Ming Chuan University, Taoyuan Campus, Gueishan, Taiwan, Monday 12 o'clock. I just finished my Chinese conversation classes where I finally learned how to say "a bit spicy" in Chinese (it will make my life much easier). Now I have to hurry to Restaurant II to have a quick lunch there (I hope they will have sweet potatoes today-I love them). Right after the lunch I will have my leadership class (there will always be interesting discussions involved). Today is a busy day as later I will have a handball practice with the team and a group meeting for the Cross-cultural communication classes. My friends from Korea just called me and I will also probably play basketball with them in the evening today. That is how my typical day at MCU looks like. Some would say it is extremely busy but I think it is normal here; everyone tries to be as active as possible. Walking around MCU Taoyuan Campus you will realize that people around you always look involved in something. It could be a sport, students' club or simply just a conversation with their friends. I think that atmosphere of participation is common in MCU and that's what makes it easier for us foreigners to adapt. As an exchange student at MCU I learned that every meeting, no matter if it takes place in the classroom or just in the elevator on the way to it, is a part of studying process. I was lucky to pick classes that enable me to exchange ideas and opinions with both other foreign and local students. And that is what makes the whole difference from studying somewhere else. Of course studying here at MCU and Taiwan in general, you have to be prepared for a cultural shock. You will probably miss-order a squid instead of chicken, your sense of smell will be brutally attacked by the smell of stinky tofu, and it will take a while until you get use to packs of scooters passing you on your way to the campus. However, when the shock goes away you will see how convenient and friendly MCU and Taiwan in general is. The best example to support my words is the fact that even though I miss home I don't count days to the end of semester because even I do want to come home but I am eager to use all the opportunities given me by the fact where I am.
My first impression about Taiwan was that everything is completely different. Things like food, life style, people's behavior, weather are so much different from European style. From the very beginning I knew that I will gain a lot of new experience here. First of all, it was really hard to get used to that life is so much different. On the other hand it was so interesting to learn so many new things. What is more, even thought that I has been in Taiwan for almost two months I am still learning new things. What is amazing, Taiwan is so interesting for foreigners, especially for those ones from Western Europe, that I do not miss my country so much. At the beginning it may look like really scary, that when you arrive in Taiwan, many miles away from home, you have to face the fact that you life will look completely different than it used to be. However, you will not be left on your own. If you have a problem, there is always somebody that will help you. Of course that there are some language difficulties but people are really helpful and friendly. Not only people are amazing in Taiwan but also nature. Taiwan, although is a small island, there are many really beautiful places. There are a lot of spots that can take ones breath away. What is more, in my opinion you should have at least half a year to see the most famous places, but it is enough only for those really, really famous ones. Taiwan is really interesting but my main objective is to study here. The Ming Chuan University is really nice place to gain more knowledge. First of all, the staff that take care of foreign students are really helpful and what is more, they are flexible. They will help you to make you stay as convenient as it is possible. You can find really interesting courses, like i.e. Leadership or Chinese classes. The best ones are of course those ones with small groups, where you can share you ideas with you school mates, because this is the best way to get to know Taiwanese culture. What is more the campus is really convenient, there is all you need in one place: dormitories, gym hall, faculty buildings, restaurants, spots to meet friends and have some rest, etc. To sum up, I think that the most important thing if studies are to gain as much experience as possible and MCU gives is a really good opportunity to do this.
Studying in Taiwan is an amazing and refreshing experience for all of us. For European students every single day is a new challenge because the Asian way of life is so different compared to what we know from our western countries: the everyday life, the culture, the food or even the life on campus. In Europe, students leave the campus when they have finished their classes. Here in Taiwan students enjoy being together and sharing their free time with the community. As an exchange student committed in different after school clubs, I really appreciate to be a part of the "MCU-family" even for a short period of time. On the weekends I usually travel throughout Taiwan with friends from all over the globe to explore the colourful countryside or the Asian culture in general. There are so many awesome and beautiful places like the Sun Moon Lake, Taroko Gorge, Green Island or Taipei 101, the world's highest building. Taiwan impressively reflects the large variety of the whole Asian countryside: dirty, noisy and crowded cities on the one hand and relaxing, isolated, natural paradises on the other – whatever you're looking for, you can find it. Studying in Taiwan is a perfect connection for both, getting to know the Asian way of life and exploring a beautiful non-touristy landscape. After all I can say that I enjoy my life over here with every breath that I take.
