Love Boat (study tour)

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The Overseas Compatriot Youth Formosa Study Tour to Taiwan, informally known as the Love Boat, is currently a four-week summer program for about 400–600 college-aged Overseas Chinese. In Chinese, it is also colloquially referred to as mei-jia-ying (美加營) - America and Canada Camp, a reference to where most of the participants originate. The program currently has two main campuses, one stationed at Chien Tan (劍潭) campus in Taipei (台北) and one campus in Taichung (台中).

Contents

History of program

The program was first started in 1967 by the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission in a joint project with the China Youth Corps[1]. The primary goal of the program was to acquaint, or re-acquaint, young people of Chinese descent living in other parts of the world with Chinese culture and language. Thus, participants take brief courses in language and arts, attend lectures, and take scenic tours of Taiwan. This however, is the popular perception of the program. The alternate and original purpose for the Taiwan Government's subsidizing of the program was to shore up overseas support for its cross-strait political policies, particularly those of the Kuomintang (KMT) party in regards to its tense relations with China. Accordingly, participants were to attend lectures on cross-strait relations which others might perceive as propaganda. Beyond this, the study tour is most famous, even infamous, for what goes on at night, after the classes and sightseeing take place.

Changes over the years

The study tour has gone through many changes over the years which correspond with Taiwan's changing politics and economy. When the tour first started 1967, the program hosted 60–70 participants from America and Canada, with an age range of between 14 and 25, at a small college in Taiwan. As the popularity of the program grew, the number of participants increased and the headquarters moved to Chien Tan Campus in Taipei in the 1970s. The average size of the program grew to 100–200 students up until 1988 and in 1989 peaked exponentially at 1200 participants. Due to the overwhelming increase in demand participants had to be placed in two separate campuses in 1990, one remaining at Chien Tan Campus and the other new one held at Taipei's Tam Kang Campus.

This increase in enrollment coincided with both Taiwan's 1987 lifting of martial law and also its astronomical economic rise in the technology boom which greatly increased the island's reputation and prosperity. Further, because many originally skeptical participants were returning home with a greater appreciation of Taiwanese culture, improved Chinese language skills and were raving about the quality of the tour to their family, this consequently led to good word of mouth about the program being spread within the National Chinese Community[2]. This was especially pertinent in the 1970s and 1980s when Chinese communities were smaller than present day and a clear sense of "Asian American identity" for many North American born Chinese was nebulous at best. Many American-born Chinese who initially did not have any Chinese language skills and who refused to date a fellow Asian, returned from the tour not only expressing a greater appreciation of Chinese language and culture but also a greater willingness to date within the Asian community.[3] There were many reasons for this, but especially for those participants who came from communities without many Chinese, the Study tour provided a unique forum to share their common "Chinese North American Experience" of growing up and needing to reconcile both North American and Asian Cultures in a predominantly caucasian society.

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