Living in Taiwan for a year has been one of the best opportunities I have ever received. There are foods that I simply adore as well as foods that I simply despise. I especially love the variety of sweets that I have access to in Taiwan such as ji1dan4gao1 and tiramisu. Furthermore, I have made lifelong connections with people of varying ages all over this wonderful island. These connections include friends, track teammates, and family. Without these relationships, my experience in Taiwan would have had a much less exciting outcome.
When I first came to Taiwan, it was a little hard for me to make friends. Even though, when I first arrived my Chinese level was high enough to conduct a basic conversation, I still was unsure about how to make the initiative and approach them. After a month, I broke through that nervous barrier and made quite a few friends. The next problem consisted of me finding a fine-tuned balance between studying and going out with these friends. Thankfully, my friends (such as Qifang, Louis, Hannah, David, and Lily) helped me by dragging me out and persuading me to go to places with them which lead to many hilarious and amazing escapades all over Kaohsiung. I even joined a local church and made numerous Christian friends.
The most unique part of my year abroad is that I joined two track teams. One of the track teams I joined is based at Wenzao and the other is a private team consisting of middle school, high school, college, and national members. I practiced with the latter team for the majority of my time in Taiwan. Coach Liu, my coach on the private team, worked all year on my form as he aided me in running the 400m. The older and more experienced teammates would not only coach me, but also motivate me to do better. To have someone constantly take time from their practice just to give me advice just shows how much they care. One day I got injured practicing with them, but my teammates quickly came to my aid and bandaged me up. Their willingness to help me up when I’d fallen showed how they truly felt about me. From that day forward, I referred to them as a part of my official track family. Also, I formed quite a strong bond with my track team at Wenzao. We sweat and struggled together as we went through injuries and tried to make a sufficient 4×100 team. On that team, I found my track brother, Louis. I am extremely grateful for finding such a phenomenal teammate and friend. In conclusion, through sweat and pain I formed bonds that I will take back to America as a lifelong memory.
One thing that my host family has given me is the chance to be a part of a fully functional family. They will never know how much this means to me, nor can I fully express my gratitude to them for opening their home with warm, accepting hands. My host mom nurtured me as though I was her child, Ray (my host brother) provided me with the brotherly experience that I never had, and Nick provided support like my dad would have done. I shared some of my hardest laughs and most interesting experiences with my host family. Spending a year with them has given me insight on a fully functional family, and I am so grateful that I was blessed enough to spend it with them. There was not a more suitable host family for me than this one.
Taiwan is one-of-a-kind when it comes to its beautiful scenery, but to me beautiful scenery can be found all over the world. Honestly, the most important aspect to me is the relationships that I made because these connections cannot be found in another city, country, nor continent. These relationships have exposed me to and helped me mature in various aspects of my life. To conclude, no matter where life takes me, Kaohsiung, Taiwan will always have solid place in my heart.