I was born in Thailand and came to California when I was about two years old. I come from a very traditional Hmong family who likes to keep family members close to one another, so the thought of my studying abroad all the way across the Pacific Ocean by myself was pretty tough for my mom. But it has always been a dream of mine and I knew I wanted to go to Taiwan. I came during my 3rd year because I wanted to be able to finish my GE's before coming abroad and taking classes in my major.
When I first arrived, I was anxious to see who my roommate was going to be. Interestingly enough, I was placed with another California student from UC Irvine by the name of Han-Jade Chan. We both came to learn Mandarin and to experience firsthand what studying abroad was like. I honestly couldn't have asked for a better roommate; Jade is an American born Taiwanese, so she speaks Mandarin. It's really helpful to have a roommate who speaks Mandarin, especially when I'm having a hard time understanding or trying to word my Chinese sentences together; she's always there to correct me when I'm wrong.
Taiwan is famous for its night markets. My first experience of Taiwan's night market was on my second day in Taipei; a few friends from California and Germany and I went out for dinner. The streets were extremely crowded! Combined with the hot and humid weather, it made for a night I will never forget. There were so many yummy looking foods and delicious smells coming from all sides and angles; that was the moment I knew I had fallen in love with Taiwan's night markets.
My weekly schedule consists of going to Chinese classes Monday through Friday from 1-4 p.m., except on Wednesdays. On Wednesdays I also have a morning class from 9:30AM till 12:20PM. My Chinese classes are very small, intimate, strict classes; we only have three students in each class. I really liked all three of my Chinese classes, and I feel like I have grown so much in terms of writing, reading, and speaking Mandarin. Along with all the above, I've also learned and begun to understand the culture, values, and beliefs behind the Mandarin language.
While studying abroad, it's impossible not to miss your family and friends back home. This photo was taken while I was visiting the 89th floor of the trademark skyscraper of Taiwan, Taipei 101. As I was looking around I saw this sculpture, motherly and warm, and it gave me a sense of homesickness since it reminded me of my mom. I had to remind myself that this is all part of my study abroad experience: being independent and exploring new adventures. You're going to be homesick once in a while but it's going to make you appreciate your friends and family back home more.
Trying new things and exploring different parts of Taiwan has helped me discover new things about myself. Before coming to Taiwan, I would never have imagined myself eating squid, taking the MRT alone, or taking a 3-hour class-but now I've learned to enjoy all three!
This photo was taken while eating lunch with two Malaysian friends who ordered squid and told me to give it a try. I was really against it at first, but it tasted like shrimp, which I love. I learned my lesson: sometimes it's good to try new things!
Being in a foreign country, everything can get a little overwhelming at times. Around the third month that I was here, I started to miss American and Hmong food. I wasn't able to find Hmong food, but I did find a McDonald's! I didn't know what a big influence McDonald's had all over the world, especially here in Taipei, but seeing multiple three-story McDonald's restaurants here has definitely given me proof of how big McDonald's is, even outside of the United States.
One of the things I've loved so far about my study abroad experience is the culture and people that I've met here. On a trip to a city in the southeast of Taiwan called Hua Lien, I was able to meet some aboriginals of Taiwan. It was extremely exciting since I was taking a class on the languages of Taiwan and we talked a lot about the Aboriginal people of Taiwan too. For me to be able to meet them was like meeting a celebrity that I've only seen onscreen, it was amazing to be able to wear their traditional clothes, dance to their traditional music, and eat their traditional dishes.
During our trip to Hua Lien, I was able to make my first wish in one of their traditional temples. I come from a background of strong religious beliefs, so to be in a traditional temple was a great feeling. It still amazes me to this day how people 200 years ago, were able to make such strong and beautiful temples with the limited materials and technology they had. Since I'm in Taiwan I really want to fully experience the culture and beliefs here, which I'm glad I was able to do in Hua Lien.
This photo was taken from the 91st floor of Taipei 101. I spent a good 7 hours looking around most of the floors in Taipei 101, but the feeling that I will never forget is the feeling of watching the sun set and seeing the night life of Taipei come to life from the 91st floor of Taipei 101. It's the kind of feeling that could only be understood by experiencing it.
During my first month in here, a couple of friends and I went on a trip with the Vegetarian Club on campus to a small town outside of Taipei called Yilan, a beautiful little town with less traffic than Taipei, and amazing parks. We were told that many people from Taipei move to Yilan to retire. During this trip, I experienced so many new things such as: sleeping on a wooden pillow, showering while sitting down, and sleeping in a temple.
This is a photo of the UC/CSU students with our advisor Jill Lin, taken at our farewell banquet for the students that were going back to the States in December. During my first four months here, I've met a lot of people, experienced new adventures, and encountered tons of obstacles but I can't wait to encounter more in my next 6 months here. I'm really happy that I decided to study abroad for a year because I think I would have been really regretful and sad to leave after just one semester.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Taiwan