Tuesday, February 26, 2019


My apologies for the late post. I took a trip to Taipei on the northern part of the island for a four day weekend to see some friends and explore! (Blog post to come😊)

This prior week has been full of figuring out the daily motions. What times I have free, how long it takes to get to places, etc, etc. Here is a look at some of my routine activities here in Taiwan.

My classes started! But not the Chinese language classes; they start next week. My class schedule goes like this: on Wednesday I have Chinese Culture, and on Thursday I have International Business Management, and Multicultural Learning Exchange. You may be asking, "Wow, you only have classes on two days of the week?" Well, yes! Instead of like in the U.S. where a three credit class is three days of the week for one hour, here the classes are one day a week for three hours straight. So, Wednesday I have class for three hours, and on Thursday I have classes for six hours with a couple hour gap between the two. Thankfully, there is a ten minute break after each hour. But, it is something I definitely have to get used to, because I won't have the reminder of three different class periods in the week to think about my homework. Next week, when the Chinese language classes start, those will be every day of the week for two hours in the mornings. One positive about having a class schedule like this is my evenings are really free, which I enjoy! 

Something I was confused about was the term "Chinese" referring to my language course. I thought, "'Chinese' language? I thought I signed up for Mandarin." As I learned, there are several different "Chinese" languages, and Mandarin is one of them. So in Taiwan, when they say "Chinese," they mean Mandarin. But in other areas of mainland China, for instance, "Chinese" can refer to the specific language they use in that area. 

The girl's dorm I am staying in is about a block and a half away from campus, which is a large campus built on a hill. And it is a trek to get to classes! While I was thinking that I would hopefully get fit from this everyday excursion, my love of bubble tea (or boba tea) has grown and I have dumplings at least once a day. With the amount of sugar they put in those drinks and the amount of starch... I am now hoping the exercise is enough to break even calorie wise! haha Good thing the campus has a gym! 😄


One thing I wish I would have done before coming here is learn how to properly use chopsticks, and learn how to use them well! About half way through every meal my hand cramps up. Rarely do restaurants have forks. So, adjusting to using chopsticks has been a huge deal. And some things are more difficult to eat. The amount of times I've accidentally dropped something and splashed myself, well, I lost track of the count! haha

Time difference:
Trying to keep up with family and friends in the U.S. with social media and messaging apps has been a breeze. I am very thankful for technology! I bought a SIM card for my phone which allows me to have unlimited data and 4G lighting fast service, which is everywhere on the island. WhatsApp allows me to make overseas calls and video chat without payment because it's not connected to my service. (The equivalent of WhatsApp that all of Asia uses is an app called Line.) But the main issue is the time difference! As I have said before, thankfully jet lag never got to me; it absolutely wore me out when I visited Europe. But, in a different way the time has been throwing me off. The best way I have figured out to keep track of what time it is back in the U.S. in Mountain Time is to take what time it is here, add nine hours to it, and make the date be "yesterday." For example, it is almost 6pm on Tuesday the 26th here, so I add nine, making it 3am, and make it in the past; so, back in MDT in the U.S. it is 3am on Tuesday the 26th. Whew, that took me a while to figure out with the international date line and such. Especially when I accidentally called my mom at 2am in the morning -oops! And when daylight savings happens in the U.S., I will have to figure out if I need to add or subtract an extra hour. 

The weather is exceptionally better here than it is in the states currently. It is technically winter here, but it is a tropical winter and is slightly rainy. Daily it is usually in the 70℉ range. Locals are walking around with long pants and puff jackets. I, on the other hand, am in shorts and a tank top most of the time. Usually a light jacket suffices when it cools off in the evening. But, when summer officially comes, I will be in for it! I am told it gets significantly hotter and of course with lots of humidity -I'll probably be constantly sweating even more than I am now. haha And all this humidity brings me to my next topic...

