國合會獎學金系列專訪之一:TaiwanICDF Scholarship Program Interview Series─Daniel Antonio Guzman Briman (古狄安)

國合會獎學金系列專訪之一:TaiwanICDF Scholarship Program Interview Series─Daniel Antonio Guzman Briman (古狄安) ▲Daniel Antonio Guzman Briman (古狄安)

文(Text)/Phil Barber
圖(Photos)/Calvin Chu


“Internationalization” is something of a buzzword in Taiwan right now and Daniel Antonio Guzman Briman (古狄安) could well be the face of it.

The 20-year-old from Nicaragua, here in Taiwan on a TaiwanICDF-sponsored scholarship, is a true believer in interaction with local students, local people and local culture — and has a particularly international tale to tell about how he got here and where his studies could lead him.

Born to a Nicaraguan father and a Russian mother, Daniel is a dual citizen of both countries. He spent the early part of his childhood in both Sochi and Moscow in Russia before his mother moved the family to Managua, Nicaragua’s capital city, wanting to give Daniel and his older sister the opportunity to live and learn in a Spanish-speaking environment.

Shortly after settling in Nicaragua, Daniel’s parents divorced. He and his sister have lived with their mother as “a single mom” ever since. From the way he tells it, his mother comes across as strong-willed and extremely dedicated to her children, but since she couldn’t speak Spanish so well at first, it was difficult for her to look after them with work being hard to come by. This means that he comes from a family “with really, really few resources.”

Daniel studies at the Department of Business Administration at National Chengchi University (NCCU) From Nicaragua to Taiwan’s No. 1 Business School

Despite this tough outlook, Daniel was bright enough to win a scholarship to Managua’s Colegio Centroamérica, one of the region’s top Hispanic schools. Shortly before graduating, he began to investigate further scholarships for higher education. He’d heard about the TaiwanICDF through volunteering connections, and settled on applying for the International Undergraduate Program in Business Administration at National Chengchi University (NCCU), a campus university in the foothills of southern Taipei, because he “likes so many different things.” He reels off a list of interconnected disciplines that inspire him – from music, fashion and commerce through to communications, PR and marketing – and explains that a degree from Taiwan’s No. 1 business school will allow him to keep his options open.

As with all courses offered through the TaiwanICDF’s scholarship program, Daniel’s curriculum at NCCU is taught entirely in English — something he says is important. He says that good English can be crucial where he’s from because the United States plays a “huge role” in Central America. Nicaragua has an “amazing” tourist industry focused particularly on American visitors, while the United States is also the main foreign investor in the country, so he appreciates how important it is to learn and use English to a high level, especially in a business context.

That said, Daniel has also made the most of being in a Chinese-language environment, and the speed with which he’s picked up the local language is really a big part of his story here. Chinese has a reputation for being very difficult to master, but already being fluent in five other languages, Daniel doesn’t seem to have been fazed by the prospect: After just three years here he speaks the language effortlessly, with a strong Taiwanese accent, and peppers his sentences with an impressive array of local slang.

“During my freshman year, I studied Chinese like crazy. I’m like, ‘What’s Chinese? I speak Russian and Russian is so difficult! I speak Spanish and Spanish is so difficult!’ We have to change the verbs all the time. And I learned English without going to a very specific school to do that, so I’m like, ‘I can do this!’”

He says that when he went to his first class in Chinese – a management class – he couldn’t understand “anything.”

“But now, I take English- or Chinese-language classes and I feel free; I can just take it. I understand when the teacher explains anything, let’s say 95 percent. Some jokes, humor, something culturally oriented, maybe I don’t get it, but I do all my homework in Chinese. If my books are in Chinese, I can understand them pretty well. So I’m really happy with the Chinese level that I have, and I’m excited because it’s so much different, the perspective that I have.”

Wider Opportunities and Perspective on Local Life

As well as opening doors academically, Daniel is keen to stress that picking up the language has given him the wider opportunities and perspective on local life that he had always been hoping to gain during his time in Taiwan.

“In Taiwan I’ve done so many things. You have no idea … everything! I’ve been on TV shows, I’ve been a model … I’ve been in speaking competitions, I’ve been singing Chinese, I’ve been living with aboriginal people. I’ve done it all!

“The only way for me to think, in the future, ‘It was worth it,’” he explains, “is if I leave knowing the language. And that’s what my mom told me, before I left the airport.” He wags his finger and affectionately mimics the loving-but-formidable tone of a Russian-accented mother: “‘Don’t come back here if you don’t speak at least acceptable levels of Mandarin!’”

Three years in and with one more left in Taiwan, Daniel is fairly guarded about exactly what he’ll do after graduating, but talking about future plans, it becomes evident that the versatility of business studies combined with the other activities he’s gotten involved in while in Taiwan could be part of much bigger ambitions. He mentions the possibility of initially moving to the United States, saying he wants to become established enough to be able to make a real difference back home in Nicaragua.

“First, I want to, let’s say, develop my career somewhere else, but once I get to the point where I want to be, I will definitely go back to Nicaragua, and maybe start some projects. I have so many ideas in mind.

“I will definitely, definitely go back to Nicaragua, because I wouldn’t be anyone without the opportunities they gave me there.”

As for Taiwan, he says that being here has been a great “chapter” in his life, bringing with it similar opportunities that he’ll never forget.

Born in Russia, at home in Nicaragua, well adapted to Taiwan and with his sights set on the United States, Daniel would seem to represent a younger generation for whom development – both personal or professional – means seeing life from a global perspective.

“It was great coming here. Being here and doing all this stuff. It’s what the ICDF is all about: It’s giving people opportunities.”