Visiting on the MOFA-sponsored New Southbound Program, participants from South East Asia learn medicine, sample culture, and volunteer to beautify Fulong beach

Source: Office of Global Engagement

Published on 2022-12-14

Taiwan may be known as the beautiful island of Formosa, but like other industrialized nations, pollution can be an issue. That’s why TMU’s Graduate Institute of Mind, Brain and Consciousness (GIMBC) has been holding monthly beach cleanup activities. Last month’s event near Fulong beach was attended by students from Southeast Asia as part of a MOFA-sponsored short-term study program.


Newly implemented this year through the Office of Global Engagement (OGE), the study program welcomes students from across the New Southbound Policy area to experience education in Taiwan first-hand. As one of Taiwan’s premier providers of healthcare education, Taipei Medical University is one only of three institutions in Taiwan presently providing this short-term study opportunity.

Nguyen Le Thao Nguyen, an MD from Vietnam, is one of 15 recent graduates who seized the chance to study in Taiwan under the New Southbound program. Other students joined the program from Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They come from different fields of expertise in medicine, but share a common excitement about study and research at TMU.

“TMU is really famous, the course list has some of my favorite subjects, and I wanted to study [at a higher level], so there was a research chance for me,” Nguyen said.

For New Southbound students, coming to a new country with unfamiliar cultural and classroom dynamics could at times seem daunting. But, says Jamaica Mae Calag, MD, from the Philippines, Taipei’s safe streets and convenient transportation, as well as welcoming, open-minded professors, and TMU’s small class sizes soon put students at ease.

“Professors are really able to guide every student, and information easily gets to us. I’m having such a good time here,” she said.

Schedules, New Southbound students agree, are comprehensive. Besides credit classes during the day, they attend Chinese language courses in the evenings and OGE-organized extracurricular activities on weekends, such as visiting hot springs, night markets, and the National Palace Museum. Getting as many experiences as possible into a five-month program borders on being hectic, but the challenge has so far been rewarding.

“I think it’s great that we’ve been exposed to the cultural diversity [of Taiwan],” says Al-Nasser Hassan Jumlail, a nurse from the Philippines. “We get a chance to broaden our minds and mindsets.”

While many activities so far have been more on the “tourist” side, the Fulong beach cleanup changed things up. The beach is located along Taiwan’s north coast a little over an hour’s drive from Taipei, and idiosyncrasies of winds and tides means the vicinity experiences a buildup of debris. Hauling off as much of it as possible in a half-day trip was where TMU’s New Southbound students came in, with, in the words of Dr. Era Catur Prasetya, who’s taking neuroscience classes after ten years as a lecturer and Psychiatrist in Indonesia, a “responsibility” – and several dozen giant garbage bags. It was also a way to give a little something back.

“We received a lot from Taiwan,” said Nguyen, “so we can do a little bit to contribute, too.”

For this year’s New Southbound students, and for MOFA and TMU, the Fulong beach cleanup went beyond beautifying one of Taiwan’s beaches. It was part of a broader bonding experience, one that takes advantage of Taiwan’s position as a “bridge” between Southeast Asia and the West, and builds relationships at personal, environmental, and intersocietal levels.

“I not only found new knowledge, I see also that we can develop new practice with this knowledge,” Says Dr. Prasetya. “[The program] has been a new experience, a new hope.”