Don't get me wrong, Taiwan is perfectly civilized. Laundry machines and dyers are everywhere. But the machines in my housing have been rumored to not work very well. So, I decided to wash my clothes by hand! I did not realize what I was in for. About half way through ten items of clothing my arms were burning from kneading the clothes. Now I definitely admire everyone in the world who has no other choice than to wash their clothes by hand, it really is a feat in endurance and skill. After I washed my clothes I hung them up outside to dry, just like everyone else. But, with all this humidity, they didn't dry well or very fast and became sour -ew! Lesson learned. So, I hand washed them again and was about to throw them in the dryer this time, when a girl came in and began to hand wash her clothes. Wow. I was astounded. Out of the side of my eye I watched her, knead, brush, and washboard her clothes in a very methodical way. Genius. Next time I'll have to give all that a try, and maybe my clothes won't be so stinky! 

It is really kind of hard to convey how safe Taiwan is. Taiwanese are so welcoming to foreigners, there really isn't any hard crime, and they are so patient. Of course it isn't perfect, and there are some areas to stay away from and just being aware is a good habit to get into. But, the main safety issue is the vehicles. They really aren't going to stop for a pedestrian. And throwing in some weird rules for mopeds and motorcycles (ya, sometimes they drive on the sidewalks), and it is really easy to get confused and almost ran over! One thing I have become accustomed to, is to walk when the locals walk. They usually have it figured out pretty well. 

This was little a different, but is a pretty common thing here; the shower is the whole bathroom, with toilet and sink and all! So, you could literally shower while going to the bathroom (I haven't tried that haha). Of all the places I've been to I haven't seen this before. Kind of cool, kind of weird. But it works -that's the important part! 

I can't wait to look back after five months and see how far I've come with everything. There is still so much to learn.

Good evening from Taiwan,

Saturday, February 16, 2019

No Expectations

I'VE ARRIVED! (3 days in)

My flight plan went from Montana → Denver, CO  San Francisco, CA  Taipei, Taiwan. At the San Francisco airport it really began to hit me that I was really doing this! I realized that I was becoming the minority boarding the flight, and just relished in the fact that soon I'd be enjoying warm air and some good food.

After 14 hours, we landed at 7:50pm. The humid air hit me as I walked off the plane causing me to sweat in my coat that I had been wearing for the last couple days. All the passengers then made their way to the long customs line, then the baggage claim, and then the curb to hitch a ride. Thankfully the school reserved a car to take me the 1.5 hour drive to my university in Taichung. It was an adventure as the driver spoke no english, yet was very nice, but I was still unsure if I should let my guard down. After a while he pulled into a gas station, which he then proceeded to motion for me to get into a different car. Confused, I followed instructions, and was quite nervous about the whole thing. But, I made it to where I needed to go without a glitch. This was my first of many experiences of the kindness of Taiwanese people, and their willingness and patience to work with foreigners. Plus they have great smiles.😊 The night capped as I checked into my dorm room, met my other roommates, showered off the last 36 hours, and crashed hard.

The next day orientation started at 10am. There are roughly 60 exchange students here at Providence University (PU). The students hale from Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Cambodia, Thailand, Mexico, and only three (including me) from the U.S., which I am sure I am forgetting a couple. Everyone is so open. No expectations, just taking it all in. And I am genuinely happy. Orientation continued with a tour of the buildings on campus. Which the campus is built on a decent incline, so my calves are quite sore! And then we were free for the day.

As a run down of my first impressions, here are some very generic first comments that any blog could probably tell you about Taiwan, but are so true: The food, oh the food. So many good things to say about the food, and I have only had six meals here. Thankfully one of my roommates has been here for a semester already and knows her way around! The best dumplings, noodles, and soup anyone could ask for. Bubble tea, or boba, is huge here and is wayyy better than in the U.S. (of course haha). Out in the streets it is very clean; I don't think I have seen any garbage at all on the roads. Smog is pretty bad, but when it clears the skyline is gorgeous. Items are pretty inexpensive as the exchange rate from the U.S. dollar (USD) to the New Taiwan Dollar (NTD) is roughly 1:30. Night markets are a big thing, with so many interesting smells, foods, and clothing shops. There are several knock-off shops as well, and I'm talking good quality knock-offs! I have never felt unsafe or threatened in any situation. And I've realized that sometimes the locals speak to foreigners because they want to practice their English, which is kind of neat. The plants are SO different, but SO cool! Toilets can be western or just an area to squat over. We sleep with our outside door open because the temperature doesn't get too cold and the breeze is welcome in the humid air. Luckily, jet lag hasn't really affected me. And there is such a thing as "salted egg potato chips" which are absolutely delicious!

