School Day Blues

Class is officially in session!

After two weeks of fun and exploration, Ryan and I are officially students at National Taiwan Normal University’s Mandarin Training Center. We’re about as nervous as we are excited! NTNU is one of the best schools in the country, so we definitely have our work cut out for us, but it’s a challenge we’ve been looking forward to for a long time now.

Ryan has been studying Mandarin in college for just under a year, but I’m brand new to the whole thing, so we won’t be in the same class. Luckily though, our classes are at the same time! Which is major relief, because our trip from Toucheng to NTNU takes about an hour and forty minutes total, so at least we won’t have to brave all that time on public transit alone! Taipei might have the cleanest, easiest metro system either of us have ever been on, but a nearly two hour commute without anyone to keep you company would get really boring, really fast. Plus, we can help each other study on the bus! Or nap. That seems just as likely.

The school and the whole neighborhood around it are by far the most diverse, internationalized places we’ve seen since getting to Taiwan. On orientation day, they had guided tours in eight different languages, and almost every one of our classmates is from a different country. It’s reassuring to be around so many people who are going through the same linguistic and culture shock as us, but it’s a bit intimidating to realize just how much we have to learn. To be considered legally literate in Mandarin, you have to know at least 2,000 individual characters! It’s an uphill battle, but it’ll be worth it when we can (one day) make our way around Taiwan like locals. Taipei is pretty simple to navigate as English speakers, but we’ll never be able to fully appreciate the smaller towns and villages like Toucheng or Gongguan (where we stayed last time we were in Taiwan) until we can speak Mandarin.

Our noses are being put to the grindstone already (especially Ryan, who’s had hours of homework a night since day one) so we haven’t had much time for fun this week, but we’ve made the best of it where we could. Perhaps the best part about spending our days in such an international area is that we can get just about any type of food imaginable within a few blocks of class! We’ve already had Italian, Japanese, and Mediterranean on our breaks, and we’re planning on tasting our way through the neighborhood over the course of the summer.

As exciting as it is to get to spend time in the city every day, it’s even better to get to come home to Toucheng at night, away from the loud, hectic streets, and back to the comfort and safety of the Goldfish House. It’s just what we need after a busy day of school and study! We plan to do some major unwinding this weekend to celebrate our successful first week, so stay tuned for more of the fun stuff, from Fourth of July celebrations to a visit from an old friend. Bye for now, and wish us luck on the quizzes and tests that are already piling up!

Love from your friends,

Shu Ai-lun and Gu Ru’en

Or as you might better know us, Erin and Ryan

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