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SIT-Summer Institute in Taiwan
Academic Exchange & Cultural Experience in Taiwan
Sarah L.C. Morton
After seven weeks working at the National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering in Taipei, Taiwan, I am returning to my home institution with new experiences and knowledge that I anticipate will greatly improve not only my graduate research, but also my aspiring future in seismic hazard research. First, the research experience I acquired this summer I believe is going to be very beneficial to my ongoing master’s thesis since the methods and ideas used directly parallel each other; the major difference is that this summer I analyzed the Taipei Basin and my master’s is focusing on the Hartford Basin. Therefore, the analytical and interpretation skills I gained this summer will be valuable to the success of my thesis and I know my advisors are eagerly waiting to see what work I actually did.
In addition to producing results, another important skill is being able to adequately explain them to others. In the United States, I am surrounded by other scientists who either are native English speakers or are striving to achieve a high level of language proficiency. Although I am already accustomed to giving non-technical presentations to the public, the difference is what Americans perceive as vernacular versus people from outside the English-speaking world. In Taiwan, I was pleasantly surprised to find that every researcher I conversed with spoke such a level of English, however, there were situations where words still got lost in translation. This is when I decided to become more creative and strategic with my explanations. I started paying more attention to my word choice and enhanced my ability to express concepts more visually. This also forced me to take a step back and conduct a more detailed analysis to ensure I could properly explain the results. As a result, not only was I able to build an understanding with my colleagues at NCREE, but also solidify my understanding of my own research material.
Finally, the most valuable experience I will take away is the relationships I built with the people I met while abroad this summer. Whether they were with people from the EAPSI program, random acquaintances or colleagues at NCREE, I will carry these relationships with me wherever I go. As close as I am to people from back home, there is a unique difference between what I share with them and what I now share with those I met this summer. This is especially true for my colleagues in the U.S.A. When I was working in Taiwan, I shared an office with five others, one EAPSI fellow and four Taiwanese researchers. At my office in the states, each of us has our own space, close enough to easily communicate, but far enough away to not encroach on each other. However, the bond I built with my colleagues at NCREE doesn’t even compare to the bonds I have with my colleagues at home, and I have been working with them for over a year. I cannot explain why this happened, but I do know that it is going to be a difficult and mildly overwhelming adjustment moving back home.
Then within a few days of leaving NCREE, I was already receiving messages from my new colleagues about continuing our collaborations. I learned so much this summer in terms of both research and culture; I look forward to keeping up with my colleagues about my thesis research and upcoming endeavors. Needless to say, the relationships I built with the people I worked with this summer were intellectually and emotionally rewarding.
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