If any beginning of a person's story could be considered hectic and crazy, it would definitely be mine. I started my simple Friday morning by waking up early for my flight to Taiwan. I woke up an extra two hours earlier than usual since this was an international flight and I wanted to be sure I arrived on time. When I arrived at SFO and went through TSA, I still had a couple of hours remaining, courtesy of my extra punctuality. After waiting for two hours, my flight to Taipei was delayed twice due to inclement weather in the region and by the time I boarded, the plane was still grounded for an extra 30 minutes due to the backlog of planes that hadn't left yet. Needless to say this day wasn't going well for me. Once the plane finally took off, I relaxed and enjoyed my serene 13 hour flight. I arrived in Taipei around 8:00 PM local time and was extremely exhausted from my flight. I took the taxi to Academia Sinica, the research institute where I would be working for 2 months. Rain was pouring constantly and I had to drag myself and my luggage straight across the area under this torrential downpour. It was very dark and I was unable to see directly in front of me, which ultimately resulted in me walking straight into a fountain up to my thighs with my luggage and backpack wet (fortunately, none of the contents in either of them were damaged). This really was not my day. I arrived inside the hotel soaking wet from my thighs down, dripping wet and cold. After 15 minutes of talking with the receptionist and going through the paperwork, I finally received the key to my room and I unpacked and crashed.
In the following two days, I explored Academia Sinica and went shopping for basic items at the local convenience store. I wasn't used to shopping in a foreign area so there were many awkward moments where I'd try to explain or ask something and the person would be confused. The jetlag was also starting to kick in and I lost my appetite for those two days and couldn't really eat a meal. Things definitely weren't going my way. The night before my first day of work, I stared at the ceiling on my bed and thought about how confused I was, being in a different country with a different language and culture. I began to miss home, family, and friends, and my solidarity in my room only served to fuel that sentiment. Overall, my initial experiences heading to Taiwan and living there weren't as stellar as I thought they'd be.
Come Monday morning, today, I went into the Institute of Chemistry where I met Professor Jiann T'suen Lin, the person who would be my adviser and PI for the following 10 weeks. He wasn't what I thought he'd be. He was very friendly, open to questions, and liked to talk about personal things outside of just his research including the general life in Taipei, places to eat and explore, and his own past experiences. I felt much more comfortable and excited knowing that I'd be working with someone so cordial. I spent the next few hours discussing what I'd be doing with Professor Lin and his group as well as the usual lab safety training and an application for an ID for access to the building. Afterwards, I had the chance to meet the rest of his lab who were all nothing less than accommodating and kind towards me. We had lunch and dinner together and some of them even showed me some different convenience stores and supermarkets in the area. Suddenly, my loneliness and melancholy from the previous two days disappeared as if they were never there. I now have renewed vigor and excitement knowing that I'll not only be doing amazing research at an amazing institution, but that I'll be doing it all with a group of amazing people who will help and guide me on the way.
I can't wait to see what these next 10 weeks have in store for me.