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.

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