Welcome to my final blog post!
My study abroad program ended last week, but I am still in Taiwan for a while, so I can enjoy Taipei for a bit longer.
How to end this blog?
To start, the final exams definitely required much studying, but were doable in the end. I really like the Language Practicum final, for which each student in my program prepared a presentation about anything they wanted and spoke for five minutes in Chinese. It was neat to learn more about my classmates and what they had learned about Taiwan, or from their experiences here. I spoke about how Taiwan is a good place for introverts to live—a surprising thing to learn about such a big city where people are everywhere! But here there’s no painful tendency toward small talk or pressure to eat with big groups of people. That’s not to say that Taiwanese people aren’t friendly, though! Everyone I’ve met here has been good to me.
The last few weeks of the program were full of studying, eating, and taking breaks from studying by going out to night markets, cafes (there’s a really cute one in Ximen that’s Alice in Wonderland-themed!), and watching movies (the U2 theater in Ximen lets you rent a small private theater where you can choose from hundreds of movies and enjoy a theater movie experience with just a few friends—we watched 我的少女時代 (“Our Times”), which is a really well-known Taiwanese movie that came out in 2015). I also went to Hualien with a group of friends, and it was beautiful there! In Hualien we walked on the beach, hiked in Taroko National Park, and ate ten pounds of food at a local night market. There was a big farewell party/dinner during the last week of the program, and then people started to head home—strange, after thinking of NCCU as our home for the past semester.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to meet new friends—Taiwanese, American, and from all around the world—and to learn from them. Through talking with them and hanging out, going on adventures together, I’ve learned a lot about different cultures, and I think that’s one of the most valuable things about studying abroad. We can learn from reading the news and watching television at home, but going across the world to another country to experience what we read about for ourselves brings us to a whole new level of understanding and appreciation. Learning about another culture also helped me to look back at my own life and habits in the U.S. in a different way and not take those customs as givens.
Time passes too quickly when you’re having fun. One moment you’re stepping out into the humidity of Taiwan from Taoyuan International Airport and the next minute you’re saying good-bye to people you’ve seen almost every day for the past three months who you might not see again for a long time. Studying abroad is full of ups and downs, but it’s been one of the most transformative experiences in my life. I know that when I come back to Taiwan in the future (and I will!!) I’ll be looking at it in a whole new way.