Bring the World to Your Home:

The Taiwan Hostfamily Program
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2019 / November

Esther Tseng /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Brandon Yen


For international students in Taiwan, “home” may be a plural concept. Usually defined by birth, home may nevertheless be established by chance. These students’ old homes may be far away, but the families that welcome them in Taiwan give them second homes. Thanks to their hospitable and caring host families, they are able to relish Taiwanese cuisine, experience Taiwanese culture and enjoy the scenic beauty of this welcoming country.


In order to provide overseas students in Taiwan with a friendly environment that facilitates learning and cultural exchange, the Ministry of Education began to promote the Taiwan Hostfamily Program in 2010. Since then, this program has seen 5,634 students from 103 countries and territories across the world hosted by 3,248 families throughout Taiwan. The aim is to enable foreign students to adapt to life in Taiwan and to allay their homesickness.

More than homestays

According to the Ministry of Education, there were 45,143 overseas students enrolled in higher education in Taiwan in the 2010‡2011 academic year. By 2018‡2019, the number had soared to 126,997, which indicates a globalizing trend in Taiwan’s education.

As an executive assistant at the Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Gianna Hsu has been responsible for implementing the Hostfamily Program for ten years. She says that after training, host families can take in international students who are assigned to them by a matching process. Each year the program also lays on exchange activities for the overseas students, such as learning to bake red tortoise cakes and pineapple cakes, or visiting the Zhulu Aboriginal community in Chiayi’s Alishan Township, or Hsinchu’s Xiangshan Wetland, to experience local cultures. Since 2017, there have even been immigrant families joining the hosting scheme.

To Paraguay with love

Annie Sun, who until her retirement worked in the Division of Student Affairs at the National University of Kaohsiung, got involved with the Taiwan Hostfamily Program through her work. She joined it in 2010 and has never looked back. To date, Sun has hosted more than 40 overseas students. Her own two daughters were very well taken care of by the families they stayed with in Canada when they went there on study tours from junior high school onward. As a result, Sun is keen to welcome foreign students to Taiwan and to make them feel loved, too.

“Students who come here are just like our own children. I don’t treat them as guests.” Remembering the Vietnamese student Pham Thu Ha, the first she ever hosted, Sun says: “After Ha went back to Vietnam to get married, all of us flew over and attended her wedding in Hanoi. In October this year, Ha brought her child to Taiwan to see us.” Sun has thus been upgraded from “host mum” to “host granny.”

Verónica Lima Pappaseit—a Paraguayan student also hosted by Sun—was full of ideas and plans. In the summer of 2013, Sun’s daughters Judy and Peggy Chen visited Lima and her family in Paraguay. Wishing to help poor people in Paraguay, they gathered donations of 200 kilograms of used clothing from their schools in Taiwan and acquired a sponsorship from the courier company DHL, while Lima handled the customs procedures in Paraguay. In total they made three trips to accomplish their mission of “Delivering Love to Latin America.”

Annie Sun observes that in delivering the donations, her daughters not only realized how much Taiwanese people loved Paraguay, but were also moved by Paraguayan people’s gratitude to Taiwan. Their story was even covered by Paraguayan media. Their experience let them truly understand the saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Cultivating a global perspective

Judy Tsai, who teaches at Chung Shan Industrial and Commercial School in Kaohsiung, has served as an advisor to many Southeast-Asian students, as well as to overseas students who come to Taiwan to learn Mandarin under the Rotary Youth Exchange Program. Even though she was already in contact with many inter­national students at work, Tsai joined the Hostfamily Program because she wanted to create an English-speaking environ­ment at home. She invites students to dine with the family, regaling them with homemade oriental dainties such as silkie chicken soup or congee with pork and preserved egg. Once, a student from Mongolia named Zaya volunteered to cook for the whole family. But the eagerly awaited feast turned out to be plain rice with boiled eggs, cucumbers and tomato salad—a far cry from their idea of Mongolian cuisine!

Tsai brought Tamara, an Austrian student, along on a camping trip. Tamara was astonished: “It’s like moving house! Is this typical in Taiwan?” Camping in Austria, by contrast, is a much simpler affair. A German student was shocked when visiting a Buddhist temple: “Why is there a Nazi symbol here?” On closer inspection it turned out to be the swastika, but in Eastern culture this is a sacred and auspicious symbol.

