“What does freedom mean to you?” / One Month in Taiwan


“What does freedom mean to you?”

This question, asked by a renowned journalist from Hong Kong, came during the keynote presentation of the country-wide orientation for my new teaching position. 

As a newcomer to the island, I feel a lot of individual freedom in Taiwan. It’s obvious why one-year grantees end up staying here for longer. Getting a job as a foreigner, especially as a teacher, is quite easy once you’ve established residency. In Taipei, you can find food and drinks on every street that are both delicious and affordable. And if you want to leave Taipei, the High Speed Rail can take you to almost any big city on the island in a matter of hours. Taiwan has become a symbol of modernity and progress and freedom. 

Of course, the journalist was referring to the larger geopolitical tensions between China and Taiwan— a relationship I’m still learning more about. It feels slightly bizarre to live under an uncertain and potentially violent future, and yet not even have to think about it on a daily basis. For better or for worse, my positionality has granted me freedoms from a constant sense of worry.

Over the rest of that weekend, I made many new connections and friends. Everyone seems to have moved here for different reasons, but I get the sense that they’re all searching for some kind of freedom. The freedom to build a career or take a break from one. The freedom to not think about people or places or things back home. The freedom to figure yourself out or recreate who that is.

As I begin to make my new home here, I’ve also started to reflect on these questions. What do I want to accomplish this year? How can I engage with my communities and the nation of Taiwan in a mutually beneficial way? Who are the people I want to build genuine and meaningful connections with here?

If freedom was the answer to what I’ve been looking for, then now it has become a question— one that I’ve grown grateful to ask myself every day

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