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37. How do I overcome homesickness

Studying abroad is not a simple decision, it requires: determination, strength, support, but the most important is the willing achieving the goal you proposed.

When coming to Taiwan I discovered a different country, different environment, everything was new to me. I had never left my country for more than a month which means I had never been away from my family for any time further than a month; but after taking the decision to apply and being lucky with such a great opportunity, I decided to come.

The first month of my stay was the hardest one, because I wasn’t used to so dramatically changes, like time zone, not being able to speak the language, the amount of scooters driving crazily without respecting the traffic lights. It was really hard, and at some point I asked myself what am I doing in Taiwan? I miss my house, my family, my friends; but as I mention in my first paragraph studying abroad is not an easy decision you need support, and I had it since day one; my parents were always there for me.

How do I overcome homesickness? When I arrived here in Taiwan I’ve never felt homesick, because before to come here I prepared myself to know I will miss our typical food and family specially, but talking about the food I found some way how to get ingredients in my city and cook some meals from my country, so related with the food I don’t have problems miss it; but I will miss some meals from here when I return to my country, for example Thailand food, dumplings, Vietnam food and other meals really delicious. Now talking about my family, yes I miss them but we know the family whatever the place we are, they are grand part in our life and they always be there, remember us and help us at distance if is necessary, also is one of the rule of the life, leave them one moment in our life to success our goals; In my part I have the good luck to have my brother livening in Taiwan and he is a big support if I have this kind of issues, also I had the luck to bring my sister to visit me and travel with her around Taiwan, finally my friends in my city, I have many of them, so I won’t be feeling alone or homesick, I take them like my family and one of them appreciate and adore so much, She came with me and also we are studying in the same university, and she became like my sister. So other support that I feel here my Taiwanese friends helped me so much such as how is the life here, their customs, their food, how to get those kind of food that I mentioned before and other things that appreciate from them and other students who came before than me. Other thing I could miss, my activities in my city, but also I found the way how to do that like the gym, sports, travel to relax myself, visit place that I can enjoy the culture of the country and other things easier to do here  than my country. So to conclude, homesickness is just for me, one way where many people have to pass in their life, but nothing impossible to success that issue, we just have to put our part, be mature, know and how change something’s how to do our activities like in home.

Hello everyone I am James Paul, from Haiti and I am a graduate student of civil engineering department at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), located in Tainan. I am also a recipient of the ICDF scholarship for the international civil engineering and management program (ICEM) which is a very well-defined program.NCKU is one of the most prestigious universities in Taiwan, with a high reputation in science, engineering, medicine, management, planning and design. Since September 2013 I have been living in Taiwan, but Living far from home country is not easy, but not also complicated. How do I overcome homesickness?

My first strategy was to find people from the same region like me.There have been many challenges to overcome: such as culture, language barrier and others which may create some culture shocks and homesickness. However, when I first came in Taiwan, I was really supported by some former ICDF students from Latin countries who are in the same program with me to help me to accommodate with the life in Taiwan, and also I found help from some fellow Haitian that I have met at NCKU. Their support was very important for me to settle in Tainan community somehow to overcome some real problem that I might face as I have not spoken Chinese.

For the last three months, I had living in Tainan, Taiwan and had been a wonderful experience. Before I came to Tainan, my best friend and I had the opportunity to study Chinese in Hsinchu for ten months; and even though is the same country the situation had changed for me a lot, because this time the challenge is to pursue a Master Degree in Engineering and Management; and deal with everything again and on my own. I always see Taiwan as the best option to study abroad, because they have an excellent education system and also I will have the opportunity to learn Chinese and improve my English, tools very important nowadays.

At the beginning it is a mix of feeling, because the new environment, new people, different culture, language, weather, and classes, so on; that makes you feel excited and anxious at the same time. However Taiwan people had not disappointed on me, due of my experience in Hsinchu, they always was willing to help me in anything they can, and this situation happened in Tainan again, which makes me feel very happy to come back to my second home.

Hello, and thank you for dedicating part of your time to reading this. Considering that this is the first time I am contributing to this newsletter I think it would be appropriate to introduce myself. My name is Cristóbal Guevara, I'm from El Salvador and currently I'm studying the first semester of a Master in Civil Engineering and Management at NCKU.

Since I've only been here for three months, I haven't had many opportunities or reasons to acutely miss my home. In fact, the most serious episode I have experienced so far was halfway from my country to Taiwan. The previous weeks had been so hectic that I barely had time to say goodbye to my closest family and friends, and it was until that moment, inside a plane flying across the ocean in the middle of the night, that struck me the fact that I was leaving behind everything and everyone I knew until that moment and it would be a long time before I got to see them again. I felt overwhelmed and powerless, but there was nothing I could do about it in that moment, so I tried to sleep, which was quite easy given the fatigue of so many hours of travel. When I woke up I felt much better, and a few hours later I was arriving at Taiwan, where there were so many new experiences and things to do that I didn't think of it again. I got in contact with my family as soon as I could, and now I communicate with them, and also with my friends, on a regular basis.

