Nicole Viera 
2012-13 Outbound to Taiwan
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
School: Creekside High School
Sponsor: District 6970, FL
Host: District 3490, Taiwan
The Rotary Club of Tuchengå

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你好! 我叫 Nicole Marie Viera, 和我的中文名字是李淼!

Hello! My name is Nicole Marie Viera, and my Chinese name is Li Miao! I have already been in Taiwan for over two months now, and it is truly unbelievable how fast time has gone! My exchange has been going extremely well so far and I am quickly learning the language. Chinese is actually a lot easier than people think. It is still hard, but not as difficult as people make it out to be. I can already recognize characters and hold short conversation, but I think my writing is my biggest strength right now.

I am still with my 1st Host Family and change December 1st. I am extremely close to my 1st family and honestly don't want to change. But that is one of the jobs as an exchange student, so I have to. My 1st family has made me feel at home from the start. Even with the dramatic change of being an only child in a family of three (plus a dog), to becoming a family of seven with three siblings (the other three being my Mama, Baba and Gemma from the Philippines). I really love having siblings, especially Kevin Brandon and Lily, because they make everything a lot more fun and interesting both in and outside the home! It really is a different experience sharing an home with other teenagers/kids. Especially now in a three-story apartment (penthouse? I can't remember the word). Kevin is 16, Brandon is 14 and Lily is 6!

School is also very fun! I go to a high school and attend class Monday through Friday. There are two buildings in my school: "the Main Building" and "the Back Building." Both buildings' classes start at 8:20AM. The main building gets out at 5:30PM, while the back gets out at 8:30PM. There are three exchange students at my school (including me) and I am the only one taking classes in the back building. Thankfully, though, exchange students arrive to school at 8:20AM and and all leave at 4:30PM everyday. In the mornings I attend actual classes with all of the Taiwanese students and after nap time (yes, nap time) I attend Chinese class for three hours; Monday through Thursday. My Chinese Teacher (中文老師Emma) is the coolest. She is 22 years old, and makes learning Chinese so much fun.

And yes, if you are wondering, you do become "famous" at school. Especially the couple of weeks. Boys and girls always stare and smile, while some are actually brave enough to say "Hello~!" If you wave back and greet them back, boys congratulate themselves amongst their friends and girls giggle in pure happiness. Even after a month, people will still stare at you but will start to warm up and try to talk to you. You can actually speed up the process of them talking to you if you show some knowledge of knowing Chinese. I just want to say this now, Taiwanese people aren't as shy as some people think. They are not shy people that are afraid of approaching foreigners, they are just worried about their English is not good enough. Most, if not all, do not know you come to Taiwan to learn their language so they assume you will only want to speak English. Because of this assumption and their concern over their "poor English" they will avoid holding conversation with you at first. But if you share your interest of Chinese, or even Taiwanese, they will all get super excited and start bombarding you with new vocabulary and friendships!

I have quickly developed friendships this way! Also, thanks to Kevin, I have even more Taiwanese friends, outside of my own school. I have honestly yet to run into an unfriendly person here! You can just as easily approach people in the public and they will willing offer their help to you. Everyone I have met in Taiwan, so far, has been so kind to me. They have all been patient with me, even when I first got to Taiwan and understood barely anything.

I have also been given the opportunity to travel during my stay here. I've visited the east coast, flown sky lanterns, visited night markets and temples, and even conquered my fear of heights by riding one of the glass-bottomed Maokong Gondolas (thank you Sara, Laura, Pei and Emma). I am truly grateful to be on this exchange.

When I first saw Taipei 101, I was honestly surprised at how small it was. I perfectly understand that it is the 2nd tallest building the world, but having travelled 13411.7km (8333.6 miles), from Florida, USA to Taipei, Taiwan, seeing a building stand only 509 meters (1,669.9feet) made me realize how small we actually are compared to this vast world we live in. It is truly unbelievable to me. It still surprises me that I have travelled to the other side of the planet. I feel so at home that sometimes I forget I am an exchange student on a job.