Yasmeen Herb

 Taiwan

Hometown: Dunwoody, Georgia
School: Dunwoody
Sponsor District : District 6900
Sponsor Club: Dunwoody, Georgia
Host District: 3501
Host Club: The Rotary Club of Miaoli Peace


My Bio


Nĭ hăo! My name is Yasmeen Herb. I will be spending my senior year in Taiwan. I was born and raised in Georgia and am currently a junior at Dunwoody High School. I’ve lived in Dunwoody almost my entire life, excluding seven months in first grade when I lived in Kuwait with my mom, dad, and brother. Living in Kuwait definitely made me much more curious and eager to live overseas again. Right now I split my time between my mom’s and my dad’s houses. I have one older brother and an older step-sister and a huge black cat named Flynn. At school, my favorite subjects are literature and social studies classes. Outside of class, I am a member of several National Honor Societies and the UNICEF club. My favorite hobbies include reading, writing, soccer, and hanging out with my friends. I am incredibly excited to be spending my senior abroad. Learning Mandarin will be very challenging and I will need to spend a lot of time studying before I get on the plane. I have always thought it would be amazing to learn Chinese and am so happy that I will be able to learn it in Taiwan. I will miss my family and my friends very much when I’m gone but this experience is definitely worth it. I love learning about and experiencing new cultures and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. I can’t thank Rotary or my parents enough for allowing me to go on this amazing adventure that has already changed my life!

On a field trip with my university to clean beaches on the coast.

On a field trip with my university to clean beaches on the coast.

I climbed to the top of XianShan in Miaoli with my host parents! One of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen.

I climbed to the top of XianShan in Miaoli with my host parents! One of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen.

A temple in Sanxia

A temple in Sanxia

The steps leading up to a elementary school in a nearby town.

The steps leading up to a elementary school in a nearby town.

The New Years' fireworks at Taipei 101

The New Years' fireworks at Taipei 101

trip to Taichung

trip to Taichung

Nantou County

Nantou County

Journals: Yasmeen-Taiwan Blog 2017-18

  • Yasmeen, Outbound to Taiwan

    Next week marks the beginning of my sixth month in Taiwan. The fact that I am almost half-way done with my exchange is unbelievable. I went to the airport the other day to welcome the new Australian Inbounds and my friends and I realized that the next time we would be at this airport would be to say goodbye to each other and to Taiwan. The first five months flew by incredibly fast and I know that the next five months will go by even faster. I am not ready to leave. I hold on to every day and I know that, even with all the amazing things I have done here, there is still so much to learn and see and experience. I remind myself of the fact that the days are a blur because I am having fun and living an amazing life here.

    In the past couple of months, I have done a lot in Taiwan. My host parents and I went to Nantou, a county in the center of Taiwan with beautiful mountains. We hiked to the top of HeHuanShan, one of the tallest mountains in Taiwan at over 11,000 kilometers high. I will never tire of the mountains here and I plan on going to even more. I went to Sun Moon Lake with my Chinese class which is also in Nantou County. It is one of the most famous lakes and tourist attractions in Taiwan and for good reason. It was so beautiful and one of the highlights of my exchange. Another highlight is the time I held a snake in Taichung, a city just south of my city, Miaoli. One teacher at a local school asked me and two other exchange students to come with her class on a field trip to a few temples and old streets in Taichung. We visited Longshan Temple, one of the oldest temples in Taiwan, built over four hundred years ago and with pillars over 4,000 years old. We also went to an old street that had a shop full of weird things including snakes. As we were leaving the man working there asked us if we wanted to hold a snake. I could barely even look at the snakes as we walked in as I am deathly afraid of them and never ever thought I could hold one in my entire life. But I knew that if I did not hold the very long, very scary snake I would regret it. And of course, I am so glad I did it because now I can say I’ve held a snake which, for me, is a very big deal.

