hejinglan: Abra dozing off. (Default)
[personal profile] hejinglan
My sincerest apologies for the super-massive lack of updates. As it turns out, returning and adjusting to life back in the US has proven to be more troublesome than we imagined, surprise. Not to mention a consecutive barrage of busy-ness coupled with a few unfortunate events, which caused us to take a much-needed hiatus from blogging so we could manage everything. [personal profile] jingning and I have been busy with upcoming graduation and a more-than-fulltime course load respectively, as well as managing new translation jobs, moving to a new house, finishing scholarship projects, arranging language exchanges, exams, starting up a small side-business, and somehow finding time to sleep in between all of that.

I also experienced major harddrive failure on my last laptop, only weeks before returning to the US. Unfortunately I lost a lot of pictures and video that didn't get backed up on our external harddrive, so I am still bummed about that. So far any attempts to extract data from the fried drive is bleak, but I'm hanging on to it on the off-chance. I was hoping to compile all of my photos and post them on here at some point, but the feeling of loss of hundreds of unique photos/videos from Ludao 綠島 put me in a bit of a slump. However, I've promised myself to put up the remaining few eventually.

And since we're on the topic of bad news, I also managed to get hit by a pickup truck while riding my bike recently. I'm not hurt aside from a few scrapes and bruises, just a little bothered that the guy sped off without a word, nearly running over my head in the process. ._. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. But nobody was seriously hurt, so I'm chalking this one up as a success, in the endeavor of not dying, anyway.

Bad stuff aside, [personal profile] jingning and I are looking forward to cranking out some more posts come Winter break, when we will actually have some legitimate time on our hands for creativity. Luckily we have a large backlog of half-written entries and notes to refresh our memories of the events that happened throughout last year. We also plan on writing up some general guides based on our experiences in Taiwan, containing some helpful tips on useful words/phrases and the like while trying to not over-generalize as much as possible. If there is anything specific you would like to know, ask us of course and we can make a little write-up about it.

In any case, this blog is a part of my Gilman Scholarship project so I have until the beginning of next year to polish off this blog as best as I can, so a regular flow of posts should be coming in soon. That being said, your comments and input are greatly appreciated! Not only does it make my project look cooler (hahaha), it's always nice to know who is keeping up with this thing. As always, thanks to everyone for your support.
hejinglan: Abra dozing off. (Otose and Gintoki)
[personal profile] hejinglan
好久不見,ye olde Taiwanderland! My apologies for the long hiatus - things have been unexpectedly busy on the island for these past few months, but in good ways for the most part. In any case, I'm glad that my time is being taken up by exploring Taiwan (and beyond!) so I can excuse not having an abundance of time to focus on blog posts. That being said, more posts and pictures should be coming this way in the coming weeks as our semester (and exchange period as a whole) begins to wind down here. 時間過得很快! Time sure does fly.

But before I get into all of that, there's a post that I've been meaning to write for a long time in here that I've been trying to find the right words for, as it concerns a subject that affects my schooling and life, as well as the life of many other USAmerican students who share a similar situation as myself.

That would be - not too surprisingly - finances.

I wanted to write this post to share my past experiences regarding the issue of paying for college and studying abroad as a low-income student, as well as shed some light on some fantastic resources that I have discovered. This information pertains particularly to low-income students and the opportunities available to them when considering studying abroad - if this interests or applies to you, read on. However, if you are interested in study abroad at all regardless of background you may still find some of the information below helpful or illuminating to some extent, too.

