Study Abroad and an Internship in Taipei

Foster student Katelyn Shelby recently completed a study abroad program in Taipei through the Certificate of International Studies in Business program. She shares her academic and cultural experiences as a foreign exchange student.

Studying and working abroad in Taipei, Taiwan, was an absolute whirlwind of adventure and discovery! For four incredible months, I immersed myself in the food, culture, and business environment of the bustling city.

National Taiwan University (NTU) in Taipei, Tawan, is the largest and best university in Taiwan, an approved UW “exchange program” and offers a variety of English and Chinese courses. I chose to take Chinese language classes and a few Business courses taught in English. Registration was a bit tricky, with there being three rolling registration periods and no guarantee of getting your classes (but I managed to get the classes I wanted!) My favorite class was International Marketing and Business Negotiations, where each week we did a negotiation simulation. Not only did I gain practical skills but also got to experience and engage with other students from all over the world.

Also very fun was that I joined the NTU Judo club and did weekly training sessions – getting loudly instructed in Mandarin by older gentlemen while learning how to flip other students!

Every day in Taipei was an exploration, thanks in part to Taiwan’s seamless transportation system. Whether hopping on the Taipei MRT, catching a bus, or zipping around on a Youbike, the city was at my fingertips. Venturing outside Taipei was also a piece of cake. You can book highspeed rail tickets online and then take the train from the central Taipei station. Every city in Taiwan has its own adventure. One of my favorite places/weekends was travelling to Lambai island in the south of Taiwan. There you can swim with and observe the 500 turtles living around the island. Definitely the highlight of my whole trip!

In hindsight, I also found Taiwan to be the prefect launchpad to reach neighboring southeast Asia countries. I was able to travel to Hong Kong and Hanoi Vietnam with other students on 4-day weekends, where I enjoyed the tourist sights and nightlife!

One thing that truly made my Taiwan experience unique was working part time at the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan (AmCham Taiwan), an organization focused on supporting US companies in their business endeavors in Taiwan. I got this opportunity through a connection to a UW alumnus who lives and works in Taipei. Although I was nervous about working in a different country and the potential language barrier, I decided to take the opportunity and see what happened. What a truly incredible experience working in international business.

At first it was challenging to balance my studies, work and desires to travel, but once I settled into a routine, I was able to enjoy all these experiences. At AmCham, all my coworkers were incredibly nice, and, interestingly, not only were US and Taiwan citizens working there, but several of my coworkers were European expats who had relocated permanently to Taiwan. This meant I learned about life and work culture in Taipei and Taiwan, as well as England, Sweden and Spain. I even got to practice my Spanish with one of my coworkers!

Most weeks, I worked two days but occasionally, if there was an AmCham event I wanted to attend, I would work an additional day. In my day to day, I helped write and edit articles going into the monthly Topics magazine, in addition to helping draft social media posts. As part of researching and writing my individual published article, which you can find here, I attended the Taiwan Energy Expo where I spoke with business professionals about the future of green energy in Taiwan. I also got to interview the Deputy Director of Taiwan’s Energy Administration, who was super nice and made me hopeful about the renewable energy efforts occurring in Taiwan.

Outside of the day to day, I also helped with a variety of different AmCham events and workshops. I heard from Morris Chang (TSMC founder) at the annual general meeting, and the Deputy Secretary General of Taiwan’s National Security Council, Hsu Szu-chien, at a luncheon on national security. One of my favorite memories was attending the American Ball – AmCham Taiwan’s annual gala ball. After helping sell raffle tickets, I enjoyed live entertainment and got to dance the night away with international business professionals – nothing like a conga line in a ball gown!

In hindsight, studying and working abroad wasn’t just about fulfilling CISB requirements – it was about embracing new experiences, forging new and hopefully lifelong friendships, and discovering the endless possibilities that await beyond the classroom. Taiwan will always hold a special place in my heart as the backdrop to some of the most interesting adventures of my life.