Looking back, I should have given myself more than 48 hours to empty my apartment and pack up all my things. I leave this Sunday, July 30th, for a year long Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Taiwan. Of course, when I have a long list of errands to run before I leave, time seems to be speeding up.
This short timeline feels both liberating and terrifying. Nothing has taught me so much about myself and the world as much as my time abroad. I get a fresh start, a new country, a new routine! Everything will seem so alive and clear. And yet, inevitably some old fears rush back. Will I get along with my roommates? Will my students like me? Are my Chinese skills adequate enough to communicate with Taiwanese people?
I’ve been placed in Taitung, Taiwan, which is a county on the southeast coast of the island. It’s definitely one of the more remote areas of Taiwan, which will be a challenge after living in the close proximity of bustling Boston for the past few years. Hopefully, the other teachers and I will bond over the pastoral experience. Plus, I loved being a probinsyana (loosely translated as “countrywoman” in Tagalog) while living on the island of Palawan in the Philippines.
In fact, this will be my third time living abroad for an extended period. In 2015, I spent four months in greater Copenhagen, Denmark, and about three months in Puerto Princesa, Philippines. Though this will be my longest stint away by far, I have a fuzzy outline of what to expect after stepping foot in Taiwan. There’ll be the conflicting forces of adrenaline and jet lag. I also foresee awkward moments and making cultural faux pas. But it’s all part of the rite of passage of acclimating to a new place. I know I might face a challenging transition phase, but just knowing that makes me feel better prepared.
Brushing the anxiety aside, there are a lot of things I’m excited about as well. First, making connections with students and the LETs (local English teachers), which will be endlessly rewarding. Making Taiwanese friends and improving my Chinese. Exploring the country through food, traditions, and travel. The anthropologist in me is giddy just thinking about it.
As I do my frantic last minute packing, the light at the end of the tunnel is the thrill of standing in line at the airport, passport in my hand, exhilarated and humbled by the prospect of everything that will happen in the next year.
Disclaimer: This is not an official Department of State website or blog, and the views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program of the U.S. Department of State.