What it was like Interning in Taiwan

internship in Taiwan teaching children


Self-introduction and how/why you developed an interest in the Aus-China relationship?

I have always been interested in Chinese culture and history and when I started university at the Australian National University and had the opportunity to finally learn Chinese I seized the opportunity. At this time, the Australia-China relationship was starting to be noticed as fundamental to Australia and I myself started to grow interested in how to further develop relations between the two countries. I feel each country has a lot to offer the other and it is only through person to person relations that we will be able to further strengthen this relationship and enjoy it for many more years to come.


Tell us about your work experience. What did your role entail?

I was working as an international volunteer at an Elementary School called Yu Ren in rural Taiwan. The school was located in Taoyuan County near a small city called Guanyin. I was working there for 6 weeks and for the entire duration I lived in the school’s dormitory, across from the street. My primary role was assisting the English teacher to teach the children English. By having a native speaker of English, it was hoped it would demonstrate to the children the importance of learning English as well as widen their global knowledge. Assisting the teacher included helping the children with their work during class, practising spoken English (inside and outside class time), and running pronunciation drills. This also included teaching them about Western culture, which included fun activities such as teaching the children Christmas carols, conducting a pizza making day and initiating a pen-pal program with my own primary school in Australia. Apart from my role in assisting the English teacher, I also had my own classes I taught, including the special needs class and year 1 and 2  English (they don’t have formal English classes).


What were some of the highlights and challenges experience whilst working in Australia or China?

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I really enjoyed it. The hardest part was living in the school’s dorms. As it was in a rural location, there was nothing nearby and it was impossible to leave the school and dorm during the week, as there was no public transport and I didn’t have a car/bike. Also, the dorm was fairly basic in its furnishings with no internet, TV, kitchen or washing machine. This made it quite challenging, however, the other teachers understood my situation and did their best to make me feel welcome and helped me out in whichever possible. In the end, it was only a small hurdle. The highlights were many. For many students, I was the first foreigner they had ever seen, and it was great to teach them about Australia. Showing them pictures of me in Australia with my family and at famous locations was inspiring, as you could see their horizons broadening as they realised there is much more to the world than their small school. Letting the children taste vegemite and seeing their reactions was also a memorable event. I also had many opportunities to travel within Taiwan, and it was wonderful to be able to experience the hospitable and beautiful country.



Tips and Advice to students

Don’t be shy and just throw yourself into it. In Taiwan, people are so happy that you are visiting their country that they are eager to show you their country. They are equally eager to learn more about Australia, Taiwanese people love Australia!


How has your work experience influenced your career path? What are your future plans?

Going to Taiwan to further strengthen my desire to learn Chinese and work in an area related to China in the future. I have just completed one year of study in Taiwan at the ICLP program at The National Taiwan University. I am as passionate as ever about further building relations between China and Australia and I now have a particular focus on Taiwan. In the future, I hope to work in China or Taiwan, hopefully in business or government.


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Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus

Marie-Alice McLean-Dreyfus has lived in Taiwan for two years where she was studying and working. She speaks Chinese and French.

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