One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

Memoirs of a Very Homesick Globetrotting Detroiter: Part II

A follow-up to: Memoirs of a Very Homesick Globetrotting Detroiter: Part I

The main reason I am in Taiwan is to participate in a volunteer program called “AID Summer: Aiding Individuals with Disadvantages.” During the first training week, I was hopelessly homesick, lamenting the fact that my friends were back home in the Detroit area having unforgettable summer festivities in these months before we all start college. But I, the girl who has never won with raffle giveaways or scratch-off tickets, who is always last to get the BINGO, got lucky.

For the two-week stay, teaching elementary-level English, I have been dispatched to a group of islands off the west coast of Taiwan called Penghu.

My school is located on Xi-Yu island in Chih-Dong city, which is more of a village, with approximately 200 residents. Chih-Dong Elementary School has 51 students, 14 teachers, and one janitor. The city contains two pharmacies and one supermarket, and the closest chain food store is a McDonald's 30 minutes away in another town.

Penghu is known for its abundant fresh seafood. Try searching for a restaurant that doesn't sell oysters, and you might go to bed without dinner.

The real way to describe this small town, though, is through the land and its people. This place is beautiful in its simplicity.

At first, the change was tough. In Michigan, I was used to having an automatic washer and dryer, and consistent air-conditioning. I wasn't as mentally prepared as I should have been to combat insects and sidestep mounds of animal feces on the street. At the end of my first day here, I was drenched in sweat and itching all over.

Determined to make this a positive experience, I forced myself out of my comfort zone to explore the island. Waking up daily before 6 a.m., thanks to jet lag, I took long walks down the streets and sandbars of the town, camera ready. I found I was in an utterly beautiful place.

Being in the presence of such sights and sounds has inspired me to expand my pursuit of journalism, into photojournalism. Why hasn't everybody had the chance to see something as beautiful as this? How many more relatively unknown places like Penghu are there in the world?

This, I realized, is the reason journalism exists. Our planet is so full of breathtaking, inspiring places. And what would the world be without journalism to bring it to everyone? I want to make sure that no one misses out on these experiences, and I can do so by steadfastly pursuing this career.

Journalism can bring the big world to people with smaller opportunities. Journalism is here to stay and to bring the beauty of the world to everyone.

Emily Jan is part of the “TIME 11,” a group of Detroit area high-school students working with Assignment Detroit.

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