Since this blog is covering just three days, there isn't too much to reveal as I am still taking everything in! All I can say is that my past ideas of what Taiwan might be like have been exceeded. Classes start in two days! Now, I think the best way to finish this blog is with some pictures.


Sunday, February 10, 2019

T-1 Day

Anticipation is high awaiting liftoff tomorrow. I really cannot believe the day is already here! Tomorrow I leave and make the 36 hour journey to Taiwan! ✈✈✈

So, what did I really get myself into at the start? And what did I learn?

At the beginning I was kind of confused and just flabbergasted that I had actually submitted the initial application $$. I felt comfort in knowing that I could jump-boat and cancel the application if I decided that it really wouldn't be feasible. I applied online filling out personal information, uploading documents, and making a list of schools I would like to attend. Asia was really on my mind - I had always wanted to travel there and so many countries that sparked my interest. Basically, the application had you choose the different countries/universities of interest, and you are then placed in one based off of your acceptance into their program and availability. Taiwan wasn't my first choice, but after coming to terms with the unknown and doing my research, I really think it was the best placement for me! This was my first lesson learned, I would have committed sooner and given myself more time to understand and do the application. 

Time management was a huge thing. I thought I had more time than I did. After the program acceptance there was other small little deadlines for school required information and such through the website... and I was at least two days late on all of them. Definitely not my brightest moments. Thankfully the program was slightly flexible, but learn from me and stay on top of deadlines, not all programs will be so kind. When emails come asking for info, if you can't do it immediately, put it on a calendar with a reminder - this is what saved me in the end. 

Besides continuing to take the online webinars for the program and filling out more information for them, my home college and my abroad university both wanted applications of their own. I was unprepared for this, but that's why you are reading this to learn from my mishaps! My home college had to have record of my enrollment, and the abroad university needed the same. But, of course with different requirements. Physicals, vaccines, and tests, were needed to see about the fitness of my mind and body before going overseas for a semester. I had a wellness exam, tuberculosis test, and consulted with a specialist to see what vaccinations were recommended/required for Americans headed to Asia $$. (I'm sure each college and university has their own test requirements depending on where in the world you are headed, and therefore won't be the exact same as mine.) Along with mind and body came my financial fitness in obtaining bank statements. There was quite the load of documents that I needed to obtain, which kind of surprised me. In collecting the documentation, I realized how important it was to have all this on hand, not just for studying abroad but for real life circumstances too.

After all the steps and applications were finished and verified, the program stepped back and it was now me connecting with my abroad university to get myself over there. It was my first time applying for a visa by myself, and I did it completely wrong. Later, my host university sent me specific instructions, so patience definitely would have saved me a little worry. In the U.S. different regions report to different embassies (which is where you apply for visas through), and in my experience now, different embassies can have slightly different requirements for documents. It is very vital that you know everything you need to send to the embassy ahead of time. I ended up having to request more documents from my abroad university at the last minute, which I felt bad for. So, don't feel afraid to call the embassy and ask questions, that saved me in the long run. And of course, different countries have different visa requirements; Taiwan required several documents to be sent directly to the embassy as well as an online application and fee, and the process took about a week to get ok-ed and sent back $$. 

Then, I got my plane ticket $$. If you are a student traveler, or really any age traveler, and are looking for an amazing service, use Start The Adventure (STA) Travel website. It is a simple middle-man, with great customer service. And if needed, they let you pay off your tickets/hotels/tours in small payment amounts. They have travel advice, a 24/7 call center, quotes, blogs, and deals. I highly recommend them! 

Lastly, I paid for student travel insurance $$. This was made easy through the ISEP program website. 

Budgeting wasn't a new concept to me, but never had I applied it so much. I needed to save save save for six months and be ready to support myself for five months without a job. Yes, the exchange rate comes into play, but not having a steady flow of income when all you want to do is spend money on cool adventures definitely adds up. So, what the heck are the $$? Well, everything with the $$-sign next to it above was something that cost money. And did I mention that I still had to pay tuition and room/board too $$? So, along with preparing to be abroad, current finances took some initial priority for the six months as well. It added up to be more than I expected, but it was nothing that couldn't be overcome with a little more budgeting! I saved and funded myself without outside help by doing different odd jobs, and I believe that I have made enough to sustain and have fun abroad. If I could do it, you can totally do it too! 

