Monday, June 28, 2010

How many pins should you bring abroad with you?

Recently someone found my blog while searching for how many pins to get for an exchange.

While abroad, you give out (in my case) American related pins in exchange for other exchange student's pins from other countries. While on exchange you will likely meet with hundreds of other international exchange students. But these pins are also great to give out at the cultural fair every Rotary exchange student will likely end up hosting. And they are also great small gifts for classmates, and other people you will meet.

Allow me to make a list of questions this blog post will be answering just so you the reader, and I, the blogger, can keep organized.  

1. Where can I find pins for rotary? Where can I find cheap American pins? How to get pins?

2. How many pins do I bring abroad? How many pins should I bring? How many pins are you bringing (Michelle)?

1. You can find pins for rotary in many ways, some are easier than others, some are more effective than others.
  • Email companies for pins- In my experience this is very hard to do. Most companies want to you ask in person, but when you do they give you the run around. I have not had any success with this yet. I am in the process of talking to the police station in my area though. So maybe there is still hope. This depends largely on luck. I emailed the 50 biggest CT based companies in my area, very few wrote back, none sent pins.
  • Buying Pins- Buying pins is not as cheap as it would seem. Sure sometimes there is a deal to steal quickly, but mostly, it's not cheap. Stay on the lookout, but the only pins you will be able to get, most likely, are plain American flags (if you are from America).
  • Making Pins- Be honest with yourselves; if you are really good at crafts and can make QUALITY pins, then totally do it. If the stuff you're going to make takes a lot of time, or is likely to fall apart, then pass on making them. Just my tips.
  • Getting Pins from Rotary- Not every rotary club does this, and what kind and how many they give varies. My club gave me 150 American flag pins, just to start us out.
  • If you have found a company to send you pins, please refer them to me in a comment. If you are a company interesting in supplying me with pins to handout, please comment! If you have a website with cheap pins, please share it with everyone! Comment below.
2. How many pins to bring really depends on where you're going, how long you'll be there, how many you plan to give out, etc.
In some countries, I imagine pins are not as popular as others. Which countries? You tell me! Write you experiences with pins abroad in the comments section. Help others decide how many pins to bring for their countries.

If you are only there for short term ( a couple weeks or months), naturally, you will not need as many pins as the long term program (a year).

It also depends on what kind of person you are, I have met people who really just aren't into the pin thing. They collect a couple, but don't go crazy. If you're one of these, you probably wont need as many pins.

For me, I'm bringing around 250. Will it last? Hopefully. I'll let you know if I run out! XD I think it's a good amount. Only bringing 75 might not be a good idea. More is better than less, in this case, you don't want to go without.

Update From Several Years Later:
I managed to give away all of my pins! Other than a few I left at a cultural fair one time. Don't carry all your pins on you, because if you lose them all in one sitting, that wouldn't be good. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Letter from host mom (kind of) and High School in Taiwan!

Hey Everyone,

It's the weekend before finals and I'm going to do a post to update you, but I really shouldn't be. XD Such is my dedication to you.

I'm actually hoping one of my teachers will be able to use this as my final grade, but that might be doubtful.

I kind of received a letter from my host mother. She sent it from her other email, so I think that means she doesn't use the one I've sent her things on. I don't think she's been receiving my letters. But I sent a letter to her other email yesterday.

Um, the email she sent was telling me to arrive in taiwan from August 20 to August 26. But I don't really book that, rotary does. Anyway, I leave the 2oth. She didn't write much more than that.

BUT!!! I just found out school starts August 30 for me! Which means I'll be in Taiwan for like a week before I have to go to school!! Chotto kowai (A little scary).

I'm going to Taipei Kai-Ping Vocational and Culinary School. I've heard a lot about Taiwanese schools. Like, many of them are in old prison jail buildings... And in Asia, you're not allowed to curl your hair, wear nail polish, jewelry, etc. This is an article about my school in Taiwan. It's in English. It's very interesting. I have a pretty sweet school, I think.

Some pictures I found:
餐100拜師大典_32 by 開平餐飲學校 Taipei Kai-Ping Culinary School餐100拜師大典_34 by 開平餐飲學校 Taipei Kai-Ping Culinary School
I hereby name you.... CHEF!! XD


I can't seem to find any pictures of the actual school building.