Tsai finds that hosting foreign students does not necessarily help her family improve their English, because many of the students are not from English-speaking countries. Nevertheless, the Hostfamily Program has enabled her children to cultivate a global outlook, exposing them to an abundance of cultural differences and learning opportunities.

Taiwan is my second home

Some families even join forces to organize activities for the students they have taken under their wings. Highlights have included bike tours at night, climbing Mt. Hehuan, dragon boat racing, “anti-drooling ceremon­ies” for four-month-olds, and trips to Taipei’s Raohe Night Market, where they can taste a great variety of Taiwanese street foods. Erica Lü, who has been hosting students for four years, says: “With seven or eight families all together, we really do go crazy! We hope to enrich the students’ experience in Taiwan, but in doing so, we also add spice to our own lives. Many host families never thought you could have so much fun in Taiwan!”

These friendly interactions have cemented Taiwan’s place in the international students’ hearts. Zeng Xing­ling says that she was hosting two Solomon Islands students, Stephanie and Patricia, when their country severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan. They showed their indignation by changing their Facebook profile pictures to photos of themselves with Taiwan’s national flag, writing that they would always support Taiwan. And they told their host mother, “We’re family.”

Occasional disagreements, however, can arise between host families and their students. For example, once when Judy Tsai was hosting a student from Burkina Faso, just hours before he was due to leave Taiwan the student asked Tsai to take him to Kaohsiung’s Lotus Pond, even though he would risk arriving late at the airport. Tsai obliged and drove him to the pond in a great rush, only to find that all he wanted to do was to create a Facebook “check-in” in front of the entrance, with the comment: “I have conquered the place!” Tsai expressed her displeasure, and in the end the student apologized for his behavior.

Blessed with new friendships

Yet more often host families form enduring friendships with those students from far away, and the students, in turn, come to regard Taiwan as their second home. Annie Sun was host mother to Pawan Kumar Yadav, an Indian student who came to Taiwan to do a master’s degree in electrical engineering at National Cheng Kung University. Upon graduation, Yadav chose to stay in Taiwan to work.    

Yadav says that his master’s project was beset with tremendous difficulties. His supervisor Liang Tsorng-­juu gave him encouragement and support. When he finally received his degree, Yadav felt that he had learned a valuable lesson in life.

Working in Taiwan now, Yadav thinks first of his host family no matter whether he is house-hunting or has other worries on his mind. Now that Annie Sun’s two daughters live and work far away from home, the family’s get-together coffee time at nine each night is no longer what it used to be. Whenever Sun mentions this, Yadav always tries to comfort her by saying: “Don’t forget you’ve got a son in Tainan.” This never fails to bring sunshine into her heart.

This year, the Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology, which is tasked with implementing the Taiwan Hostfamily Program, has established an online system to match overseas students with host families in Taiwan. Both training and student matching can now be completed online, which allows more convenience and flexibility for both sides. This program invites you to “Show your family the world, and show the world your family!” Are you interested in joining them?

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讓世界走進我的家

境外學生接待家庭計畫

文‧曾蘭淑 圖‧林格立

對來到台灣留學的外籍學生而言,「家」可能是複數的單位。一個是原生家庭,另一個是因機緣而成的家;一個是遠在千里之遙的舊家,另一個是在台灣接待家庭的新家。因著接待家庭的熱情與用心,讓這些異國遊子品嚐了台灣味的料理,體驗了台式的文化,遊歷了溫暖的風景。


教育部為了讓外籍學生來台灣留學時,有一個友善交流與學習的機會,自2010年提出「友善台灣─境外學生接待家庭專案計畫」(簡稱「接待家庭計畫」)。十年來,已媒合來自103個國家地區、5,634位境外學生,到全台各地3,248戶接待家庭,希望藉此抒解學生在異地求學不適應或思鄉之情。

接待家庭≠寄宿家庭

根據教育部統計,99學年度境外大專生為4萬5,143人,到了107學年度全台已有12萬6,997位,顯示教育國際化的趨勢。

然而,教育部招募的「接待家庭」與「寄宿家庭」並不一樣。寄宿家庭是讓留學生在國外旅行或遊學時,以付費方式由當地的家庭提供吃住,讓學生能融入當地生活的一種服務。接待家庭計畫則是免費提供給來台就讀的境外學生,與台灣的家庭進行文化交流,所有家庭都是以志工精神參加。

