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45. What my Taiwanese Classmates taught me

My name is Marthe Michel, I am from Haiti. I was selected from the scholars of ICDF 2016-2017.  Now I am doing a Master degree in Tropical Medicine.  And for me it is a very great privilege, because my dream is in the process to be realized.

After obtaining my diploma from Medical school, having a master degree in tropical medicine was my dream for years. Thanks to ICDF this dream is now in the process to be realized. I was admitted to Kaohsiung Medical University.  I am living now in Kaohsiung since September 2016. It is a beautifull city of Taiwan that I love enormously.

Taiwan is a beautiful and small country which according to its high level of organization, development and safety could attract all foreigners who decide to visit it.  And personally, since the first day I have realized that I really like this beautifull place.

Something in particular attracted me attention on the first day;  The special attention offered by Taiwanese people to foreigners, especially when it comes to students. They are ready to help us with our difficulties.  Another thing was the love and empowerment of Taiwanese at work.

       Taiwan is a first world country and a leading global manufacturer of technological electrical and electronic equipment and gadgets respectively. For one coming from a third world country, its takes sometimes to get into the world of pressing a button for almost everything; everything in Taiwan is almost a click-of-a-button away.

       Adapting to this Taiwanese technological world would have not been smooth without the kind assistance of my local Taiwanese classmates. One time I had wanted to take some passport size photos and was directed to the photo boot but could operate it.  Another time I had wanted to print out some documents from the convenient store, a customer uses the self-service printer and only get to the till to make payments.  Such a struggle mixed with language barriers was only solved by getting help from the locals.

      Some of the self-service machines like drink vending machine are so simple to use, there are others that are very complicated like when wanting to recharge airtime, recharge mobile data and request an Uber taxi service to pick your location.  A single machine offers service different services for all the different mobile operators and it becomes a challenge to use the machine without help of the locals especially if you are not fluent in Chinese and the machine has no language options.

       Part of the adventure that is studying in a foreign country is making new friends.   It's always exciting to go out, meet new people and get to know each other, but sometimes it is difficult to find people that have a lot in common with you.  In my case, I joined a laboratory with few students, which means all of us are much closer and we usually hang out together. Therefore, I felt privileged to be invited to any of the activities they planned.

        Let's put first things first: food. Since we spend all day in the lab, every day we faced the challenge of deciding what to eat for lunch or dinner.  They always asked for my opinion, as in what I wanted to eat or try for the first time.  Naturally, I ran out of ideas after two or three weeks, so they took that opportunity to show me new restaurants with different kind of foods that I’ve never seen in my country.  So far I feel I have tried every type of food, from “Hot Pot” and BBQ restaurants to night market’s exotic food and, of course, “chow” tofu.

        In addition to food, Taiwan has a lot of many places we can go out to have fun and enjoy the scenery. My Taiwanese friends took me to Qijin Island, the Love River, Lotus Pond, RueiFong night market many other spots in Kaohsiung.

      Many of us are closed to our own standards of life but we have to give way to new experiences. Studying abroad and experiencing culture is one way we can step outside our comfort zone, learn more about ourselves and the opportunity to immerse ourselves into new ways of life.  As for me, living in Taiwan for the past year has truly cultivated a door of experiences and new ways of thinking that I will always treasure. Being exposed to a different language, people, music and new traditions has been an exhilarating and overwhelming experience.  Nevertheless, Taiwanese people are friendly and helpful, they have made the transition easier. They will always go out of their way to help you.  I recall when I first went exploring on my own in Hsinchu and I couldn't find my way back to my university. The first person I asked for help didn't know English well but they found someone else to translate and they willingly took me all the way to where I wanted to go. Regardless of the language barrier, we were still able to find common ground to help me find my way.

