Something I realized about my upbringing before I left for college was the silence—the silence specifically about college. Discussion regarding my preparation for life post-high-school was nonexistent, but I noticed that the topic of “change” was never brought up in my household—but what’s ironic is that my family faced a myriad of changes yet somehow never passed on the wisdom of adaptation. As I nonchalantly sit in my dorm room in Taiwan, I wonder if such conversations had materialized in my lifetime, would it had made my transition from Albuquerque to Providence easier? From the worst public school in America to one of the best private schools? From America to Taiwan?
I won’t lie: I cried my first night at Brown (a sentiment, I’m sure, that many of my peers shared as well). However, to be completely honest, I didn’t think I was going to cry. It just abruptly happened: one minute I’m was rejoicing that a new chapter in my life had (finally) begun, about how great everything was going—the friends, my mentors, the academics, my room—and the next I’m crying (uncontrollably).
The ironic thing is that I thought my transient upbringing had given me enough experience to beat this game of adaptation, this game we call Life. I never once complained when I switched from elementary school to elementary school. I didn’t mind (too much) when I moved between states, or when we had to relocate to another apartment. Granted, I did adjust relatively quickly to my new life in the Ivy League, but upon my first week in Taiwan, that melancholy feeling I experienced on August 16th, 2014 (Day 1 of Brown) was the same feeling I felt on June 1st, 2016 (Day 1 of Taiwan). Only this time it took a bit longer for it to dissipate than I envisioned.
Realizing the cause of my despair, I couldn’t help but reflect on the differences between my first day at Brown vs. my first day in Taiwan. While I was leaving my family behind in Albuquerque, I immediately entered a new family: the Catalyst Pre-Orientation STEM Family. My gregarious nature was gladly welcomed as any conversation I initiated was cordially reciprocated. I was capable of adventuring into the city of Providence either by myself or with friends by my side. It was easy to keep in touch with loved ones thanks to social media and cell phones. I felt in control. I transformed. The same could not be said with Taiwan.
It was harder for me to connect with the locals in this city because of a palpable language barrier; very few knew English, and those who did knew very basic English. My extroverted personality was challenged as an attempt to bond with the locals was difficult since we spent too much time exhausting each other trying to figure out what one was trying to convey. I could not go into the city because I was unable to figure out the bus system, and when I was taken by a co-worker, I couldn’t read or buy anything because I was unable to understand anything presented to me. I was stuck.
This isolation made me fearful of my surroundings which paralyzed me. As a result of my immobility, I was unable to immerse myself in this new environment I had the privilege of experiencing—and I was cognizant of that fact. In fact, being aware actually made me angry because I knew that the person that I wanted to be—the person that I believed I was—would not allow myself to become incapacitated if it meant wasting a meaningful experience.
I’ll admit that my first few days in Taiwan are still tough, and I have not yet acclimated to the country as fast as I would have liked, but I am hopeful that soon I will grow out of my fear and learn to make the most of it. I know I can adjust; I have before in the past. Meanwhile, I am taking it day by day, learning to reflect on my feelings and plan my next steps so that I can also look at this with nostalgia.
This blog was previously posted on the I’m First! Scholarship Blog Series and recently migrated here to my personal site.