Dublin, Ireland – Well, after finishing my degree and spending a year in the real world, I am going back into the education system. The only difference now is that my Masters course is in Taiwan. I am set to study ‘International Communications Studies’ in National Chengchi University (國立政治大學). The news came quick and I had a little bit of time to sort out my flights, accommodation and a plan to get from the airport to a bed. After 18 hours of traveling, along with 2 hours on the road to get to my apartment, I’m kind of hoping I will have enough energy to set an alarm for 7 a.m the next morning. Not looking forward to that one all right.
The last year has been an interesting one. I’ve been working as a freelance writer and took on some internships. I did some time in Newstalk, a Chinese newspaper in Dublin and I worked as a volunteer radio presenter and producer. Basically, I’ve learned skills in an area that nobody wants to hire in. Go me!
I still have a degree in Chinese and International Business, so if worse comes to pass, I’m not completely screwed. Though at this rate, I doubt I’ll be anything other than screwed considering the opportunities for someone like me are filed under ‘none’.
This isn’t my first time living abroad either. I spent time in smoggy Beijing studying Mandarin and doing a thesis. The library in the college I was attending had basically nothing worth referencing and I somehow managed to sneak into other university libraries and pretend I was a student there. Add to that the level of Internet censorship, it is truly a god damn miracle I finish my thesis.
Of all the things I am not looking forward to, adjusting my diet is definitely at the top. I don’t mind flying 18 hours. My two 7 and a half hour flights are empty and I will be able to sprawl out and sleep. Added to that, Emirates has Wi-Fi on board, so I may indulge in some Realm of the Mad God. It’s $1 for 500mb, so why the hell not. But back to the point. Everything about Asia is doable. I have the added bonus of speaking Mandarin, so fitting into Taiwan isn’t going to be that hard. Eating street food and adjusting an Irish body to eat rice on a daily basis is going to be rough though.
I am not joking about that either. I cannot tell you how weird it is when toilet paper on nights out almost becomes like a currency. A lot of bars, specifically locals one, didn’t have toilet paper. Neither do public toilets and toilets anywhere in general. The first time I encountered this was when during my first week in Beijing. I used a public toilet and realized there was no toilet paper. When I walked out, my friend asked me why I was missing a sock. I told them “to shut up”. A few weeks later she had to use a bank note to wipe her ass because I didn’t see her text messages that there wasn’t any toilet paper in the bar.
A lot of people tend to fear the adjustment period because living abroad can present some challenges you are never going to get at home. Cultural values are different, the money has lower or higher denominations and you are too afraid to use an ATM in the local language in case you cause another 9/11. For me, I am terrified of adjusting to the food and forgetting to bring toilet paper with me when I go out.
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