Monday, December 20, 2010

Advice for the student going to Taiwan

1. Read my (or any) blog. Really, I read a blog of an exchanger last year, and it really helped me prepare. I will try to write about all the basic stuff here, but it's not that straight forward in reality.

2. If you have a computer: bring it. Some rotary clubs will tell you not to bring your computer, but if you can get around that, do it. Most of the other exchange students will have Internet and their own computer. Rotary may or may not try to limit your time on a host family's computer, but if you have your own computer you can try to find wifi and whatnot. Having your own computer is important because it is the ONLY way rotary here will communicate with you. You will not know what is happening if you do not have access to a computer. Also, your fellow exchange students will always use facebook to invite everyone to various get-togethers. If you don't know about them you wont be able to go, and then you wont really have as much of a chance to be social with your fellow exchange students.

3. If you don't have a facebook: get one. Yes, even if you are not an American. We all use it to talk to each other. It's very useful.

4. Do not add your host family on Facebook. I know, you think they will give you space and just be happy with being your friend. But in fact, many will use it to spy on you. And once you friend them, it's awkward to unfriend. I'm sure you wont be doing anything you would want to hide. But if you don't want your host family to read every single thing you're EVER written or to view ALL of your pictures and to comment on everything you write that may or may not have to do with them, THEN PLEASE SAVE YOURSELF THE DRAMA. If you want to friend them soooo badly, then you can block them from being able to see your posts and your friends posts and your pictures.

5. Bring:
  1. Swim suit. Note: Most Taiwanese use one piece suits.  But it's okay to have a bikini too.
  2. Halloween costume. You could buy one here, but it may or may not be very hard to find your size.
  3. If you are above a size 9 in women's shoes, don't expect to buy shoes here. Bring everything you'll need.
  4. If you're a little plump, then also bring enough clothing. I know rotary stresses not to bring that much, but you will have a really hard time finding stuff that fits in Taiwan, so bring enough clothing.
  5. Bring sneakers, high heels (dress shoes if you're a guy), everyday school shoes, and everyday outside of school shoes. Even if you think you wont need it, I'm here to tell you that you will.
  6. Bring gifts for your families. And various helpers assigned to you.
  7. Bring stuff representing your country. If you have a traditional uniform like, kimono (if you are from Japan) then bring that as well. You're going to want to bring TONS of candy from your home country (to give away). There will be MANY culture fairs, so bring a lot of stuff from your country. 
  8. Bring several flags in a couple different sizes.
  9. Bring cash (a lot)
  10. Bring a lot of underwear and (if you're a girl) bras. I have talked to a lot of my fellow girls here and for some reason, the washing machines here/ the people doing your laundry/ hand washing (or something) breaks bras really often and easily. And it's intimidating, and expensive to buy bras in Taiwan.
  11. Do bring warm clothing. It does get cold here. But only bring a little. Still, you WILL need it. 
6. Make sure your debit card/ whatever will work in Taiwan. I can tell you that Bank of America DOES NOT work at ANY ATM. Do not bring it. They will tell you you can use it at any ATM and that there is some Chinese bank here, HOWEVER they have no idea that isn't China, it's Taiwan. 

UPDATE: City Bank. It wiill work there. But there are few of those here.

7. Try to learn pin yin AND bopomofo. That will give you a HUGE head start. Note: Taiwanese people don't use or understand pin yin.

8. Do not expect most clothing stores to let you try on clothing.

9. Do not post any pictures on facebook of anyone doing anything you wouldn't want rotary to see. Because they will find them. As some students learned this year.

10. Understand that trying to learn the language is a must. If you are unwilling to try, please just stay home. This isn't real advice, but this really annoys me and annoys the people who care about this program. Yes, it's hard. Yes, sometimes it's stupid. Yes, it seems impossible. But trying is the most important.

11. Expect to have to hand wash your underwear. I know it's really strange but a LOT of families here will tell you that you have to, even if they don't do it themselves. You could go to a laundry mat if that happens. That's what I did. I don't have time to sit around hand washing all my underwear. Note: Some Taiwanese really do hand wash all of their underwear.

12. Try to leave your bedroom door open sometimes. The air is really bad in Taiwan so you need to let it air out often. ALSO it sends the message that your heart is closed and you don't want to talk to your host parents. Of course, that may not be how you feel, but it might be how they take it. Of course, when you're changing clothing or talking on the phone or you just want an hour or whatever to yourself, it wont kill anyone, or even matter, really.

13. Express interest in going grocery shopping with your host family. From the start. Food keeps you alive, so it's very important. Food costs a lot of money if you're feeding yourself 2 or 3 meals a day. So, it's in your best interest to make sure you can eat food at home and not have to eat out all your meals when you're the one paying for it. Try to get them to buy you snacks and drinks to bring to school too, if you can. Although not all host families are in the same financial place. And some are just unwilling. The point of this piece of advise is to bring your closer to your host family, to help you learn about the food and culture of the country, but mostly to help you save money. I know it's really hard to say that you don't like something and if you do it the wrong way, they will freak out. So just be polite. And try to set things up for yourself from the beginning. Because if you start to lie and say you like things that you don't like, it will come back to haunt you. Try not to be too picky.

14. Either when you get here, or before you leave your country, buy a thermos. Buying water and drinks everyday is very convenient and cheaper than in America. But it does add up. You will notice all Taiwanese people have a thermos. This is a very smart move. If you don't like the taste of a metal thermos, then get a glass lined thermos in America. Or buy one made of glass here. They don't have metal ones lined with glass here. The glass inside of the thermos will make whatever you're drinking taste fresh. No added flavors. It's better to get a metal one lined in glass than an all glass one because all glass is not so convenient. It breaks very easily. And if you don't mind the taste of drinking out of a normal thermos then, of course, just get a normal one. You can get one for really cheap here. This will save you money.

15. Be nice to your classmates. They will be really good for showing you around the country. All you have to do is say you want to try something or go somewhere but you don't know how, and they will invite you to go with them. They also can help you correct your Chinese homework! Most of them wont speak English though. Sometimes it may be hard to be friends with them. They're not as mature as western people when they are still in school, I find (although some will surprise you and be totally cool). But they mean well and they can really help you. If you don't befriend them you are giving up a huge resource, and you are digging a hole for yourself: you might make school unbearable for yourself.

16. This isn't advice, it's just a heads up; you will have chinese classes. Which are really cool. You get to be with the other exchange students for a bit and get to miss a little school. And plus, you're learning Chinese. It's great. I love Chinese class.


Your host family may or may not completely suck. Try not to let that make your time in Taiwan a waste. Your host school may or may not totally suck. Again, don't let that get in your way. Your rotary club may or may not take an interest in you. You know the drill. You decide how your year will go. I am NOT here to tell you that everything is perfect and that everyone will be nice and help you. Because that is just not true.  However, when one or two of these things suck, usually one or two wont suck. Think about the positive and deal with the negatives the best you can.

I will finish this later. Please ask about anything you want me to go into detail about.