Before I flew to Taiwan as an exchange student, my friends (who went studying abroad) told me that I will have the best time of my life. Now, it has been six months since I am back home (in Paris) and I can’t agree more with them. In this article, I want to share my amazing exchange student experience in Taipei.
First, I wanted to go in Taiwan because I wanted to improve my Mandarin and because I love the Asian lifestyle. I was born and raised in Paris, France and my family is Chinese (from Laos it is very complicated ha-ha). I grew up speaking both Cantonese and French. In 2014, I visited my sister in Hong Kong who was working there at that time. I immediately felt connected to this city and to the Asian mentality and lifestyle. So, going to Asia for a semester was obvious to me. I didn’t know much about Taiwan, but I knew that it was different to mainland China even if it is under its administration. Also, I did learn Mandarin when I was a kid with a Taiwanese teacher (so I leaned the traditional character and with the Taiwanese accent).
I arrived in Taipei on Friday the second of September 2016 and since that day everything went so well. I studied at National ChengChi University (NCCU) which is the best university in Taiwan to study political sciences and international business. It was founded in 1927 and ChengChi means political sciences in Mandarin. NCCU’s campus was very convenient and nice to live in. There is always something do to. Indeed, the campus hold a lot of events such as study broad affair, orientation day for the upcoming exchange students and a club orientation. During Christmas NCCU hold a Christmas market for a week. They set a Christmas tree and several stands where student sell hot wine and waffles. In Asia Christmas is not that important than in western civilization, people don’t really celebrate it and for them it’s an occasion to have a diner with their friends. It was very nice to see that NCCU puts a lot of effort to make student’s life fun and joyful.
One of the other reasons why I wanted to go abroad was to meet people and to be more open-minded. During my stay in Taipei I had the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. I learned a lot from their habits, cultures, traditions and also fun facts about their country.For example, I learned from my Mexican friend, Teresa, that they have two cakes for their birthday. The first cake is used to crush the head of the birthday boy/girl on it. The second one is the “real” cake where she or he blows the candles. I also learn that in Malaysia people speak Mandarin or Cantonese depending in the region you live.
When I am in foreign country I’m always stress to take the transportation. Taking the right bus or subway in the right way was always stressful because I’m getting lost very easily. Not kidding, I already got lost several even with my GPS on! But once again, in Taipei the transportation was convenient and simple. There only five lines in the Taipei’s MRT. Everything is well indicated and the subway is very comfortable and clean. This was so good for someone who lives in Paris.
I was also stress about the campus life because I had to share my bedroom with another student. I didn’t share my room since I was 11. But everything went very well because I had the best roommate ever! She is from Czech Repulic, and living together was so easy and fun! I was very lucky to have her as a roommate and friend.
Taiwanese are truly the kindest people I have ever met. There are always here to help you even if they can’t speak English. I have so many stories that emphasize their kindness.
One time I had to join my friends to a bar in Zhongxiao Fuxing and I got lost. I exit from the subway but I took the wrong direction despite that I had my GPS on. Naturally, several Taiwanese helped me find my way and a woman walked with me to the bar to assure that I was in the good place! Another time I was living the dorms to meet my friends for brunch, it was barely raining. A Taiwanese girl naturally invites me join her under her umbrella. I was so nice of her.
I also had the chance to travel around Asia. In November, I went to Tokyo with my friends. We explored the most famous districts of the city from Shinjuku to Asakusa. I had the best time there, we went to the fish market and I had the best sushi of my life! We visited several parks, where all the trees were red and orange it was beautiful. The temples are also nice they have a minimalist style and are different to those in Taiwan. At the end, Tokyo was everything I expected, Japanese are very nice (they were always helping us to find our way) the food was delicious and I had fun discovering the city and Japanese culture.
To conclude I had an amazing time in Taipei where I met awesome people with whom I shared greats moments. Before coming to Taiwan, I was very excited but I was also stress that it would not be as good as I imagined. But It was everything I expected and even better. I don’t feel sad when I think about my life in Taiwan because I only have good memories. It will soon be one year that I went to Taiwan. I have new projects but I know that Taiwan will is a part of me.