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Tuesday, Dec 5, 2023

New Middlebury School in Taiwan to begin spring 2024

The sun rises over Kaohsiung, the port city where Middlebury’s new school will open in spring 2024.
The sun rises over Kaohsiung, the port city where Middlebury’s new school will open in spring 2024.

Middlebury will add another C.V. Starr School Abroad to the map this spring, bridging the gap between Vermont and Taiwan. Students will have the opportunity to study at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, a port city in southern Taiwan with over 2.7 million residents. 

Preliminary planning for a new school in Taiwan began last fall, according to Bill Mayers, assistant director of International Programs at Middlebury. Following its closure in 2020 due to Covid-19, the Middlebury School in China reopened in fall 2023, and six students enrolled in Beijing.

“Last year, we allowed students to go to Taiwan. Although we couldn’t send students to our program [in China], students had been studying Chinese and investing in their education, so we did let them go abroad to Taiwan on other programs,” Mayers told The Campus. 

He explained that his office visited five universities in Taiwan last winter to explore the opportunities. They landed on National Sun Yat-sen University, a partnership that will allow Middlebury to run a fully immersive program. 

National Sun Yat-sen University enrolls approximately 10,000 students a year and regularly ranks in the top ten Taiwanese universities. All study abroad students will be required to enroll in a one-on-one content-based tutorial and an area studies course, as well as two elective courses.

While students will take part in a rigorous academic program, it was also important to Mayers that the location offers a vast array of extracurricular activities. 

“That’s always a high priority for us but we know that students when they study abroad, the academics are important — that’s where a lot of learning happens — but it's not where the most important learning happens when students study abroad, honestly. It's [from] living wherever they are living,” he said.

Following recent revitalization of the downtown and port areas in Kaohsiung, the city now has cultural and artistic venues for students to experience, including a number of large night markets. Mayers added that Kaohsiung is also home to hiking opportunities, giving students a taste of life beyond the city. As part of the program, Middlebury students will go on a long weekend trip outside of the city to experience other areas of the country. 

Mayers mentioned that Taipei, the largest city on the island, was considered as a potential location for a Middlebury study abroad program, but was ultimately not chosen because of the higher density of English speakers in the area. 

Lucy Patton ’25 will be attending National Sun Yat-sen University as a study abroad student in the spring, and welcomes the opportunity for greater immersion in the new program. 

“I am excited about the challenge that taking classes entirely in Chinese poses,” Patton said. She added that she is particularly interested in taking Chinese business classes and classes on relations across the Taiwan Strait.

In addition to immersive classes, students studying in Taiwan will live with other Mandarin-speakers. They have the rare opportunity to live in a double room with a Taiwanese student, allowing for deeper cultural exchange. Taiwanese students will also lead cultural activities that Middlebury students can participate in, including arts and crafts and traditional cooking classes.

Students are encouraged to explore their new surroundings, and will receive weekly funding for cultural activities. On-campus, they can join National Sun Yat-sen University clubs like the Student Chorus, the Drama Association and the Painting and Calligraphy Association. 

Students who choose to spend the full academic year in Taiwan also have the opportunity to complete an internship during their second semester. These internship opportunities are with  government agencies, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, local businesses and media outlets. 

Mayers hopes that the program will be successful in sparking connections between Middlebury students and Taiwan broadly. 

“We don’t know what activities students will really participate in and make the most out of,” Mayers said. “We want them to engage with people in Kaohsiung, with Taiwanese students at National Sun Yat-sen University, make friendships and feel like they have something of a home in Taiwan, or second home rather and feel like it was a successful semester for them.”

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Charlie Keohane

Charlie Keohane ’24 (she/her) is an Editor at Large. She previously served as the SGA Correspondent and a Senior Writer.   

She is an environmental writing major and a psychology minor from Northern California. Outside of academics, Charlie is a Senior Admissions Fellow at the Middlebury Admissions Office. She also is involved with the women’s track team and hosts Witching Hour, a radio show on 91.1 WRMC. In Spring 2023, she studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, watching Greta Gerwig movies, polar plunging, sending snail mail, and FaceTiming her rescue dog, Poppy. 

Cole Chaudhari

Cole Chaudhari '26 (he/him) is a Copy Editor and Staff Writer. He previously served as a News and Local section writer.   

Cole is majoring in History and English & American Literatures. This semester he is interning at a venture capital firm.   

In his free time, he enjoys playing with his dogs, socializing with friends, and shedding tears at YouTube compilations of the best moments in American sports history.