10 Reasons why Taiwan is your ideal gap year destination.
If you spun a globe and placed your finger on a random spot, or threw a dart at a map to find your future gap year destination, it would likely not land on Taiwan. This is what we call “a missed opportunity”.
Taiwan is a small ocean-locked region a few hundred miles off the coast of China. It’s often confused with Thailand and it’s signature dish literally has the word “stinky” in the name. Despite all these things, we have a list of 10 reasons why you will want to pack your bags and head to this stinky food paradise for your gap year.
Food in Taiwan is the lifeblood of the community. Everything, and we mean EVERYTHING here revolves around food. If you’re new to Taiwan, you can dip your toe into these culinary waters by trying out some delicious Beef Noodle Soup and then venture further down the rabbit hole until you encounter the very pungent, but delicious, stinky tofu. The list of unique foods here is exhausting, but in the same way that “I just ate two bowls of Tien bu la and twenty dumplings” is exhausting.
If you’re a seasoned globetrotter, then you may be familiar with the routine of living the high life for a few weeks and then being broke for the next few months. For most locations, it’s really hard to avoid…unless you live in Taiwan. Taiwan has somehow managed to strike a perfect balance for those who want to have a fun and cost-effective gap year. If you play your cards right, you can travel often, go out each night, and still be able come home with leftover cash and (hopefully) an untapped bank card.
Taiwan is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world to travel around due to the low exposure to robbery and crime. Taiwanese people are often noted for being extremely welcoming and accommodating and are very patient with foreigners. Those taking a gap year in Taiwan can feel safe about traveling around without fear of looking over your shoulder or double-checking your belongings.
#4. Work/Study opportunities
If you’re looking for an education abroad, Taiwan has several universities that cater to native English speakers. Most notably, National Taiwan University (NTU) and Shih Chien University are both located in the heart of Taipei and have excellent english centered programs for international students. If you’re studying science or technology, Hsinchu’s National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University are good bets. Both are ranked within the world’s top 200 universities and are rapidly growing.
Finding work in Taiwan can also be fairly easy, depending on your desire. Those who are native English speakers will have no trouble landing a job at the popular cram schools or “Buxibans” if you have a bachelors degree or valid teaching certificate. These after-school programs are always looking for enthusiastic teachers. English teaching jobs pay quite well and there are plenty of online resources to help you find a school in Taiwan. Those not wanting to go the teaching route can find work if they have extensive experience with writing or electronics. Resources like 104.com, Linkedin, and 1111.com are the most popular job hunting websites in Taiwan.
Because Taiwan is an island, it’s home to a variety of exotic plants, animals, beaches, and mountains. Moreover, due to its size, any location in Taiwan can be reached in under a day. Visitors come from around the world to climb mountains, see unique wildlife, and marvel at Taiwan’s beautiful coastline. Whether visitors want to go hiking, camping, rock climbing, river tracing, birding, or paragliding, Taiwan has it all.
Most notable locations in Taiwan include:
- Mount Jade
- Snow Mountain
- Sun Moon Lake
- Surrounding Islands (Xiao Liuqiu, Orchid Island, Green Island)
- Taroko Gorge
Most notable locations around Taipei include:
- Chaing Kai Shek Memorial Hall
- Jiufen Old Street
- Taipei 101
- Teapot Mountain
- Xiangshan (Elephant Mountain)
- Yangminshan National Park
Culture is something I’ve been told I lacked even in my home country. Luckily, Taiwan and its people are brimming with culture. From clothing, to customs, to food, Taiwan has a distinctly identifiable image. Take a stroll through any old street in Taiwan and you’ll immediately be immersed in smells, sights, and sounds that may at first seem completely alien. We suggest joining a Tai-Chi group in Da’an Park, participating in a tea ceremony in Maokong, or asking for blessing at Longshan Temple. If you really want to get immersed, check out an aboriginal homestay.
Taiwan also has a very unique and rich history, from its early Dutch and Spanish rule, to the occupation of the Japanese. Much of this architecture is still noticeable today. Taiwan has 16 official aboriginal tribes spanning the length of Taiwan, the largest of which (the Amis tribe) has about 117,000 indigenous people.
Taiwan considers itself to be “The heart of Asia”. This makes sense seeing that it’s accessible to a number of other surrounding countries including Philippines, Thailand, China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Flights to these other countries are quite cheap and several can be made during your gap year abroad. Might as well check off as many countries as you can!
Traveling within Taiwan is also just as convenient. Taiwan’s capital city, Taipei, is surrounded by reliable public transportation and has railways extending on both sides of the island from north to (almost) south. Hualien, Taiwan’s most popular location for outdoor excursions, is just a quick three hour train ride from Taipei along the beautiful east coast.
As a whole, Asia is typically a very slow-moving region progressively. Taiwan, however, is an exception to the rule. Residents of this beautiful island value their political views and are typically very forward thinking and accepting of others. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a few parades in Taiwan celebrating these liberties.
Taiwan has a unique mix of eastern and western influence. If you lived here, you would still have access to your coveted Netflix account as well as Google and Facebook. Also, several western fast foods like McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC can be found in Taiwan. A more important, but less delicious fact is that information is often written in both Chinese and English. You might be on living on the other side of the world, but you probably won’t feel like it.
#10. Networking/Relationship building
For those wanting to take a gap year, but don’t want to lose sight of their career path should consider Taiwan as an excellent location to network. Many expats visiting Taiwan are here on business and are looking to make as many connections as possible. Going on a hike or camping trip with others is a great way to meet people.
As you can see, Taiwan is much more than an island full of deliciously stinky food, it’s a home to adventurers, writers, learners, travelers, and more. Next time you think about throwing another dart or spinning a globe, you better keep your eye on Taiwan.