Krystyna Jensen is facing a problem. Though she’s made Taiwan her home for the past 15 years, the National Taiwan University of the Arts (國立台灣藝術大學) student will probably be forced to leave the country upon graduation.
For the past year, Jensen has been the public face for a Taipei MRT promotional video, as foreign backpacker “Sara” who came to tour Taipei’s attractions with her Taiwanese friend “Bill”.
The video touts Taipei as a world-class cultured city, with its cleanliness and orderliness, while the MRT riders are shown as courteous and law-abiding. Thus “MRT Sara” has been likened to a “Goodwill Ambassador,” helping to promote Taipei City and the MRT for both the local and international audience.
But now she is facing a dilemma of personal identity and cultural belonging. Bound by government regulations, Jensen will have to leave the country when she graduates from university next year. She needs to have an ARC (Alien Resident Certificate) from the National Immigration Agency (NIA) to stay.
“But I grew up in Taiwan, this is all I have ever known. I love Taiwan, and I want to stay here, finish my studies and work in Taiwan,” Jensen said in an interview with the Taipei Times.
Jensen first arrived in Taiwan with her German father and Polish mother a decade-and-a-half ago, when her father landed a job here. Over the course of her 15-year stint, Jensen has lived in Greater Kaohsiung, Tamshui and Taipei City.
Why not move to Germany or Poland?
“Taiwan is my home, I have lived here for 15 years. All my friends are here. I am familiar with Taiwanese culture, the way of living here,” she said, adding, “If I go to Germany, it would be too difficult. I don’t know German culture well and have few contacts. All I have is here in Taiwan. I have no idea how I could live and work in Germany,” she said.
This is at core of her dilemma.
Jensen is a rather special case, different from most people’s image of a foreigner in Taiwan. She writes about her school days, hangs out with Taiwanese classmates and posts about her travels around Taiwan on Facebook. She speaks and writes Mandarin fluently and understands Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese). Her classmates at National Taiwan University of the Arts call her Lei Ti-na (雷堤娜).
“I believe my future is in Taiwan, so I want to stay here to further my career,” she said.
Jensen is making every effort to staying in Taiwan, including an actively read Facebook campaign.
“To obtain an ARC, I am forced to find a job, which is difficult these days. I am not wealthy enough to invest. Another way is to marry a Taiwanese. But I am too young, and want to do many things,” she explained.
GET A JOB
When contacted by the Taipei Times, an NIA official explained that for children of foreigners working in Taiwan, there is no impediment to obtaining an ARC.
“After finishing university, or once they’ve reached 20 years of age, they are no longer considered dependent on their parents. They can get an ARC by getting a full-time job,” she said.
Jensen, however, said this is easier said than done.
“The ARC regulation was set up without any consideration for people like me, who are doing performing arts, dance and theatre. It is very difficult for people in this field to get regular full-time jobs. And also, companies are now hiring only part-time or temp jobs for young people,” she said.