Settling in, adjusting, studying and practising (gymnastics)

More than two weeks have passed since I arrived in Taipei and I think it’s high time to tell you a little bit about what has has transpired during this period. I’m not going to give a detailed chronological account, mostly because I don’t like to write like that but also because I doubt many will be interested in reading it. Instead, I will write about a few topics I find important. Hopefully, this corresponds at least roughly to what you’d like to read about.

Settling in

I now feel that the place I live is also my home. That didn’t take very long, although it would be wrong to say that the process is completed. Settling in is an ongoing process that is never fully completed. However, unpacking all my things, putting up some things on the walls, cleaning up a bit and similar things helped quite a bit. I will show you more later when I think I have something to show.

Adjusting

There are many different kinds of adjustments. First, it took me about a week to get rid of the jet lag completely. It only took a few days to be able to sleep okay, but it took a week before I could go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep soundly until morning.

Second, the climate is as different from Sweden as it can be. Sweden is dry and cool, Taiwan is humid and warm. I don’t think I will ever adjust completely, but now the weather has cooled down somewhat, which makes me happier.

Third, there is food. I didn’t encounter any problems during the first week, but for some reason, my stomach hasn’t behaved properly this week. I think it’s getting better, so I don’t intend to do anything about it. It’s only natural that it takes a while to adjust, even if I didn’t encounter such problems last time I came to Taiwan.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, it’s necessary to adjust socially. This is a very complex process that works on many different levels. I think this is the kind of adjustment that takes the longest. Fortunately, this isn’t a real issue in the modern world. It’s not as if my contact network in Sweden has disappeared.

Studying

My main reason for coming back to Taiwan is that I want a master’s degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. My previous experience of the university (National Taiwan Normal University) was mixed (to say the least), but now after finishing the first week, I can at least say that the courses look promising in theory (and so do the teachers). How it will be to actually study here in the long-term I don’t know, but I like what I have seen so far.

I’m taking three courses this semester:

  • 華語文教材教法 (Chinese Language Teaching Methods and Materials)
  • 話語語音教學研究 (Studies in Phonetic Instruction in Chinese)
  • 漢語語音學 (Chinese Linguistics)

I don’t know yet how much time it will take to complete these courses with a reasonable grade (I need 80/100 for my scholarship, 70/100 is the normal pass score). My advantage is that I have studied most of these subjects before, apart from Chinese linguistics. I feel that I have a fairly good grasp of Chinese phonetics and phonology, at least in English. I need to (literally) translate this knowledge and expand it. My obvious disadvantage is of course that most classmates are native speakers and that I will require much more time than them both to read and write the required amount.

Apart from this, I also have Chinese language class twice a week. I don’t know much about this yet,so I’ll tell you more about it later. I just hope that the content of that course is geared towards our program, so I don’t end up with having to learn lots of extra stuff that isn’t really applicable to anything else I’m doing.

Practising gymnastics

I will be able to practice gymnastics very seriously during my time in Taiwan. We’re talking about ~20 hours a week, depending on how much time I feel that I can spend. This makes me very happy indeed. Perhaps this is hard to understand for people who don’t know me well, but having a physical activity that I enjoy is very important for me. The alternative would have been swimming and gym, and compared with that, gymnastics is much better in every single way. I will write about this more later as well, for now let it suffice to say that everything is working well.

Conclusion

So far, everything has been working very well. I have encountered no serious setbacks but have instead stumbled on (or actively found) some really good opportunities. It remains to be seen what I will think in a month or so, when I should have settled in more completely and when I should have a better picture of what my courses really entail in terms of workload and how interesting/worthwhile I find them. I’ll probably write articles about other topics before then, but expect a post like this again in a month or two!

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