One of the key moments in Silicon Valley International School (INTL) students' experience is getting the chance to travel the world, immerse themselves in the local culture and language, make new friends, and use the language skills they’ve developed in INTL’s bilingual immersion program. After several years without this adventure due to travel restrictions, this year, INTL’s 4th and 5th Grade Chinese program students were again able to embark on the school’s annual Cultural Exchange trip to Taiwan. This trip of a lifetime took place over ten days, where the students experienced life both as travelers and also as locals while living with host families and attending school at INTL’s sister school, DaDun Elementary School.
From the moment students landed in Taiwan, they began putting their Chinese language skills to use as they took on the task of exchanging money into the local New Taiwan dollar at the airport. After a quick breakfast, the group hopped on buses to Taichung for lunch in a family-style setting with authentic Taiwanese cuisine. From there, the students visited the Taiwan Printing Discovery Center, engaging in DIY activities, including stitching their own notebooks and pressing their own prints on the old hand-press printer.
The following day, the group embarked once again on a journey of cultural immersion and education, starting at the Guang Xing Paper Mill. At the mill students made their own paper and constructed souvenir hand fans. Later that day, the group explored the Formosan Aboriginal Cultural Center, taking a breathtaking gondola ride to the stunning Sun Moon Lake in Puli. The students learned about the culture and history of some of the original inhabitants of the area. The whole experience was capped off with a performance by the aboriginal dancers.
The next day on Saturday, the group experienced one more learning stop with a visit to the Natural Science Museum before the students met their host families.
Spirits were high as the group made its way to DaDun Elementary School, where a huge welcoming committee greeted the students. The students were then paired with their host families, who they would live with for the next four nights. It was a unique opportunity to experience local life and explore a variety of activities as the families took their students to take part in things like pottery, neighborhood basketball games, and even a visit to a famous boba tea shop!
Beyond the cultural immersion of everyday local life, students also attended regular school with their new friends beginning on Monday where they studied a variety of subjects, including math, Chinese, music, local dialect, social studies, reading, arts, and physical education, depending on their assigned class's schedule. Outside of the classroom there were some special events held for the students as well.
The 4th Grade students participated in craft-making activities in the gym while the 5th Grade students learned to make Aiyu Jelly. The 5th Graders prepared business proposal presentations, which they shared with their Taiwanese counterparts in front of the class. It was an excellent chance to learn and grow while experiencing a different education system.
On the final day at school, all the students attended a massive assembly, featuring a wide repertoire of performances, including a song by the INTL students. DaDun also had a children’s day celebration with flea markets in each classroom where our students took part in selling, buying, and in some cases even learning how to negotiate for lower prices in the market. After the assembly, everyone had a chance to say goodbye to their host families before heading onward to the final stop of the trip in Taipei.
In Taipei, the highlight of the stop was visiting Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world. Students were treated to a special tour of the Google office in the high-rise before heading up to the top. While enjoying the stunning view, the students took the opportunity to write postcards home to family and friends. The final highlight of the trip to the tower was dinner and the delicious soup dumplings that were devoured at the world-famous Din Tai Fung restaurant.
Their final day in Taiwan was spent visiting the Xpark Aquarium, providing one last educational opportunity, before heading back to the airport for the flight home to San Francisco.
The cultural exchange trip to Taiwan was an unforgettable trip that allowed the students to experience the culture, food, and language firsthand. INTL alumni often reminisce about how these trips have stayed with them for the rest of their lives and inspired them to continue exploring the world and all its incredible cultures. INTL’s cultural exchange trips are a keystone element of the INTL experience, taking the school’s immersive bilingual education into a setting that further helps to solidify our student’s language skills as well as expand their cultural understanding.