高餐教授說給你聽系列：高雄餐旅大學應用英語系教授 David Wolff 吳德偉 訪談
Taiwan wasn’t my first choice, but I ended up loving it here
Coming from Chicago, Professor David Wolff planned to be a teacher in America. He had the idea of seeing the world before starting to work, and Vietnam was his first choice. “I worked with some refugees from Vietnam so I had friends from there. However, I had a lot of student loans needed to pay back, so I could do it easier in Taiwan.” David’s first impressions of Taiwan included Taiwan having friendly people, tasty food and beautiful scenery. The exotic yet attractive culture made him decide to “stick around a bit.” Little did he know that he would fall in love with this small island, teach at NKUHT, and even meet his wife.
Differences between the education systems in Taiwan and America
Compared to America, it is more difficult to transfer from one department to another in Taiwan. Students are more focused on their own major. Only about 1/3 of courses are general education courses, whereas students in America can select freely for 2/3 of their courses. Professor Wolff also indicates that although most of the Taiwanese students have less interaction with teachers in classes, the situation has changed over the years due to more internships, more study programs overseas, and more student understanding of the world.
In Taiwan, teachers focus more on cramming knowledge into students and making sure they know all the facts before the discussion starts. In contrast, “I did my master's degree in America. I thought that our school focused almost too much on problem solving and discussion.” Professor Wolff suggests those who are interested in studying abroad should read up information as much as they can. Most importantly, people should be open-minded and never expect everything here would be the way it is back in their home country.
What are the special features of NKUHT?
Professor Wolff had been teaching in the Department of Applied English at National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism (NKUHT, 國立高雄餐旅大學) for over 20 years. “NKUHT is different from most of the universities in Taiwan. First of all, we are a technical university. We focus on work-related things.” From hotel management, food and beverage, airline service to baking management, NKUHT is the first choice for many students who are interested in hospitality and tourism. To train students into outstanding service providers, students are required to wear uniforms, have work education, and live in the dorm for the freshmen year. Also, class attendance is mandatory..
In addition, NKUHT is famous for the “sandwich-style education,” which means all students are required to do a one-year internship. Students can work in Taiwan or go abroad, including countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Australia, Canada, the UK, the USA, the UAE, and the Netherlands. “We tell all our students that not everything is going to be perfect during your internship. If something unfair happens to you, you can learn to handle it well.”
In NKUHT, teachers care a lot about the students and try to provide the best facilities to help students learn. As an advisor of the Department of Applied English, Professor Wolff’s biggest sense of achievement comes from seeing students grow and mature over the years.
The core competencies of the Applied English Department
“We have about half of the classes focused on English related things, and the other half focus on hospitality and tourism.” Besides general speaking, listening, reading, and writing courses in English, students have more opportunities to learn professional content knowledge and language. “Even for students who have quite good English, because they’re young and not as experienced, they may not have the proper kind of professional language skills.” For example, the word ‘okay’ is not a formal way to answer people. Instead of saying ‘okay’, ‘certainly’ is a much better way to reply to your customers. In short, the Applied English Department stresses on service mentality and cross-cultural understanding in order to shape students into professional service providers.
What kind of students would fit in the Department of Applied English?
“Students who have interests in helping people, serving people, and solving problems. You can’t be afraid of hard work.” During the college admission interview, Professors would like to know that students have done enough research on the department and planning to enter related jobs. Professor Wolff also indicates that ‘having questions’ shows that you are engaged, curious, and active, which is the key to getting accepted by NKUHT. He also reminds those who have decided to come to NKUHT that they must be willing to accept the special rules, be ready to join clubs, the student association and participate in all kinds of activities.
For those who are navigating the college application process…
As a father of a 15-year-old child, Professor Wolff supports his son whatever he’d like to choose for his major. Parents often expect their child not to choose a major in which is harder to see a certain path to financial independence, but Professor Wolff believes that as long as people like what they’re doing, they will find a way to make it work. “Even if your major is not exactly where you wanted to be, I think it’s okay.” By taking other classes and doing further research, students can still figure out a path forward. At the end of his talk, Professor Wolff reminds us that having a positive attitude is very helpful for both work and life, and that’s the reason why he has always kept a big smile on his face throughout all these years.