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11th issue by NTHU on April 2008

My name is Carlos Argueta (安凱若), I am almost 25 and I am about to finish my master's program. I will probably go back home for vacations and of course my friends will start asking many questions about my experience in Taiwan like how is the food, how is the people, are the cities nice and of course my male friends will ask if the Taiwanese girls are pretty.

For each possible question about my life in Taiwan, I have a lot to say. But if I have to introduce Taiwan to them I will probably begin from my first impressions and continue by telling every single thing that impressed or shocked me about the country and people.

I will, of course, omit things such like: I was surprised to see that everyone around me looked a little different, or things like, I cannot understand anything that people say, etc … as such things are more than obvious and they were assimilated before coming here.

The very first thing that shocked me and that made me think I was going to suffer a little was the weather. Right after the airport’s exit door opened, I could feel the heat coming from outside and after leaving the comfort of the air-conditioned room I started to sweat right away. Of course, what could I expect? We were in the middle of the summer in one of the hottest and more humid places I have ever been.

My name is Reyna Gloria Fonseca Tovar, I am from Honduras, I am 22 years old and I am studying my master degree in Taiwan, Hsin-shu in Tsing Hua University this is my last semester here in Taiwan.
I certainly do not have words to express how my life has changed during this time living in Taiwan. Food… teas….night markets …. Chinese….everything has blended into a special kind of life.

The journey and shock began on August 2006, when I realized in the Tegucigalpa’s airport (Honduras) that I was actually leaving all I am and my culture behind. Then, I got to understand that I was not ready for such thing.

It was a sight to behold! The Tainan’s Lantern Festival 2008 was one of the most spectacular and intriguing displays of lights and patterns I have been privileged to witness. The customary lanterns, to which an entire section of the showground was dedicated, provided a beautiful canopy allowing people to experience the beauty above as they walked underneath them. Displays depicting cartoon characters, scenes from childhood tales, and the larger than life balloons of dragons all helped to make this experience a truly amazing one.

Most of the displays centered on the “Rat” since this is the year of the Rat, However, I have never ever before seen the “Rat” depicted in such an attractive and unthreatening manner- truly amazing!

The year started with a long and tiresome journey to the other side of the world “Asia”. Taiwan, a country rich in culture, since been living here for almost nine months now I’ve had the privilege to experience this truly unique culture.

There is so much to do and see. For those adrenaline seekers like me Taiwan boast with some amazing mountains with spectacular view which to go hiking. And for those nature lovers Taiwan also have many nature parks to take in the beauty of the country. Also for team-parks lovers there a numerous through the country, my favorite is aboriginal village.

My first semester in Kun Shan was a complete new experience for me. Coming from the other half of the globe where a University is but a fraction of the size of Kun Shan, where the most recent update in technology was probably in 1970, a place where almost year round the teacher go on strike. It is a huge change and a huge opportunity for me to be here. In my country, I would have never learned most of the courses that I took in my first semester. Experiencing a new type of education coming from a Taiwanese professor is probably the biggest shock I get every day. I never expected to be here and here I am.

In my first semester, I became amazed with the buildings Kun Shan has. The library, the technology building, and all the rest, are extremely beautiful. Every day I went to class I would stare at these buildings admiring their architecture and glamour. In my country there is not even one university that can compare to Kun Shan University. Another thing that amazed me was the classes. The classes had so much technology in them, from the speakers, to the projector; they are extremely fascinating and gorgeous.

The last year I was in my country, El Salvador, looking for a good opportunity to study abroad. I wanted to find a place in which I could be safe, comfortable and overall in where I could learn from high-qualify professors and also where I could use the most modern tools. Fortunately, I found a great opportunity here in Taiwan. I am so happy because I just finished my first semester in Kun Shan University, as a student of Mechanical Engineering Department.

Living in the peaceful city of Tainan, in the comfortable and safety facilities of K.S.U. and among a friendly community, studying has been a nice experience. I have not missed that much my hometown thanks to all the efforts of the University staff to make us feel as comfortable as in home. Since they have given us a kitchen with a beautiful design and a living room where we can spend some time together and enjoy a home-made food as a family, not only between us but also enjoying some time with the local students.

This first semester was a great experience since the beginning of the cultural shock is very big. I think we all come to Asia having a wrong idea about it, because this continent is way too different from the one I come from, and I dare to say that from any other in the world. I think that almost everybody has problems with the food and the language. Maybe the whole communication way like the corporal and linguistic is very different from the one we use in America. Communication is a very big deal, because if you are not preparing for it, it could be really frustrating. But once someone explains to you it gets a little better, because you begin to understand why nobody understands a bit of what you are trying to say. I have been here for almost 7 months and still cannot understand and make myself clear about most of the situations. Still some people are very nice here to us, the guys from the international office here in Kun Shan take great care about us, so I think that nobody can complain about orientation on life here in Taiwan. When it comes for the food you really have to get use to the flavor. There are some really new and strange flavors I didn’t think existed. It’s very interesting seeing new kind of food, but I had to be careful with what I tried because they made a great impact on my stomach and I’m allergic to almost all seafood. I’ve really had a hard time trying to explain that I can’t eat certain kind of food and choosing it carefully on the street and on campus. Hopefully most of the time I have had a nice time with the food and tried to enjoyed it as much as I could with a little carefulness and awareness.

When I first came to Taiwan, I did not know anything about the country. I just knew I was going to this Island in the Asian Continent. Neither had I known I was not landing in Taipei as I thought. But I was expecting really nice things about Taiwan, hoping to like everything and everyone. In the airplane the people were so heartwarming and kind. I really enjoyed my flight and I hoped I will feel the same way about Taiwan.

When I came I thought I was going to have adjusting problems since it is a very different society. Nicaragua is not a developed country and people are just different. But I didn’t have any adjusting problems. People were willing to help, as long as I try to fit in and assimilate their culture. Taiwanese are very friendly.

In some trips I have joined I realized that Taiwan is beautiful and so full of history. So far I have gone to several museums, parks, attractions and celebrations of Taiwanese people and I have liked it. I think that is very interesting to know about their customs, culture and traditions. Last month I went to the Lantern Festival and it was great. I got to light my own lantern and see it fade away in the sky.

Often hearing names of distance countries, you begin to ask yourself how the people are like, their culture, foods etc but as you travel, you begin to clear those doubts. Traveling is indeed an educative venture which is worthwhile taking and it helps to bridge the gap of ignorance. Therefore introducing Taiwan to a colleague back home after only spending only eight months is a difficult task but nonetheless, I will try to vividly describe Taiwan based on some of the places I’ve visited and my experience staying in Taiwan.

Taiwan is a small Island located in Eastern Asia and off the Southern coast of China. Taiwan has an area of 36,000km² and is inhibited by 23 million people. The capital city of Taiwan is Taipei (some call it Taipei meaning the North of Taiwan). Other cities names help to locate your bearing such as Taizhong central, Tainan which is south of Taiwan, Taidong on the east and Taisea on the western part of Taiwan. One may ask what’s so special about this small strip of Island the shape of a leaf in the midst of an ocean. Taiwan is unique in the sense that there is much to be discovered by the visitor and more to be learnt from these peace loving, remarkable and friendly people. Though this is my eight month in Taiwan, I’ve really enjoyed the openness, calm and safety offered by the people of this Island.