A Young Soul at a Young University
For Eisner Salamanca, a fun-loving young dentist and amateur footballer interested in research and Chinese, grad studies in Taiwan seemed like a good fit. He’d already come in contact with Taiwanese research Studying Dental Surgery in his home country of Nicaragua, and friends returning from Taiwan brought back positive impressions. So after two years of private practice and a year of Chinese language prep, Salamanca was on his way to Taipei.
His destination was Taipei Medical University, to complete a two-year Master’s of dentistry. The decision wasn’t difficult; Salamanca had seen the quality of TMU’s research, and the school offered both a scholarship and chance to work with patients. Successes in his Master’s degree transitioned to a PhD in Odontology, where Salamanca researched bone graft regeneration and trained students in the lab.
Dr. Salamanca Performing Surgery for animal studies
As a non-native Chinese speaker teaching mostly Taiwanese students, classes were somewhat challenging at first. Salamanca’s fluency in English left some students shy to participate, but between his ability to use Chinese and most of his students’ English, communicating in class worked itself out. “At the beginning, they didn’t really talk to me. But after a while they realized I was just another teacher; they can count on.”
Teaching worked out so well, in fact, that after graduating in March 2019 Dr. Salamanca was offered a position at TMU teaching Periodontology. He fills this role now, teaching classes, labs, and researching dental implant technologies. As of this writing, he has added five new papers over the past 13 months to his list of publications.
In terms of training students, Dr. Salamanca would like to borrow from the international education system that puts students in practical clinical situations early in their programs. This hands-on learning by ‘practice doing’, he says, gives students a more direct understanding of concepts that aren’t always transmitted easily through explanation or video presentation.
TMU’s impressive energy
Practical challenges in day-to-day language use are also something international students face during their studies in Taiwan. Although in his experience communication can sometimes be slow, inefficient, or simply difficult to organize, Dr. Salamanca says these interactions can also lead to surprising discoveries. And of course, TMU’s Office of Global Engagement is always keen to provide help with administrative or communication needs.
Communication challenges aside, for Dr. Salamanca the dedication and energy on campus is striking. At some universities, he says, people simply wake up, go to work, then head home. But the experience at TMU is different. “People here wake up, go to work, do any activity that involves improving your body or mind, have a shower, then go back to work a little bit more. That extra part, sometimes you don’t even sleep as much as you should, that’s energy. The energy and sacrifice students can do to become better is amazing.”
Dr. Salamanca (2nd right) with Professor Wei-Jen Chang and lab-mates at “Advanced Dental Global Continued Education Center Seminar” in Australia, 2019
“The TMU experience has changed me.”
Graduate study in Taiwan, explains Dr. Salamanca, was a major source of personal growth. He developed patience, became more accepting of other ideas, and learned ways to better treat both his body and mind. In discussions with local and international and students, “You get exposed to so many things that are different from your background,” he says. “You find ideas that are completely different, that you didn’t even imagine. You have to stop for a second and review yours… Maybe they’re not wrong, but definitely you can improve them.”
Dr. Salamanca’s biggest piece of advice for students considering international study is to come with an open mind. As soon as you arrive in the University setting, you will meet people from all over the world, experience the independence of international life, and begin making your own way in the world – no matter which direction you end up choosing. The TMU experience is exactly that kind of opportunity, says Dr. Salamanca, “It gives you the tools to be the best version of you.”
Dr. Salamanca (right) training TMU students during a course on graft bone regeneration