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Rachel McCloud, Huayu Scholarship Winner, Taipei, Taiwan, Summer 2014

After receiving the Huayu scholarship, I had to decide which out of a dozen or so schools I would attend in Taiwan. After talking to a few people who had previously studied in Taiwan and my own personal research I decided to attend The Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University. The Huayu scholarship allowed me the funding needed to enroll in the intensive course. This course at times was quite stressful but after about three weeks the routine of studying, classes that were all in Chinese, homework and more studying became much easier to do and even quite enjoyable! Being able to enroll in intensive classes meant I had a smaller class size (no more then eight students) and more time inside the classroom. This allowed my listening and speaking Chinese to improve greatly and quite quickly. Every student in the classroom is around your Chinese language level, which makes speaking Chinese in the classroom a bit easier to do since I was not embarrassed to make a mistake.

One of the best aspects of receiving the Huayu happened before classes even started. On orientation day, which is about ten days before classes, everyone who receives the Huayu is able to meet and finish the required paperwork together. This allowed me to make friends from quite literally all over the world before the semester had even started. It was amazing to see how people from other cultures related and handled Taiwanese culture versus how I did. This, in a lot of ways, opened my eyes not only to Taiwanese culture but also my own. Even though the summer semester ended about six months ago, I still keep in contact with a few of the Huayu recipients from the United Kingdom, France and Canada!

Another great aspect about studying abroad in Taipei is how much there is to see and do. Taipei city itself offers endless places to go see and different activities to do. Within two metro stops of the University I attended there were three major night markets, all of which had amazing food to eat and plenty of activities to do. About a fifteen minute walk from campus there was a large popular park. On the weekends the park often had different festivals or performances, my favorite of which was a free jazz festival but there were also multiple cultural festivals and wushu performances. There are many day trips that are easy to do from Taipei, most of which have a direct bus that you can take to your destination. My favorite day trip that I took was to Yehliu Geological Park, which is only about a two-hour bus ride from Taipei. It was a lot of walking but an extraordinarily beautiful place to visit. Overall, traveling around Taipei was surprisingly easy and inexpensive to do.