Karolina Ostaszewska, a 20-year-old student of geology, model and drawer tells about her fascination with Asia and life in Taiwan during one year of science scholarship.
How did it happen that you went on scholarship to China?
It all started from Chinese lessons which I took up already in the sixth grade of primary school – I really liked this language, and my teacher was from Taiwan. I was interested in this country, I started going to cultural events that promoted Taiwan, I made lots of Taiwanese friends who helped me to learn about the culture of this country more. Then I found out about scholarships funded by the Taiwanese government for people learning Chinese language, I decided to take a try … and I made it! I was really happy that my dream came true, I got the opportunity to go to Taiwan and study the language. This was the beginning of something new in my life.
Now I am at the intermediate level. Opposite to what is believed these are not the signs that are the most difficult. The biggest problem for me are tones, which even when you remember them, might be mistaken with a high probability in one sentence. It requires constant drilling, sometimes learning is similar to learning songs, so that the right intonation is remembered.
You took up geology studies in Poland. It seems to be a difficult subject and not really popular among young girls.
I became interested in this subject already in high school. Geology is a very interesting subject, not only as science itself, but also because of great atmosphere at the geology faculty at the University of Warsaw, which makes studying more enjoyable. Before I heard it is very difficult to go through these studies. But I did my best to stay at the geology faculty and my future will be related to this subject, as after graduation it gives a lot of job opportunities.
And how is your life and studies in Taipei – the capital of Taiwan?
Life is quite different here, in the first few weeks I couldn’t get used to anything, I was taken out of my world. I don’t mean it is better or worse, it is just different. The main purpose of my arrival was to study Chinese at the National Taiwan University. Chinese Language Division (the faculty of Chinese language at NTU) has great teachers and they organize a lot of classes related to the culture and history of Taiwan. You can meet there very interesting people from around the world, which makes you look at the world from a different perspective. Life in Taipei is very comfortable. Starting with a subway that will take you practically everywhere, and finishing with very friendly and helpful people. The interesting thing is that in Asia unlike in Europe there is no alcohol drinking culture. When in Poland you can see many young people meeting to drink a beer out, in Asia everyone go out to eat together. Perhaps it is because they don’t have strong heads for alcohol, anyway it was something new to me.
What places did you visit in China?
My first trip in Taiwan was to Taipei 101 and to the nearby mountain Elephant Mountain with many temples. I visited among others the port in Keelong, Tainan, Pingxi (festival of lights), but I liked Maokong most. This place is famous for delicious tea and it is really amazing, I have never drunk a better tea in my life. Wonderful views are also worth mentioning as Maokong is located in the mountains.
You are interested in the Asian culture broadly, are also studying the Korean language?
The Centre for Korean Culture was set up a few years ago in Warsaw, which offered many courses, including taekwondo, the Korean language lessons, cooking based on the Korean recipes, etc. There were also various cultural events. It was something different, which made you get away from everyday reality. Additionally, in the first grade of middle school I went to Korea for one month, I liked this country, historical buildings, delicious food, and the atmosphere there. Everything was completely different than in Poland, which made me fascinated with Asia.
Have you also trained martial arts? How do you bring together all your passions and duties?
Yes, I went to taekwondo lessons, but now I go to krav maga trainings. I think that when you like something, it doesn’t cause any problems, you have energy that gives you strength and it is not another duty, but pleasure. You just need to plan your day in the right way and not waste time. It is amazing how much you can do when you are motivated.
You are also a model, where does this interest come from?
Already before my departure I heard a lot that the Europeans in Asia are taken often for modelling, additionally when I arrived everyone started to encourage me to this job. I got in touch with a photographer who was really willing to work together. Then the modelling agency contacted me. I took part in many different photo sessions. Opposite to what may seem, it is not so easy, the sessions are often long and tiring, but the results are satisfying. I think that you just must like modeling.
How do you develop your drawing and painting talent?
I paint in my free time, I like it and I put my heart in it. Most often I copy the baroque or academism paintings. There were times when I was interested in illusory paintings, and that is why the walls in some rooms in our house have extra “columns” or “bas-relief”. Additionally, I take part in different painting competitions, and I have had three exhibitions related to the Asian culture.
What plans do you have?
When I complete the course, I am going to come back to Poland and finish my studies at the geology faculty, I also want to continue learning Chinese. Possibly I will do MA degree in Taiwan. Despite the common fascination in Europe with other cultures and the interest in the world, it is worth taking care of your native culture because the European civilization is not worse than others. Exploring the world develops your personality and it makes you smarter, which doesn’t mean we should forget about where we were raised.