2018 Fall Taiwan Temple Exchange Thomas Kuklinski

From GMT -4 to GMT +8

I knew I wanted to study abroad before I even came to college. I didn’t know where, or when, or how; I just knew it was something I wanted to do. Spending all my life in the sleepy suburb, Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania, then going to Philadelphia for school, I never really moved around much. I just really wanted to get out. Thankfully, after freshman year I figured it out: an Exchange Program with National Taiwan University in Taipei, Taiwan. It made sense financially and academically, and I was legitimately excited to go there.

Taipei was all I could think about. I’m not an organized person, but I had to-do lists to keep track of my to-do lists. I had reminders for things weeks in advance. I labeled everything in my room in Chinese. I even had an old pickle jar labeled “Taiwan Cash” to help me save for the trip.

study abroad pic1
My labels and Taiwan Cash jar, it’s been depleted many times since starting.

What I didn’t realize at the end of freshman year was how much I’d have to wait and work to get there. To no longer say “I want to study abroad in Taiwan” and instead say “I’m moving to Taipei for a year.” I had to push through another two semesters of juggling school, work, and the application process.

It was funny, one of the last lessons in my Chinese class was about “Applying for Study Abroad.” According to my book, I just needed to go to the study abroad office, fill out a form, then I can hop on a plane and go.

study abroad pic2
A deceptively simplified application process…

That’s upsettingly far from reality. They neglected to include: course approvals, statement of purpose, resume, department signatures, visa applications, health exams, transcripts, proof of health insurance (and probably something else I forgot to mention but hopefully didn’t forget to complete on time).

After all my to-do lists, reminders, and planning, all my hopes were dashed by one minor detail: time zones. I know it’s a common complaint, feeling overwhelmed by deadlines and work, but you don’t really know how it feels until you’re translating a Taiwanese web page at midnight, trying to figure out if the deadline takes the 12-hour time difference into account.

But I didn’t take this into account while filling out my application. I started an application, got distracted, and thought “Oh, I still have another day to do this. I can totally do this later.” I was wrong.

What I thought was another 24 hours was really 12. When I went back to finish the application, I got an error message – the application portal was closed. I realized my mistake instantly. My blood pressure went through the roof. I did all the remaining sections of the application and frantically emailed anyone with an @ntu.edu.tw email I could find.

Thankfully, my midnight was their noon, and someone responded immediately. My savior was Ms. Jennifer Wang. She replied to my panicked, overly apologetic email very cordially. I was still able to study abroad. Everything was okay. After that trauma, I submitted everything to NTU early. I couldn’t risk it again.

study abroad pic3
My savior, in email form.

Once the horror of the application process was over, it all finally sunk in.  I’ve left Southeastern Pennsylvania before, but never for longer than a month. I am going to live in Taiwan, on the opposite side of the globe, for a year. I successfully navigated the applications and websites, and now it’s time to navigate a whole other culture. See you later Philly, if you wanna call, remember I’m 12-hours ahead.

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