Thursday, March 21, 2013,

Where I am from in the USA, public transportation just... isn't a thing at all. Everyone owns their own cars, and if they are too young to have a car or don't have the money for one, then they must rely on others to take them places in their cars. I know this isn't the case everywhere in the USA, however.
In Taiwan, public transportation is extremely popular and convenient! It's a great place to be an exchange student, really, because Rotary rules and the law don't permit exchange students like myself to operate any sort of motor vehicle. Therefore I must rely on public transportation, allowing me to be independent and not bother anyone unnecessarily.
There are subways in Taipei and Kaohsiung, trains with access to basically any habitable part of Taiwan, buses to cover the smaller main stations .

To the to-be-exchange-students:
Do not freak out about taking public transportation! I don't know why people do, but for some reason there are exchange students who freak out when they hear that they have to take the bus or train, worrying that they will get off at the wrong stop and get lost. First of all, they should equip you with a phone before you go anywhere alone, secondly you get used to using it really fast, thirdly you need to adapt, and last but not least even if you did get lost it would be an adventure, very memorable.
I'll save my train story for another time.

I really like public transportation, and now that I'm comfortable using every form, I can easily visit friends in other places! I feel like there are no boundaries. For those who will live in Taiwan, check back in for some tips on how to use the train, MRT, and buses. (:

3:32 AM

Wednesday, March 20, 2013,

High Schools in Taiwan are much different from everywhere else in the world.

High School students are usually required to wear a school uniform. However, unlike Japan, these uniforms often aren't the cutest. They typically look like gym workout clothing. They have tennis shoes with long athletic pants and a general shirt, usually worn with their school sports jacket over it. The student's school ID number is usually embroidered on the outside of the shirt. Sometimes they have colors coordinating to what grade they are in, but often times there are only two colors, to distinguish girls from boys. I have been told that some high schools have a separate uniform that has a skirt, but I have never seen one! The tennis shoes that they have are typically chosen by the student and don't have to be any specific color, however there are also schools that do require a specific type or color of shoes.

As for studying, the schools are quite strict and the curriculum is rigorous, but not on the same level as Japan. My Chinese teacher told me that because Taiwan has an aging population, they are having trouble filling all of the schools, and so many schools have started giving "easier lives" to the students to try to keep them at their school. This might include easing up on rules and making the curriculum easier. However, this generally applies just to colleges.

High schools are typically for grades 10-12. There are two different kind of high schools, regular, and vocational. At vocational schools, students typically focus on a specific are of interest such as cooking, designing, or technology. However, this doesn't always mean that the student wanted to go to the vocational school because they are interested in what skills the school focuses on. My friends from vocational schools have told me that the reason they go to their vocational school is because their grades in middle school weren't good enough to get into a regular high school. This doesn't mean that they ease up on rules, though. Students at both regular and vocational high schools are (mostly, but not always) expected to go to school from 7:30 AM until 4:00 PM or 5:00 PM. Many students will go to cram schools after they get out of school.

Please look forward to another post about high school when I will explain more things about high school on a social level and other information.

9:00 PM

I'm at a loss of how to explain convenience stores to Western people who don't have the equivalents of convenience stores. The best way I can put it is like this, think of a mix between a gas station and a Walgreen's, but without the gas. A store where there's a limited supply of anything and almost everything you would need, drinks, snacks, cosmetics, stationery, you name it. However, everywhere! Replace every McDonald's, Walgreen's, and gas station with a convenience store, and you kind of get the idea.

I like convenience stores because, as you can imagine, they are very convenient! Whenever I need something I can just walk to a convenience store, I don't need to rely on anybody else to take me there. They always have the regular processed snacks available, but they also always have a selection of fresh food also. Salads, sandwiches, sweet potatoes, and hot pot! This is nice, because if you don't know anywhere else you can buy food, you can still buy food that is like a real meal.

I don't like convenience stores because they are expensive, and for the same reason that I do like them, they are too convenient. Although if you directly convert the prices in to USD the prices of items in convenience stores are equivalent to the prices of the same products in a Walgreen's, everything else in Taiwan anywhere you go is really cheap, so comparitively it's quite a waste of money. I'm constantly buying drinks at the convenience stores if I'm thirsty, I've become too lazy to carry my own water bottle because I know that there will always be a Seven Eleven or Family Mart nearby. That reminds me, what kind of convenience stores are there?

There are four popular kinds of convenience stores. In order of popularity, Seven Eleven, Family Mart, OK Mart, and Hi-Life. The competition between Seven Eleven and Family Mart is pretty fierce, but I'm still pretty sure that Family Mart isn't as popular. The only big difference between these is probably the fresh selection of foods they choose to sell and the prizes they offer if you collect all of their stickers. :) Sadly enough though, the prizes they offer often do convince me to go to one or the other.

8:39 PM