I wonder if our school lunches will be better than the average in Taiwanese high schools...? I'll find out when I'm there and tell you!

My host mother wrote:

"Dear Michelle:
I'm your host Mom Olivia xxx, Did you receive my emaildated 9/6/2010.
Please make arrangements to arrive Taipei, Taiwan between August 21 and August 26 in order to give you time to settle in to your new home before School begins on August 30."

My visa stuff is sent to the visa place also! We were a day late, but I was told it didn't matter and was just going to sit around for a couple weeks anyway. Weird.

So, wish me luck on my finals. I'm going to need it.


If any of you have ever been an exchange student, please tell me about it! Comment below! What are the pros and cons?

AND if you're going to be an exchange student what are you happy/ worried about? Tell me!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Quick update.

I am doing finials in school and will have to put this on hold for maybe a week or so. I will get back to some comments that were left then.

Oh, as a little update, I have not heard back from my host mother in a week, I only got that first email. : O

Have a nice day everyone!

Look forward to me answering some questions about rotary and explaining what I hope to gain from this year!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Host Family Worries

The reason I started this blog was to give people the truth. I don't want to sugarcoat things, or focus on the positives or negatives. I want to give you the real deal. Even if I'm wrong about something, I want to tell you what's on my mind.

In light of that, I have a worry. I have to hope for the best, but expect the worst case possibility.

I don't have much to go on with this worry. I know that. But it still worries me, so it's my moral job to tell you.

I'm worried my host mother doesn't see me as her soon to be daughter. Both the student and the host parents are trained. I'm trained to call her mom. She's trained to tell me to do so. One thing, I asked her was what to call her. And she, in the letter, implied I'm to call her by her fake American name.

She calls her daughter, "her daughter." -Not my soon to be sister.

She may not want to impose. But it worries me. She was trained for this. If she's not wanting me to call her mom, it could only mean she sees this as more of a business transaction.

She might think she's hosting me and then in return I will teach her daughter english.

Wrong. This program is not a trade. I would love to teach Demi english but, as a family member. Not as someone who is being "paid" to do it.

I want a family.

Please don't lecture me on how stupid these things are. I can see your points. And believe me, I'm waiting hopefully to feel foolish later when I meet her, or get to know her better.

You have no idea how taxing it is to wait until you're an exchange student. XD It's horrible.

If you have been an exchange student, tell me about your host family! How did you like them?

If you're going to be, share your excitement/worries with me!

Comment below!

Update From Several Years Later:
If you are a host parent, I strongly recommend you soldier on through and think of your host child as your own the best you can, including asking and feeling comfortable with being called 'mom' or 'dad' or whatever those terms are in your country. This is one of those things that actually can really make or break the whole experience because it sets the tone of things. 

If you are a host student, I recommend you force yourself to refer to your host parents as 'mom' or 'dad' or whatever those translate as. It may feel uncomfortable however, in the end you should be aiming for making a lifelong bond that you can treasure, or at the very least, lifelong memories of the bond you created. 

If your host parent does not want you to call them 'mom' or 'dad' you can still have a great exchange! But if they do this and they also seem to not really accept you into their family as a member, your exchange simply is not going to be as great as it otherwise would be. Although, I'm sure it can still be great in its own way. 

This post was too early for me to tell, but the family I was placed into was not a great match at first and I think I was picking up on some tiny early signs. However my second family was really beyond wonderful and really did treat me as their host daughter.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Electronics to Buy in Taiwan

In Taiwan, most things are cheaper. Clothing, drinks, electronics, etc. As such, I have a really long list of things I will need to for Taiwan, but I will wait until I get there to buy. On the top of that list are two things, both related to electronics.

I need a camera, and a electronic dictionary.

In USD my budget is $200 each. For the kind of stuff I want I would never be able to get those both for $200 each.

I'll show you what I mean.

