Advice for New International Students in Taiwan: Make This Place Beautiful

Good Bones By Maggie Smith - You could make this place beautiful

New Initiates Adjusting to a New Country

Life and school overseas is a struggle for anyone with a different mental model on how their world works. I stayed up Friday night talking to a new student about adjusting to Taiwan — some things they’re looking forward to, they’re excited about, some things they’re frustrated with. I talked about my own adjustment and how that evolved. Ups and downs look a little more dramatic when you’re surrounded by people and behaviors and foods and feels you aren’t familiar with.

Taiwan really becomes a more beautiful country than you know, once you learn how to appreciate it. The trick is learning how. There’s definitely an ‘expat adjustment cycle’ you have to work your way through. When it comes to Asia, none of the pop psychology books are all that helpful. They were written for the West, by Western people, who are living in the West. You won’t find many of them in the bookstores here, anyway. You’re kind of on your own.

1) Find Something to Do, or a Relationship to Build


Make this place the best it can be,  for the people you are with.


6 a.m. New Day, New Year 2017 from Neihu

It’s simple to do something about it. You just have to work together to make this place the best it can be, for the people you are with.

Get involved around campus. Indulge your hobbies. Go out and have a ripping good time. Beach clean-up. Cafe-hop. Immerse yourself in doing things that connect you to who you are.

2) Know About Frame

So when I’m giving advice, some people say I sound like an inspirational speaker. I’m really just looking for a frame to give someone else. Something people on their way to self-awareness know. They know about frame. Frame is perspective. It’s learning how to live with yourself. Maintaining it is inner strength.

Hearing this student talk it out reminds me of ‘Good Bones,’ a poem by Maggie Smith about parenting. While Taiwan’s no sh*thole, it’s very different. Different isn’t wrong, and right is never perfect. The poem reminds me the kind of people we need to be for ourselves (and for others, if you do what I do) — to manage our perspective while our beliefs and assumptions are challenged.

“I am trying to sell them the world.” A little bit like the realtor who, “chirps on about good bones.”

This place could be beautiful, right?

We can make this place beautiful.

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