Pictured: RiXing Type Foundry (Taipei, Taiwan)
The last remaining foundry that makes Traditional Chinese characters for printing presses
Similarly to a majority of other scholars, deciding on what I had wanted to do for my stretch experience was a challenge itself, before it had even begun. Dozens of available projects from local non-profits, public agencies, and businesses each guaranteed to provide a unique perspective on how leadership shapes organizations day to day.
However, fulfilling the millennial stereotype, I ultimately decided that an experience abroad was what would ‘stretch’ me the most. My formula for a successful stretch experience was two-fold: immerse myself in a completely different cultural environment and make a meaningful contribution to the community I was on exchange with. The end result would eventually test & refine my understanding of leadership, and how leadership ‘translates’ in other cultures.
Fully determined to fulfill this vision, I applied to a handful of international research or volunteer projects. After months of searching for a project that balances these objectives, I finally matched with a project called Bridge the Gap, located in rural northern Taiwan. In this project, I was to volunteer as an English Language & Culture Instructor in a local elementary school in Xinpu village, supporting the local English teacher with curriculum development, while teaching about Canadian culture and other cultures around the world.
During dinner at a local Taiwanese restaurant one evening:
Waitress: Who is this? Do you have new visitor at the school this month? (in Mandarin)
Local Co-worker: Yes! We have a Canadian student volunteer for these next two months! (in Mandarin)
Waitress: Oh, all the way from Canada? That’s odd, because he sure looks like us! (in Mandarin)