Before I came to Taiwan, I was searching for information about the country which should be my new home for the next 6 months. What I found was an advertisement which said "Taiwan will touch your heart!" It showed the most beautiful parts and the most known sights of the country so that I had my first impression. When I arrived at the airport and had my first ride through my new neighborhood, totally tired after the flight but totally excited too, I asked myself if it was really the right decision going to a country I cannot read the signs, I cannot speak the language and I never had any experiences with. But quite fast I noticed that I will learn here more than expected. I already had a lot of experiences with local people as well as other international students from all over the world. Because of them, it was worth choosing Taiwan. For example, even when I cannot communicate with some local people because of a lack of language skills, I can solve all the problems I had here. Another great experience which is sure a unique one is the feeling you have walking over the campus as an international student at MCU. So many people say "Hello!" or send you a nice smile,which makes you really feel like welcomed. Or another example of the life of international students on the campus was a barbeque we had together with freshmen. We Europeans had to stand at least 30min smiling because everyone wants to take a picture with you and everyone is so happy to see you here. I can tell much more stories like that and because of these stories now I'm definitely saying: Taiwan touched my heart!!!
I was feeling a little hesitant. The Chair of the Asian and Asian American Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach had assured me multiple times; there will be someone at the airport to pick you up. But as I stepped off the plane, after I adjusted to the humidity and the unfamiliar smells, I wasn't sure where to look for my alleged designated "Greeters." Down the escalator to the baggage claim, those standing idly move off to the right, those in a hurry shuffle down the left hand side. "Aha! There's a system…" I couldn't help but be impressed, and although it was my first recognition of it, it surely would not be my last. Bags in hand, I move through immigration, hesitantly show my Visa (terrible picture, even for a Visa, the guy wouldn't let me take it again), and then off to look for someone who is also looking for me. Nope. Not to the left hand side. Not over by the soda machines, not by the taxi drivers aggressively beckoning alongside the curb. Hmmm….Ah yes, there they are, two excited and hospitable MCU students, holding the sign "Welcome Candace Angelica Walsh, California State University, Long Beach!!!" I have encountered this sort of pleasant surprise feeling over and over again in the short one and a half months I have been in Taiwan. From the friendly students at Ming Chuan University, to the bus driver at Sun Moon Lake hooking us up with cheap (not to mention awesome) accommodations, to my new friend Clark Kent (guess who he's named after?) who called his mom to pick him and I up at the bus stop when the number 15 was a half hour late. Thanks, Superman! I came to Taiwan to study Chinese; I did not realize I would be getting such a cultural education in conjunction with that. Again, pleasantly surprised, I will press on this year discovering all that this country has to offer me, hopefully becoming a more enriched person for it when my time here is done. Okay, I will never try Stinky Tofu, but can you blame me?
Everything worked like clockwork back at home. I was comfortable in my own little world; there was no reason for me to change it. When I heard of this great opportunity to study in Taiwan at Ming Chuan University, I could not refuse it. I changed my plans and postponed my graduation. Arriving at Ming Chuan, I was actually surprised by the amount of international students there were. I enjoyed making new friends from different countries and hearing about their lives. I am not proud to say this, but talking to them made me realize how unaware I was about the world beyond my own. They know so much not only of their own country, but others as well. When people ask me where I come from, I have a hard time answering the question. I struggle with my own identity whenever I am asked this question. I know I am American because I was born there, but what makes me truly an American? Sometimes people ask me why I am an American when I look Taiwanese, and I do not know what to tell them. Do I tell them that my parents are from Vietnam, or should I even tell them I am American? When I say I am one or the other, I feel like I am denying a part of who I am. In the United States, politicians always say the world is a dangerous place, but when I arrived in Taiwan I did not feel the same way, people are so nice here. They are always more than willing to help someone in need. When my friends and I wanted to take the Jio Jio bus back to Ming Chuan, a lady went out of her way to help us find it. She called her friend, walked us to the bus stop, and back to the Taipei Main Station when we could not find it. I know back home, people would not go out of their way to help anyone. I know this experience will allow me to grow, both intellectually and personally. I am here for more than my education. I am here to make friends with people from around the world and to learn more about myself. This is my first experience living on my own and to rely only on myself for support. I noticed how much I have grown as a person since I've been here. I know my experience in Taiwan and Ming Chuan is only getting started. I still do not know what to expect from this, but I know I want to leave this experience being a better person. When summer comes and it is time for me to leave, I will miss this country and all the friends I've made. I will miss walking down the hill to the bakeries, the amazing view from my classroom, and I will even miss the big hike up the hill every morning.
