Studying in another country can be a real challenge, especially when you move thousands of miles away from home and are introduced to a completely different culture.  Adjusting to the new culture can be difficult as well but with good friends, you can learn some useful tips and information about the new culture to make your experience much more pleasant. Here are some of the information and tips I've learned from my Taiwan friends.

One of the first things I've learned from my friends here in Taiwan was what type of foods to try and where to get them. I learned that there are different types of food for each season.

In the summer time when the weather is hot, I should try cold noodles; and that when the weather is colder I should try Sesame Oil Chicken Soup (麻油雞). I was also learned which instant noodles are the best from my friends. HINT: The brands are all from Taiwan.  Of the many I was introduced to though, I found 台酒(tai jiu) instant noodles to be the best. I had no idea that instant noodles can have alcohol and meat inside the package (花雕雞麵). While here in Taiwan, I was also introduced to vegan foods and learnt that it is not as bad as I initially thought.

It can actually taste really good. I still eat 雞排 and other delicious meat dishes but I now have a new appreciation for vegan food as well thanks to these friends.

Another thing I've learned about living in Taiwan is how to travel around the island. Since I live in Hualien, I'm almost always reminded of the inexpensive way to get to Taipei from Hualien. You first take a local train to Luodong then take a bus from there to Taipei. It is not always convenient but it really is cheap. Some of my friends also suggest that I travel around Taiwan and make use of backpacker hotels. It's a cheap accommodation for when you want to travel but can't afford expensive hotel rooms. I was also recently told about CouchSurfers that's a service that lets you stay with someone for free.  I was told it's a good way to meet new people as you either travel or host people yourself. Hitch hiking was also suggested as a cheap mode of transport but I think that is a bit too unreliable for me to try.

I also learned more about the culture, history of the island, and general life. During a trip in my first year in Taiwan, I saw large statues in the south of Taiwan. There was one female and two shorter male statues. At the time I was told that the female statue was the goddess of the sea that looked over Taiwan and the two others were the eyes and ears of her. A friend later explained what they were in more detail. I learned that her name was Mazu and that due to recent good fortune in Taiwan, people have been celebrating her more in the form of a 1 month celebration called the DaJia Matsu Pilgrimage Procession (大甲媽祖朝聖). The procession is usually in April and would travel around the entire island. The celebration would include lighting beehive crackers,  A March of the Eight General gods(八家將), and other activities. Apart from that festival though, I also was told about what is done on the first day of the New Year.  I learned that looking at the first sunset is a tradition here in Taiwan and the best spot is usually on the top of a special mountain in the south. I also learned that the best sunsets are seen on Ludao(綠島) which is why it is also nicknamed The Burning Island.  However, Ludao wasn't always a place for tourists to visit and have fun. My friends also informed me that Ludao was actually a prison for political criminals initially. Some other little things I learned about are watching Taiwanese TV online and PPT, the Taiwan bulletin board, where you can learn about what is happening around the Taiwan. I was told that it is even faster and sometimes more reliable than the news broadcasted on TV.  Of course I also learned some pretty fun髒話 (swear words) but I dare not include any here.

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