       I've been in Taiwan for about 4 months already and I can definitely say that I love Taiwan! But what makes Taiwan so special? (Besides its incredibly delicious food) Its people are incredibly friendly like no other country I have ever seen. My roommate and friend Jacky Lee (李仁傑) is the best example of how nice and kind Taiwanese people can be, since the first day I met him he left me a note that said "Hello 文智, Firstly welcome to Taiwan! And I'm glad to meet you. I'm going to come to my home this week. BTW, This is a pineapple cake! Which is famous in Tainan! A lot of visitors all love it! You can try it!". Not only did he make me feel welcomed but he introduced me to the Taiwanese food culture, and let me tell you, to this day I have never tried something as good as Taiwanese Pineapple cake!  From that day on, I have learned so much from him Jacky, I even learned where not to park my bicycle because there was one time when my bicycle SUDDENLY DISAPPEARED!

       After a year and a half  in Taiwan I can't believe the first idea that popped into my mind after being asked this question was "bad words".  Actually, most of these lessons spawned after I tried to say something in Chinese and my tones failed catastrophically, turning my sentence into something completely different.  My labmates say that the logic behind these lessons is that I should learn first what not to say… but I still have my doubts on their methodology.  Regardless of that, it is always fun for us to exchange new vocabulary, as I'm always asking for translations from them, and they also have interest in learning Spanish words.

       Before coming to Taiwan, thinking about the new things I will learn here was exciting.  As a graduate student, I knew I was going to learn a lot about my area, computer science.  I also knew I would learn about Taiwanese culture, but what I didn't expect is that I would re-learn how to play tennis.

       I had played tennis before in my country, but that was 5 years ago. The first time I played tennis was during my first year of high school.  I had just changed schools and was one of the three new students of my grade.  Most of the other students had been classmates for 8 years or more. One of our classmates lived near a tennis court.  During a conversation, we had the idea of going to his home and then playing tennis.

       It has been exactly 101 days since I arrived for the very first time to the land of Taiwan.  It is my first time on this side of the world and it is definitively a whole new world to me.  From day 1,  I met people from different countries like Taiwan, Guatemala, Paraguay, Belize, Swaziland, Burkina Faso, India, Main land China, Honduras and more. Many of them have become special friends and I am very thankful for this life experience. Let me say it again:  I am very thankful.

       Being in this country has given me the opportunity to meet many Taiwanese people. I have shared time with them in class, sports games, singing club, church, and free time. My Taiwanese friends taught me useful lessons and insightful cultural lessons and I know for sure there will be more lessons to come.

       Hello, my name is Roberto Yebra. My Chinese name is 葉曼紐,  I am from the Dominican Republic. I am studying International Management Business Administration in National Tsing Hua University (國立清華大學).  First of all I will like to start to say that I love Taiwan, but was not always like that.  My experience on having a Taiwanese roommate describes perfectly my love relationship with Taiwan. I have never been to Asia before so everything would be new for me: the language, the food, the people, the way of thinking, the manners, etc. I had no idea about how Taiwanese people were so I came here as blank as a canvas.

       I remember the first day we met like if it was yesterday, I went inside my room and the first think I see is an electric rice cooker and more cooking devices on top of my desk. It was very early, around 7:30 AM, so my roommate was sleeping.

       “I have been following the logistics problem for a long time and I would like to study by using new innovation and technology”

      Regarding to thinking about this thing, I tried to search for the country where has the economic stability will give me the huge opportunity to reach my goal. What’s kind of friendly environment to encourage my education. I found that I had a strong believe if I study in Taiwan, It would be a great time for me to deepen and broaden my knowledge and having a great relationship with friends is the good way to practice my Mandarin language. Finally, I had been here Taiwan!!

       The first day of the arrivals and moving into university (National Tsing Hua University) was the most exciting day, because I hadn't known everything about Taiwan before and I was a newcomer student. There are some the officials came to provide and help me to put my stuffs. I was assigned to stay dormitory of university and when I am taking look the list of room’s name, in that time I known Cherry (徐儷) was my roommate.

​       Cherry's major is literal's faculty and her come from Tainan; the southern of Taiwan. After I met her, Cherry was teach me a lot of Chinese language even I had learned Chinese before one year, but it isn’t totally apply to real situation. This is the big chances to communicate with native speaker.  Especially, I was so lucky that our taste almost like same things. It had to be the fade that we were put together. She is person who are humorous and friendly character. We spent a lot of time the first week learning about each other.