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45. What my Taiwanese Classmates taught me

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.


This year I left my home country, half a world away, for an adventure in a faraway land, Taiwan.   Also known as Formosa, Taiwan is just off the coast of China, a tropical paradise on the other side of the world.   In between munching on the succulent native fruits and enjoying biking alongside mountains, I am pursuing higher education in this multicultural world. 

There are some things, I could not have learnt in my own country.   There are some situations I would never have been confronted with whilst snug in my own bubble.   These lessons are the ones that most shape who I am, and these lessons are best learnt with the aid of locals–Taiwanese classmates are pros at this.

Usually when people travel or move away for an extended period of time, they will not have a very large sphere of movement.   Whether busy studying, volunteering or interning, you will be stuck in one place.  For most, this place is school and the surrounding area.   One could go an entire year without moving out of his/her neighborhood.  At first, it can be especially difficult to venture out on your own.   It can be downright scary to encounter completely foreign concepts brought to life in people and places. Learning how to use the public transport system,  getting familiar with foreign currency, adjusting to a foreign food palate - these are all things that taken together can be very overwhelming.   It is good not to throw yourself in too much at first - when you have just arrived, still acclimatizing to your school for a while is a good idea. However, I have found that one great way to familiarize yourself with the culture and new environment is to become familiar with local classmates. Do not be afraid to ask them to show you what is interesting around your area.  In fact, they will probably be thrilled to do so.  After all, who would not want to show off their own country?  Taiwanese especially love it when you take an interest in Taiwan. I have been fortunate.  My Taiwanese friends have taken me out to cultural attractions, good restaurants, and beautiful temples, or sometimes an outing to the countryside to see Taiwan's natural beauty.  

My name is Jose Elias Barahona Diaz. I was born in June 17 of 1992 in the city of Tegucigalpa, which is the capital of Honduras, a very beautiful country located in Central America.  I am currently a second year master student in construction management at the National Cheng Kung University, which is located in Tainan, Taiwan.  When I just arrived to the city I did not have many Taiwanese friends, due mainly to the language barrier. However, almost one year and a half later I have made a lot Taiwanese friends, mostly from my classes, volleyball team, and research laboratory.

The Taiwanese friends I have met during my dwell here in Taiwan have been very friendly, patient, kind and have taught me many useful information. The first thing they were helping with was showing me the city, the places where to buy groceries, places to have fun and when the semester was starting they were showing me the university campus.  

Living in Taiwan is one of the most enriching experiences I have encountered throughout my life.  Thanks to ICDF I have the opportunity to grow and develop myself as a human being and professionally, during this process.   I have met very good male and female Taiwanese friends who

have helped to understand the culture, cuisine, language, and Taiwanese variety.

Among all my Taiwanese friends, I highlight one of them particularly is Ann Chang. Thanks to her, my relationship with Taiwanese food improved incredibly like every western foreigner, we have very different cuisine from Asia and at first, it was challenging for me, since I was not accustomed to meaty meals but my friend Ann helped me translate Chinese and speak with Taiwanese to order food or staffs and taught me to understand better the variety of herbs, flowers, vegetables and edible fruits.  

Before coming here, I heard that people were very polite, but when I experienced it, it was more than that.   Two Taiwanese, my "buddies", received me and my now friends from other countries at the airport, they took us to school, helped us introducing places, showing us around the school, explaining us how the school system and culture as a whole works in here, and giving us a hand in anything we needed.  Since then I noticed that in here, even if you don't ask people to be polite or for a favor, they are more than welcome to help others.

Currently I am in my senior year, and during the time I have been here, I have lived in the dormitories of my beautiful university.   In my 1st year I shared a room with 1 girl from Belize and two Taiwanese girls.   A girl from Guatemala, one from Mongolia and two from Taiwan lived next door.   I made friends with them, spent time together in their room, so I considered they were my roommates too.   

During that time living with them I learned how to be tolerant, patient, and respect the living style of local girls. 

During the time I have been in Taiwan, almost 15 months, in my third semester was the first time having Taiwanese classmates, it is in a course called Gender and Discourse, I am from Honduras, so all of my classmates kept me and my friend looking excited because, as you imagine, we speak kind of different. One of the girls, approach us and said:“Hey, I talk Spanish too.”

I was completely happy! This was my first time in months someone approached me to say they speak my language. We became friends.

Through the course, at the beginning they were pretty shy, the Taiwanese girls taking the same course as me and my friend were. It was very nice how they always include us in every activity during the class. I learn that they are people that respects others opinion, no matter if they don't agree with it, they are such warm heart and overall they are excited to know about your culture.  My professor is also Taiwanese, so he always encourage us to express ourselves, to share our personal experience in the ideas of the class. It felt like fresh air, the course itself had very interesting topic but being able to share experience and also to listen to the experiences of my classmates, from other parts of the world, cannot be fully describe with words.