    I also celebrated both Christmas and New Years and it was by far the most unique holiday season I have ever had. They do not celebrate Christmas in Taiwan and so RYE organized a New Year’s Eve party for the exchange students. We had a singing and dancing competition (those are very popular in Taiwan) and although I do not excel in any of those two things, it was very fun to spend Christmas Eve with the other exchange students. Because most people in Taiwan do not celebrate Christmas, my host family included, my friends and I slept over at one friend’s house for Christmas Eve. Of course, it was quite odd to be spending Christmas Eve with my friends but it was fun nonetheless. Taiwan does not have a Christmas holiday so schools were open on Christmas Day, but I still got to have Christmas “dinner” with the other exchange students. Even though it was a little bittersweet, I knew that this was my only Christmas in Taiwan while I have already had sixteen years’ worth of Christmases back home. New Years is also another holiday that is not as big of a deal in Taiwan. They operate on the lunar calendar so their New Year is actually in late February and we have a month-long break for that. But we did get January 1st off from school so I went to Taipei to watch the fireworks at Taipei 101. It was unforgettable and one of the best New Years I’ve ever had.

    All in all, the past two months of my exchange have the best months and I know that it will only keep getting better. If you are thinking about exchange, GO FOR IT. Exchange will not be easy and sometimes it will feel almost impossible but if you can get through those times, it will be amazing and you will have the time of your life. Even with all the bad that comes along with the good, there are really no words to explain how much Taiwan means to me and how much I will miss it when I return to Atlanta. But for now, I am just going to appreciate every second of the next five months.

    Click HERE to read more about Yasmeen and all her blogs

  • Yasmeen, Outbound to Taiwan

    Three months in Taiwan. It feels both as though I stepped off the plane yesterday and as though I have been here for a lot longer than three months. In the past two months, I have grown a lot closer to both my Taiwanese classmates and the other exchange students and become a lot more comfortable with my host family. My daily life is still pretty much the same as it was two months ago in my last journal. The main difference is that I am much more comfortable in my daily routine than I was two months ago when it was still new and foreign to me. Monday through Wednesday, I usually get up around 7 so that I can leave the house and bike to school by 8:10. Some days I bike with my friend who lives down the street and most days we meet up after school to bike around Miaoli and stop in shops or get food. On Thursdays and Fridays we meet in the morning and bike to the train station to get the bus to university. Usually, we pick up breakfast on the corner stand. We buy fried rice with beef, tofu, and egg. I never imagined I would ever eat something like this for breakfast but it is so good and I want to learn how to make it so I can keep eating it for breakfast in the US. After university and on the weekends when we have free time, we usually hang out in Zhunan or Hsinchu, which are just north of Miaoli City.

    In the past two months I have had a lot of Rotary events. In October we had our first culture tour in Sanxia, near Taipei. We had a great time learning about a temple built in the 1700’s and exploring the Old Street. Later in November we had our Country Fair along with D3502, just north of us in Taoyuan. We each had to prepare something to present from our countries and display it at booths set up for prospective Taiwanese Outbounds. It was fun to learn more about my friends’ cultures and the countries they came from. Just last weekend we had our second Culture Tour to Neiwan in a town about an hour north of my city. We went to hot springs which were incredibly relaxing and then we got to explore Neiwan Old Street. The street was filled with basically anything you could want from fruit to ice cream to corn-on-the-cob to plantain wrapped rice. Besides Rotary events, I’ve also visited Taipei numerous times with other exchange students and to visit friends. I also went on a field trip to Taipei with my classmates to tour a university and go to an art exhibit which was incredibly interesting. They had artists from all over the world gather at the Taipei 101 Exhibition and Conference Center.

