I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I’ve been in Taiwan! I realized that my past posts really haven’t been about my life in Taipei. So to update in brief:
Housing. I was surprised by how fierce and quick competition can be to get a place here in Taipei. I was lucky to find a place that’s only a 15 min walk to classes, 5 minutes to the MRT and to a huge park, and within walking distance to friends’ apartments. I live in a 4bd/2br apt on the 7th floor, and can see Taipei 101 from my bedroom. I live with three 20-somethings that all speak Chinese (and English). Our schedules don’t really overlap, so I don’t get to see them much, but whenever they are around, you can bet I am practicing my Chinese! So glad that my living situation worked out the way I had hoped for.
Social. It’s been only a month, but I’ve met countless people from all over the world though mainly from EUR, AUS, and NZ and some from JP and the States. It’s such an amazing thing to be able to learn about everyone’s background, goals, etc whether during meals, sports (already played some soccer while here), sightseeing, or a night out on the town!
School. The purpose of why I’m here. Homework is intense, but definitely manageable. I’m getting more comfortable using Chinese on a day-to-day basis, and I know my tones are getting crisper. The no-pressure feeling to succeed also helps ease the stress.
Today marked the end of my second week of language class at National Taiwan University. It feels weird being a student once again. I’ve studied abroad before in both Tokyo and Shanghai, but this time is different since the grades are just that – an indicator of progress. They’re not going to be transferred to my home uni or looked over by grad school admissions.
I chose to come to come to Taiwan for a number of reasons:
- to learn traditional characters
- to get a different perspective of cross-strait relations
- to climb some mountains
- to visit the beaches
- to use the island as a base for traveling throughout Asia
- to increase my fluency in speaking, listening, and reading Chinese
Given that the grades I receive are only self-serving, I’ve found it a little hard to not lose sight of my main goal. When I told my school’s program director of my short-term goals of passing the proficiency test, she pretty much laughed and told me that if that’s my goal, I really don’t need to be in Taiwan (or Mainland China) to pass the test. This was de-motivating to say the least, but only for a moment.
I considered dropping out, but realized, why quit so soon? Its been a personal-goal of mine to be fluent in another language. Why I chose to stick with Chinese, and not go for an easier language, I don’t know. I had come so far, how could I let a little blip ruin what I’ve planned? Improving language skills, like every other skill, really comes down to self-motivation. So to keep me motivated with my language study, I created a study-plan that I hope will help me get the most out of my stay here. Sure, it might not help me achieve my goal to be business proficient, but at least it’ll provide some structure to learning this incredibly hard language.
I did it! I can’t believe I’m actually here! After deplaning, I picked up my luggage, exchanged my money, and headed out to catch the bus to the city. During the hourlong bus ride, I made several first impressions about my new home:
- It’s hot and humid! I knew that I’d be in the tropics, but didn’t realize it was going to be THIS humid.
- This place reminds me of the East Side of the Big Island. Everything is green. Probably due to the rain, a lot of the buildings look run down.
After getting to Taipei Main Station, I made my way through the maze of this massive building for my metro. Although carrying my luggage with me was an inconvenience, I managed to find the train, bought my EasyCard, and hopped on. Three stops later I arrived at Guting station, found my hostel, and checked-in.
I’m staying at Eight Elephants Hostel for a week. I’m in a single, but besides the room itself, everything else is shared. This place has a real homey vibe to it! I’ve already met a bunch of people: some on holiday, some students like myself. My only plan for this week is to find housing, and perhaps a job teaching English. Besides that, I’m really just going to play it by ear and go with the flow – I love this feeling.
I finally took the plunge. The decision was without a doubt one of the riskiest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. The feeling still hasn’t completely settled in; it’s still surreal. I’ve learned that the hardest part of following your heart and your true interests is really the commitment to follow through. Sure, I saved up for nearly two years to make pursuing my interests possible, but having a financial safety net means nothing if you don’t actually execute on what you’ve been hoping to do.
It’s so easy to just give up, and postpone following your heart for another day.
I knew that given my current circumstances, now was the right time to do something that I might never be able to do when I’m older. Ironically enough, earlier this week I was given an open offer to work in our Singapore office following the end of my program. I’d like to believe that this goes to show that life is really about taking risks and following your heart. It might be scary when facing the unknown, but somehow the universe has a tendency of providing us with what we need at the right time. I cannot express how grateful, lucky, and appreciative I am for how everything has worked out.
But anyway, I still can’t believe that within several weeks, I’ll be going to a foreign country knowing nobody, looking for housing, enrolling in a language program, finding a part-time job, and most importantly, meeting new people from around the world! The thought of all of this kind of scares me. Actually, it scares me a lot; however, I’m sure that without a doubt, my time there will be an experience filled with memories that’ll last a lifetime!