school convenience stores, graduation trips, college entrance exams, camping and cram school in Taiwan.
We went through prom, V/JV varsity, college applications, Spring Break Florida Trips and Taiwan Alumni Association, things that are foreign to Taiwanese students.
As the years we stay abroad increase, our English starts becoming better than our Chinese, and we gradually begin to make more foreign friends than Taiwanese ones. When we return to Taiwan on vacation, we are taken for ABCs (American-born Chinese) no matter where we go and don’t know whom to hang out with because we have lost contact with most of our friends in Taiwan.
I don’t know when it started, but coming home has become lonely. This out-of-place feeling hasn’t decreased but has deepened each year, and as time goes by, we start to question where we really belong.
When a group of Cornell Taiwanese people are discussing their plans for after graduation, we always frown and say, “I want to go back and work in Taiwan, but there are no good opportunities with the poor economy and low salaries."
It’s not that overseas students don’t love Taiwan, but this is the cruelty of reality. We would like to spend more time working overseas when we have already spent so much money studying abroad. Unless you have enough money to last a lifetime, you wouldn’t choose to return to Taiwan when facing the challenges of reality.
I believe a lot of overseas students are like me. Though we choose to leave Taiwan for our careers now, but most of us will return to the island in 10, 20 or even 30 years. The time we are away from Taiwan is longer than when we are in the country, but in the end we are Taiwanese and can still devote to our home.
Don’t forget the resources and opportunities Taiwan has provided that has made us who we are today.
Do not forget warmth of the auntie at the breakfast stand, the friendliness of taxi drivers, the alleys of 7-11 and bubble tea, the democracy and freedom of speech in Taiwan.
Do not forget the sunrise of Alishan, the riverside of Sun Moon Lake River and the waves of Kenting.
Do not forget that we must be proud of being Taiwanese with every step we take.
We are very fortunate to have the chance to explore the world, laugh with overseas Taiwanese students, hold a Taiwanese night market and ask foreigners to try bubble tea, sing Jay Chou songs that they don’t understand, spin a top or put on a show of writing calligraphy. But we are already tired of entertaining foreigners and would rather put this effort into helping Taiwan.
For example, the Cornell Alumni Association of Taiwan is trying to promote closer relationships with the Taiwanese industry. This will not only give students an opportunity to learn about Taiwan, but also give industries opportunities to recruit overseas students and reduce brain drain. I recently got to know an overseas Chinese from the Silicon Valley. He chose to hold a camp for children back in Taiwan during summer vacation so Taiwanese children can have access to first-class engineering and technology from the Silicon Valley through his own experience and knowledge
It all comes down to this; no matter where you are right now, we all have the responsibility as overseas students to help Taiwan step into the international scene and receive worldwide recognition.
We all love Taiwan in the same way, but are not doing enough. The strength of an individual is limited, but if everyone can make some kind of contribution, think about how impressive the influence of overseas students can be.
So, overseas students, please stop escaping.
We can all do something for Taiwan.
To the future of Taiwan and our people.
Translated by Olivia Yang