Getting Settled in Taipei

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Greetings from Taiwan! My name is Jackie Hardwick, and I am an FEA CET Access Partner Scholar currently participating in the CET Taiwan program. As of right now, I’m two weeks into my ten-week study-abroad experience. For this blog, I plan on using this medium to reflect on my changing perspectives and priorities while I am abroad. So, I’ll mostly chronologically maintain my work. Here’s how my first two weeks have been!

Immediately after landing at Taoyuan International Airport, CET kept all of the students in this program booked and busy. After retrieving my program documents, sim card, and apartment keys, I went to my apartment to meet my roommates and sleep off any jet lag. I thought I would be more nervous during the plane ride into Taipei, or even going through customs, but no. The height of my anxiety happened during the taxi ride to my apartment. It is not my first study abroad experience, and I’m no stranger to being in a new environment, but this was different. It was hard to verbalize where my anxiety was coming from, even if some of it was excitement.

Once I got to my apartment, I introduced myself briefly to my five new roommates, and we all headed straight to bed. After that, orientation began. Among the whirlwind of presentations and safety briefings, I connected with my roommates and others in the program. We sat in restaurants near the NTU campus (台大學), trading stories and sharing why we came to Taipei. Over bowls of beef noodles (牛肉麵), my roommates and I bonded quickly, united in our efforts to ‘explain America’ to our one local Taiwanese roommate. I also had the opportunity to meet my assigned language partner, someone who I’ll explore Taiwan with throughout the program. Although I underestimated the weather here severely, (it’s insanely hot y’all), I got settled quickly. And therein lies my initial anxiety. I was worried that I would never feel settled in my new environment.

I realized that it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve studied abroad. I have always placed a lot of pride in my ability to make friends and bond with people, but that has been in spaces where there is always a sense of familiarity. Whether it be a similar language, similar lived experiences, or similar goals. In Taipei, I worried that my identity or goals would be exponentially different from the people I would meet. During these two weeks, I found that my worries were unfounded. I have already made connections with both locals and other program members, and I know they will be long-lasting. My language journey, lived experiences, and goals simply bring a unique perspective to the conversations I have, and I can’t wait to continue building these relationships.

So far, I’ve managed to do a lot despite being here for only a few days. My roommates and I decided to have our first official apartment dinner at Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), the famous dumpling restaurant. It was a cool experience, (especially the robotic waiters), and since we ate at the Taipei 101 location, we explored the area. On another night, I tagged along with one of my roommates and her friends to a Sodagreen (蘇打綠) concert held at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念堂). Concert culture in Taiwan is much different than in America. Despite the crowd being the largest I’ve seen, it was a very relaxed environment. The concert was free, and many of the concertgoers seemed to casually arrive after work or school. It was nice, just being a sea of people enjoying the music and softly singing along.

I also had to stop by the hospital super quickly the other day. I am extremely allergic to pollen, and my allergies were acting out badly. So my program administrator advised me to stop by the hospital and get some medicine. The process was much smoother than it would have been in America. After registering myself in the hospital system, I was seen by a doctor immediately, given an allergy shot, and sent to the pharmacy across the hall to grab my medicine for the rest of the week. The whole process took around 2 hours. I was shocked to see how different the medical system worked in the US.

Aside from that, classes and internships have begun. Between the size of my textbook, the language pledge I made, and the speed of the class, I’m pretty intimidated by the NTU CLD program. But I’m excited to see my growth, and my class is super fun, so I have high hopes. In terms of my internship, I got an offer right before I flew into Taipei. I’ll be interning at the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange (Fulbright Taiwan)! My main role will be serving as an advisor to local high school and undergraduate students. I’ll assist them with application essays for colleges and universities in the United States. I will also assist in the maintenance of the EducationUSA website and social media platforms, which is a program that often collaborates with Fulbright Taiwan to help local students study abroad in America. I still have to figure out my work schedule and the exact projects my supervisors want me to complete, but I start my position in about two weeks, so I’ll find out soon. Very hyped, to say the least.

And that has been my first two weeks in Taipei! I hope you stick around to read my upcoming blog posts and follow along as I explore Taiwan!