Environmental science and sustainability professor Nathan Hensley spent September 2018 to July 2019 studying environmental issues and continuing his research in Taiwan.
Hensley said he loves to travel and experience new places and cultures, saying traveling is full of valuable experiences.
The opportunity to study in Taiwan came through an opportunity given to his wife.
“My wife teaches English as a second language. At that time, she was teaching here, in Bowling Green, at the middle school and high school. She received an email and it was an invitation to submit an application to teach in Taiwan,” Hensley said.
Accepting the offer, Hensley, his wife and his two young daughters made the trip to Taiwan.
Although Mandarin is the primary language of Taiwan, Hensley said he wasn’t able to completely pick up the language.
“The campus that we lived on most people spoke English — especially students and faculty members. When we went off campus for shopping or to eat out — because it was cheaper to eat out than it was to prepare our own food — we had to have Google Translate or a sense of humor ready. We experienced a lot of the different restaurants there. My favorite food there being dumplings soup,” Hensley said.
Hensley said he was impressed by Taiwan and how developed it was in certain areas. In particular, he said the public transit and healthcare systems were impressive.
“The medical services were amazing. Since we were there for a year and my wife was teaching, we had access to national healthcare — and the healthcare was amazing and very affordable. For example, a typical visit to the doctor, including medication, would cost around five American dollars,” Hensley said.
Hensley continued his research he started at BGSU in Taiwan.
“I was able to continue to teach a class online (at Bowling Green) and was able to do research over there. I worked as a volunteer visiting scholar. I was able to find an office there and affordable housing,” Hensley said. “I would help some of the graduate students there if they had research questions on what they were doing and then the research I did while I was there was continuing the theoretical research I had already been doing in the United States. I did a lot of research looking at the humanities, sustainability and sense of place.”
Hensley also focused on the environmental efforts Taiwan was making to make the country more sustainable such as the way the country collected trash. The country is about 90 miles wide and 200 miles long with little room for landfills.
“Their trash trucks would go around through communities, and they would play music that sounded like ice cream trucks. When you heard that, you were supposed to go out in front of your apartment by the road with your trash bag,” he said.
The trash bags were clear, so the garbage trucks could distinguish trash items from recyclable items. If it was recyclable, they would pull it out of the trash bag. Food scraps were also separated from the trash collection. Taiwan also focused on cutting out single-use plastics.
“A favorite memory of mine is spending quality time with my daughters in general. Also, it was good to build international networking with people who do sustainability research,” Hensley said.
Hensley hopes to return to Taiwan with hopes of being able to bring students too.