    I am more comfortable each day in Taiwan and I find myself loving and appreciating my life more every week. It is sad to imagine that I am only here for seven more months but my friends and I are already planning trips to see each other after our exchange is over. It is hard to put into words what life is like here because in most ways it is just normal. That is, I go to school during the week and hang out with my friends and study and watch TV in my free time. It is not a vacation everyday and not everyday is super exciting. But it is also so indescribable because there are so many things to learn and see about Taiwan and my city and I still have so much more Chinese to learn and I notice new things here everyday. Not to mention, all the mix of emotions that being an exchange student entails. I have learned so much while I have been here, not just Chinese and Taiwanese culture, but also more about myself and other people than I thought possible. The most important thing I’ve learned though, is that there is soooo much more to know and experience here. I am far from fully integrated in to Taiwanese culture, mainly due to the fact that Chinese is not a language you can become fluent in in just a few months, but despite this, I still feel all the possibilities of my exchange and my life here and it is so incredible. These past three months are difficult to explain properly without diluting them or sugar coating them but hopefully, if you’re reading this you will soon be on your own exchange and experiencing life in a new country. Being an exchange student is not easy in any sense but it truly is worth it. For every downside to my exchange there are about a hundred upsides. I am coming to realize that I really have nothing to complain about here and any problem that I could complain about, I have the power to fix or simplify. Exchange is a crazy thing to do but that is honestly why it is the best thing you could for yourself.

    Click HERE to read more about Yasmeen and all her blogs

  • Yasmeen, Outbound to Taiwan

    Click HERE to read more about Yasmeen and all her blogs

    I honestly cannot believe I’ve been in Taiwan for a month now. It is hard to put everything that has happened and everything I’ve done this past month into words because it is such a rollercoaster and in many ways indescribable. But I’ll start with the 14 hour plane ride from Atlanta to Tokyo. It was surreal to leave my parents at the airport to board my flight and I don’t think it truly hit me that I wouldn’t be seeing them for another 10 months. I’m still not sure it has hit me. The first flight was fairly uneventful and on the second, 3 hour flight from Tokyo to Taipei, I met another exchange student. It was fun to be able to talk to another student and navigate the Tokyo airport together. I arrived in Taipei at about 9 in the evening after 21 hours of travel. A bunch of people from my host club came to welcome me at the airport with a big sign. They were all so friendly and nice to me. Then we waited for awhile because my host parents were late to come pick me up. I had texted my host mom that I had landed at the Tokyo airport but there had been some miscommunication because she did not realize that my flights were confirmed and that I was arriving that evening. I was pretty embarrassed about that but they were very nice about it and I think they just chalked it up to my lack of Chinese language skills. After my host parents arrived, we drove an hour from the airport to my city, Miaoli. I thought for sure we would be going home so I could sleep but instead we went out to dinner even though it was almost midnight. But everyone was super nice and they didn’t make me feel too bad when I dropped food on the floor of the restaurant because I couldn’t use chopsticks properly. (I’m happy to say that now I can use chopsticks very well). I finally got to go home and take a shower and go to bed and I’m pretty sure I was the most exhausted I’ve ever been.

    My host family is so nice to me and I get along with them very well. I have a host mom, dad, two older sisters, and a brother. But I am the only kid in the house because one of my host sisters is at university in Taipei, the other works as a nurse in Taoyuan and my host brother is on his own exchange in Brazil. But I’ve seen my host sisters a lot as they come to visit often and it is always fun to hang out with them. None of my host family can speak English, only some words here and there, which is very good for my Chinese. My Chinese has already gotten better (although I’m not sure how much that is saying).

    The Saturday after I arrived, I had my district orientation with the rest of the inbound students. It was super fun to meet the other students and be able to finally speak some English. There are about 25 of us in my district and I go to university with 9 other exchange students in my area. University did not start until last week but my Taiwanese high school started the following Wednesday. When I walked into my class on the first day of school everyone cheered and shouted questions at me that I did not understand. It was so funny and I felt very welcomed. I had heard from other exchange students that sometimes it can be hard to make friends in Taiwanese school because they have all been in the same class with the same people for years and so it is hard to break into their group but this was definitely not my experience. All of my classmates are so nice to me and make sure I don’t get lost and that I buy the right lunch. They are extremely friendly and I feel very lucky to hav e been put in their class. Besides my classmates, school itself can be very boring and they send me to the library a lot to “study” (I don’t actually have any homework yet although I’ve been told that once university starts I will have actual studying to do). But in Taiwanese high school I am not expected to hand in assignments or pay attention so a lot of the time I am just sitting around on my phone. But they put me in the art class at my school so for the first 2 or 3 hours of everyday I get to draw with my classmates. The art classes at my school are famous and prestigious so my classmates are drawing huge, beautiful paintings while I’m drawing apples. It is kind of hilarious and we all laugh about it. I also started riding my bike to school this past week which I was incredibly nervous about because the streets are narrow and can get crowded but after doing it a couple times I’ve found that I enjoy the bike ride. The first day I biked to school I thought I was going to pass out because I am not used to biking 3 kilometers first thing in the morning but now I can get to school without feeling like my lungs are on fire. Since I’ve started biking to school, I’ve been appreciating my 30 minutes of nap time that we get everyday at school a lot more.

