Chen Yujie, Blair.
What It Feels Like to be a foreign exchange student
Klaudia Dorado
Chen Yujie, Blair.

What It Feels Like to be a foreign exchange student

Chen Yujie // as told to Layla Kane

Everyone has only one life to live but the exchange student program seems to have opened my second life. After 14 hours of flying, my family, my friends, my language, my culture… everything around me changed.

I am an exchange student from Taiwan and my name is Chen Yujie, my family name is Chen. In my country, we put the family name first. However, here I go by Blair because my Chinese name seems somewhat difficult for people to pronounce. 

Coming to America has been a big change, life in general is very different. The nightlife in Antioch is a little boring compared to Taiwan. In Taiwan, once people get out of school and work the roads are very lively and busy. There are so many things to do outside at night, but most of the time we go to the night market to eat. Since coming here, most nights I spend at home instead.  However, spending nights at home has not stopped me from enjoying the food immensely, maybe even too much. It is true what they say about American food, it is very fattening compared to Taiwanese food. 

Besides the food, the language has definitely become a challenge for me. I struggle partly because in my mother tongue, Chinese, the letters are written completely differently. For example, ABC is ㄅㄆㄇ. Reading, writing and comprehending have all been a struggle and the pronunciation and tone are completely different in English compared to Chinese. Sometimes I can spell words but I can not pronounce them. Sometimes I can pronounce words but I can not spell them out, more importantly, I can not understand them. Slowly I am learning, but English is a challenging language. 

In Taiwan, I went to a boarding school, which means I have lived at my school since junior year. In Taiwan, boarding schools are the most common form of education. While living on campus I became very independent. I did not rely on my parents at all. This made the transition to another country easier, although I still get very homesick. My family is extremely important to me, I have a younger sister that I miss a lot. However, me and my sister do fight a lot, the saying “distance produces beauty” would be a good way to describe our current relationship as we have not been arguing now that I am not home. I talk on the phone with my family often and I am very excited to see them again, including my dogs and cats.

At my school in Taiwan, we wear a neat school uniform every day, the dress code is very strict. The school coat should be zippered, the skirt should be past the knees, the socks should be over the ankles, the shoes should be all white, no earrings or necklaces, no dyed hair and more. 

Also, a small difference between this school and my school in Taiwan is that we have ten-minute breaks in between classes. This is because we do not switch classes, the teachers move from class to class, which I loved and preferred because I liked being with my friends all day and being able to socialize in between classes rather than walking through the chaos that is the hallway. Everyone is in such a rush here. 

School in Taiwan is much more difficult; the technical start time of class is 8:00 a.m. but teachers make us come in at 7:30 a.m. and sometimes earlier because the exam time starts at exactly 8:00 a.m. We have exams every single day. The classes end at 5:00 p.m. so after we take our exams in the morning we still have class time. We also have required study time, we have to study at the school until 11:45 p.m. and then we get to go back to our rooms to sleep. There is no time to join clubs or activities. In addition, there is a lot of homework and we get a lot of homework exams. It is almost impossible to finish my homework and study for the next exam in the morning. School in Taiwan is hardcore, which is one of the main reasons I decided to come to the United States.  

One day I was scrolling on the internet and an advertisement promoting a foreign exchange program popped up. I applied and after a little over six months of filling out all the necessary documents I needed to come here but also finding a host family for me to stay with I got approved to come to Antioch. I came to the States on Aug. 3, 2023 and I am only here for the school year. 

After senior year I am uncertain about my plan. I am leaning towards furthering my education in the States but I would love to go back to Taiwan too. If I get too homesick, I might consider Taiwanese universities. Ultimately, it’s uncertain, and I’ll decide based on how well I adapt here.

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About the Contributors
Layla Kane, Tom Tom Staff
Layla Kane is a senior and this is her second year on staff. She enjoys Starbucks, sports and reading. She is also obsessed with Taylor Swift.
Klaudia Dorado, Lifestyles Print Director
Klaudia Dorado is a senior and this is her second year on staff. She enjoys reading, spending time with friends and family and listening to country music. Dorado hopes to have a successful year and try new things.

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