The Human Library: In/visible International Students I

  • 2020-09-01
  • 蘇 淑芬

What are the things international students want to do the most once they have finished their 14-day-quarantine period in Taiwan?

“Gosh! I miss my life in Taiwan so much. I want to visit the cute capybaras in the Muzha Zoo…”
“I want to drink brown sugar bubble tea!”
“I really really really really really wanna go back to Taiwan.”

In the Human Library, people, instead of traditional books, are on loan to readers. The Human Library challenges stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue. It is a way for people to reach out and connect with individuals in their community that they might not normally engage with. Visitors to our library have an opportunity to borrow international students as Human Books and to engage in conversation with the books.

After the Covid-19 outbreak, the Taiwanese government has used the virus as an excuse to forbid international students from coming back to Taiwan. A total number of 26,000 international students have therefore been stuck in different places. Most of them are from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. And among all international students, Mainland Chinese students are the ones who have suffered the most due to cross-strait political tensions. While political conflicts between Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China have been more and more intense, international students of these places have become bargaining chips in the diplomatic games. Whether or not Hong Kong, Macau or Mainland Chinese students can come back has less to do with epidemic prevention and more to do with political concerns.

Although the Taiwanese government has already promised to open up the border for all international students, some students are still stuck in various places for various reasons. Some cannot afford quarantine hotel fees, while some other entries are delayed due to administrative errors on the part of their schools and the Ministry of Education in the visa application process. And some are still stuck for unknown reasons.

Furthermore, whenever Taiwan international students complain about the unscientific and discriminatory policies of Taiwan, very often they receive hostility from Taiwanese people. “Why don’t you just go back to your own country if you have so many complaints about Taiwan,” they asked.


We, international students coming from different places, with different histories and concerns, choose to live and study in Taiwan. Not only do we go to lectures and revise and take exams. Like everyone else, we international students also engage in different daily activities. Some of us have found the love of our lives, some of us have kept a pet, some of us have found a job, some of us have found our community or even comrades, some of us have finally figured out who we are. As the saying goes: no man is a self-sufficient island; every man is a piece of the continent, interconnected with each other. The engagement with other people in Taiwan is what makes us “us” - international students.

We believe that the Human Library is a way to encourage conversations. And every book makes sense in their own ways. In this event, the human books will blink, laugh, or cry in front of you. It will definitely make you feel something, and start to think. You can ask them any sort of question and get a real answer. And because a lot of international students are still under quarantine or stuck elsewhere, this event will be held online (on zoom) and offline (so we can zoom and read the books together). 

In this event, you will be reading three real human books, all answering the question “why would international students be so eager to come back to Taiwan despite their complaints towards the Taiwanese government?”
The books we have invited this time are the ones who have been marginalized for so long. Therefore, in order to create a secure and comfortable environment for reading and interacting, we don’t accept walk-ins. Tearjerker alert: this is going to be an emotional event. If you are interested in participating in The Human Library: In/visible International Students I, please fill in this google form below:

After you have finished filling out the form, we will send you the detailed introduction of the three books, the zoom link, and more importantly, a short notice on how to avoid hurting the books. Remember to check your email!

Event Details:
Date: 5th September, 2020 (SAT)
Time: 7:00pm - 9:30pm
Offline - Taipei Trapped Citizen (1/F, No.17, Alley 14, Lane 518, Beian Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City) (Near Dazhi Metro Station)
Online - Zoom (To be announced once you have filled in the google form) (Remember to check your email!)
Entrance Fee: Free of charge! And we are going to serve you red tea and yummy homemade sour prune drink (made from a granny’s secret recipe)


Meanwhile, we also welcome different international students to become our book next time. Our friendly librarians and your book depot manager will help you and make sure you are kept in mint condition. We are there to ensure that you have a good experience every time you are published.


The event is co-organized by The International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS), The Institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies (SRCS) and International Master's Program in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (IACS)

The event is sponsored by Higher Education SPROUT Project Sustained Progress’s “Conflict, Justice, and Decolonization: Critical Studies in Inter-Asian Societies” research project.