By Michael Ke
Speaking of an exchange student, the personalities that come to people’s mind are being outgoing, independent, curious, etc. Indeed, these are all important qualities for an exchange student. But to be more specific, I do believe there are several practical abilities that help you connect with other exchange students better.
In Taiwan, we can easily purchase food with multiple options at an affordable price. Since meal prices are usually higher in the US than they are at home, it becomes necessary for international students to learn how to cook for yourself. After three months in the U.S., I strongly feel that being able to cook truly makes it easier to make friends. As everyone knows, people always miss hometown dishes. Therefore, people always want to be with you if you can cure the homesick issue, and my roommate is exactly the one. Whenever he brings out the traditional Taiwanese cuisine, our reaction is nothing but awes and wows. It’s interesting to observe how much people admire the chef since everyone wants to taste their hometown cuisine. I didn’t really feel that cooking was a required skill at home, not only because we can buy food to feed ourselves, but also because iconic Taiwanese food is so widely available at restaurants in Taiwan. I now finally understand the importance of cooking.
The U.S. is a country with vast territory. Frankly speaking, it’s not convenient to travel to somewhere far outside of the city without a car. In that case, the ability to drive can help to expand your opportunities to explore in the US, since you always need a driver to carry you to the destination. We can always find a bus or MRT to solve the problem back in Taipei. You can still travel to a lot of tourist spots in the US with public transportation, but it’s different now. Driving is the simplest but the best way to contribute to a group journey. In short, for exchange students, we always want to seize every opportunity to explore this country, and that’s why driving is a skill that helps you connect with other exchange students and explore more of the country.
During your time as an exchange student, there are numerous opportunities to attend social occasions and make new friends. We are here to explore the diversity of the world and broaden our horizons. Creating a conversation is always the best way to make new friends. It requires not only experience and knowledge, but also curiosity and comprehension to appreciate the culture differences and find the similarities. I found that sport is truly a universal language. When chatting with Americans, football and basketball are often our main topics of conversation. You can tell that your relationship is closer when you appreciate the sport they love. Therefore, my suggestion is to find the similarity of what you love within another culture, then do some research on it. In that way, you won’t worry about what to say in a conversation anymore.
Within school life in Taiwan, the shining stars are usually who can sing or who play sports. However, making friendships and connections on exchange requires more, which is quite interesting. It all comes down to basic living skills when people move into a new environment. We look back and put emphasis on the fundamentals again. Studying abroad is truly a precious experience for me to be more independent and it’s always a pleasure when you are able to give others a hand.