Name: Rose Doerfler
Attractions: Taipei 101 is great. It’s a huge tourist attraction, but definitely worth visiting. Do karaoke with a group of friends at least once, even if you’re not good at singing. Karaoke is very popular and a lot of fun. My group went to the zoo to see the pandas. Night markets and old streets (especially Danshui old street and Sanxia old street) are also big attractions.
Faith: Fu Jen is a Catholic University, so being Catholic is easy. They have an English Mass and a Chinese Mass on campus every Sunday. The English Mass is mostly led by Filipino Catholics, but there are Catholics from around the world.
I also joined a group for Catholic international students – we met on Wednesday nights and did readings, songs, and discussions in Chinese, French, and English.
One of my group members went to a Korean church on Sundays.
I participated in a ceremony at a Buddhist temple in Taoyuan, and there are lots of opportunities to visit Buddhist and Daoist temples.
Food: The Taiwanese love food. There is food everywhere, and it’s all really inexpensive. Go for hot pot. Eat street food. Drink new kinds of tea. Go to night markets and eat a lot of xiaochi (snacks). Ask Taiwanese friends or teachers for advice for which xiaochi to try, because there are so many things you’ve never tried before that you can easily miss out on great ones. Also be sure to eat the fruits that you can’t get as easily in the US – mangoes, guavas, wax apples, dragonfruit. Taiwan is most famous for street food, but we also went to a higher-end dinner once. There’s a restaurant in the basement of Taipei 101 that got a Michelin star for its xiaolongbao.
Housing: In the Fu Jen University summer program, we stayed at the 99 Star Hostel. This hostel is dorm-style accommodations with private bathrooms. Be prepared to live in a more crowded space than what you’re used to in the US. Do not drink the tap water. There is a drinking water machine at the end of the hall.
Local Celebrations: The dragon boat festival happens every June. It’s on the other side of the city from Fu Jen, so it’s kind of a long train ride to get there, and you may have to get up early if you want to catch the dragon boat races.
Miscellaneous: If you are into sports, it is much harder to get a workout in Taiwan than it is in the US. Most people don’t “work out” the way they do in the US; instead, they stay active by walking around the city. I bought a membership to the civil sports center, which was accessible by bus. There is a track on campus but it’s so hot in the summer that you may not want to run on it.
There are a lot of typhoons and earthquakes in Taiwan.
You will get bitten by mosquitoes. You will see cockroaches.
Most public places have squat toilets. You may want to bring your own toilet paper when you go out in public.
My group did not have any problems with safety.
Transportation & Travel: Public transportation in Taipei is very easy, and much cheaper than in the US. Buy an Easy Card on the first day. You put money on the easy card and then you can use it for the bus and the MRT (subway/metro). Students get a 20% discount on all public transportation. Public transportation is also much cleaner than in the US, because there is strictly no food, drink, or gum.