Abroad in Taiwan: Reflections of an Exchange Student
Words and photos by Kosuke Mori
Translated by Sho Huang
I've been an exchange student in Taiwan for almost a year. While I've been in Taichung, I've had so many opportunities that I would never have had back in Japan.
First of all, I've met lots of friends from all over the world, which is pretty unusual for where I'm from in Japan. Many universities here have Chinese language centers and learning programs that open their doors to all kinds of people. In my Chinese class, I've made friends from the States, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam and Spain. We practice Chinese with each other inside and outside of class, which is an experience I'd just never get in Japan.
Also sharing an apartment with people of different nationalities is another special experience. At home, my roommates speak English, which again forces me to speak another language and improve in my ability. It is a great, calm environment in which to practice English as well as Chinese. In Japan, I never had the same opportunities to practice English and Chinese like I do in Taiwan. It was really tough in the beginning, but now I've gotten the hang of it and I've really improved in both languages!
Some of the most unforgettable experiences I've had as an exchange student have involved assisting Japanese tourists and Taiwanese friends who want to learn Japanese. Last December, lots of Japanese baseball fans flew to Taichung to cheer for Japan during the Asia Championship Games. While volunteering for the games, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great baseball players and watch them sign autographs. I even made friends with a television anchor! I would have never had these experiences anywhere else.
Being an exchange student in Taiwan has made me realize that studying overseas not only allows me to pick up a language but also gives my unparalleled life experience and all kinds of opportunities. That does not mean that studying abroad is easy--sometimes it is extremely difficult. There are times where I feel very far away from home, even though I'm only a three-hour plane ride away. If you're thinking about it and not sure what to do, take my advice and just go for it. It might be scary at first, but it is definitely worth it in the end.