Hello! I'm Nicole, and I decided to spend a year abroad in Taiwan, a tropical island off the coast of China. I lived in Southern California almost my entire life, but I decided it was time to get out of the United States to experience a new place, an Eastern culture, and learn an entirely unique language, Mandarin Chinese.
I've always wanted to study abroad, so when I heard about CSU-IP, I knew my goal was within reach. The chance to finish my general education requirements and live in another country was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
When I arrived in Taipei, I was amazed by the height of some of the buildings. For example, I'm standing in between two of the dorm buildings on the ShuiYuan campus. The buildings are 14 floors high and I live on the top floor, with an amazing view of the city.
I live with one roommate, who is Taiwanese. This is a great opportunity for me to practice Chinese constantly, and live with someone who was brought up with this culture, and can teach me the do's and don'ts.
This is a photo of the famous Royal Palm Boulevard. Although Taipei is in a state of constant rush, National Taiwan University has a very calm atmosphere. This is the main street of campus, decorated with rows of healthy palm trees leading up to the NTU library. The campus is so beautiful, it is common for the residents of Taipei to go for a casual stroll or bike ride just to admire the scenery. The campus is very green, with a blend of modern and historical buildings, complete with a manmade lake.
Some of the things I love the most about Asia, besides the food, are the temples. They are a place of worship for many religions, and are also absolutely gorgeous and full of decorations. Temples are everywhere, and each one is more exquisite and colorful then the last. It became my personal goal to photograph every single temple I see, and by the end of the year, count how many I've visited.
But I had to be careful, because according to this culture, photographing the gods inside is considered disrespectful.
Along with learning the culture, the language, and the way of life in Taiwan, I also wanted to learn all about the religions here. Ninety-three percent of the people in Taiwan are Buddhist, Confucianist, and Taoist, which is much different from the religious scene of the United States.
My language exchange partner took me to experience a temple, and worship in it the way he was raised to worship. First, six incense sticks are lit, and then a god is approached and a silent prayer is said. Then three bows are made, to honor the god, and one smoking incense stick is left as a symbol with the god.
If you live in Taiwan for a year, there are tons of activities to look forward to, but one of my personal favorites is karaoke. It's perfect for a birthday, special occasion, or just a random fun night. You can rent a karaoke room for fairly cheap and sing the night away with a group of friends. It's a great way to leave your inhibitions behind and just sing as loud as you can, the way many people reserve for the shower.
In this picture, we were singing the chorus of "I Believe I Can Fly" and everyone was fully committed to the song.
Taipei 101 is the pride and joy of Taiwan. She has over 101 floors above ground, and five levels underground. Taipei 101 is also the home of the world's fastest elevator. Underground, there is a huge mall with famous international stores, along with a gigantic food court. At the top of Taipei 101 is the viewing area. On a clear day, you can see Taipei from a bird's eye view, including the nearby mountains and the bustling city.
Every year, on New Year's, there is a very impressive firework show and people come from all over the island to celebrate there.
Taipei is a city that never sleeps, and the city's lights at night can be very beautiful.
I grew up in a city near L.A., so I thought I was familiar with crowded freeways around rush hour. However, now I think traffic in Taipei is much worse. Imagine bumper-to-bumper traffic, then add about one thousand more motor scoters weaving in and out. Also, the traffic "rules" here are taken more as light suggestions.
This photo is of the average street in Taiwan. All mixed together, there are established stores, mom and pop shops, street vendors and of course, on every corner, a 7-11 or Family Mart.
If you ever get tired of Taipei's constant busyness, you can take a train or bus to other, more peaceful parts of the island. I would recommend Hualien because its peaceful rural areas are very green and relaxing. In this photo, I'm standing in a river, learning how to catch fish the way aboriginal tribes in Taiwan used to. I'm holding a shrimp that I also caught using an aboriginal shrimp fishing method.
CSU International Programs arranges trips and activities to different parts of Taiwan throughout the school year to experience the culture. It's a great way to bond with the other members of the program and get a local's perspective. In this photo, we were on a 2-day trip planned by CSUIP, learning tribal dances in full aboriginal attire. Seeing my fellow CSU program mates tribal dancing was one of the funniest things I've ever seen, and something I'm not likely to forget.
Taipei is so overcrowded with cars and motor scooters that bicycles are the more convenient way for a student to get around town. There are literally thousands of bikes parked around the city and in NTU. Every year, there is a bike sale held by NTU and you can buy a functional second-hand bike for a few U.S. dollars. There are so many bikes that they must have some way to manage them, so there is a truck that comes by and picks up misplaced or inappropriately parked bikes. The bikes that don't work end up in the Bike Cemetery, which is what this photo depicts.
Have you ever had someone you didn't know take a picture of you? Have you ever been a minority in a society? Both of those things have happened to me this year, and have completely changed the way I think about racial minorities. I think being a minority is something everyone should experience, because it is truly humbling. Studying abroad has been the best experience of my life, and I am so happy with my decision to push myself out of my comfort zone and experience life in a foreign country.
This photo was taken in Jiufen, a beautiful village built on the side of a mountain.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Taiwan