This piece is part of an ongoing series called With Love From. You can read the rest of the articles here. If you would like to send some love from your corner of the world this semester, please contact Precious ([email protected]), Helen ([email protected]), Lyon ([email protected]), Adaobi ([email protected]), or Arden ([email protected]). 

Taipei is canceled for the spring semester, but we can peek into the city with Hsin-Hsieh (Charlotte), M22. She is spending her semester in Taipei, as she decided to live 2 hours away from her home Taichung for more autonomy. 

The city is still culturally and linguistically within her comfort zone, so she has more time on her hands to pick up new skills. “Everything you want to learn, there is a teacher for you [in Taipei]. I’ve always wanted to learn how to figure skate, and I never had the chance to do that [back home (Taichung)].” 

Falling down is part of the learning-how-to-figure-skate package. Hsin-Hsieh describes figure-skating with a start-up analogy: “It’s ok to fail, but you need to have the courage and resilience to step back up right away. Every time you learn something, it’s time to fall again. That’s my approach to life as well. I used to be a perfectionist, but I realized this is too hard in life. Especially when you grow older, and things are way too complicated to make the right choice the first time. But that’s okay. You can make a lot of wrong choices and fix it, fix it, fix it.” Just like that, figure skating captures her life philosophy perfectly.

There’s more to her “personal evolution” from perfectionism to embracing failures. “I change a lot. High school was one thing. Each semester [at Minerva] I am a totally different thing.” Think of it as a new version each semester or “a series of divergent and convergent things.” Drawing from design thinking in “B144: Needs Identification and Product Development,” she explores –finding things and people that she likes and learning from them. Even for things that she doesn’t initially enjoy, she gives it an inspiring spin: “I didn’t like exercising. The turning point was [when] I thought: this was an opportunity for an upgrade.”

On the other hand, Hsin-Hsieh acknowledged that the diverge-and-converge journey poses challenges as well, “because you’re cutting things off. There are tradeoffs. I need to make choices of what I want to keep in life [and what not to].” This semester, she has chosen the comfort of being in her home country and let go of the growths and excitements from learning out in the world. Technically, the main cause of this decision was the Taiwanese response to COVID. “Risking the whole of Taiwan’s health for your own interest is frowned upon,” so the social stakes of traveling are high. 

She makes an effort to maintain and build geographically distant connections, expanding her “empathy radar — the more you experience, the more people you can empathize with.” In the COVID age, we connect by cold video calling. “Before, I used to cold message a lot of upperclass-students. It was acceptable-weird. It’s kind of my hobby. Now it’s normalized.” 

It comes with challenges—being 15 minutes late receives different reactions online versus in the res hall in real life. “见面三分情 (proximity effect): [There is] less forgiveness, less spontaneity, less everything, because there is this distance.” However, that’s why the online relationships that do carry on become more precious. “I connected with some people I’ve never met in real life.” Somehow, being stuck online, when both parties know they can’t meet offline, we devote more to the online relationship and foster “deep, authentic connections.”  

On her journey, Hsin-Hsieh has real-life companions, too. She’s spending this semester living with Taiwanese Minervans. “Especially thankful” is how she describes living with a fellow M22, Cyrus, and two M23s, Esther and Ru-yun, the latter of whom she gets a “once in a lifetime chance to spend time with.”

In concluding notes, she offers another piece of her life philosophy: “You always have a competitive advantage in life.” Find out what it is in the ever-changing personal and global stages. It’s about “what you can leverage in different times.” For now, it could be the local resources we have or the ability of cold calling. “When life has another way of coming at you…you can choose to surf on the wave. Just surf. Make the most out of it. Whatever that wave looks like.”

“When life has another way of coming at you…you can choose to surf on the wave. Just surf. Make the most out of it. Whatever that wave looks like.”

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