5.5 months in Taipei, Taiwan. 5.5 months of learning. 5.5 months of experiencing. 5.5 months of adventure.
As I'm writing this blog post in my cozy room back home in California, I can't help but be overwhelmed with emotions. For as long as I can remember, traveling brought me the utmost of excitement. As I grew older and became more independent, I realized I wanted to go live abroad. I wanted to experience what living on my own was like and what it feels like to immerse myself in a completely new environment. Thus, I decided to go study abroad in Taipei, Taiwan for one semester.
Before going to study abroad, I had to fill out the application, make sure I fulfilled all the health requirements, gather all the documents necessary, and prepare for my life overseas. As I decided on going in the fall, I had all summer to prep myself for this long trip! It took months of going back and forth with my home university, university in Taiwan, and my professors; but once I was done, all I had left to do was pack and mentally prepare myself. Next thing you know, summer was over and I was heading to my new chapter abroad.
Adjusting: Housing & Roommates:
At first I thought it would take a long time for me to be able to adjust to living on my own. I commuted my whole college career, so I never knew what it was like to live in the dorms or my own apartment. I decided to stay in the off-campus dorms in a double-room with a roommate. We didn't get to choose our roommates, but luckily I became friends with the sweetest girl from Germany! Having that much shared space was definitely new and there were lots of things that I had to adjust to, but it wasn't a terrible experience like I feared. I learned that communication is key and it's best to get to know each other in the very beginning!
School Life at National Taiwan University
I definitely lucked out during my study abroad semester. I was taking 7 classes, which seems like a lot. However, they all fell on Wednesday and Thursday - leaving me pretty much a five day weekend to go travel and do as I pleased. My classes were generally on par if not easier than my classes at my home university. I took fun classes like "Film and Social Culture" and "Women in Taiwanese Society." Instead of taking a general language class, I decided to take classes that helped improve my Chinese but in a specific area like "Business Chinese" and "Practical Chinese for Tourism." Yet one of my favorite experiences at NTU would be the International Companions for Learning experience! This class helped link international students like myself with local Taiwanese elementary and middle school students. We had Skype sessions every week and even a field trip to visit them in person! To be honest, your time during study abroad is all about finding a balance between your academics and having fun. Once you find that balance, nothing can stop you!!!
Many students bought bikes to get to and around school since the campus itself is massive. I decided not to buy a bike since I wanted to enjoy walking around the campus and take the environment in. Yet, little did I realize that would be a mistake ... it can get extremely tiring due to the heat and how far your classes are from each other. Towards the end of my stay, I rented a U Bike for the experience and man, is it easier.
There's quite a couple different food courts on campus as well. If you're ever hungry, fear not because a convenience store or cafe is nearby. During lunch hours, you can buy delicious and filling lunch boxes for around $1.25 just outside the convenience stores!
I found making friends was generally pretty easy. Being a study abroad student, people tend to be more open to meeting new people! I met some of my closest friends via orientation and the student buddy programs. Because we're all from different countries, we had to use common languages like English and Mandarin to speak to one another; so this is definitely the time to brush up on your language skills! I was a part of the UCEAP program, which gave me the opportunity to meet other students from different UC schools!
Aside from school, I found myself exploring all over Taipei. The public transportation system in Taiwan is amazing. It's incredibly cheap to get around via subway (MRT), bus, and taxi (if you're feeling a little more high-roller). I honestly did not miss driving a car because of how efficient public transport was.
On days when I didn't have class, I'd go find cute cafes to study at, go to museums, visit touristy spots, go to the night market, or taking small trips. Since Taiwan is a small island, it's easy to get from place to place using the High Speed Rail and buses!
Overall I had truly a life changing experience. This was hands-down the best moment of my college career. Instead of staying in California, I was able to truly immerse myself into a new environment. I met people I wouldn't have had the chance to meet had I stayed. I improved my Mandarin skills and am now comfortable speaking, reading, and writing. I've learned so much about myself and who I am, and for that I am grateful.