Intern Diaries – Carrie Dillaway ’13
Name: Carrie Dillaway ’13
Hometown: Woodbridge, CT
Majors: Environmental Studies and Chinese
This past summer, Carrie Dillaway served as an International Intern at the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation in Taidong, Taiwan. Located on the Eastern coast of Taiwan, this organization was founded by a family of the Bunun Aborigine Tribe to celebrate and protect the culture of the tribe and its people. The foundation sits on original Bunun land high up in the southern mountains and serves as an ecotourism site for travelers to experience traditional Bunun food, dance, singing, crafts, and art. The foundation makes a profit through the tickets to their daily performances, the two on-site restaurants, and a hotel. All proceeds help maintain the foundation and help sustain an educational fund for young members of the Bunun tribe.
At the Foundation, Carrie worked at the Bunun Coffee Shop making and serving drinks, conversing with customers, and taking orders from over 200 tourists a day. Although it may sound simple, the entire operation was run in Chinese. She reflects, “It took a few weeks to feel comfortable in that environment, but by the end of my 8 weeks, I was essentially running the entire coffee shop by myself some days.” The Chinese language skills Carrie acquired during her first two years at Bates allowed her to eventually teach new volunteers how to take orders, work the machines, and make the traditional Taiwanese drinks.
Carrie received funding for her internship from a Bates Freeman Foundation Grant, a program that aims to facilitate student travel to East Asia. Although she was not paid by the foundation, they did provide free room and board. The family that founded the Bunun Cultural and Educational Foundation lived on the land and graciously invited Carrie to live with them and their six children. She was able to eat meals at the restaurant with other Taiwanese volunteers that came to work or she sometimes joined her host family for dinners.
During her free time on the weekends, Carrie was fortunate to travel to several remote parts of the country. One weekend she experienced the effects of the summer typhoon season when her return travel plans from a tiny island off the Eastern coast of Taiwan, Orchid Island, were cancelled due to a massive storm. Carrie lived in the airport for three days with 300 other people, only returning to her hostel to sleep at night, waiting for her turn to board a plane back to the mainland.
Looking back, Carrie sees the internship as a unique opportunity where she learned about and immersed herself in an entirely foreign culture. It was a great chance to spend the summer improving her Chinese language skills as she was communicating entirely in the Chinese and tried her best to pick up some of the Taiwanese dialect and accent. In the end, it was less about the physical work than about “appreciating the experience and always being eager to learn more.” While Carrie recalls that it was overwhelming and incredibly exhausting at times, she ultimately “felt very fortunate and happy to have had that kind of opportunity.”
One of the reasons the experience was so special was that Carrie was taken in as a member of the Bunun family. She was given a Bunun name, invited to family reunions, middle school graduations, birthday parties, and nights in town with the kids. Carrie appreciates that living, working, and traveling in Taiwan for the summer speaking solely in Chinese gave her the confidence to continue traveling and working in East Asia. Her immediate post-graduate plans do not include returning to China or Taiwan to work but she admits that “the idea is never far from her mind.” To other students looking for internships she would says, “Don’t forget to be adventurous. Your summer job or internship doesn’t have to be something that fits precisely into your career path. Challenge yourself to do something entirely different even if it is incredibly intimidating.”