About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Asian Studies Chinese
Program: CET Academic Programs
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Term: Summer 2023
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I have always wanted to study abroad ever since I entered college. Studying abroad not only gives you a change of scenery but also fosters a sense of independence and confidence. You also get to meet people with different attitudes and backgrounds than you, making you a better-informed global citizen. In my case, I wanted to study Chinese over the summer and CET Taiwan was the only option at the time since UNC had suspended its programs in China. While going to Taiwan was not at the top of my list, after going there, I loved how much more open society Taiwan is and I am now a convert to using traditional Chinese characters.
What did you learn about yourself?
I found that it is okay not to experience everything at once. Although two months felt like a while, I found that on top of taking classes and trying to experience everything felt a bit too much, and I ended up not going outside of Taipei much. Regardless, there is so much to do in Taipei and I found that I was most content with regarding the smallest experiences as wonderful.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
There are way too many to choose from, but I have three: attending and cosplaying at my first anime convention in Taipei, getting food at a Michelin-starred stall at Ningxia night market, and walking around Jiufen, a town famous for its setting similar to Spirited Away. Night markets are must-visit places when visiting Taiwan, and the Liu Yi Zi stall at the Ningxia night market in Taipei is famous for its pork floss and salted egg yolk fried taro balls, so much so that they have a Michelin star. I did not know that food stalls could have Michelin stars until I visited Ningxia night market, but all the other foods like Zha Niu Nai (fried milk) are tasty as well. Apart from tasty food, you can go drink tea at any tea house in Jiufen, a town about an hour away from Taipei. The Jiufen Old Road is lined with food stalls, teashops, and souvenir shops. I briefly stopped by the Skyline Teahouse, a teahouse that sits right across from the A-Mei teahouse, the most famous teahouse for visitors to Jiufen. Toward the end of the program, I attended the Taipei Anime and Comic Convention while cosplaying as Xie Lian from Heaven's Official Blessing. Although the event was crowded, I got to witness some stage events happening around the con, and even took photos with other cosplayers (I do not have their photos unfortunately). Lastly, I would like to mention since Taiwan is the originator of bubble tea, my favorite bubble tea drink is Pu-Er milk tea with honey from Qing Xin Fu Quan.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Having been to China and Japan, I thought having a degree of familiarity with East Asian culture would alleviate the culture shock I would face in Taiwan. However, I still struggled with communicating in Chinese and I faced isolation and loneliness while abroad. I also struggled with FOMO (fear of missing out) since I would see other people go to places that seemed amazing. Fear of missing out is a very real feeling but it is only a feeling. The most meaningful experiences will matter only to you and if they have any relevance to your life and goals. Going to a bookstore and poking around the books can be just as fun as hiking a trail with a gorgeous view. As for tackling loneliness and isolation, be patient and kind to yourself. I would join group activities if you are not so keen on doing things by yourself. If you are in another country where there is a language barrier, learn some simple phrases. At least in Taiwan, people are very friendly and are willing to help you out in any way possible.
How do you identify?
Scholarship Recipient, Transfer Student