Cameron, outbound to Taiwan

As I have come to assimilate myself into the daily life of an average Taiwanese, I realize that I love Taiwan, and I never want to leave. 

As some of you may know, I have been living in Taiwan for about two months. As I write this, I cringe at the reality that my exchange year is just that, a year. As I have come to assimilate myself into the daily life of an average Taiwanese, I realize that I love Taiwan and I never want to leave. Sure I have good days (today being one of them) and I most certainly have bad ones, however, there is no denying the fact that Taiwan has become a home to me.

I have become close friends with many Taiwanese, and other exchange students, that it’s hard to imagine how life would be without talking and hanging out with them every day. No matter how in depth I describe my amazing life in Taiwan, there will be always be a little part that is, in a word, indescribable. I guess in some cases, you just have to be there.

This past month has most certainly been one that I will treasure for the rest of my life. It was filled with happiness, Taiwanese food, and more, sooooo much more Taiwanese food. The beginning of the month followed the start of the Taiwanese school year, and with that being said, I can honestly tell you that the Taiwanese school system is COMPLETLEY different from the American school system. In America, my school hours were from 9 a.m to 3:50 pm, but in Taiwan it is common for school to begin at 7:30 and end at 4 p.m. You are probably thinking, “Oh, that’s only an hour and a half more, it’s not that bad” However that is just the time for school and is not considering the countless hours students spend studying, attending before and after school classes and night school.

Night school is just what you think, school at night. To prepare for the seemingly never ending tests, many Taiwanese students go to night school after regular school and stay there for a few more hours (and then go home and study.).In Taiwan, tests are a major factor on the rest of your life, they determine what you can be in life (like a doctor, politician, etc.), and your scores determine which college you go to, or even if you go to college. From my perspective, I feel as if the Taiwanese are too involved in school, that school officials are putting way too much pressure on high school students to memorize textbook by textbook of information and then having a bunch of tests on it. (By typing this, I am in no way criticizing the Taiwanese educational system, I am just stating my observations and opinions.)

Either way, Taiwan has a different method on educating its citizens and I find it interesting comparing the two systems. Since Taiwan has such a rigorous educational system, the exchange students and I usually just sit in our classes (We are separated, each exchange student is in a different class) all day while our classmates study and learn subjects ranging from Physics to G.I.S. To pass the time, I just study Chinese and listen to my music, but it’s still really boring.

The worst part about it is sitting in a classroom filled with people who don’t speak English, is sitting in a room that doesn’t have AC. Let me say, that was by far the hardest thing to get used to, now I just bring a fan and never wear long pants of any kind. (Not even the hottest day in Florida could compare to a mild day in Taiwan!) After each 45 minute class, students get a ten minute break to go to the bathroom, drink water and socialize. (Most don’t because they're to busy cramming for a test)

I have to admit, I really like having ten minutes in between class because you can talk to your friends and just see how everyone is doing, its real fun. On Mondays and Wednesdays the exchange students at my school and a neighboring one attend Chinese class for two hours where we learn everything from tones to characters. Let me say, Chinese is not an easy language to grasp. I`m really struggling right now to learn the language and I`ve talked to other exchange students and they are all in the same boat as me.

The hardest part is the vocabulary as it sounds nothing like English (totally different sounds are used) and when the Taiwanese speak, they speak really fast and it sounds as if they are speaking gibberish (I still think they are…). Although the language is really difficult, who learned CHINESE (arguably the hardest language in the world) right off the bat in the first two months? So I’m studying as hard as ever because I really want to learn Chinese because it is so rewarding when you can have actual conversations with the Taiwanese, I love it!

Even though the language is a little challenging and school is a little boring, I am having a blast! The weekends are what I live for in Taiwan, they are like mini vacations every week! Usually on the weekends, my family takes me all over Taiwan to sight see and have fun! Matter of fact, Just last week my parents took me on a weekend vacation to Taipei for Taiwanese Independence day! (Taiwanese Independence day is similar to the 4th of July).

While in Taipei I spent the day with Juliana (The other RYE Florida outbound, she lives in Taipei) where we shopped, hung out with some of her Taipei exchange student friends (who were unbelievably cool) and ate at Modern Toilet. You probably read that and said “Modern Toilet, what in the world is that?” Well to answer your question, it is a toilet themed restaurant where everything is toilet themed, even the seats which were real toilets! (a must go to place for all future outbounds).

It was beyond awesome meeting up with her and visiting Taipei! The rest of the weekend was spent visiting Shi Fen and Jiu Fen, two cities that are situated in the mountains. It was beyond beautiful; the city was surrounded by mountains and the ocean which made for a very scenic city . We went to these two cities because Shi Fen is famous for lanterns (My family and I bought one, designed it and then released it like a balloon!) and Jiu Fen is famous for being a mining city! I actually went inside mountain through a mine shaft, it was beyond cool and I loved it!

It was such a fun weekend that I wouldn’t trade for the world! Although I don’t travel to Taipei my family always takes me somewhere on the weekend like the night market or a temple which I like because it means I`m always busy! Even when my family doesn’t take me somewhere (which strangely, doesn’t happen very often) I`m always going out and visiting Kaohsiung with all the other exchange students who have become a second family to me.

Even though this journal wasn’t as long as I wanted it to be it still serves its purpose which is to tell you how much I love Taiwan!!! Right now, I'm having the time of my life in Taiwan, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I will post again real soon about the differences of Taiwan and America (There are so many!) but until then, zaijian!