The semester is over, and with it I have safely tucked away all of the memories it has given me. It has been a time of ups and downs as with many other things in life. As I predicted at the beginning of the semester, I am a different person with a new perspective on the world.
Without a doubt the best part of the first leg of my study abroad year was the combination of many small events. These include the many times I was engaging with not only Taiwanese students, but others from all around the world. I went on many trips and joined a few groups, so I can confidently say that I got the most out of this semester. Focusing on studies as well as the entire international experience was challenging, but I welcomed it openly and used it to my advantage to gain a more solid foundation in achieving my goals.
Speaking of academics, classes were probably the hardest part of this journey. I took on a full load of engineering coursework. Although I am fluent in Chinese, I found knowing a language and being able to apply it are two almost entirely different things. Take the example of going to office hours. This is something I took advantage of while at OU, but having to explain your question about an equation in your second language really pushes language learning. However, this challenge has let me achieve a level of fluency that I could find through few other opportunities.
Looking forward and in reverse, I find that the next semester is approaching quickly and that thanks to my time in Taiwan I am all the more prepared to tackle new adventures on my bucket list. I’m sure I will learn countless new things on later trips, but this first one might provide the foundation I need to achieve a unique experience. My study abroad year might be almost halfway over already, but I feel like it has just started!
The past month or so has not only been about studying and preparing for finals, but also about enjoying different holidays. Here’s some information about what winter holidays are like in Taiwan.
Christmas isn’t as widely celebrated in Taiwan, you only hear special music occasionally or see someone put up a tree, but it is still more commonly celebrated in Christian communities as well as around the university where there are more international students. I attended Christmas special event as part of the NTU Navigators. It was an enjoyable experience and a nice way for everyone in the community to come together and enjoy some songs and games. The group even performed a play about two sons who wanted to become artists. Only one of them could afford to do so, and the other had to give up his dreams and work long shifts just to cover the other’s tuition.
New Year’s is celebrated just as widely here as in the United States. All of the people who are in a festive mood travel to watch the fireworks display at Taipei 101. It is one of the tallest buildings in the world and offers an amazing show for everyone to enjoy. The metro usually closes at around midnight, but it stays open for the very first few hours of the year since the city is still filled with activity and celebration. As the crowd disperses from watching the fireworks, some of them travel home while others continue the special night. We had classes off that Monday since New Year’s happened to be over a weekend.
Chinese New Year’s is different since it is based on the traditional Chinese calendar. Unfortunately, I will be back in the US before this special holiday since it happens to be later in the Gregorian calendar. Chinese New Year’s in Taipei in my experience has been a time when many people go home for a few days to join their larger families. The traditional home in the Chinese culture consists of a large household, and this holiday serves a good reminder of old customs. Families get together to celebrate and hope for a good year as well as experience life together as a large group.