I´m civil engineer with experience in the field of construction, Taiwan is a country with a lot of development in this area, for me studying an International Master in civil Engineering and management here is the best option for getting knowledge and in the future giving benefits for my country according my profession.

This is my second time here in Taiwan. My first time was last year to attend a conference In National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering in Taipei one Week about new trends of construction. It was awesome, because in this experience I learned a lot about the theories of construction applied here in buildings and bridges. When I came back to my country I started to search information about how study here and I’m lucky person because Taiwan have a program of scholarship with my country, and I have applied in prestigious  National Cheng Kung University and I have  got a scholarship for study here!

Hola! (Hi) my name is Alejandro and I come from Nicaragua (尼加拉瓜), I’m currently studying a Master in Civil engineering and management in National Cheng Kung University (成大). Prior to my arrival, I worked as an Intellectual property analyst (IP analyst) for a U.S. based- company in my country as well as freelance structural engineering consultant. The experience in Taiwan was great from day one, when I came to the airport at Taipei, the staff was very kind and eager to help in every step of the arrival process. The positive experience continued when I arrived to Tainan, the people in here is very friendly and they’re always trying to help in any kind of situation. The experience in Taiwan goes beyond the academic perspective, aside from being one of the best universities for studying civil engineering, NCKU has a combination of foreign students and local students as well, and this has been a multi-cultural learning experience for me. I have been able to meet Taiwanese people from all ages, with different perspective about life and also about spirituality. One example of this relates to the year people are born according to the Chinese calendar, I found out in here that I was born in the year of the snake, and my element is water. Some elders believe that the year on which you are born drives the way you handle your social interactions and how you relate to others as well, for example, my roommate was born on the year of the tiger, subsequently, my roommate seems to have a strong personality but lacks a little bit of calm depending on the situation. People born in the year of the snake tend to have a more analytic personality. This is just an example of the “plus” experience I’ve been acquired in the first months in this country, I was also surprised to find out how many different point of views are there in Taiwan, this is a place where many different kinds of spiritual and intellectual energy crashes and join to pursue goals and objectives.

Being a student away from his home and more importantly being so far away from home, can take a toll on a student. Many things you're used to from your daily live changes overnight and it's replaced by new, different things. Some of them you have never experienced, others which are things you encounter occasionally but never expected to become a regular part of your life. Leaving the Caribbean and coming to Taiwan did that, especially living in a dorm and sharing facilities. Though it might not seem like much on the outside, many things, even the most simple, can affect you. Some of them are even taken for granted. Though it is not big, one of the things which affected me was the lack of a home-cooked meal on Sundays. It sounds small, especially considering the low cost of food and large number of restaurants and shops you can buy food at, but it was something I get accustomed to. The act of going out and looking for food everyday, even on a slow day like Sunday, is not something I'm used to. In this case, something as small as not needed to leave home to get something to eat can make one miss home and all the things which they are accustomed to. With all these things coming together, you need some way to keep yourself from missing home or becoming homesick. While there is nothing wrong in missing your home, as that would be a natural reaction, being too homesick wouldn't be good as that could affect your work and even your overall enjoyment of time. Instead of seeing the bright things, you could get caught in a state of mind saying “I wish I was back home. I miss doing...”.

First of all I have to say that feeling sadness is a characteristic that all humans have in common, is just a natural process that we all go through at any time in life.

When I decided to come to Taiwan, my mind was clear that I was pursuing my dreams that I was leaving all I have to reach a better future and more opportunities. It has been hard since the first second I faced myself alone in a totally different world, a country with another language, culture and customs. It was just a big challenge in front of my eyes a challenge that I decided to experience and most important enjoy it.

The clue to my emotional success so far has been security within myself, believe in who I am and who I want to be, being a warrior and a lover of life. I enjoy every single breath I take, I feel blessed and happy for the opportunity of living each day.

I personally never felt homesick. I felt by contrary excited and happy to be in Taiwan in a different culture and rapidly I made some friends here. But I think a big part of feeling homesick is feeling uncomfortable with the unfamiliar. The fact being away from family and coffin bead, the dog and friends makes people feel homesick. I remembered during night I used to go with some friends and we got to walk around and explore college’s campus and the surrounding area. Then, the city we tried new food and we got more familiar with the place. I saw this activates help a lot to other friends of mine. The more they feel like “the place belongs to them” or “they were part of the place”, the more comfortable they feel in here.

So, they started to make new friends and be with local and international people. Even if we didn’t have a close relationship or friendship at that time, everybody was willing to recognize that we need other people in our life. With time we become more and more linked that we formed very distinctive groups. We used to eat our meals or go to movies with others. The people that at the begging used to have the feeling to had been made a bad decision to come here, started to enjoy their time alone: Whether or not they have friends around, they can still enjoy many activities like: physical exercise, basketball, football, jogging, swinging or aerobic dance. We kept things in our environment that we all can enjoy alone such as books, puzzles, arts and crafts, PS3 or music.