Finally we have arrived to the point where I’m going to sum up my experience and feelings I had in Taiwan, and also to tell everybody why I recommend going abroad for some time, if there’s a chance.
Those who followed the blog or know me also know that the first three months of this year was the saddest period of my life, however the decision to go on an internship with AIESEC was born during this time. Actually I had always wanted to go abroad for a while, but somehow it never happened, something always held me back. This time I had nothing to lose, and I needed something to hold on to, a ray of hope in the future which I could look forward to and think that it would be good and help me move on. So I applied for the internship and I gradually passed through the steps of selection. Not that it was so difficult, but still I had to take part in some events, like the Induction Weekend, or the final “entrance exam” which is the Review Board. And when I already knew that I had been selected, I attended the Outgoing Preparation Seminar which was also very useful and interesting. All these things forced me to come out of my shell a little, and do something that makes sense. After that a few stressful but exciting weeks followed, while I was trying to choose the right internship for me. I was mainly looking at Asian and South-American countries – finally I settled for Taiwan.
I have to admit that I didn’t know too much about Taiwan or about the culture of East-Asian countries, however I was very open minded and interested. 🙂
Of course I was a little scared before leaving, but since everything had been settled, I had bought my plane ticket, the only way out was through. 🙂 I was trying to think of it as an adventure, and tell myself that this is what I wanted, and that it would be very good. I will never forget that rainy day, the day of my arrival, and the feelings that I felt… When we first drove from the airport to Yingge. It was a bit like being dropped on a different planet, everything seemed so strange. A few things gained new definitions in my head, like apartment, house, temple, tree…
I was enthralled by the home of the Lin family, when I saw it for the first time. It was so nice and tidy but completely different from any European home I had been to. I was sure that I’m in a great place. They showed me my room and slowly the kids, Celia, Christina and Justin emerged from theirs. They were just as timid in this new situation as I was at first. The parents, Louis and Grace accepted me and treated me as part of the family from the very first moment, for which I couldn’t admire them more and I couldn’t be more grateful. On my second day they took me to Fulong, and on the way back I can remember falling asleep in the car just like the children, and feeling like I was their fourth child and that I have just been given three little siblings. 🙂
I know very few people who are as open hearted, youthful and nice as they are. I feel very lucky to have lived with them for two months.
I still have to admit that in the beginning two months seemed like a really long time…but later it all changed and it actually began to seem too short. I almost didn’t want to come home, I didn’t want the internship to be over.
I found the Taiwanese very welcoming, friendly and helpful. Usually they’re also quite shy though, and their English not being the best didn’t help with that when talking to me. This even includes some of the English teachers. But despite the language barriers I honestly came to love them very much, especially the kids we taught but also some teachers at the school. Though teaching the kids wasn’t always the easiest job, even the smallest success made me very happy, and anyways I usually thought that they were very charming and adorable, even if their favourite singers are Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. 😀 The language education system they’re studying in is not their fault. I wrote about love overcoming the language barriers in more detail in another post.
During the second week of the internship I met Caesar, who looks 18 despite the fact that he is 25. He was an AIESECer for many years, but even now that he quit, he likes to help the trainees adapt a little to Taiwan. He was a huge help to me too: before I met him, the AIESECers had completely neglected me since picking me up from the airport. Even though Caesear’s English is also far from perfect, he was still much better than lots of other people. Which to me was like “oh my God I can finally talk to somebody!”. One of the best memories throughout the two months is the afternoon/evening when he took me to Taipei on his scooter. That was the first time I’d been to Taipei and it was also the first time I’d ridden a scooter. When I caught the first glimpse of the city’s skyscrapers in the sunset from the back of the scooter, a euphoric feeling came over me, something like “This internship was the best decision of my life!” and “This is how you’re supposed to live life!” 😀 The evening took another unbelievable turn when we accidentally met a Hungarian girl on the street (if you happen to be reading this, hi Kata!). 😀
Things began to change completely when I had already been there for three weeks – Prashant arrived. From that moment on I wasn’t only learning about Taiwanese culture, but also about Indian, which was just as intriguing to me. On top of that, we didn’t really have a language barrier between us, luckily his English was very good, so we had great conversations about quite complicated things as well. This was a huge relief to me actually: he was almost the only person I could actually talk to for real, and if I had something to say I didn’t have to think ‘Oh, there’s no chance of him/her understanding this, leave it.” And among people my age he really was the only person.
It was an amazing experience for me how well we understood each other despite coming from two completely different cultures and having completely different experiences in life. (From certain aspects I think the difference was bigger with him than with the Taiwanese.) Of course this was exactly the reason why we were so very interesting to each other. Almost everything we told the other person was new. Prashant is also very smart and he had a good grasp of things. The long and short of it is that we had an awesome five weeks.
The Boarding Entrance at the Taoyuan International Airport is a very sad place – that’s where I had to say goodbye to him and also to the Lin family. I miss all of them dearly.
Without a doubt these two months spent in Taiwan have been the most amazing time of my life so far, and they have also helped me overcome my problems a little. I often felt like this is how life is compensating me for all the bad things, as far as that is possible. I’m sure I couldn’t write about everything…two months is a long time. (This is why all questions are very welcome.) I’d still like to say here that I have learnt many things: I can eat with chopsticks, I know a few Chinese expressions and characters, I saw different parts of Taiwan, tried many foods, I have become braver and maybe I’m more practical, but the most important lesson of all is not one of these. Somehow the planet became smaller, East-Asia doesn’t seem so far away anymore and I know that you can find friends in any corner of the world, if you approach them with an open heart. One of AIESEC’s goals about organizing the exchange program is exactly to strengthen this kind of international understanding, so that people from around the world can get to know each other, realise that the differences aren’t so big after all and live in peace. Even though the variety of cultures is amazing, I cannot emphasize enough that being human connects us.
You should also all spend some time abroad if you ever get the chance. It won’t be always easy, there will be hardships and rough days, but in the end I’m sure you won’t regret it: you’ll gain unforgettable experiences and return home as a new person. As an apt person who has a better understanding of the world.
And then you can start planning the next trip. 🙂