When Tucheng Junior High School was assigned an English teacher from Canada last year, its parents' association pooled together the funds to buy a bicycle for the new teacher.
But after Kim Whidden, leaves Taiwan next month when her one-year contract ends, the bicycle will probably rust before the voice of a native English speaker is heard in this remote location on the outskirts of Tainan City again.
The junior high school is not likely to get another foreign English-language teacher from the Ministry of Education, which has been carrying out a program to install foreign English teachers in 3,300 rural schools since 2004.
After working for one year as an English teacher sponsored by the ministry, Whidden plans to return to Canada and continue with her career as a teacher. But she enjoyed her time in Taiwan.
"This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity for me," Whidden, a 29-year-old teacher from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, told the Taipei Times last week.
Despite encountering some difficulties during her stay, Whidden thought that the program had been beneficial to her and the around 700 students she teaches each week.
Both sides learn
She said she had noticed an increase in the willingness of the students to try out their English.
"I've been able to learn a little" about the languages and culture in Taiwan, she said.
She has also been impressed by the efforts the school's students, parents and staff have made to make her comfortable. These included installing a computer system for her to use during her stay, complete with a Web cam so she can more easily communicate with her friends overseas. And of course, there was the bicycle.
"People here have been very helpful in trying to make things better," she said.
But there was still an element of culture shock that she had to overcome.
"For me, being the only foreigner [in the area] is the most difficult thing," Whidden said.
She said that although she was prepared for life in a remote location, she was surprised at how she was initially received.
"I hadn't expected to be treated like a star, with people taking pictures of me," she said, laughing.
The difference between her expectations, based on the scant information provided by the school and the Ministry of Education before she arrived, and the reality of her situation did not faze Whidden, she said, but more could have been done to prepare her for her job.
"Finding foreign teachers to come [to remote locations in Taiwan] is difficult," she said. "There should be more communication, more clear information available about the schools."
For those teachers who are considering applying to the MOE's program, she had simple, straightforward advice.
"Be flexible. Learn some Chinese," she said.