承接這項計畫已十年的南臺科技大學執行秘書許郁屏說,接待家庭經過受訓之後,透過媒合,即可以接待外籍生。承辦單位每年也會舉辦交流活動,例如學做紅龜粿、鳳梨酥等,或是到嘉義阿里山逐鹿社區、新竹香山溼地,體驗在地文化。2017年開始,更有新住民家庭加入接待家庭的行列,讓來自東南亞的外籍生可以說著相同的語言融入接待家庭。

愛的擴散,巴拉圭送暖

從高雄大學學務處退休的孫瑜謙,2010年因工作之便參加了接待家庭計畫,至今從未中斷。已經接待超過40位外國學生的她說,由於兩個女兒從國中起到加拿大遊學,遇到很好的寄宿家庭,得到很多的愛,因此也希望與外國的學生分享台灣的溫暖。

「來我們家的學生,就是我們家的孩子,我不會把他們當作客人。」以第一位接待的越南女同學范秋河為例,孫瑜謙說:「就像對自己的孩子一樣,當秋河在念語言學校的時候,我們會帶她去參加大學博覽會;當她找實習的學校也會找我們商量;當她回越南結婚時,我們全家還去河內參加她的婚禮。今(2019)年十月秋河還帶著孩子來台灣看我們。」也讓孫瑜謙從「home媽」升格為「home 嬤」。

孫瑜謙接待巴拉圭的學生李美蓉,是一位很有想法、有計劃的學生。2013年暑假,她的兩個女兒陳亭諭、陳孟歆去巴拉圭拜訪李美蓉與她的家人,他們想「我們是否可做什麼?」因此在各自的學校募集了200公斤二手衣,找了DHL國際快遞贊助,李美蓉並幫忙解決在巴拉圭過海關的問題,前後三次完成「送愛到拉美」活動。

陳家兩姐妹與李美蓉搭著貨車,將衣服與文具送到NGO無法到的鄉間。過了兩年,「送愛到拉美」的活動還擴及哥倫比亞。孫瑜謙說,女兒在發送的過程中,不只感受到台灣人對巴拉圭的愛,更感動於巴拉圭人對台灣的感謝,還上了當地報紙,是「施比受更有福」的真實體驗。

做了十年的接待家庭,孫瑜謙希望,台灣政府的有關單位也能與友邦合作,為台灣的留學生建立起像接待家庭的制度,讓台灣的學生到印度、越南等地留學時,也能有像接待家庭這樣的體驗。

培養國際觀,讓世界認識台灣

在高雄中山工商任教的蔡桓艮,她輔導許多來自東南亞國家僑生專案的學生,也有扶輪社青年交換計畫來台灣學中文的外國人。雖然在學校已接觸許多外籍學生,蔡桓艮一開始參加「接待家庭計畫」卻是抱著「讓全家練英文」的想法。她請學生到家裡吃飯,試著烹煮烏骨雞湯、皮蛋瘦肉粥,讓外籍生體驗東方料理。來自蒙古的學生Zaya卻自告奮勇地說,要煮給蔡桓艮全家吃,結果端上桌的是白飯配上白煮蛋、小黃瓜與蕃茄沙拉,與全家人對蒙古料理的期待有很大的差距。

有一次她帶奧地利的學生Tamara去露營,Tamara很驚訝地反映:「台灣人露營都是像搬家一樣嗎? 」因為在奧地利露營都是輕裝簡從。更有德國學生參觀佛寺嚇了一大跳:「怎麼會有納粹的符號?」仔細瞧,才發現這是代表神聖和吉祥好運的萬字(卍)。

蔡桓艮發現,其實接待外籍學生不見得可以學英文,因為許多外籍生並非來自說英語的國家,但在接待的過程中,她的孩子卻因此培養了更廣闊的國際觀,並且親身體驗了許多跨文化的刺激與學習。

