The first few days I spent in Tainan were overwhelming, every taste, sound, and smell were new and overwhelming. The singing garbage trucks combined with the scents of sweet pastry items and street food I encountered during my walks around town were initially a lot to take in. I wondered if I’d ever find comfort in any of the new things I was experiencing those first few days, but was shocked at how quickly Taiwan became my home away from home, filled with new favorite foods, drinks, friends, and art.
1. Satisfy your sweet tooth
Taiwan has a lot to offer in the sweets department. You won’t have to look far to find the nearest beverage shop or bakery. Sugar cane mills once played a vital role in Taiwan’s economy and its production can be traced all the way back to the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Taiwan’s sugar industry legacy is still prevalent in the Southern part of the island, where you will often encounter sweetened beverages and foods. Having spent the majority of my life living in the American South, ordering sweetened teas at one of Tainan’s many beverage stands became my favorite pick-me-up when I am missing home.
2. Find your favorite local comfort foods
My classmates and I checked out a local dumpling restaurant after we first arrived in Taiwan and quickly became frequent customers. Each day I walk pass the shop, whether I decide to come in or not, I am greeted with a smile and wave from all of the restaurant’s staff. My first experiences of Taiwanese hospitality and generosity were at the dumpling shop. On several occasions, restaurant staff overheard us talking about which dishes we wanted to try and after we had already ordered and paid for our food, they brought out those dishes free of charge. Smiling familiar faces and delicious snack foods have been one of my favorite ways to get through the demands of an intensive language program.
3. Do what you love in your new city
When I made the decision to spend my summer studying abroad in Taiwan, I was most looking forward to seeing local art. At home, I frequently spend my free time wondering through my campus museum, checking out gallery openings, or taking photographs of the street art I pass by. One of my favorite experiences so far has been taking the train to the neighboring city, Kaohsiung and experiencing local street art in the art district at the pier. I encourage everyone planning to spend a summer or longer studying abroad to find a way to enjoy your hobbies and interests while you are away!
4. Make local friends and get close with your cohort
I was lucky to be matched with a language partner who shares similar interests in art and spending time outdoors appreciating nature. Through my language partner, I have been introduced to new friends to explore with. Making local friends can be intimidating at first. I worried my language skills would keep me from getting close with them, but every day my Chinese improves and I am able to discuss more things with my local friends. Finding the right balance between getting close with local friends and your classmates is key! Your classmates can best relate to your experiences and provide support throughout your study abroad trip.
By: Landry Austin
Term: Summer 2018