So, learn from me! Take time management seriously so when the deadlines start piling up you can be on top of it. And budget your money wisely. I went in thinking I may not be able to afford studying abroad, but it was definitely possible even with the limited amount of time I had.

I am getting butterflies for tomorrow! I'm kind of at a loss for words. So, until I can get them back, I will leave you with this: The next time I write, I will be writing from Taiwan!! 

See you on the flip side,

Monday, February 4, 2019

T-7 Days

Currently, I am wrapped in a blanket watching slight snowflakes dust the ground, as winter in my home state of Montana progresses. I keep thinking about how different the climate and weather in my new temporary home will be (and how happy I am to flee the rest of winter). So far, research has been a huge part of my preparation. Besides "sort of" knowing where the country was located, and "sort of" knowing that a lot of industrial items were made there, I really knew nothing of Taiwan. Because of my naïvety, or just lack of knowledge, I started to dig into what my home-away-from-home would be like. Culture, climate, customs, politics, diet, things to do, other travel blogs (this is where the reports that were mandatory in grade school have a practical application😎); and I really began to feel more comfortable and felt like I could prepare more as my research went on. 

Here is a brief summary of my research: Taiwan is technically under the Republic of China, but claims its independence. They speak mostly Mandarin. Rice, pork, seafood, and noodles are main food staples. You don't gift items in multiples of 4, because they associate that number with death. They have a Confucian community based on "saving face," kind of similar to not losing your temper. The toilet paper is usually not in the stall with you, so grab it before you do the deed. Also, for all you ladies, tampons are scarce. Taiwan is humid, but doesn't usually get below 45-90℉ (8-35℃). Tsunamis can happen but are rare; small earthquakes are more common. The island is very industrial and modern, but does have beaches and national parks. AND Taiwan has a speed rail, which I am so excited to try out! 

✧ ✧ ✧ ✧

Now where was I trying to go with this post, ah yes, the journey of signing up to study abroad! Whew, these last six months have been such a rollercoaster it feels like a lifetime has passed. There has been a plethora of applications, signatures, and credit card numbers. But lets go wayyyy back. My earliest records indicate (as of my earliest email haha) that it was roughly September 27, 2017, about a year and a half ago, when I first reached out to my international coordinator at my college to ask questions about possibly leaving the country for a semester. It had been a long time coming, as I had been toying with the idea for a while, but finally took the plunge to ask some questions. After that, I didn't think much about it or take it too seriously because I didn't think I would be in college long enough to take advantage of the opportunity. A few months later, I finished that academic year and walked at graduation with a double bachelors in computer science and chemistry, and a minor in physics, knowing that I had one more class to finish for a mathematics minor.

I just figured I would take a fifth year to finish that class up; after all, I mean, why not? It happened to work out that being a full time student with scholarships to help with tuition was better than just paying for the single class. OK- I was cool with that! But, what would I do with that extra spring semester that I didn't really need? I thought, "I had accepted a job, I could start that. Or I could apply for another internship. or... Or... OR I could study abroad!" Exciting! Well crap, will I have the money? That was my main concern, and I hadn't particularly been saving. Budgeting and financially addressing my profit/loss ratio would cause me to become extra frugal in the following six months after I committed and applied. But, nevertheless, the thought manifested itself and grew larger and larger in my mind.

It seemed pretty simple - the process. You apply. You get accepted. You buy a ticket. You go. At least that's what I thought. Haha. Yes, those are the very oversimplified steps, as I soon came to find out. So, I decided to do it. I started the application roughly a week before the due date, and finally hit submit button the very day it was due*. I DID IT! What a rush! It was happening. Now, it was just a matter of really figuring out what I was getting myself into.

The pre-adventure continues next time! 
Till then,

*The exchange program I applied and went through is called International Student Exchange Programs (ISEP), as per talking with my study abroad advisor at my college. There are other programs out there too! It is just a matter of choosing which program is right for the experience you're looking for. You can never ask enough questions!