Intern explores Taiwan and the hydrogen economy

University of Auckland engineering student Sarah Young describes spending three months over the New Zealand summer interning in Taiwan where she put her studies to use researching topics such as advanced semiconductor packaging and the hydrogen economy. Sarah's Asia New Zealand Foundation internship was at Taiwan USA Industrial Cooperation Promotion Office (TUSA) - an organisation dedicated fostering industrial cooperation across the Pacific. Sarah returned to New Zealand with a "desire to explore the world and seize every opportunity it presents."

Watch Sarah's video depicting a typical day as a TUSA intern

Asked once, 'What exactly made you love Taiwan?' my reply started with, 'It’s difficult to put into words...'

But with time to reflect, I would now say: 'It is the culmination of the friendliest people, rich culture, fascinating history, incredible technology and progressive society.'

I would also add 'interning in Taiwan provided me with invaluable industry exposure and countless things to do and see and, of course, taste - the food is delicious.' Taiwan is a really exceptional place.

My host organisation, Taiwan-USA Industrial Cooperation Promotion Office (TUSA), could be described as a matchmaker between the U.S and Taiwan - strengthening relations and fostering connections in industries such as green energy, biotechnology, AI and defence.

My work experience was a perfect balance of leveraging my university studies and extending my knowledge on topics such as advanced semiconductor packaging and the hydrogen economy.

sarah standing in front of a traditional-chinese-looking building wearing an Asia New Zealand Foundation website

Sarah: "I enjoyed the juxtaposition of a contemporary, advanced society with deep rooted cultural heritage."

The opportunity to contribute to projects that are increasingly relevant in this rapidly advancing technology landscape was amazing.

I was able to build my knowledgebase at an organisation and a country that are at the centre of the latest trends and developments.

The experiences also developed my interest in international relations and policies - at times it was surreal to be sitting in a boardroom hearing from U.S. State Office representatives and company executives.

On the weekends, I explored as much of Taiwan as possible. I visited cultural parks and ate at countless night markets, tried some stinky tofu (which I said I would never eat but enjoyed so much), went on hikes and bike rides. I met so many people in Taiwan - locals, overseas tourists, career nomads and a few Kiwi friends.

A unique feature about Taiwan tourism is using rubber ink stamps to collect images of locations visited. They are at every train station and tourist site – I collected around 130!

For a country a seventh of the size of New Zealand, I was unsure what to expect upon arrival.

Admittedly, I was initially overwhelmed by the scale of the Taipei - such a large number of buildings and people in such a small area.

This gave me a new experience of the hustle and bustle of a big city and a different way of living. However, I quickly adapted and learned to love and embrace the atmosphere.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of a contemporary, advanced society with deep rooted cultural heritage. I loved the dense, busy city speckled with beautiful green belts and mountain ranges less than an hour away.

Returning from an eventful day at the ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) main campus during my last week in Taiwan and looking out at the magnificent view as we entered Taipei City (a place that by then felt like home), it occurred to me just how special my time in Taiwan had been. 

The day consisted of taking a delegation from the U.S. to the ITRI Campus in Hsinchu to attend several meetings with top researchers and industry leaders to learn more about the global semiconductor landscape.

This was followed by a tour of ITRI's exhibition room showcasing the most advanced breakthrough technologies. Seeing what was on show reinvigorated my passion for engineering innovation.

The day culminated with a visit to a local food street, where we were treated to a delicious indigenous meal and a visit to a beautiful temple.

I felt that day reflected my time in Taiwan on a personal level: unforgettable experiences, academic growth and immense transformation. I now know this is only the beginning of another chapter of my journey.

I am immensely grateful for the hospitality and welcoming culture created by my coworkers who not only offered invaluable mentorship but took the time to share their beautiful country and culture with me.

A group of people sitting round a table looking at a graphic projected onto a screen

Sarah: " times it was surreal to be sitting in a boardroom hearing from U.S. State Office representatives and company executives."

My time in Taiwan has instilled in me a greater appreciation for Asia. I returned from Taiwan more confident and with new skills and the knowledge to build stronger networks to thrive.

Asia is a place of limitless potential and opportunity and is increasingly leading developments around the world.

At TUSA, I saw the strengthening of industrial relations between Taiwan and U.S. This has provided me with insights into the importance of developing such ties between New Zealand and Taiwan.

I know without a doubt 'I will be back', whether it be for higher-level studies or work experience.

I am beyond grateful to the Asia New Zealand Foundation for their continuous support and providing this opportunity.

I've returned to Aotearoa with an open mind and a passion for continued learning, and a desire to explore the world and seize every opportunity it presents.

This internship experience has had a profound impact on my life, and I cannot recommend it any more highly.

The Taiwan-USA Industrial Cooperation Promotion Office (TUSA) is devoted to generating greater value and opportunities for the industrial cooperation and partnership across the Pacific.

The Foundation's business programme supports New Zealand companies to better understand Asia so they can make the most of opportunities in the region. We are also focussed on growing the next generation of Asia-savvy business leaders.

Our internship programme helps interns build a better understanding of the people, place and culture of their Asian host country, while developing industry-specific skills that will benefit them as they progress in their careers.