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Park: Asking ‘Critical Questions’ In Taiwan On Fellowship

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou shakes hands with Kaiser High alumna Kelly Park during a meeting of cultural exchange fellows in Taiwan this summer. Photo from Kelly Park.

Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou shakes hands with Kaiser High alumna Kelly Park during a meeting of cultural exchange fellows in Taiwan this summer. Photo from Kelly Park.

Hawaii Kai resident Kelly Park spent her summer vacation having tea with the president of Taiwan.

Park is one of 30 U.S. students selected for Mosaic Taiwan, a new fellowship program between the two countries that focuses on strengthening diplomacy and democracy.

“It was on a very high level,” Park explained. “This is an opportunity where young leaders actually get to meet with (Taiwan’s) policy experts, the president, the vice president — to ask them critical questions about their democracy, their political ties with China, as well as cultural aspects of Taiwan.” Talking with President Ma Ying-jeou was huge for Park, who got to ask him political questions during his time with the group.

She spent three weeks in Taiwan, touring the city, meeting with officials and learning about everything from its bicycle culture to the area’s aboriginal peoples. She has a lot of stories, but here’s one for locals: 7-Elevens in Taiwan sell boiled eggs and fish-cake, have sit-down dining areas and you can even pay your taxes there.

The experience, Park said, really hit home on how real the issues are. “We’re just used to reading the news articles here about what’s going on in Hong Kong, in different countries. Since we’re so far away from those places, it’s just news for us. But actually being there helped me understand why those are critical issues, and to really value the democracy we have here in America.”

The Kaiser High alumna is adamant that every young student should have this experience.

She’ll be pursuing a master’s in economics this fall at UH Manoa, where she earned her bachelor’s degree.

When she applied for Mosaic Taiwan, she initially was intimidated by applicants from Harvard, Duke and other Ivy League schools. (There was only one other UH alumna, Jasmine Asuncion of Guam.)

“I was so fortunate and shocked that I got accepted, being just a student from Hawaii … There are chances like this, and people should take advantage of it. There’s so much positive about where we’ve grown up and what we’re taught here,” Park said.

For more information, visit mosaictaiwan.net.

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