Written by Zoe Maalouf, (University of Puget Sound) Student Correspondent CET Taiwan, Fall 2018
The toughest part of doing intimidatingly cool things is that they’re at least somewhat intimidating. Like many people who study abroad or want to in the future, I have always wanted to go abroad. However, the closer I got to my departure date, the more terrified I got– a week out from the day of my flight I was very high-strung, trying to pull the minutiae of this trip together. My arrival to Asia didn’t soothe my anxiety either; I nearly got stuck in the Seoul airport because I dropped my passport somewhere and I started crying in front of some poor Korean airport employees. I was so tired by the time I got to Taipei, that during my taxi ride from the airport I almost convinced myself that this was all a huge mistake. Considering that my semester abroad with CET Taiwan has been the only thing on my mind for over a year, fear and uncertainty are extremely powerful deterrents.
“Overcome your fears and push forward” is far too glib to be the summary of my first impressions of Taiwan. It would also be hypocritical to claim I have done so, since I have plenty of reservations about my life here in Taipei. I can maybe pick out one or two characters of Chinese that I understand on signs and pieces of text. Even if I theoretically should understand what baristas ask me, the moment they open their mouths my mind goes blank. This is my first time being overseas without my parents, and I’ve had to start from scratch with my relationships. I’ve never lived in a place where very few people look and talk like me. However, I can say rather definitively that I have survived the harrowing experience of trying something new.
I’ve been here for two weeks and despite my reservations, I knew from my second day that I was going to love it here. Just the day before I was doubting my entire life plan to go and live abroad, but after one day of positive experiences and new relationships I wasn’t so intimidated. My new housemates played a huge part in that shift– even though I found myself understanding very little when they spoke Chinese, they have been helping me learn new words and I’ve personally connected with both of them.
Last week, my classmates and I took a trip to Sun Moon Lake. The view was so incredible I was almost moved to tears, and I live next to Lake Tahoe, a place known for its natural beauty. That trip allowed me to make friends with my fellow ICLP students, because although local connections are vital, it is also important to have friends who are just as out of their depth as you are. Apprehension and fear aren’t signs of weakness, or signs that you should turn tail. They are normal parts of adjusting to change. Every time I get scared, I am reminded of why it’s worth it, and what experiences I’m definitely going to be healthy enough to experience.
Pictured at top: Mid-Autumn Festival barbecque with my wonderful housemates.