And so the journey begins…

A week of settling into Tainan

Auckland University 同學們 touchdown in 台灣

台南 Tainan: A city rich in culture, good food, and some of the nicest people I have ever met. Little did I know that this opportunity to study in a different country would teach me so much about myself and a little about a little city in the South of Taiwan. To start my blog, I’ve decided to write a first-week recap on my first impressions of Taiwan’s lifestyle, activities, and my favorite… food!

– Day 1 –

After more than 11 hours on a plane and 4 hours on a bus, the hotel bed was the only thing I could think about when arriving in Tainan. However, waking up to a cloudless sky the next day had everyone full of energy and excitement.

Our orientation day at National Cheng Kung University allowed us to meet our language buddies, explore the campus, and be introduced to our class teachers. I’m super excited to attend such a beautiful, spacious university. I felt like the protagonist of a movie walking around campus. My buddy 陳姿字 (Amy) took me to a popular bubble tea place on campus which (in NZD) only cost $2.80…sorry?! I mean, yes, Taiwan is home to bubble tea, but it being this cheap and delicious surpassed my expectations.

We ended our first day in Tainan exploring the area around our hotel. Not sure if the looks from locals were because we were foreigners or because we were dressed for warm weather during their supposedly chilly winter temperatures- probably both. Nevertheless, we were always passed with smiles, greetings, or compliments, making me love this place more.

– Day 2 –

Today we got lost in the city… in the best way possible. We visited the infamous Chihkan Tower (no, it has nothing to do with Chicken), stopping by a cute coffee shop and multiple stunning temples along the way. I was taken aback by the stunning architecture and gorgeous landscape surrounding Chihkan tower, especially the large amount of koi fish in the ponds. The building had strong ties to the NCKU history, so many of the wooden wish tags found in the temple had student wishes for good grades and a prosperous future.

We decided to visit a night market in the evening, and being overwhelmed was an understatement. It was packed! It was the first time I felt fully immersed in the language, as there was no English anywhere! I tried my best to understand and order food in Mandarin, but I needed some help from Google translate 😛 The food was delicious and cheap, but my favorite had to be the fresh handmade mochi!

– Day 3 –

My first experience at a café definitely did not disappoint. Who doesn’t love two hours of unlimited milk tea, cat-shaped pancakes, ice cream, and the company of some of the cutest cats I’ve seen? I was tempted to take one as a potential dorm cat for my time here. We took a turn to a famous street market after the cat café. The aroma of spices and meat filled the street, and I was salivating even after a big feed. I left soon after to make my way to a Church for mass. I found it so interesting that within twenty minutes of walking from; the café, to the markets, to the church, I got to experience three totally unique parts of Tainan in so little time.

– Day 4 –

First day of class! I had no idea how similar it would be to my Chinese courses at UoA, so I felt extremely anxious walking into class. However, some of these nerves became excitement, seeing how culturally diverse the class was. There were students from Belgium, Turkey, and the Philippines, to name a few. My extroverted self clearly wants to befriend these cool students from all over the world. I also realized that English wasn’t the first language for some students, which meant that no English translations would be given during class time… and the nervousness came back just like that.

The teacher ended up being lovely, and although there was an immense amount of homework, my nerves were at ease knowing what to expect from my time studying here. I found that my Mandarin was not up to my classmates’ level; however, I would continue trying my best.

To celebrate my first day of class, I got myself a bubble tea from a popular street for university students to grab food called ‘Yule Street.’ It was literally the most delicious bubble tea I have ever had for less than 3 NZD! If you ever visit Taiwan and see a Cozy Tea… just go. A few of my classmates and I also grabbed a cheap eat on Yule street (also bursting with flavor).

After studying at the library, it was time to head home. Although the food, drinks, people, and history here are amazing, I have found Tainan’s downfall… public transport. The buses aren’t too regular, and sometimes the bus apps are unreliable. However, there were stunning views from my bus stop to help pass the wait time! Looking on the bright side helped end my day on a high note 🙂

– Day 5 –

Today I realized that there was no level 4 in our hotel building. I remember learning about 4 being an unlucky number in Chinese/Taiwanese cultures. The word for ‘four’ in Mandarin (Sì) is the same as ‘death’ (Sǐ)- and no one wants to live on a floor that can literally mean the floor of death.

After a long scenic walk to the university (thanks to the lovely public transport), I was sweaty meeting my tutor for our first one-on-one session. After three hours of class, I thought I deserved a bubble tea to help me study from my Yule street favorite- Cozy Tea! I’m still getting used to the condensed classes, as my university lectures in Auckland are usually much more spread out. I prefer back-to-back lectures in the morning, though, as I feel more productive using the rest of the day to study.

– Day 6 –

The university workload is hitting me a bit! I’m not used to having homework assignments due every day on top of weekly tests, reports, and presentations. I have no idea how students who do more courses stay on top of such an enormous workload!

On a lighter note, my language buddy, Amy, took me out for a delicious lunch after class. I got to ride on the back of her scooter! I was so nervous as the streets of Tainan are super busy compared to NZ with such different give way rules- but riding through the streets of Taiwan was exhilarating! I saw quick glimpses of day-to-day life, lights, art, and many unique smells as we passed different food stalls. It made me appreciate this opportunity even more.

Yina (UoA friend) and I ended the day on Shennong Street, a famous historically-preserved street in Tainan. Seeing the tight alleyway of stores and housing above felt like a leap through time. The only food store open was a little sandwich place where I tried a hash brown, peanut butter, and veggie sandwich…sorry?! Don’t ask me what went through my mind when I ordered it, but it went together so well! Is there any food here that doesn’t taste good?

– Day 7 –

Tomorrow we move into the university dorms! I am so excited to walk to and from class easily and have a desk to study on in our room. I will miss the easy access to street food, though. The weather is getting a bit nippy, too- starting to feel a bit more like a kiwi winter.

My highlight today was meeting a local around our age at the noodle shop we had dinner at. He had so many questions about the NZ environment and culture. It’s amusing to hear what people think of New Zealand here. The main topic of conversation is no surprise… sheep. You’d think we have stray sheep roaming the streets. One person asked if we had a ‘sheep café’ like how they have cat cafés- literally the highlight of my trip so far, I think. I hope we gave them a more in-depth understanding of what Aotearoa has to offer!

I hope my first week in Tainan gave you a little insight on life here! I can’t wait to share more of my adventures with you during my time here.


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