My name is Pinky- she said,-Pinky?-I asked, wondering if that was her actual name or I had heard wrong, -Yes! Pinky, like the little finger- she told me enthusiastic and laughing, -I am Katya, from El Salvador- I said, and she tried to pronounce my name, not doing it correctly but in a cute way. That is how one of my very good Taiwanese friend introduced herself when we were taking Biology laboratory together last semester and we ended up in the same group because she missed her first class. Her English is not the best, but you can understand if you pay attention, and her confidence when she talks also helps.  In laboratory class, if I didn't understand something and the other team members could not explain to me, she would try her best to translate for me to get the idea.

We talked a bit when we had free time during class or we would text each other for small things like if she was coming or what topics would be in the exam, I would try to type in Chinese and she would correct me if I had a mistake or the grammar was wrong. During summer vacation she asked me if I wanted to go visit Tainan and of course I was more than happy to go with her and her friends. I am a second year student in Kaohsiung Medical University, so going to Tainan is pretty easy and cheap for us because the train just takes forty minutes from Kaohsiung to Tainan. At that time, I didn't know that if we use our student ID for paying the train to travel from one city to another we received a discount, so when I told my friend that I wanted to buy a ticket for it, she explained to me that it was better to use our cards. When we arrived, we rented a motorcycle, which at first was a bit terrifying, but she drives carefully, so I was confident after a while. We went to many places in Tainan and she made me practice the characters in the food places like "豆花" (Duo hua pudding), which was really nice, "棺材板" (Coffin bread), "蝦仁餛飩" (Shrimp Wonton) which is my favorite type of wonton and we went to famous places in Tainan. She and her friend taught me many other things and I had the chance to practice my Chinese with them.

I am an African citizen currently living in Taiwan, Taipei city. I have been in this city for the past three months. The first time I came to Taiwan the beauty of Taipei attracted me, especially the surroundings of National Young Ming University where I spend most of my time. Because this university is right in Taipei city I thought it would only be surrounded by high buildings and traffic, but to my surprise I discovered that its beauty originates from its location, the hill with its natural vegetation and sound of nature. The location of this university is not the only thing that impressed me but several things, such as; the main railway transportation system commonly known as MRT, which makes life a lot easier when you want to move around Taipei; the way the people speak their language and the way they display responsibility.
As I was admiring all the good things I had come across in Taipei, I also noted that if you are not familiar with the MRT operations, the rules, Taiwanese language you would not survive in Taiwan more so because in terms of the language, the majority of Taiwanese cannot speak English. That observation made me want to learn the Chinese and other surviving skills that would help me while in Taiwan for the next two years. Fortunately when I arrived in Taiwan, my university introduced me to a Taiwanese buddy, a student from Taiwan who welcomed and oriented me about the university and life in Taiwan. As she was orienting me about the university our friendship grew stronger and we could talk about anything. She told me a lot of things about Taiwan and the people of Taiwan. Moreover, she also taught some skills on how to use the MRT, how to speak Chinese language and how to show accountability and responsibility by following rules.

       At first, I had no intention to write this article, but my roommate taught me something which has inspired me to write this article. Well, as you go through the title, the first thing that comes to your mind might be of Taiwanese culture, specialties of Taiwan for instance the travel attraction, the food and whatsoever that you can think of about Taiwan. However, none of the above mentioned would be included in my article.  Instead, my article is going to discuss my roommate's attitude in achieving his goal.

       Let's start by introducing some background profile of my Taiwanese roommate from Taitung City.  He is a second year master student of Graduate Institution of Photonics and Optoelectronics in National Taiwan University.  He looks like a typical Chinese and his height is around 180cm.  His hobbies are photography and cycling.  Sometimes, he would show me some of his photography works and share the story behind them with me.

My name is Patricia Michelle Mendoza Molina, from Honduras, Comayagua, Siguatepque.  I am studying in National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, in my second year of master degree in the department of Tropical Agriculture.

I came to Taiwan a little bit nervous and not ready in my mind that I am going to another culture, other continent or other world.  And I never thought that for me will be at the begging a negative shock so I become very sick, but know I am much better. So this year I am trying to enjoy more, be more open and go more often to travel.

In my country we smile a lot and we are not very shy, so I really feel a big different.  So my mom starts tell me:  Michelle, smile every day and to everybody, so I feel very thankful with my mom because I meet my Taiwanese brother.  So then I start asking my brother a lot of questions and now I understand more Taiwanese people.  Now I feel like I find the best person in the world because he is stronger than me and he is in a wheelchair.  He is from Singapore but his father is Taiwanese and they live here in Taiwan.