On the 19th of April the international Programme departed for Taipei. They were all thrilled although they had a very long journey ahead of them. In this article you can read more about the experiences of the participants of the International Programme.
When we arrived in Taipei, we were reunited with Annemieke and Arjan, who travelled to Taipei two days in advance. They had already unraveled all mysteries of Taipei since they had arrived. They guided us to the train in order to travel to the city centre. The first thing that hit us when we left the train station was the humidity and the heat. Luckily, it was only a short walk to the hostel where we could refresh after the journey of 22 hours.
The next two days we got the chance to be tourists. We started with an awesome Hop-on Hop-off Bus tour on the first of these two days. During this bus tour we visited temples, memorials and museums. It was a perfect way to see the important highlights of the city. Unfortunately not everybody could enjoy all these highlight, since some people got inspired by the beautiful Asian gardens and got caught up in a deep conversation about philosophy. Luckily for them there were still a lot of days in Taipei left to go.
The second day we travelled a bit further. We went to Taroko Gorge, a national park on the east side of Taiwan. In this national park we made multiple hikes and enjoyed the beautiful nature. However, not only the nature caught the attention. Since a large group of European students is a peculiar sight in these parts of Taiwan, we were invited to join a photoshoot with a group of elderly Taiwanese people. After the photoshoot and the hikes it was time to visit a nearby city, where we had to use hand gestures and gibberish to get into a local bar before its opening time to drink a beer and celebrate the birthday of one of our participants.
It is safe to say that during these two days we saw more of Taipei and its surroundings and we came in contact with the locals, which made it the perfect start of our trip.
Then it was Monday and the second part of our trip started: the company visits. Everybody dressed up and gathered their courage to defy the heat. To test us even more Arjan decided to take a wrong turn on our way to the first company. Luckily we arrived on time and could enjoy our first presentation and contact with the Taiwanese business culture. After an inspiring talk it was already time to go to our next destination, which was the NTIO. This is the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office and here we got a presentation about the history of Taiwan and the Netherlands and how they cooperate in the present. Here we were also invited to join the Kings Day Party, which made this visit extra exciting. Then we went back to the hostel, were we had some time to relax in the common room. Some games were played and even an episode of Game of Thrones could be watched as if it was some kind of movie theatre.
The next day started with a visit to Deloitte. They explained the ins and outs of working for Deloitte and especially the possibilities of going abroad when working for them. We also got a tour through their office, which gave us the opportunity to experience the work atmosphere. The visit to Deloitte required us to dress business formal. However, the next location did not require us to be dressed up. Therefore our group was keen to go to the metro station as fast as possible to change into some easier clothes. Then we visited the National Taipei University and we attended presentations about the faculty of economics and the faculty of mathematics. After learning about the similarities and differences between university life in the Netherlands and Taiwan we got a tour around the campus to conclude our visit. We concluded the day with a hike up Elephant Mountain to appreciate the beautiful skyline of Taipei and its city lights. It was a night of ups and downs, but luckily we had a supportive group which made sure that everybody could pull through.
Wednesday came around and this meant that it was time for two more companies. First we took the bus to the edge of Taipei, were we arrived at the bottom of a bunker-like building carved into a hill. After a short walk up the hill we saw that the construction was the foundation of a huge logistic company, Logistic Republic. Here we enjoyed a presentation on the logistic sector of Taiwan and got the opportunity to see which route a bottle of wine takes when it gets imported to Taiwan. After this visit we had some time to enjoy the warmth of the afternoon sun, due to the bus schedule being a bit irregular. However, it gave us a perfect moment to work on our tan. When the bus arrived, it took us to our next destination: Tata Consultancy Services. Here not only a company presentation was given, but also an inspirational speech on achieving success, which made it an outstanding visit. After this visit we went to the Taipei 101 and climbed to the observation deck, where we absorbed the astonishing view. Of course, this made us very hungry. Therefore we went all the way down to the basement of the Taipei 101, home of the best dumpling restaurant of Taiwan. Here we experienced a real explosion of flavours.
The next day was the last day of company visits, which started of with a presentation at the headquarters of the Taiwanese Stock Exchange, were we learned everything you need to know about trade in Taiwan. Then it was time for the last company: Willis Towers Watson. In their presentation they talked us through one of their business cases, which gave us a great insight in what they do. During this visit we not only received a great presentation. We were also given one of the signature Taiwanese desserts, which we of course enjoyed very much!
Then the evening kicked in, which meant that it was time for our Kings Day Party with the NTIO. We were told that it was nice to come in orange, so we all dressed up in football shirts and with all kinds of orange gadgets. However, we had not been told that the dress code was pretty formal. We certainly stood out in the crowd, but we had a lot of fun no matter what. After some Heineken beer and real Dutch ‘bitterballen’ it was time to proceed to the Taiwanese night life to dance and drink as if we were in Groningen.
Fortunately, no company visits were scheduled the next day. So this gave us time to stay in bed a little longer. When everybody was awake, it was time for a relaxing activity: a beach day. After the lively week it was time to take some rest and enjoy the sun and the sea. It was so relaxing that in the cab back everybody took their change to get a little bit of extra sleep. This was a good thing, because it was going to be a night to remember. This night we visited the TaipeiEYE to witness one of the most fascinating yet incomprehensible shows we had ever seen, Monkey business in the sea palace. Although everything was in Mandarin we really enjoyed this Taiwanese musical-like show and it was spoken about for the rest of the trip.
The next day came around and this meant that we arrived at the last weekend of our already fantastic trip. This day we took a gondola into the hills of Taipei, were we could visit some tea plantations. On our way down with the gondola we stopped at the Taipei Zoo, were we got the change to see two real life pandas! After this successful activity it was time for our last diner with the group in Taiwan, so we chose to go to an Asian barbecue restaurant. After our dinner we went on to the next location of the evening, a karaoke bar! Here we sang at the top of our lungs for over three hours, from hard rock to Madonna, all kinds of songs have been sung that evening. This made it an awesome experience to end our nights in Taipei.
However, it was not over yet. We had half a day left before we had to travel to the airport. This meant that there was some time to visit one of the local tea houses. Here you do not just drink tea, here you experience tea. Some of us even became real masters of tea and are now fully capable of serving tea in Taiwanese style. It was a very relaxing visit and it resulted in us being in a good mood and ready to travel back to the Netherlands.
I hope that after reading this article, you agree with the participants of the International Programme 2019 that this was a journey of a lifetime. Not only have we seen Taipei and its highlights, but we also had the opportunity to experience the Taiwanese work atmosphere. I can only say that I recommend everybody to participate in this awesome event when you get the change!
Dit artikel is geschreven door Jochem Hak