It's been almost two months since I have arrived in Taiwan. After living in a foreign country, I realized how culturally unaware I am. When I arrived in Taiwan, I realized I had to be more open to new things and try to adjust to their lifestyle. I found it very difficult because I have lived in America all my life and never lived outside of California. Therefore coming to Taiwan was a big step for me, I felt scared because I did not know what to expect. But Taiwan really exceeded my expectations because the people were friendly, the food is excellent, and the night life is wonderful. They are also very friendly because whenever I was lost, someone would go out of their way to help me. When we arrived at Ming Chuan University, I was amazed at how small it was because my home school, California State University- Long Beach is really big. But I like the small school atmosphere because I feel that there is more individual attention among the professors and the staff on campus. It was also easier to make friends because the school was so small that you would see them around during the breaks. I love the diversities in school because I met so many foreigners from various parts of the world that I have never heard of. It is great to meet so many people from around the globe because it has made me more culturally aware. I found that language was the most difficult part of my adventure here. I have met many local students but it was difficult to speak to them because of communication barriers. Luckily I knew enough Chinese to get me by, but with certain situations it was difficult to communicate. What truly amazed me was how many of the local Taiwanese were able to speak a little bit of English. It was difficult to adjust when I first arrived, but with great support from my new friends I feel that I have adjusted quite well.
Time passes so fast, and without realizing it, my life in MCU has begun. I arrived in Taiwan on the 3rd of September, together with another exchange student. When we arrived at Taiwan, everything is covered with Chinese characters which I am not familiar with. However, I am quite familiar with the country Taiwan because I have been hearing about Taiwan from one of my best friend. I met him in New Zealand and we have kept in touch since then. He taught me about this country. Afterwards, I am interested in Taiwan. Most of Taiwanese are very friendly and there are a lot of cuisines to fit my appetite. Beside that, I also wanted to learn Chinese language and it is one of the reasons I choose MCU. Because IC is an English program, so we use English in class. But outside the class, during free time, I can learn Chinese. Most of professors are very passionate too. They teach us to study not only for good grades and scholarships but also to learn "How to live our life more valuable". Sometimes, among friends, we can misunderstand each other. Nonetheless, we apologized soon to each other. After that, we can still work on together as good friends. Many people said to me, "It is such a good opportunity to learn foreign language and make good friends. You will have a broader vision of the world. I have been in Taiwan for only 2 month, but I like here very much. And I am looking forward to do a lot of things with local friends. This year will be the most memorable time of my life.
When I first arrived at Taiwan everything was unusual for me: weather, food, people, and the nature. In Moscow we do not have typhoons and earthquakes! When the weather got a little cold, my Taiwanese friends asked me don't I feel cold, and were really surprised to hear that this weather for me is pretty warm. Taiwanese people are really friendly; they are ready to help me, to introduce their culture. Sometimes we go together to a night market and enjoy ourselves. One day we went to see night view on Tao Yuan City. It is really breathtaking! Two weeks ago we went to Xinzhu with PTPI-travel club. It was a very nice trip! First we visited small glass factory and had an opportunity to do glass vases by ourselves. Then we went to Tea House and enjoyed tea ceremony. It was a special kind of Hakka tea. I also liked Moon Festival! We had good time while celebrating with international students. There was a lot delicious food and funny competitions. Everyday, I discover your wonderful country!
I am Widdy. I came from Hong Kong. Actually, this is my first time to go to Taiwan and to study overseas. It is quite exciting for me. I can meet different kind of people. For example, I need to use English to talk to the Polish; I need to use Mandarin to talk to the Taiwanese. Sometimes, I even need to use body languages to communicate with the Koreans. In Hong Kong, I just use Cantonese to talk with my friends. It is quite challenging for me to use several languages to communicate with others. And it is difficult for me to use English because it isn't my mother language. However, the Germans told me that to speak it is the only way to learn English. I am sure after this semester, I can do it better! I really enjoy being a Ming Chuan University student. Ming Chuan University gives me a great chance to learn more. Not just in the class, but also after school. I have learnt how to use money in an efficient way, how to clean our room immaculately, how to use the "right" body language, how to say "hello" in different languages….Ming Chuan University gives me a lot. Thanks you so much!
In this exchange program, I am really happy to make many friends from different countries, such as Korea, America, Mongolia, Poland and so on. At the same time, using both English and Mandarin to communicate to others without my native tongue, Cantonese, is also challenging to me, although both languages are official in Hong Kong. Of course, after this trip, I believe my speech in mandarin will have a great progression. Besides, staying with Korean makes me feeling comfortable as well. Because they are nice and respect the others habit. And I appreciate them very much when seeing them really work hard in learning Mandarin and their progression. But the happiest thing to me is meeting many Taiwanese friends here. They are passionate, nice, helpful and hospitable. And the surprise to me is their speech and language also great. Additionally, they brought us to different places, ranging from Taichung and Kaohsiung. Those trips let me know and visit more traditions and places in Taiwan. And I admire the patience of the Taiwanese, as they always try their best to understand and listen what we talking about, even rectifying our words. And I really thank for them.