First, some abridged background information about me and my family. )

I started researching study abroad options at my university before I was even accepted, the myriad of programs offered by my university being a major factor in my decision to apply. I noticed that the International Affairs office offered a "Study Abroad Advising Drop-In" time and quickly took advantage of that to learn more about my options - and most importantly for me, my financial options. My peer advisor alerted me to one scholarship in particular, aimed towards US students with limited financial resources to help fund an overseas education. It sounded almost too good to be true, so I took a flyer home and checked out their website as soon as I could. (The official Gilman website can be found by clicking here: http://www.iie.org/gilman The information I found sounded promising so I soon began compiling my application materials. The process was simple to follow and I was impressed by the creative reign the Follow-Up Project offered, which encourages students to explore new and different ways of sharing their experiences abroad and the impact the Gilman Scholarship has had on their journey. (I, for example, chose to start up and participate in this joint blog as part of my Follow-Up Project.)

I was surprised and elated to discover that I had been awarded $4500 for my year in Taiwan by the Gilman Scholarship not long after I submitted my application. To me, this is an immense amount of aid, and one that I found would be invaluable in helping with study abroad expenses. Even though I budgeted to the best of my ability in preparation for my time abroad, there were still many little surprise fees here and there that I was happy to have a buffer for. For example, National Taiwan University required all applicants to submit a chest x-ray as a prerequisite for registration, which set me back a bit in doctor fees, as well as the procedure itself. After that, I was asked to come back for a second x-ray exam without telling me the cause, only to find out afterward that it was to confirm that I had a mild kind of pectus excavatum, a relatively common condition and quite harmless in my case. Although slightly perturbed that I had been called in twice for something relatively harmless, I was also grateful it was not something more serious - and most importantly, glad that I had the Gilman to help offset these necessary but unexpected costs related to study abroad.

Originally I thought the hefty sum of $4500 was more than enough to last me a good while, but unexpected costs like these came up in more instances than I could have expected - transportation fees, being placed into a more expensive dormitory abroad because my other cheaper choices filled up first, a two-month deposit for said dormitory that I wasn't informed about beforehand, travel insurance that I somehow looked over, as well as books and supplies that would be necessary for my next ten months in a new country. Needless to say, I became more and more grateful for the Gilman Scholarship as time went on and these little surprises popped up. The peace of mind coming from being able to adequately support yourself in a foreign country far from home is priceless.

So if you are an undergraduate student planning on studying abroad, I strongly recommend checking out the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program to see if you are eligible. The scholarship process is relatively simple and the staff at your local college or university are usually more than willing to help. Even if you aren't eligible for the Gilman, their website offers many other popular scholarship options for study abroad students that you are free to browse.

---

Additional options for offsetting the cost of study abroad:

+ As [personal profile] highways said, look into your host university for scholarship and grant options aimed towards incoming international students. You might be able to find special deals on housing, and even monthly stipends for overseas students are not unheard of.

+ Look into your home university for scholarships aimed towards students studying abroad. Many sponsors support the idea of an international education but a surprising amount of students do not take this opportunity. Indicating your intent to study abroad can be considered a bold move and might even give you an edge over other applicants in your university's scholarships.

+ As always, apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or the equivalent for your country. Applying is free and there is a chance that you will qualify for grants that can be put toward college and/or study abroad, as well as improve your eligibility for other scholarships.


---

I suppose what I want to say is that being in a compromised financial position is not always the final answer and does not have to be a nail in the coffin preventing you from studying abroad. You may have to work harder than someone who is more privileged with abundant resources, but it could be more rewarding in the end knowing that you forged a path for yourself on your educational journey. It has certainly been that way for me.

If you have any questions about the Gilman scholarship, the FAFSA, or other forms of financial aid related to attending college or studying abroad, feel free to leave them in the comments and I will answer them to the best of my ability.
More posts to come soon (with photos this time) about our four-day trip to the scenic Eastern coast on scooter, the International Flora Expo, rescuing a puppy in Lion's Head Mountain Scenic Area, and more. In the meantime, we'll be updating our Tumblr microblog more frequently with small updates, miscellaneous photos from our travels, assorted cultural tidbits about Taiwan, as well as Chinese/Taiwanese jokes Sara finds on drink lids. ^_^

Best of luck in your adventures and in everything you do.

