Imagine four summer weeks with 500 other college students in a country far from home where the legal drinking age is 18. Imagine also, that your parents have fully supported this trip.
Colloquially known as the Love Boat, Taiwan's Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission offers this one-month experience to American-born Chinese students—at a highly subsidized cost—to promote Taiwan's history and culture through language classes, seminars, leisure activities and tours.
We asked a few Love Boat alums to give us the highlights and lowlights from their trip to the Motherland.
FELICIA CHAO, 1998
Why is it called Love Boat? All the hook-ups that happen, like on the old TV show. Some people thought that there was an actual boat involved.
Thing that most surprised you? It was my first time meeting Asian Americans from California, who are totally different than those who come from a minority upbringing. Californians certainly know how to party, though.
Top lesson learned? Don't go before college. When you are one of the few youngest, your maturity hasn't quite caught up with your peers, no matter how much you deny it.
One thing you would change? I don't think I'd change anything. It helped me realize my naivete early and made transitioning to adulthood easier by concentrating potential years of drama and partying into one summer. It takes some people a couple years to get that out their system.
Did you hook up? Yes.
Fill in the blank: Love Boat is__. Really the equivalent to trash TV, not Masterpiece Theater.
JEFFREY YEH, 1999
Why is it called Love Boat? Almost every year they send home at least one unlucky girl because of pregnancy.
Top lesson learned? Persistence tends to work.
Did you hook up? No, but I did fall in love.
Advice to future Love Boaters? Try to meet people who actually live in Taiwan if you really want to learn something about the place and not just get drunk all the time.
One thing you would change? I would have tried to meet people who actually lived in Taiwan instead of just getting drunk all the time.
DONALD CHANG, 2005
Why is it called Love Boat? Because of the ridiculous rate of hooking up that happens. When you really think about it, it's not really that surprising: 500 college students with eight people to a room, legal drinking age 18, Wednesday nights are free for ladies at clubs. Friday nights are bikini nights at clubs.
Biggest misconception? That you're guaranteed ass; that's not true and if you think that way, besides not even hooking up in general, you probably won't make any friends. It's really about the memories and friendships you form with dudes or dudettes that get to know you inside out.
Did you hook up? Yes. I did. And it was awesome!
Top lesson learned? Don't pop your cherry on it. No, I'm serious.
JESSICA CHEN, 2005
Why is it called Love Boat? Girls on the trip said that their parents sent them on the trip in hopes that they would find a nice Chinese guy to marry.
Did you hook up? I did, and as weird or cheesy as it is, we are still together.
Strongest memory? When I first met my boyfriend. After our conversation I distinctly remember thinking I would probably never speak to him again on the trip. It's just ironic.
Biggest misconception? That it's a big orgy. There are a few people that you know sleep around but most people just form into couples.
With reporting by Lisa Wong Macabasco