Going Global: Taiwanese-American man proudly calls southern Illi - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Going Global: Taiwanese-American man proudly calls southern Illinois home

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CARBONDALE, Ill. -- In this episode of "Going Global," we meet a Taiwanese man who came to SIU as an international student and now helps recruit international students in the community he calls home.

Originally from Taipai, Taiwan, Marc Chang now runs his own business, Olive Branch International Education Services, based in Carbondale. He helps international students, like he once was, get to schools in the Midwest, including Southern Illinois University.

"Because I love southern Illinois and I love to be a Saluki," Chang said, adding he helped students from nearly ten countries.

Chang's first experience in the United States was in 2003 when he was representing Taiwan in the Navy in Charleston, South Carolina. While he was getting training in Charleston, his uncle in southern Illinois submitted a letter requesting for Chang to visit.

“So I got a two weeks release, flew to St. Louis and then drive me two hours to Carbondale, that’s how I know about Carbondale and SIU,” Chang said.

When asked about his first thoughts of southern Illinois, "Beautiful, I was thinking this place is so peaceful and people so friendly."

Chang went back to Taiwan and after he got discharged, he says he immediately booked a flight to southern Illinois. He came to SIU to pursue a masters in engineering.

"I feel the right vibe," Chang said.

He got involved with the Vine City Church community and to his surprise, he met the love of his life, Sarah, who served in the United States AirForce and was working on her second masters at the time. Ironically, Sarah believes she crossed paths with her husband years before when he was in the Navy while she was living near a naval base in Charleston.

The couple admits it wasn't always easy.

"At first it was hard, you have the communication and cultural differences, but I think we're pretty good and blended as far as communication, love for one another, love for each other's different set of values," Sarah said. 

Chang struggled with English at first. He remembers having a 3-hour conversation with a student and he had no idea what he was talking about.

"I was so touched, because even though I don't know what he's talking about, I know he's trying to help out," Chang said.

Chang eventually adjusted and grew fascinated with the lifestyle in southern Illinois.

"You can see the deer walking in front of you, squirrels, raccoons at night, I don't even own a lawn mower until I get here," Chang said.

He picked up hobbies like deer hunting, archery and hiking. But beyond the hobbies, he's a proud dad to two precious girls, Anna and Grace.

"Ni hao, it means hello in Chinese," the girls said.

The family has visited Taiwan every summer since the girls were born.

"I think it's important that the children know that they're just as much Taiwanese as they are American," Sarah said.

The family cherishes their Taiwanese culture, which shares practices and traditions with China. The keep up with holidays, like Chinese New Year, where they hand out red envelopes with money to children. The Changs even had two weddings, one in the United States and one in Taiwan.

"It's more about the theme, about having relatives come and give us blessings for our ceremony," Chang said.

Today, Chang proudly holds onto his roots.

"In my blood, I'm still Taiwanese," Chang said.

And he's proud to be a Taiwanese-American who's part of the southern Illinois community.

"This is home, home sweet home," Chang said.

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