Making Friends while Studying in Taipei

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Semester in Taipei

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CIEE Taipei

By Katharine Gregory (2024 Spring-term student in Taipei)


Studying abroad can be intimidating as you are leaving your friends and family at home. Making new relationships can be scary especially when you often conveniently lean on your long-established relationships in your home country. On top of trying to make new friends in a new country, you have to overcome the language barrier. 


I recommend joining school clubs or local activities. Although you are not fluent in the same language, Mandarin, you can connect on a common interest. For me this was dance. I joined National Taiwan Normal University’s (NTNU) or 師大 ballet club and hip hop dance club. It took time adjusting to taking a class in all Chinese and some French for ballet, but since I had experience in dance I was able to make new friends when practicing. Additionally, going to dance class consistently exposed me to more Mandarin, so I found myself improving my Mandarin fluency. Seeing familiar faces every week brought a feeling of consistency in my life among the spontaneity of studying abroad.


Spontaneity is a huge part of studying abroad. You need to get used to charting new territory while often getting lost and moving outside your comfort zone.


When my friends were all busy, I would eat lunch by myself at a local restaurant. Sometimes the 餐館 would be so busy that I would be seated at a table with a stranger. I would talk with the stranger using my limited proficiency and Google translate. Sometimes we would bond over a shared subject like hiking. I would ask for their LINE or IG and plan to do something together. 


One time while strolling around Gongguan Night Market 公館夜市, I stopped at a small restaurant to eat black bean paste noodles 炸醬麵. At this night market — which is very close to National Taiwan University (NTU) — I bumped into a student that attends there. We talked about our studies and it was a nice conversation. I also went to watch the Lantern Festival 元宵節 with some new friends I made at NTU. I met them when I joined International Companions for Learning (ICL). ICL pairs Taiwanese students from NTU and NTNU with an International student and pairs us with a local elementary school to educate the students about international culture.


If I got lunch to go 外帶 between classes, I would find a table to sit on NTNU’s 師大 campus. I would often ask to join a group of friends. Sometimes they didn’t want to talk, but most times they were very welcoming. One time I sat at a table with a group of students. One was also an international student from the UK. We discovered our Mandarin classrooms were right next to each other and now we have a regular lunch buddy.


I also made friends in my Mandarin class at the Mandarin Training Center (MTC) 語言中心. We would have class together every weekday for two hours, so we got to know each other very well. After class ended we often would eat lunch together. One girl in my MTC class is from Belize. She invited me to join her Belize group to hike Yangmingshan 陽明山. At this hike, I met a Taiwanese student. We exchanged IG and ended up exploring Linjiangjie Night Market 臨江街夜市 and eating Teppanyaki.


I also made new friends in my biology classes. A French girl in my Plant Tissue Culture class became my lab partner and we would struggle together as the only English speaking students. I was able to help her out by asking fellow students in my limited Mandarin for guidance.


Taiwan is famous for its Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) 捷運. Although you are not supposed to speak on the MRT, you would often hear other English speaking students talking. Occasionally my friend group would merge with other international friend groups. Together, we would explore Taiwan.


Lastly, NTNU Office for International Affairs paired me with a Taiwanese student with a similar major. We hung out many times and I got to meet his friends. He took me on his scooter 汽車 to Ximending to eat at the night market. He also took me and his girlfriend on a road trip along the coast of Northern Taiwan, stopping at Keelung Night Market along the way.