因著擔任接待家庭,激勵蔡桓艮想「讓台灣被看見」,2016年開始她到泰國、印度與捷克進行全家旅遊時,透過接待學生居中牽線,到當地學校去介紹台灣。蔡桓艮準備了投影片簡報、餅乾與糖果,兒子與女兒協助拉著台灣的國旗來介紹台灣。女兒蘇逸芯說,在國外展示自己國家國旗的時刻,都會感到很光榮!蔡桓艮從去年開始連續兩年,還與印度、美國小學生,與自己社區的小朋友、兒子班上的學生,進行照片與小小禮物的交換活動,讓參加者感到可以藉此宣傳台灣,而且「每個小朋友都是小小外交官!」

台灣是我第二個家

還有接待家庭聯合起來,一起帶外籍生去夜騎、爬合歡山、划龍舟,或是去看收涎、去饒河夜市吃22種台灣小吃。參與接待計畫四年的呂佳真說:「我們七、八個家庭真是卯起來玩!不僅為外籍生創造他們在台灣的生活經驗,也豐富我們的生活,許多接待家庭原來不知道台灣可以這樣玩!」

呂佳真也是擔任寄宿家庭的home 媽,她算算已接待了來自23個國家、33個外籍學生,其中就有七個奧地利學生。她說:「奧地利不過800 多萬人口,我在台灣就認識了7個。我們常說台灣很有人情味,但在接待過程中,我也體會到接待學生反饋的熱情!像有次去大陸參加學生的婚禮,學生不僅接機、送機,還派朋友當地陪,這個學生還是其他接待家庭的home小孩!」

也因為彼此暖心的互動,對這些來台灣求學的外籍生來說,台灣是這麼重要!接待家庭曾幸鈴說,她曾接待來自索羅門的學生Stephanie 與Patricia,不巧她們在台讀書期間,台灣與索羅門斷交,非常憤慨的她們,馬上在個人臉書的大頭貼,換上與台灣國旗合照的照片,寫上永遠支持台灣的字句,並且向home 媽表示:「你是我的家人。」

孫瑜謙也曾接待來自薩爾瓦多的學生,遇上斷交事件,學生馬上打電話告訴她:「台灣是我第二個家,我的國家怎麼這麼stupid!」

然而,在媒合過程中,也會出現家庭與學生不適合的問題。對雙方而言,「交朋友也要看有沒有緣!」例如有的接待家庭會提供週末住宿的體驗,但一定要事先明說,不可以帶男女朋友來住;或是出去吃飯,各付各的,不一定要請客。

像蔡桓艮曾接待一位來自布吉納法索的學生,學生要離開台灣的當天,要求蔡桓艮載他去蓮池潭,然而時間有限,這位學生又要趕飛機,在學生十分堅持下,蔡桓艮飛車趕到蓮池潭時,沒有想到這位學生只是為了在門口打卡,寫上「我征服這裡!」讓她心裡十分不舒服。蔡桓艮向學生表達心聲,學生最後也為自己的行為道歉。

有緣作朋友,他鄉遇故知

但接待家庭常是遇到有緣的學生,成就千里相逢的友誼,也讓外籍生把台灣當成第二個家,就像孫瑜謙曾接待在成功大學電機系攻讀碩士的印度學生潘方岳,一畢業就選擇留在台灣工作。

潘方岳透露,他讀書時做的實驗遭遇到很大的問題,但指導老師梁從主鼓勵他不要放棄,給他機會,「我讀書就像坐雲霄飛車一樣,一爬高又跌落谷底,當再登上高點時,就是拿到畢業證書的光榮時刻。」潘方岳十分感謝梁老師改變了他的一生,「勇於接受挑戰,挫折為成功之母」也成為他寶貴的人生經驗。

潘方岳現在工作想找房子、有心事想商量,第一時間想到的也是接待家庭。他不時也會做出揪甘心的回饋,例如父親節特地送給home爸陳柏任最愛吃的花生糖,回印度特地買了一套印度的服裝送給home媽。尤其是孫瑜謙兩個女兒目前都在外地工作,每天晚上九點全家歡聚的咖啡時間不復以往,聽到這樣的嘆息,潘方岳會窩心補上一句,「不要忘記在台南還有一個兒子,」讓孫瑜謙感到十分貼心。

承辦「境外家庭接待計畫」的南臺科技大學,2019年啟用一套境外學生接待家庭線上媒合系統,可以線上接受培訓、發起媒合活動,讓參與雙方更有彈性與餘裕。就如這項計畫的目標:讓「你的家看見世界,讓世界看見你的家!」你是否有興趣參加呢?

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