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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.

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.

Every day we can learn something new, especially if we just pay attention and look around us.  

During this year I have been very blessed.  I have been surrounded by beautiful kind hearted people who have taught me many things; some scholar subjects, some about culture and others about life.

This year, during the moon festival, my Taiwanese friend Kao-Tien invited me to his house to celebrate the festival with his family.  I learned a lot about Taiwanese culture and the meaning of the Mid-autumn Festival.

Mid-autumn Festival or the Moon festival is very important in the Taiwanese culture. The theme of Mid-Autumn Festival is reunion.  The moon is round, the moon cakes are round, and the lanterns are round too, “round” in Chinese, Yuan is the symbol of Reunion.

I did not only learn about Taiwanese culture and the festival story, but also about family unity and how Taiwanese enjoy their moments together.  Kao-Tien lives in a very nice house in Neipu County.  His house is also a farm, where his family cultivates Jujube and also raises chicken.  He has an older brother and a younger sister. His older brother is married and his wife lives with the family in the same house.

This year has been an incredible year for me. Going to live in a foreign country is always difficult, but if you have good friends that difficulty passes quickly and you can start enjoying life in the new country you are living.    In this semester I had mostly foreigner classmates, but had the opportunity to take an English class in another department where I have more Taiwanese Classmates.  Her name is Drin Zhen, but she prefers to be called Bamboo.   

Bamboo is a nice Taiwanese girl who is finishing her master in Teaching English as a Second language.  She is originally from Taichung, but has been living in Neipu for the last 5 years since she also studied her bachelor degree in National Pingtung University of Science and Technology.

One Sunday in November 2016 she invited me to Neipu town to introduce me some of the landmarks and special places in the town.

First Bamboo took me to eat tan-yuan at a very traditional place in the old street in Neipu. The tan-yuan in this place is very special, the store has been open for more than 100 years. Tan-yuan is made with glutinous rice and is served with a sweet sauce of red adzuki beans and a bit of wine.  For me eating sweet beans is really weird,  because in my culture we would normally eat beans salty, but it was very good, I really liked.

After eating the tan-yuan we went to the most representatives temples in Neipu. There are two temples together. The first temple is dedicated to the Deity Matzu, also called in Chinese the Tian-Hou Gong.  Bamboo explained that this temple was very old;  it was built in the Ciing Dynasty and was a temple built with authentic Hakka style.  We could see how Taiwanese performed their prays to the deity and ask for answers. Bamboo explained me the process of asking the Gods for something and then throwing some sticks to get the answer.