Liam, Outbound to Taiwan

So I’ve been in Taiwan for about 6 weeks. I don’t know if that news will shock you but it absolutely STUNNED me. My first month of 10 went by like THAT. It’s kind of made me realize the power of youth exchange. Sometimes I just think about how wonderful and strange of an experience this is. Not only because I’m a teenager living in a foreign country where literally everything is different and I am far, far away from my comfort zone; but also because of how much I have learned in such a short amount of time: about Taiwan, about (former) strangers, about the world, about making friends, about myself, etc. Point is: I’ve been here 6 weeks and it feels like 12. It’s absolutely bonkers to think that a little more than a month ago I was still a boy in Florida who spoke a little Chinese, but over the course of about 42 days I’ve animorphed into a Floridian boy living in Taiwan who speaks a bit more Chinese. The key word here is living. In the past 6 weeks I’ve begun to actually live, halfway around the world from the place I grew up. What I mean by this is that I go to school, I buy breakfast, I do homework, I hang out with friends, etc. However, I won’t go and pretend that everything is just life as usual: I get strange looks no matter who, what, when, where, and why, I don’t know what anybody is saying half the time, and I CONSTANTLY make mistakes. The way I live is DEFINITELY not ordinary, but I live in Taiwan.

With that being said, let’s talk about my life in Taiwan: is it everything the movies said it would be? Well, funny enough… yeah. One movie in particular, Outsourced–a movie very familiar to the exchange students of RYE Florida–actually pretty much hit the nail on the head with regards to culture shock, which I absolutely did NOT expect. To very quickly summarize, the main character in the movie moves to India and at first has a bad mindset that makes it hard for him to adapt, but as the movie progresses he realizes that he’s the one who change–not the people around him. When I first saw the movie, I kinda just wrote it off and assume it would never happen to me. I mean, I’m not a mean person and to just offhandedly reject another culture is a very mean thing to do. Little did I know, it would actually be exactly what would happen to me For the first day or so of my exchange, I had a pretty ethnocentric take on a lot of the things I experienced. As time progressed, I began to realize this and quickly corrected my mindset. A lot of the things I rejected at first because I feared them I now use daily. Moral of the story: anyone can get culture shock and respond negatively to it, and if you don’t think it’ll happen to you then it almost certainly will in some way or another.

So why am I sharing this? Isn’t this blog supposed to be about all the cute experiences I’ve had over the past 6 weeks? Absolutely for what reason would I possibly want the world wide web to know that when I first arrived I had a really bad attitude? Actually, it’s because I’ve begun to cherish making mistakes. Which, honestly, is a skill you really have to learn when you’re an exchange student, because exchange students make a LOT of mistakes–ESPECIALLY this exchange student in particular. For every day I’ve been here I’ve made at least a dozen mistakes. You might think that this many failures would leave me feeling sad and hopeless, and if you had asked me a few weeks ago, you’d have been absolutely correct. At first, everytime I made a mistake I would come home sad and just incessantly dwell on them. Eventually, however, I realized that the entire reason for my being here was to make mistakes. A year ago, when I first started my application, my goal was to learn a foreign language and a foreign culture, and return as a true citizen of the world. Of course, this is still my goal, and that I now have come to realize that to do this without making mistakes is simply not possible. So instead of dwelling on how embarrassing all those little tiny mistakes were, I choose to focus on what I learned from them.

So you might have noticed that in this blog I talked a lot ABOUT my time in Taiwan but I kinda skimped out when it came to giving specific details. You might have also noticed that this is my September blog and I’m posting it in October… whoops. For the first issue, all I can say is that I already have so many stories and experiences in Taiwan that I couldn’t imagine trying to pack them into one post. To make up for it, I’ll attach some pictures to give you a bit of a better idea of what my life looks like. As for the second issue, the tardiness… well, yeah. Really the main reason why this blog took so long to get up is because I took so long trying to perfect it. Eventually I realized that I’d rather have a couple good blogs than one absolutely perfect one–so here we are. The whole perfectionism thing is something that I’ve actually felt improving a lot since I arrived in Taiwan, so maybe next time I’ll post my blog at a more appropriate time… who knows. Anywho, the first 10 percent or so of my exchange has just wrapped up and I’m so grateful to the past version of myself that decided to apply for the program in the first place; but more than that, I’m grateful to Rotary for even making the program in the first place and providing me with the help of all the many people who put me here.

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