Around the time of October in 2019, I was a 19-year-old second year university student, looking towards the future with a growing sense of precariousness. I knew I would have to find an intern position for my third year, yet there were so many questions running through my head. Coming from someone who can put extraordinary amounts of mental processing power into finding the perfect ratio of milk to his Weetabix, making a huge commitment appeared to be out of my decision-making range. Despite my persistent cereal over-thinking tendencies however, in hindsight the answer naturally materializes: There are always a million reasons not to do something. Situations like this are where the art of under-thinking truly blossoms. Coming to Taiwan has really helped me to refine this.
Trusting in the Work Environment
Out of all the other interns in the marketing department at VIA, I am significantly the youngest, and, consequently, the least experienced; or so I thought. My previous work experience included working part time in pharmacies, kitchens, and even window fitting. Initially, the idea of shifting from window design on houses to AI application design on Windows seemed like a bit of an enigma. However, my worries were quickly shut out. The marketing team around me are experienced, helpful and welcoming. The relaxed, flexible ambience of the office stands in stark contrast to the rigid, sometimes binary structure of university, and nicely complements a creative way of thinking.
I quickly learned to become more confident with my ideas; at the start I would perhaps hold back many of my thoughts or suggestions due to fear of them being seen as wrong or ignorant, but these symptoms of overthinking were rapidly alleviated after the first couple of weeks. During meetings, everyone’s opinions are often held in high, equal regard, and any criticism is always constructive.
One of the first projects I was assigned to was the VIA Pixetto, an AI camera primarily targeted towards education, but also the maker community. With respect to enhancing my career skills, this was a golden opportunity: I have found myself engaged with video-making, coding, producing documentation and working closely in teams on a daily basis. Collaboration is key at VIA, and is consistently emphasized throughout every department, between both English and Mandarin speakers, which has made me considerably more appreciative of different cultures and beliefs.
The way of Dan, in Taipei, Taiwan
One of the best things about Taiwan is its diverse selection of food and when researching the country, it’s often referred to as the Food Capital of Asia. Even from the first day, by exploring the many sprawling networks that make up the numerous night markets, you will always be sure to find something unique and delicious to appease your hunger for an array of Taiwanese cuisine. Furthermore, the selection global cuisine here is huge, from Japanese fried chicken to Italian baked pizza, tantalizing hot pot to excellent vegetarian food. Even the McDonalds tastes better (if you prefer more western vices)!
Following on from indulging in all this fine nourishment, I realized I needed to do some exercise before ending up the same size as one of the giant pandas in Taipei Zoo. Fortunately, a plethora of physical activities to enjoy in Taiwan. There are thousands of hiking trails spread all over the island, with stunning views, exciting climbs and avid participants (many Taiwanese people love to take pictures for social media, and several trails are marketed as great Instagram spots!). I had personally only been on relatively few hikes before coming to Taiwan; now I participate in regular excursions to a range of locations.
Hiking is not the only healthy hobby to partake in here. There are many fun, welcoming and competitive sports teams, who are always looking for more players. I myself have joined a local football team, and have in turn formed strong bonds with a diverse array of people, not only by way of friendship, but also through an ever-expanding professional network. Taipei itself is packed full of interesting, sometimes hidden spots just begging to be discovered. Some of the best days out I’ve had are where I’ve just taken the (extremely clean and convenient) MRT to random spots within Taipei and simply explored the surrounding area. Getting lost has never been as safe or as easy as it is here.
The three months I have lived here have flown by, and yet I feel that I have barely scratched the surface of what this amazing place has to offer. In the context of everything happening around the world, Taiwan has brought me true freedom, and a new lease of independence unlike anything I’ve ever had before. The change in culture is refreshing, and pleasant to behold.
I have found the people here to be much more relaxed, friendlier and welcoming than any other place I’ve visited. Where physical restrictions and social boundaries exist wide and plenty in my home in the UK, here they are significantly further laid-back. Need to drive on the path with your scooter to park? Go for it. Want to have some fun in the park with your friends without judgement? Be my guest. The possibilities are limitless. Just be sure to jump at every opportunity that comes your way. Focus on positives, be true to yourself, and do not be afraid of failure. This is how to perfect the art of under-thinking. I think so, anyway.
Written by Daniel Swift, AI Development and Marketing Intern at VIA Technologies, Inc., and undergraduate Computer Science student at Aberystwyth University