I started blogging to help bridge my own Australian/Western culture and Taiwanese culture. Many people I have met, including close friends and family, know nothing about Taiwan: they either think it is ‘Thailand’, or else that it is a dangerous war zone in perpetual dispute with China. They are often surprised to learn that ‘Formosa’ is open and democratic, that Taiwanese are friendly, polite and welcoming, that there is some amazing food and beautiful, scenic gems all around the semi-tropical island. Visitors leave with glowing stories of their travel to this undiscovered paradise.
But I still call Australia home. And I love also serving as a bridge for Taiwanese to better understand my own Aussie culture.
So I enjoyed meeting self-described ‘Supertrampstars’ Elaine and Vicky, two young women who have recently returned from spending time in Australia on the Working Holiday Making Scheme. I met Elaine and Vicky when they delivered a speech on their experiences at a National Youth Commission event that included a session on the Working Holiday Maker Scheme. Both were honest yet effusive about their experiences, calling on Taiwanese parents to be willing to let their kids have a go at travelling overseas. And not to wait too long to do so; it was usual for instance for South Korean students to travel to Australia during their ‘gap year’ in-between finishing High School and starting University whereas Taiwanese travellers tended to be older.
During their time in Australia, Elaine and Vicky did all the usual tourist things: seeing the penguins on Philip Island, visiting the Twelve Apostles, going to capital cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and even travelling to the remote sacred rock called Uluru in central Australia. They also did some English language study. But then they did some pretty unusual things, too, such as working as volunteers caring for sick and injured koalas at the Australia Zoo and skydiving. And did some pretty hard work picking fruit in the countryside: not something that UV-shy young Taiwanese girls usually enjoy doing. Despite struggling at times to communicate in English, they excelled — and at one point were even promoted to supervisor during one of their short-term jobs.
Elaine and Vicky have produced a short you-tube video about their experiences in Australia. They are currently travelling around Taiwan talking to young people about their experiences. According to their blog, their next speaking engagement is on 23 December at the Taichung Library. They are passionate about highlighting the positives of how the experience has changed them (for the better), and why it is something that young Taiwanese should do (their motto is the significance of the working holiday ‘let the world change you, and you can change the world’ — 打工渡假的意義『讓世界改變你，讓你改變世界).
Elaine and Vicky — go for it (jia you)! I look forward to hearing about your next adventure.