忘不了, unforgettable. That is the one word I can think of to adequately describe this trip. Sure, there have been ups and downs, but it is an experience firmly etched into my memory.
The uniqueness of this experience dawned on me more and more as the trip came closer to a close. Like an impending dread, I realised I would not experience these precious moments again. Sure, I will go on other study abroad experiences (I hope to go on exchange when my convoluted degree permits and apply for an individual Prime Minister’s scholarship in future), but they will be different from this one. None of these trips will benefit from the group that came along and the family that was subsequently formed. I will miss the comfort, humour and support this group brought. Right after landing, we already became more disparate people. Thanks to Auckland Airport’s generous parking, those remaining in the city had to leave quickly. And that is just those who stayed – others had connections to catch. Even then, we were not whole. Three out of fifteen were missing due to their earlier departure from Taiwan. One of the fantastic things about the group is that everyone is at a different stage of their lives and studies – from second-year university to having just graduated. The flip side is that I already fear how hard it will be to reunite the gang, even just for dinner.
In a way, that is what makes this experience – and other experiences abroad to come – unique. If all these experiences were the same, there would not be anything of value to them. If every experience, every country and every group was the same, what would be the point of even going on these types of trips? It is now that, returned to Auckland, I can genuinely account for what this trip gave me. It was more than just the opportunity to travel and improve my Chinese. It was the opportunity to form a strong bond with 14 other people from all across the University. It was the chance to go beyond being a tourist in Taiwan and, at the very least, get a sense of the country’s reality through the teachers and 語伴 (language exchange buddies) who guided us. It was more than just a study abroad trip. As I alluded to, it was not all smooth sailing, but I would take again all the shoulder pain from my awful dormitory mattress and the 8 am classes every morning for this experience.
While the end is melancholic, it does allow me to see all the value this trip has brought me, both personally and educationally. It would not at all have been possible without all those supporting us on the journey, and my thanks goes out to each and every one of them. In addition, a special thanks to all 14 of my 同學們 who put up with me for 6-7 weeks, and I can’t wait to see you all again.
That leaves it as my time to sign off, but hopefully, it is not long till I sign back on with another study abroad experience!