    Last week, my university classes started with the nine other exchange students in my city. This means that now 3 days a week I go to Taiwanese high school and the other 2 I go to university to take Chinese language and culture classes. These classes include Chinese knot tying, Chinese cooking, Chinese dance, Chinese song, and Chinese language. On the days that I go to university, I bike with another exchange student, who lives on my street, to the bus station. Then we take a bus about 25 minutes with 2 other exchange students to Yu Da University. The first day, on the ride back, we missed our stop and had to walk a very long distance from the next stop to our bikes at the bus station. This was the same day I had give my first presentation to my Rotary Club and needless to say, I was very late. But they still gave me my monthly allowance so I guess they weren’t too upset.

    Besides school, my host family has taken me around Taiwan on the weekends. One weekend we went to Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, on a tour bus. We also went to Danshui, a part of Taipei and took a boat ride and saw Fort San Domingo left over from the days when Taiwan was ruled by Portugal. Just this past weekend, my host parents and I hiked to the top of a 仙山 (xianshan). It’s a mountain in my county and standing on the peak was one of the highlights of my exchange so far. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. The hike up there was hard and sometimes scary but it was worth it. I think the mountains are one of my favorite parts about Taiwan. They are everywhere! I see them when I look out my bedroom window, on my bike ride to school, from the school hallways, basically anywhere you stand in Miaoli, a view of the mountains is around the corner. In my opinion, Miaoli is awesome because while it is not as urban as Taipei, it still feels like what I would imagine a city to be. The streets and buildings are close together and it is very walkable (or in my case, bikeable) but at the same time I’m surrounded by mountains! Another interesting thing about Miaoli is that the garbage truck plays the music that ice cream trucks play in the US! The first day I heard that and realized it was the garbage truck was so hilarious because then I had to explain to my host mom in my broken Chinese why I was laughing at a garbage truck.

    Another huge thing about my life here in Taiwan is the food! I had obviously heard that the Taiwanese eat certain foods that Americans find odd but I just figured those were exotic delicacies, not an everyday thing! But I have gotten used to eating things that I do not recognize and some new things I’ve eaten since I’ve been here have been stinky tofu, squid, eel, blood, snake, intestines, and fish skin. Overall, the food here is really good and fried squid is actually delicious! It reminds of southern fried chicken. One of my favorite things to eat here is called baozi which is basically bread stuffed with meat and sauce. I also love the milk tea! We have milk tea in Atlanta but it is definitely not the same thing. I’ve also started eating like double what I ate in Atlanta. I thought that Americans ate a lot of food but the Taiwanese could eat us under the table. They eat a lot of food and good food too! They don’t like to eat cold food and so convenience stores like 7/11 and Family Mart have pots of eggs and mushrooms and sausages and other various hot food to take on the go.

    Some things that I did struggle with my first weeks here were homesickness and a lack of independence. I was homesick for about the first week or two of my exchange and sometimes something will remind me of home and I will feel homesick all over again. But it goes away just as fast as it comes and settling into a daily routine here has helped a lot now that my brain is not being constantly overloaded by new and confusing things. For the first 2 weeks I definitely felt an acute loss of independence. Back in the US, I could drive myself around and make plans for myself and for the first weeks here I felt like a child again. This contributed to my homesickness but it went away fairly quickly. Now I can go make plans with my friends and everything by myself which might not seem like a big deal but, trust me, it is. Hopefully this journal helps people thinking about exchange right now just as they helped me. When I was reading these exactly a year ago I would never have believed that I w ould be writing one now and sometimes I still stop and look around and marvel at the fact that I am actually in Taiwan!

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