One Month in Taipei – This is What I’ve Learned!

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Yesterday marked the end of my first month in Taiwan! This has been one of the most challenging opportunities I have ventured into.

The first challenge comes with confronting my expectations–as a high-achieving learner, I expected to start speaking Chinese within the first hour of arriving. Which I (kind of) did— the taxi driver was phenomenal at making us feel at home and obviously told us (another CET student and myself) that our Chinese was “很好”. However, things changed very quickly. To make the long story short:

I went out right after I organized my belongings. I was in search of a Catholic parish and my first Taiwanese meal. My first destination was a very chill restaurant. But it was a very awkward experience: I went to the shop, the attendant asked me what I wanted (or that’s what I think I heard), and I froze. He proceeded by pointing at the menu, to which I pointed back putting my finger on the food I wanted. He pointed to the seating area, telling me to take a seat, and I did. It was technically a silent exchange.

This was a crazy experience for me because it challenged my confidence in my ability to speak Chinese. Very quickly I realized that I knew nothing about Chinese. Obviously, I am exaggerating. But that’s what I felt at the moment and how I feel about the moment now. I do not think it is bad to think of that experience through such a lens. In fact, I love to think of it that way because it reminds me of the wake-up call I had as soon as I arrived. Fast forward, I know that people will be kind to help me but not everyone is my teacher. I need to be auto-sufficient and independent in my methods of learning Chinese. Here we would say 自發自動.

On the other hand, I also learned that I can’t do everything on my own. Coming to Taiwan, I expected to be independent, as I have always been (to the extent possible). Here in Taipei, I learned to be independent in a new way while also realizing that I can not do everything on my own. How do I know that?

I know because I was feeling highly insecure just about two days after being in Taipei. I was feeling insecure because my confidence came from my achievements and my ability to help others. In the states, I was used to being a student leader, a student-worker, and in general a very hard-working person. Arriving in Taipei, I had none of these labels on me: I am not in any formal leadership positions, I am not working, and I no longer have the pressure to do a million things other than study. As a result, I lacked confidence. It was very hard for me. But I was able to open up about it. In the end, I know that my confidence comes from the Lord, my God. I learned to continue to depend on my God and also take initiative to accomplish my goals. As one very wise person said to me as I told him my troubles, remember where your confidence comes from and be flexible. Don’t let your way of doing things be too simple, otherwise, you will crumble.

If you are preparing to study abroad, be ready to confront yourself: your beliefs about yourself and the perceptions you have of others. Don’t be simple in your ways of managing things, and remember that God is perfect in all His ways.

The picture above is from a chill trip to 淡水, which is located at the end of Taipei’s Red Line. If you’re in Taipei, you definitely have to go. The breeze near the ocean is beautiful and the food and snacks from the vendor stands are 非吃不可!

See you next time!