iEARN International Conference 2011
Pre-conference Homestay

Bairsndale Secondary College in Victoria had five students participate in the pre-conference homestay.
Here is the report from one of their students.

Dragging my suitcase up the stairs onto the bus I was full of nerves. At the end of the day I would be leaving my friends and going to stay with a Taiwanese family that I had only met that afternoon. Before that moment came, I had a full day with my friends doing activities at the two schools that were hosting us.

The bus pulled up to the first school that we were going to and the butterflies in my stomach took off and flew around and around as we were led to a room with ten or fifteen girls waiting. I nervously surveyed them wondering if any of these girls would be my host family.

The principal of this school, Lichih Senior High School, soon arrived and led us past the classrooms where people were working, even though it was summer vacation, and up the stairs to 'the library'. Here we had our photos taken with the students and did some activities. I had relaxed by now and really enjoyed the activities. We got to paint our own paper fans. I did a vine with flowers and a peace dove then wrote peace in Chinese characters on it. Once we had all painted our fans we put them out to dry and started on the next activity. This was making wishing 'dumplings'. Chinese people use these paper and ribbon creations to wish for good things such as a good score in an exam. I had trouble to start off with but a very talented and practised girl helped me and I soon figured it out. Now we had time to eat lunch and talk to the girls about our interests and how our cultures differ.

After lunch we presented our things to the girls and boarded the bus again to go to the other school. The other school was called the Affiliated Senior High School of Kaohsiung Normal University, and despite the long name it is a much smaller school and is a public school just like BSC. Here I met my host. Her name was Coco and she was probably around about 15 or 16.

The principal of this school showed us several slideshows about the school and then we went on a short tour of the school. On the tour we saw a classroom and lots of the facilities that the students get to use. Molly even got to ride a unicycle! - well almost.

All too soon we had to part. The butterflies that had disappeared earlier were back in force. I was so nervous. What would my family be like? Would they speak English? I needn't have worried. Coco and her mum were the nicest people and were so kind to me. I had Coco's room which was on the third floor of their five story house! This was quite common in Taiwan.

The next morning after I woke up and went downstairs I sat down to breakfast. I had a big glass of a sweet milk drink and a doughnut thing which was quite tough, but I later discovered that I'd been eating it the wrong way. I think that the drink was something like bean curd milk.

Soon after that we set out to a local market to get some food for our lunch, which was to be home made dumplings. The market was overwhelming. There were people everywhere and they were all talking or shouting or using a microphone to advertise their wares. It was so crowded. There were people crowded on all sides of me pushing and shoving to get to where they needed to go. I was quite relived when we left the market and headed home via a little, although I thought it was quite big, temple where I learned that outside all Taiwanese temples there are two lions, a male and a female. You can tell the difference because the female always has little baby lions at her feet.

We went back to the house and while I wrote my diary. Coco and her mum started to make lunch. I came and helped them actually make the dumplings and I really enjoyed myself, folding up all the dumplings and talking with Coco and her mum. I think that we made a few too many and we didn't end up eating them all. By now it was the middle of the day and was too hot to do anything, so while Coco's mum went and got bread and things Coco and I watched Avatar on the TV and I wrote my diary. Once it had cooled down a bit we all piled into the car and drove off towards the sea. They were taking me to a lighthouse on the very end of Kaohsiung's harbour, but just as we got there it started to pour with rain, so we only looked at it from the outside. Instead of going there we headed back to the Dream Mall which is a massive shopping centre that is shaped like a whale, to have dinner. This was the time that I found the hardest because I was missing everybody so much and I ended up going and having a little cry.

The next day I got up early and packed my bag then once we were all up we headed out to an exhibition about Chinese characters, like their writing. It was really interesting to see all he different artists' takes on Chinese characters. One of my favourites was a picture of Hitler but instead of his moustache the artist had written the Chinese character for moustache. There were lots of different ways that the artists had expressed themselves, some had done paintings while others had made dresses, one had even taken a photo using hologram technology to make it look like the real thing. We spent hours there, looking at all the different displays and having a go at everything in the interactive part.

Once we had lunch we returned to the house and got ready to go to the conference centre as we had to be there by four o'clock. We were a bit early so we drove around the 'lotus pond, a big ornamental lake, that was nearby, and saw all the different temples like the Confucius temple and the temple with the big dragon and tiger tunnels. By now it was time to go to the hotel and say goodbye to Coco's mum and dad as Coco was going to the conference too. Though I had missed my family and friends I was sad to leave my host family and will try to keep in contact with them for at least a while.

Though I got homesick at times I really enjoyed my experience of the school to school project, and had a great time with my host family. I would recommend this to anyone who was interested in travelling overseas and finding out about the local culture.

My advice to anyone who's taking part in something like this is - don't be too nervous. Your host family will be really nice and will take very good care of you. And think of this, would they really let a family that doesn't speak English look after an exchange student? No they wouldn't so just relax don't panic and enjoy yourself!