Finding Homes in a New City

Written by Anna Dolliver (University of Texas-Austin) Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Fall 2017

Cat

Cats can help you find a home anywhere

Despite spending nearly my whole life in the same city, I feel like I have many homes. If home is a place that fills you with a sense of belonging, I have built homes in libraries and coffee shops, in art museums and the apartments of friends. Though I love adventuring and exploring new places, I sought out local homes soon after my arrival in Taipei. These would become familiar spots where I could relax and view the rest of my life from a restorative, reflective space amidst the many new and unexpected events of daily life.

Though I love routine in theory, I struggle to stay consistent with habits when I have so many I’d like to adopt. I’m so drawn to spontaneity, like taking a spur-of-the-moment trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art after class, that I often find myself trading routine in for adventure. But with such an intensive program as CET Taiwan, incorporating some iteration of a routine is vital to my academic success and personal well-being. To ease the incorporation of habit into my routine, I decided to tie my routine into locations. I would still allow myself to explore, but associating specific mentalities with these locations would make it easier to follow routine.

My bus to work on a rainy day

I have found a few coffee shops that encourage me to both study and create. When I step into my favorite cafe on Yongkang Street, I know that I’m going to write or study for the hours that follow. Many of Taipei’s coffee shops house at least one or two cats, so I have befriended many local felines who remind me of my own cat back home. Along with the cats and coffee, my two favorite study spots also hold potential pathways into social and cultural events. Posters line the walls and handouts about local film festivals, band performances, and other artistic venues sit upon tables near shelves of books. As I draw, write, or work in these coffee shops, I learn about chances to explore the art of others within the community.

During the two hours between my three hours of language classes and four hours of my internship, I prioritize relaxation so I can re-energize before I go to the office. After getting a quick lunch with friends, I take the bus to the area where I work and go to the same coffee shop, ordering a latte and, on occasion, one of their delicious pastries to accompany a half hour of drawing, writing, or simply thinking about my recent experiences. I gathered up the nerve to start chatting with the baristas after the first week, telling them about myself and asking about their lives. We’ve exchanged work stories since I worked at Starbucks for one summer, chatting about everything from coffee to culture. When I step into the coffee shop, greeted by warm cinnamon buns, fragrant dried flowers, and brewing coffee, I feel prepared to decompress for a few moments before rushing back into work.

tea house

Lunch at a tea house

Finding these homes and developing routines as you study abroad does not mean abandoning your search for new experiences. These homes that I have found encourage me to explore even more and meet new friends, yet they also invite me to lean into routine and find peace in the familiar. I plan to continue visiting these homes as I study in Taipei, returning to them for relaxation, friendship, and the warmth of familiarity amidst the many unexpected moments that accompany the study abroad experience.