I find it hard to believe that I’ve already been in Taiwan for one month. It feels like I just left the United States yesterday, yet it also feels like I’ve been in Taiwan for a year. I departed from the airport the morning of August 20th feeling nervous but excited. After a five-hour flight to San Francisco Airport, I had a two-hour layover before departing on a 13-hour flight to Taipei. Around 6:30 PM, I finally arrived in Taiwan and notified my host family that I would be seeing them soon. After retrieving my bags, I met a few members from each of my host families as well as some members of my host Rotary Club. We grabbed my bags and headed for Hsinchu City, where each of my host families and I went to eat dinner. They threw me right into a traditional Taiwanese meal consisting of fish, tea, intestines, and an oyster omelet. Although it was a bit overwhelming eating unfamiliar food and not completely understanding what people were saying, everyone was extremely friendly and asked me questions about myself and what I wanted to do in Taiwan. After dinner, I went to the home I would be staying in for the next few months with my lovely first host family.
On August 25th, I had my District 3501 Inbound Orientation, where I met around 30 RYE Inbounds from around the globe, six of which were from America. Everyone was so friendly, and I would be attending Chinese language and culture class with 18 of the Inbounds starting on September 11th. The orientation ended that same day and I met my older host sister for the first time, as she was returning from her short-term exchange in Brazil. My host brother would later leave for his exchange to Spain on September 9th and my older host sister began university September 10th, so I currently stay with just my host mom, dad, and younger sister, while still occasionally seeing my older host sister on weekends.
I started school at Cheng De High School on August 30th; I get in a lot of exercise because I must walk up a hill each morning just to reach the school and go down to get to my bus stop. On my first day of school, I had to do a presentation in front of the entire school along with another RYE inbound from Italy. The next day was a national testing day for high schoolers so I mainly spent the day studying Chinese and learning how to write my Chinese name: 沈沛萱 [Shén Pèi-Xuān]. Chinese classes occur each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Tsing Hua University, so I attend Cheng De High School on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. My high school starts at 7:30 AM and ends at 4:50 PM. My schedule each day is different. Unlike the other students who stay in their classroom the entire day, I go to other classes’ elective classes such as home economics, ukulele, traditional Chinese instrument, art, and computers; however, my homeroom is class 501. When I am in my class, I usually study Chinese because I don’t understand much of what the teachers are teaching. On Tuesday, I take two Chinese language courses with the other exchange students and on Thursday, we have one Chinese language course and one Chinese culture course.
This past weekend was a major holiday in Taiwan known as 中秋節 [zhōngqiū jié], or Mid-Autumn Festival. Families often get together and eat mooncake and pomelo while having a barbecue. I went with my host family to Nantou City, where their family lives and we barbecued. It was very exciting to experience a holiday that I haven’t ever celebrated in the United States. I am extremely grateful to Rotary for the opportunity to experience this and future experiences. Honestly, I was very hesitant about taking a gap year to study abroad at the beginning; however, as time progresses, because of the people that I’ve met and my past and future experiences, I know that I made the right choice. I love the people, the culture, the scenery, and the language of Taiwan. 我愛台灣！
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