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.

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