Camera: Budget is $200 USD or $6,445 NT.
Must be able to:
-Zoom (even during video)
-record long HD videos
-Not blur when things are moving in picture
-take good pictures at night and in the day
-Not go out of focus every couple of seconds when I am recording a video and moving around.
-Have fast shutter speed
-A lot of memory
(David also tells me I should get an SD card with 8gb)

Electronic dictionary: Budget is the same.
Must be able to:
-english to Chinese
-Chinese to english
-English to Japanese
-Japanese to English
-draw characters on screen

In America, I could get a so-so camera for $200, but in Taiwan I can get something a little out of my range with some freebies. In America I could buy the dictionary I want online for $300, maybe $280.

If you have any advise on cameras, or what not to get please share. Also, if you have questions, please ask. When I buy these things in Taiwan I will update you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Answers to questions!

Random picture online.
"One Rotary tradition is that students cover their blazers in pins and patches they have traded with other students or bought in places they have visited as evidence of their exchange. It is popular for the students to bring a large collection of national- or regional-themed pins and trade them with students from other areas. This tradition is popular worldwide." -

These are all the inbounds and outbounds in my district. The ones in light blue are french. ; D

Blazer and Banquet!

Me with all the outbounds in my district.
Me looking at another camera, we had to take so many pictures.

Hi Everyone,

I just had the last Rotary get together before I leave. This one was the most fun, least awkward, and actually useful! It was very exciting and a little sad.

We went to eat at this really nice place, and everyone talked and shared. Then we received our blazers and some pins. Our parents had to help us put on our blazers. Some of the inbounds talked and cried.

Gifts for Host Families and Taiwanese Friends!

Hi everyone!
Me in my blazer, with my two brothers.
It's normal and expected to bring gifts with you when you are an exchange student. Gifts for the families you stay with, and for friends. In addition, I am going through rotary so we have blazers. Rotary Exchange students all trade pins from different countries. It's really fun to try to fill your blazer. It's best to make, or buy those pins. You can try to get pins from companies, but it's very hard to get companies to do that in America, from my experience. My rotary club (and many others) will actually start you off with 100-200 pins. My club gave me 150, but they are just American flags. It's really cool to have different kinds. My advice is to go shopping for American things near the 4th of july. All the stores have cheap American stuff!
When you are in rotary, you don't start out knowing how many families you will have or what they'll be like, so it's best to get general things. Also, you have to carry everything yourself in the airport, so make sure it's lightweight!!

Four welcome signs; two red white and blue pom poms; like 7 or 8 shirts; three stress balls; four mini American flags; three pairs of American socks (XD); two American bracelets; two children's books; one ball paddle game; two viziers; four photo books I plan to fill half of each for the host families and fill the other half with them.

Today I went to craft stores and Marshals and got most of the gifts, and the stuff to make the pins.

Pin Stuff:
Six packs of pin backings; many packs of star stuff to put on them.

I got candy, shirts ( two shirts for 7 bucks! All different sizes.), small gifts, kids books in English, and etc.


Three York candies; two different kinds of jelly beans; two packs of red, white and blue chocolate covered sunflower seeds; two dot candies; one chocolate cookie carton; two bags of American sweets.

ALSO when you are preparing, make sure you bring things for the culture fair. You will have your own booth! Bring stuff to decorate with!

Such as:
Two medium flags; red, white and blue stars; garland; some candy.

Please ask me questions! I would love to answer you!

Update From Several Years Later:
I wish I had brought some artisan goods from Connecticut. Such as maple syrup, or chocolate covered cranberries or something local. Alternatively I wish I had brought some American branded goods. In Asia people really enjoy receiving Ferrero Rocher chocolates or brand name clothing, for example. Even local coffee beans are an idea, or just Starbucks Brand Coffee. Even if those things are available in Asia, they are very expensive and considered really nice gifts. Generally, Taiwanese adults won't typically enjoy normal T-shirts with American flags on them and whatnot. Candy always goes over well, though. 

Introduction, placement, and host family!

Hi Everyone,

My name is Michelle. I live in CT, USA. I'm 18 years old.

I went to a magnet high school called, The Center for Global Studies. It's focus is Japanese, Chinese, and Arabic. I took a year of Japanese history, two years of formal Japanese, and hosted a Japanese exchange student.

My goal has been to do a study abroad in Japan. But I don't necessary have a lot of funds to do so. If you've looked into it at all, you'll know going to Japan for a year is totemo takai (very expensive)!! Finally after years of searching for the right program, I found one that met my needs.