-- Lara / Jinglan
何靜嵐

jingning: (Chihiro and Kohaku)
[personal profile] jingning
Taiwan has a very distinct spring-soaking culture; people from all over Taiwan will dedicate entire vacations to enjoy soaking in the blue-green pools of scalding-hot mineral water. Soaking in these hot springs claim to bring many health benefits, so Lara and I had to check out these pools for ourselves.

The entire island is dotted with access to hot springs, ranging from the very posh weekend spas to very free public pools. However, the most notable of hot spring soaking areas closest to Taipei are located in small towns on opposite ends of New Taipei City (新北市), formerly Taipei County (台北縣).

Enter Wulai (烏來區). )

Enter Beitou (北投區). )

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Happy Year of the Rabbit~!
兔年快樂~!

There's nothing like friends from afar to make stories with and friends back home to read them. Thank you all for being in our lives -- looking forward to another great year and wishing you all the best~!

-- Sara
何靜寧



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jingning: (Simon and Nia)
[personal profile] jingning
Just wanted to leave a quick update in light of the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan. The images from this disaster have really shocked us, especially since memories from our trip to Japan just two weeks ago are very fresh in our minds. While we weren't traveling in the areas that suffered the most damage from the quakes and tsunami, we cannot help but imagine the country in turmoil over its losses. Our hearts go out to Japan and all those affected by this tragedy.

Taiwan was put on the tsunami warning list shortly following the event, however, reports state that the East coast of Taiwan saw waves peaking at 50 cm, so we are very safe. While Taiwan made it out of the danger safely, there are many communities across the Pacific that are dealing with earthquake and tsunami damage, especially those in the Northeastern parts of Japan.

If you'd like to help the relief efforts through donation, please make sure to research the organizations you are interested in donating to beforehand, so as to not waste your contributions.


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Blog updates: We apologize for another long gap of silence. We have been spending our winter break from school like no other, reuniting with our good friend in Hsinchu (新竹市) and traveling by scooter all throughout the northeastern and eastern coast of Taiwan, followed up by a thirteen day side trip to Japan (which will be featured in a separate blog in due time; please bookmark and subscribe in the meantime). We'll be chronicling all of our adventures here within the next month and sorting through thousands of photos, videos, and thoughts so please bear with us.

In the mean time, please check out our Tumblr microblog for a glimpse at some pictures that didn't fit in anywhere else and some Taiwanese cultural tidbits.

As always, thank you for your support~!
感謝你的支持喔~!

-- Sara
何靜寧



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jingning: (Ginko)
[personal profile] jingning
About a month ago, after weeks of intense research, meticulous planning, and tense negotiation, I finally entered the world of apartment life in Taipei. My new place is a mere two blocks from my previous residence and a bit more expensive, but the privacy, convenience, and comfort of living in an apartment more than makes up for these slight drawbacks. As I would eventually come to discover, however, finding out how to pay the bills and work the quirky-shaped keys would be the least of my worries. It wasn't until two weeks later that I fully realized the significance of previously neglected facet of my daily life: taking out the trash.

Within two weeks, I had accumulated enough garbage from moving in, ordering out, and general laziness to fill two large bags, one for trash and one for recyclables. At one point, I ran out of room for garbage in the first bag, so it moved to a temporary home by the door, another bag covering the top so that the smell wouldn't flood the room. The bottles and containers threatened my living space in their own way, forming a toppling plastic mountain in the corner of my room. The drink boxes needed to be flattened and rinsed out to prevent a TetraPak mountain filled with mold spores and festering strawberry soy milk; those, in turn, came to fill a medium-sized paper bag. Needless to say, I needed a solid solution, and fast. Otherwise, that solution would have to be The Ghostbusters.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts )

-- Sara
何靜寧



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taiwanderland: Sara and Lara outside National Palace Museum (Default)
何靜寧 & 何靜嵐 --- Sara & Lara

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