During this trip, I kept a journal where I made a note of daily highs and lows. Here are a few that sum up some of my favorite memories from my program and some of the learning curbs I encountered.
The most reoccurring high… FOOD
Low: Large university workload
Although I often mention all the fun stuff I did during this program, there was still a lot of Chinese homework. I went to the library to study for two or three hours every day after class. It was tiring as I was used to doing this amount of work for 4-5 classes a semester. However, all this time went toward one subject, which became mentally draining.
However, seeing my progress in my class grades and seeing how it improved my speaking ability with locals kept my spirits high. It made it feel as though all this hard work was worth it in the end.
Unexpected high: Culture classes
Who would have thought that extra classes on top of Chinese would be so exciting and enjoyable! After the first class, I looked forward to these as I learned much about Taiwan’s culture, history, and traditions.
The first activity taught us how to make a Traditional Taiwanese Wedding cake (Red Bean Pastry). Here we learned about why certain ingredients were used over Traditional Western elements. Even the tools and methods used to make this cake were unique. Learning about Taiwanese Wedding ceremonies was also fascinating.
The second activity was going to a Traditional Taiwanese Tea ceremony. We got to do one ourselves and learned about the techniques of brewing and tasting different teas. We also learned about the differences between Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean Tea ceremonies.
The last activity we attended was a seal engraving. We learned about how it was used instead of signatures in history; however, nowadays is considered an art form (like calligraphy). It was intriguing to see how seal engraving came from hieroglyphic forms of characters. My seal contains the traditional form of my Chinese name’s characters (蓮月). Because the first character of my name translates to a flower, I incorporated a lotus design into my seal.
Low: Missing out on Taipei
On my way back to NZ with two other recipients, I couldn’t help but feel FOMO for not staying an extra week like everyone else. If I had the chance to stay a little longer to explore Taiwan’s capital, I would have! However, I am grateful for the opportunity to have gone to Taiwan under this scholarship.
This was an experience I will never forget, and I am so grateful to 360 International, UoA, and NCKU for making this journey the way it was. I can happily say that I can converse in Mandarin, I have made lifelong friends in Taiwan and NZ, and I can be your tour guide around Tainan!
I will hold these memories with me for life and am so excited to see others experience it themselves!