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July 13, 2017

GUEST BLOG: Hello from Taipei!

Alex Chen is a rising senior from Scottsdale, AZ, with a major in GeoDesign and a minor in Public Health. On-campus, he is the Director of Camper Recruitment for Troy Camp, has done research in the Spatial Sciences Institute and the Division of Environmental Health, and is a tour guide for the USC Office of Admission.  

If you had asked me three years ago, Hey Alex-where do you think you’ll be July 2017?, I don’t think I would have even come close to saying Taipei.  It’s hard to even pick a place to start describing how unique and eye-opening this summer has been for me.

Xiangshan, overlooking Taipei from the southeast

This summer, I was selected along with twenty-seven other students to participate in the USC Global Fellows Program, which sends students to Hong Kong and Taipei for a ten-week summer internship program.  The program is fully funded through USC, meaning that my housing, travel, food, and cultural experiences are entirely covered.  I am working at Taipei Medical University’s Physical Medicine and Gerontology Health Management Department, performing meta analyses to identify if any causal factors exist in urban areas that negatively implicate the outcome of elderly populations’ health and quality of life.  Or, in simpler terms, I want to learn if better access to healthcare and services in cities outweigh pollution and other health factors that are present in urban areas–incidentally, a huge area of my research and work interests in the future.  Beyond this, I have been able to participate in physical rehabilitation sessions, different workshops, and even visit elderly care clinics to work with patients.  I plan to go to graduate school right after I finish my undergraduate degree, and gaining even more research and work experience has been incredibly rewarding.

Me, Claire Justin ‘18, Jackson Fein ‘18, and Isa Hoban ‘20 (L to R).  AKA: the TMU Crew!

Beyond that, Global Fellows has provided me a lens to gain a much more global perspective.  As someone who’s always wanted to study abroad, but could never really pull himself away from USC’s campus, it had seemed at first that a study abroad was not going to be possible.  Summers would be for intensive research or interning, to gain experience, and the school year would be for class and research that fit around my class schedule.  However, this program has given me the best of both worlds: I am able to work in my area of interest AND I am in a place beyond my comfort zone.  There are few other places where I can see Taipei 101 from my window at work, go to a national park on a weekend, and eat incredible xiaolongbao (delicious dumplings filled with soup that will be one of the things I miss most from Taipei) all in one.  Whether I’m eating the absolute best beef noodles, hiking in ninety degree weather with ninety percent humidity, or riding the MRT, I think I can safely say I’ve fallen in love with Taipei.  Taipei, though, isn’t the only place I’ve been able to go this summer: before the program started, I got to hike through the jungle in Sabah; navigate the bustling streets of Singapore and Bangkok; and admire beautiful elephants in Chiang Mai.

Kota Kinabalu, in Sabah, Malaysia  

Through all the dumplings, miscommunications, and PowerPoint presentations in traditional Chinese characters, I have found that the Taiwanese people (apologies for the generalization) are quite similar to the people I surround myself with at USC: they are huge fans of food; lovers of the outdoors; and above all, kind, caring, and empathetic.  Similarly,  the Trojan Family is always with you, wherever you might find yourself.  At dinner for the 4th of July, other fellows and I ran into two USC alums who happened to know friends of mine who had graduated.  Similarly, Trojans have connected me with friends to make a place fifteen time zones away from LA seem a little bit more like home.  

Isa and I with the USC Taiwan office!

In my time as a Trojan, I’ve learned a few things from my peers, my professors, and the place (the physical space of the school) itself: always ask questions, never take anything for granted, and be open to growth. There’s no right trip through college: you choose all of your classes, you choose what you want to get involved in, and you choose what you want your experience to be.  It’s a scary thought at first, but it’s also incredibly liberating.  All of these realizations have helped me appreciate Taipei and this program much more than I would have otherwise.

While I’ll be sad to leave Taipei in a little over two weeks, I’ll be returning to a place that will always be home: a place that pushes me to be the best version of myself possible.

Claire, Isa, Jackson and I  at the National Palace Museum

–Alex Chen ’18


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