Let me explain, it wasn't just cost. I believe in things being a certain way. I needed a program that wasn't going to put me with international kids. I didn't want to go to an international school, etc. Those things set you back. I wanted to live as the natives do. And I wanted to know once I was in the country, my program still had things to offer me and that they would move me to a new family if one didn't work. It needed to be for a gap year. And it needed to not cost over $9,000.

Rotary. Everything I wanted... with one catch: Your country isn't guaranteed. Japanese was my life. I thought I needed my host country to be Japan.

How rotary works is you pick your top five countries and they try to get you one of those. They really try their best but nothing is guaranteed.

For when I applied, they didn't have Korea. So my second choice was Taiwan. It didn't really occur to me I might not get Japan. I didn't get Japan.

BUT, this isn't a sad story. It's a great thing I got Taiwan. I'm already pretty good at Japanese and now I can learn Mandarin! Mandarin will open up totally new doors for me and in college I can study abroad for a year in Japan.

Overall, I'm happy. If you want information on anything with Japan and my feelings, or how I learned Japanese, please ask. I may do a post on this soon.

Moving on. I leave to D3480 (Taipei, Taiwan) on August 20. In fact, I just received an email from my host mother today. I'll show you what she wrote and my letters to her, as well as my school website at the end.

I will be going to Taipei Kai-Ping Vocational and Culinary School! I'm very excited about this. I was afraid I'd get placed into a strict school where kids only had time to study. But I do hope there are uniforms. I love to cook, so it's really nice. The school seems laid back and very modern. They don't even teach from textbooks.

I hope my host mom and I can be on good terms and cook together.

My letter to Host family:

Hi, I'm Michelle.

I'm very excited about meeting your family and seeing Taiwan for the first time.

I live in a suburb of Connecticut . Connecticut is very close to New York . What kind of area do you live in? Is it city-like? You live in Taipei, right? It must be somewhat city-like. I like the city and country. The city might be more fun though, right.

I read I am going to Taipei Kai-Ping Vocational and Culinary School. Do you know what the school is like? I'm very interested to know!

As for Chinese... I took Japanese for two to three years and I'm pretty good at it. But I don't know any Chinese. I know "ni hao, ni hao ma, xie xie, wo shi Michelle" but that's all. Sorry! When I am in Taiwan,  I'll try my best to learn! Please help me learn!

You have a 12 year old daughter? I have two brothers. I've always wanted a sister, I think we'll be able to get along well.

I'm interested in traveling, shopping, learning Chinese, and learning how to cook Taiwanese food.

What should I call both of you? Please let me know.

I can't wait to meet you! Please write back soon!


My host mother wrote:

Hi, Michelle,
Im Olivia XXX, your host mom.
I look forward to have you here in Taiwan , so do my 12-year-old little daughter Demi.
Im an air traffic controller, it is rare to hear about the profession, right?
My husband, your host dad, Hank now is working as a commercial airliner pilot in Mainland China . He flew a lot in Mainland China and he come home Taipei taking a week off per month.
We live in the center of Taipei city, near Sunshan Domestic airport in Taipei . Maybe you can search the site from google earth.
As a matter of fact, we just look out from my apartment window, it can be seen clearly that the airplanes are taking off and landing, as I am working in the air traffic control tower.
It is very convenient to every place from our home.
Your Chinese looks good. Any way dont worry, Ill ask Demi to teach you learn Chinese. Will you teach her English?
If you want to know more information just email me.
Keep in touch
Olivia XX
Email: XXXX or XXXXX

My response:
Hi host mom!

I'm so happy for the quick responce.
That job is rare!
I would love teaching Demi English.
Your English is so good! How did you learn?
I eat everything, so don't worry about that kind of thing, by the way. My favorite types of food are meat and seafood. I really want to try sukiyaki in Taiwan. It's more of a Japanese dish so maybe you call it hotpot?I love dumplings also. And I like to cook, maybe I can cook you something American.
Do you have any pets?
If you have any questions, please ask!
Xie xie,Michelle

She never told me what to call her. -_-;;;;;

My school: