When Oxford Meets Taipei
Advanced Writing II, Spring 2022, NTNU
This is a reportage project I did for Christopher, an exchange student from the University of Oxford. I aimed at looking into the cultural differences between the UK and Taiwan, and discovered how a British feels about living in Taiwan.
To start off the project, our instructors, Professor Li-Hsin Ning and Professor Pi-Yu Chiang, invited a writer/freelancer, Winnie Wu, who is currently based in Australia, to lead several online reportage workshops for us.
In the workshops, we discussed about (1) reportage writing skills, (2) the art of interviewing (information collecting), and (3) trans-editing (NOT translating) which to us is a completely new idea. From each workshop, I recorded some essential take-aways in my notes to share with you.
Presentation (on Wix.com / On Taiwan-Stories.com)
The collection of all works created by us can be found on Taiwan-Stories.com. My reportage number is No. 28.
Our instructors introduced to us Wix.com, where we would display our reportage on the website to the world. The reason that we went with Wix.com is because we can customize the webpage layout by simply dragging/clicking/inserting, etc. The platform allows us to apply our aesthetics to the overall design, creating the unique style and vibes we hope to impart on the reportage.
To the convenience of my visitors, I also embedded the full-text in my website. Please see the reportage below.
Reportage (on Wix.com)
When Oxford Meets Taipei
An Exchange Student, Christopher's Journey
Date: March 18, 2022
Author: Andy Yeh
Oxford and Taipei would not have met, but the infamous coronavirus pandemic somehow facilitated their meeting. Is the meeting bringing about a cultural collision or sparking any interesting flashes? Christopher has some insights to share with us.
02 A blessing in disguise
Christopher, an Oxford student of Chinese, came all the way across half of the globe to Taipei to start his exchange student journey in the world’s most prestigious Mandarin Training Center in National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). He would have been in Peking University, China, immersing himself in Chinese culture and learning Chinese, but he wasn’t because of the severe pandemic raging there.
Relocated in NTNU due to the pandemic, which is usually monstrously devastating but sometimes beneficial in a way, he is right now arguably enjoying the most absolute academic and social freedom prevailing and assured in Taiwan. This is likely one of the most significant benefits to him compared to staying in another place, where those officially-blinded incidents and the bloody truths you must never name could barely be freely discussed or criticized without any fear of being penalized.
Having been staying in Taipei for more than six months, Christopher has found out some cultural differences between Taiwan and the UK. Those ideas that seem normal to British people might be abnormal to Taiwanese people in a horizons-broadening and mind-blowing way.
▲ NTNU campus at night with its distinctive architecture characteristic––antique red brick buildings. Christopher is currently enjoying his life here.
03 “Jaywalking, it is not seen as a violation.”
Taiwanese people might have been aware and guilty of how often they violated the traffic rules and dismissed the traffic lights; however, much to our relief, we seem not to be the most mischievous ones. To the British, “the red light is only advisory,” said Christopher with a peaceful and casual tone. “I was surprised by how Taiwanese people comply with the rules. They even stop and wait for the green man when there is no car,” said Christopher. According to him, in the UK, people take crossing the road as granted when safety is ensured and no car is approaching. They consider “jaywalking” natural and will not feel anything on their conscience at all.
Please note that this is by no means the only event that shapes the Taiwanese into well-behaved people in Christopher’s mind. The uneventful weekend life of Taiwanese college students and how rarely they drink and party also come into play to amplify the idea.
▲ On the road in front of the NTNU dorm, Taiwanese people are patiently waiting for the green man even though there is no car at all.
04 “I won’t easily get shocked, but I was surprised that Taiwanese students don’t drink and party.”
While the new semester starts and freshmen arrive on the campus, student orientation is the timeless tradition of every university. In Taiwan, a bunch of speeches overflowing with positive vibes and a variety of activities and fairs prepared by school seniors will occupy the first week. However, in the UK, in addition to the common routine and administrative tasks that needed to be done in the freshers’ week, the item that must be ticked on the first-week to-do list is to get totally wasted and go on a pub crawl–visiting pubs one after the other–to be immersed in alcohol and social activities. This one-week-long tradition will begin right after the matriculation ceremony, where professors from each college officially welcome the freshmen onboard. Conceivably, this ceremony may well be seen as the kick-off of drinking and partying. There seems to be no sound reason to back up and justify the convention, but the only thing for sure is that “it’s definitely an English tendency to make everything a chance to drink,” added Christopher.
▲ Christopher on matriculation day. In the background is the Radcliffe camera (left) and Brasenose college (right).
“You can never have enough fun.” Students in Oxford or the UK will certainly not settle for one-week fun. Throughout their college life, drinking and partying are indispensable and closely-attached to them. Every Friday, and sometimes stretching into Saturday, is when they indulge themselves in alcohol and stay hyper by engaging in socializing. People might be perplexed by how they could possibly make a tradeoff between the notoriously-heavy workload and a heavily-drunk mind, but what they don’t know is, in addition to their already highly-competitive academic performance, they have also managed to make “having fun” to perfection. They discipline themselves by observing the belief of “play hard and work hard,” in which they only drink on Friday night as a brief escape from the intense reality, because even if they get a hangover, they will still have the whole weekend to recover and it will not pose any threat to their energy level during the weekday.
Although Christopher came to Taiwan in his first year of college, he was no exception of playing hard. During the interview, he googled and presented to me the facade of the Brasenose College on the High Street, confessing that the second room to the left of the main doors was where he used to get wasted back in the days in Oxford.
▲ The facade of the Brasenose College on the High Street. (From Google Map)
05 A little bit emotional
“I really missed Oxford,” said Christopher after we had spent a great time with each other exploring the beauty of Oxford. Hearing these plain but profound words, I could totally sense that the ecclesiastical architecture displayed on the screen also reflected homesickness on him and even secretly started a nostalgia tour in his mind.
◀︎ Christopher and I were studying at CAT.jpg Cafe, where the lighting and vibes reminded him of the libraries in Oxford.
Special thanks to Christopher for the participation and all the support for making this come to fruition.
Special thanks to Joey Han, Oswald Chen, and my other gracious friends for providing their photography for making all the magic happen here.
Special thanks, lastly, to my instructor, Professor Li-Hsin Ning for her meticulous instruction and well-designed course where I can nourish my writing competence and enhance my information-extracting and -presenting skills.