Yesterday I had the opportunity to read a letter that I wrote to myself a few weeks prior to our departure date to Taiwan. Now that I have been in Taiwan nearly a week I have found that many of my worries about issues I might encounter here are actually non-issues. This is largely due to the warmth and kindness that I have received from all the wonderful people at NTNU. One professor allowed us to come into her classroom and break into small groups with her students to discuss our academic areas of interest, goals for the future, hobbies, and anything else we wished to share about ourselves. As the conversation continued it became clear that we have shared many of the same triumphs as well as struggles throughout our academic careers. I ended up having an awesome conversation with a student about women’s issues in career development, a strong interest area for both of us. This is just one example of the opportunities to connect and collaborate that NTNU has provided for us and I am so grateful to be able to take part in this cross cultural exchange.
Today I went to Beitou to visit the hot springs. I greatly appreciate that Taipei has this kind of natural setting to offer as just this afternoon we discussed the importance of work life balance during Dr. Hsiu-Lan’s talk to our group on gender and cultural issues in career counseling. The public hot spring that I visited included several pools with varying temperatures. I enjoyed the process of switching back and forth between the hot and cool pools as I tried to pick up on the norms on how to enjoy them. As I was soaking in the hot water, several Taiwanese people asked me where I was from. I have found that I truly stand out as an American, but that I enjoy people approaching me to ask where I am from because it is a nice talking point and allows me to interact with lots of different people. I have been exploring reasons for why this might be. This brings me to the need to acknowledge that due to my ethnicity and status as an American, I have privilege here despite that I am different. Perhaps this is, a least in part, why I feel so comfortable standing out as a foreigner here.
I cannot end this post without mentioning the wonderful foods I have been eating here. For lunch this afternoon I indulged in an egg pancake with cheese and almond milk bubble tea. Delicious!