Reader, I’m so excited to share the next installment of my series, “A Little Bit Brave.”
Each month, I’ll be posting an article by another blogger who took a leap and moved themselves away from everything that was familiar to find the next “right” step in their life. Next up: Celeste Banks. Celeste is a family friend of mine from childhood and is living (as you guessed from the title) a little bit brave in Taiwan.
If you missed it, several weeks ago, I completed a project outlining the story of how I was a little bit brave and came to Korea. (You can read them all here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4…) In an attempt to share with you how others have been a little bit brave, I decided to start asking some friends to share their stories with you as guest bloggers on this site. You can read the first installment by my friend Anna, who was living in the Philippines, here.
To read more of her awesome stuff, check out Celeste’s blog, From Kansas to Taiwan.
So, without further ado, here’s a little bit brave… in Taiwan. Enjoy. 🙂
I was sobbing and hyperventilating, sitting at my kitchen table in my college apartment on April 14th, 2014.
I compulsively checked my phone’s email for months. Like any good senior in college knows how, I nervously evaded the consistent, droning, “What are you doing next year???” I celebrated for all my other friends after every acceptance and job offer came in, all the while feeling so nervous!
I was talking to my sister on the phone, but squealed out, “I HAVE TO GO!” when I saw the email. I had won a Fulbright grant. To move to Taiwan. For a year. I called my mother, screeching into her ear, “I GOT THE FULBRIGHT GRANT! I HAVE TO CALL DAD!”
A year before, a friend of mine suggested I look into Fulbright. I met with the head of National Scholarships at Emory, where I went to university, and started pestering professors about writing me recommendations. I spent 2-3 hours a week the entire summer working on the damned essays. Then I turned in my application to Emory and awaited my interview time.
In September I met with a panel of professors from Emory to explain to them why I wanted a Fulbright grant. I showed up in my brand-new $40 black blazer from Target and practiced power posing before hand. They asked me tons of questions, from “Why haven’t you studied abroad?” to “What do you want to do post-Fulbright?”
After a few days, the interviewer let me know that Emory would be recommending me for a Fulbright, so I officially sent in my application in October. I heard back in January that I was a finalist. Three and half months of Mardi Gras, spring break, sorority and frat formals flew by, and then I was at my kitchen table reading an email that said, somehow, I had been accepted to this program; and I was hyperventilating.
With the initial email from Fulbright came a slew of paperwork. At first I was surprised, but then I remembered I was essentially travelling with a branch of the state department. Let’s go red tape, let’s go! *clap clap*
So, there was:
-paper work to sign accepting the grant
-2 medical exams; one basic, one that tested for HIV, TB, and syphilis
-documents to sign regarding fiscal compensation
-a survey to figure out placement
-additional paperwork to sign that said I accepted the placement
-informational packets regarding our placement
Let’s just say the summer was filled with a lot of rushing around to appointments and buying a years worth of medical supplies, contact lenses, and make up.
I was thrilled, but I was also terrified. I had traveled internationally quite a bit for being a barely-24-year old, but each time reeked havoc on my immune system.
I went to Mexico and got a Creeping Eruption (as gross as it sounds).
I went to Puerto Vallerta and got a yeast infection.
I went to South Africa and got tonsillitis and bronchitis.
I went to South Africa for a second time and got an illness so horrible and mysterious it nearly killed me (not joking), then I got bronchitis (again) and my hair fell out.
I went to Peru and came back with Traveler’s Diarrhea.
With my track record, I knew I would be facing probable health issues.
Which made me ponder…
Would the medical facilities be comparable to the U.S.?
Would I acclimate okay?
How do you explain asthma in Chinese?
There were so many factors I could not control!
But the point of living abroad is to be out of your comfort zone, right? Right!
With tears in my eyes, a smile on my face, and two over-packed pieces of luggage, I left my parents in St. Louis on July 29th and headed to Taiwan.
After traveling for nearly 38 hours, I landed in Taiwan and was bused straight to Taichung. We started orientation, moved into our apartments, tried Bubble Tea, and applied for ARC cards, all in the first day.
Adjusting was a steep learning curve. Traffic is crazy, there are very few fluent English speakers in the city (or so I thought in the first few weeks), and the food was unfamiliar. There are not dishwashers or dryers, and my washing machine was in Chinese and super confusing. It’s really polluted compared to Kansas City, and the Taiwanese don’t believe in power washing buildings so everything is a little gray.
But, everyone is so nice and on the outskirts of town is a beautiful system of hiking trails, so I decided I might, just maybe, be able to make it?
As I’m writing this, it’s been 8 months since I moved here. I have a little more than 3 months left, then I will travel for a spell and head on home.
I’m incredibly excited to go home, but I am equally sad because of how wonderful my experience has been here. There have, however, been some undeniably hard moments.
Like when I had the flu. Or the sinus infection. Or the cold. Or when I heard my grandpa was sick and not doing well. Or when my friend got married and I had to miss it.
My Chinese is eons better than when I arrived. I learned I like to travel alone! I’ve discovered some incredible nooks throughout Taiwan filled with waterfalls, butterflies, and gorgeous vistas. I finally went camping and I loved it. And a REALLY important lesson I learned is that while getting outside your comfort zone is important, there are times that it is too hard; so you have to take a beat, acknowledge how far you’ve come, and then move forward when you are ready.
As important as learning how to be brave and adventurous in Taiwan has been, I think it is equally important to recognize that I can be a little bit brave in my life whether I’m in Taichung or Kansas City. When I move back to the States, or wherever I end up, I don’t want it to feel like I’m settling. It’s a conscious decision, and it’s a daily decision. It’s choosing to live life to the fullest.
BIO: Celeste Banks is addicted to running, Beyonce, and overpriced coffee. She grew up in the American Midwest, learning Chinese and dreaming of Africa. She is currently living in Taiwan, learning how to make tea eggs and how to maneuver Asia on a scooter.
Follow her adventures at From Kansas to Taiwan.