Eric - National Taiwan University

B Business Management/Arts
Semester 2, 2018
Studying in Taipei was fun, immersive, and challenging. Just avoid the stinky tofu.

Academic experience

During my exchange I took International Business Strategy, Global M&A Management, Micro/Macro Economics courses as well as an intensive Chinese language for beginners. Getting into courses at NTU is a bit of a struggle (and a lottery), as there are limited places in every course. The process included multi-stage preference system on NTU’s web system, then if you were unable to get into your desired courses, you could attend the first class and race to the front to get a unique code which would add you to the class. If you don’t get into the course, don’t stress! Professors usually allow exchange students into the class regardless of the capacity, just go to them in person.

There is a large selection of English taught business courses at NTU. The academic style at NTU is very lecture orientated, in my case, there were only lectures. The School of Management at NTU has a very practical focus on teaching lecture content, with the main form of assessment being case studies, rather than exams. The professors at NTU are very professional with high standards, but don’t be shocked if they are very critical of your work, especially in front of the class. The university culture is different in Taiwan in comparison to Australia. In terms of grading, NTU can be quite harsh or lenient depending on the professor. The workload is quite similar to UQ.

National Taiwan University (NTU) is very exchange student friendly, the Office of International Affairs (OIA) is well organized and are very helpful for exchange students. The campus itself is quite big and iconic, with tall palm trees lining the streets of the campus. I found some of the facilities to be a bit outdated, but others to be very state of the art. Most students rode bicycles to class and around Taipei, and most exchange students end up buying one, or use the bike-sharing system in Taipei called U-Bike. There are many extracurricular activities offered at NTU, including weekly classes in your favourite sport, as well as volunteering opportunities.  The university is located in Gongguan, in the heart of the city, and boasts a wide variety of street food, restaurants and bars that are open till late.

Personal experience

I gained a lot from this exchange, I made amazing friendships with many exchange students from all over the world, and even visited them in their home countries on the holidays! I also met many local students, Taiwanese people in general are very friendly, curious and open minded. Having local friends help me practice my Chinese and learn about Taiwanese culture and places to visit in the country. Befriending local students was easy, there are many student events and a buddy system to help you move in and meet friends.

Since Taiwan is such a small country, travelling around is very easy and efficient. It only takes an hour or two train ride outside of Taipei to reach popular hikes, beaches, and small iconic towns. I visited Hualien a couple of times, to hike Taroko National Park and to relax on the beach. Taroko National Park has some breathtaking cliff face hikes that aren’t for the faint-hearted, as well as peaceful hikes alongside crystal blue streams. It is definitely a must see in Taiwan. I also rented a car and did a road trip with some friends around the entire coastline of Taiwan, another popular option is to do a bicycle trip down the East Coast, if you’re fit enough!

I came to Taiwan with the desire to learn Chinese, so I took General Chinese Classes which were open to exchange students. They allocate you a level with a placement test, and you are put into a class of 10-15 exchange students. As the semester went by, many people dropped out and the classes ended up being much smaller. The classes were quite intensive, with three 3 hour classes every week, and an option to do extra advanced classes. It was quite tough and demanding, with homework every class, and the sheer amount of characters I had to memorise! However, it was one of the most rewarding decisions I have ever made. There was greater feeling than being able to use Chinese every day without switching to English. By the end of the semester I knew enough Chinese to do most daily activities, and I was inspired to continue to improve my language skills.

Accommodation

I lived on campus at Prince Dorm, which was around $350 AUD a month for a bedroom with private bathroom. This is significantly cheaper than renting out a room in Taipei, and the standard is a lot better. The room was spacious, and the view from my room was spectacular, if you’re lucky you’ll get a view of Taipei 101! I would advise students going to NTU on exchange to definitely go with Prince dorms, as the location is unbeatable, in heart of Gongguan, which has night markets and great restaurants.

Costs

In total, I spent around $5000 AUD excluding flights. On a daily basis I would spend around 300 TWD every day, which comes out to around $13 AUD. Cost of living in Taipei is quite cheap, but the nightlife can sink holes into your wallet, so be careful. A typical night out is a lot cheaper than Australia, as usually clubs would offer unlimited drinks and entry, for around 20 AUD. Travelling around Taiwan on the high-speed rail can be quite expensive, as a usual trip costs around $70 AUD. I would recommend renting a car and doing a road trip with some friends as a cheaper, more enjoyable alternative. If you love bubble tea, its $1.5 AUD and it beats Gong Cha and Chatime put together, just don’t drink too much.

Challenge

The biggest challenge was learning Chinese! Total class time a week was around 9 hours, with the option to do extra classes. The program was rigorous, and many students dropped out, but I would highly recommend taking it, even if you don’t plan to get credit transferred for it. It is probably the best way you could start to learn the most difficult language in the world, as the classes are small, immersive and 100% in Chinese by week 3. Most students would agree that Chinese language took up most of their study time, and I overcame the challenge by repetition, and practicing consistently.

Professional Development

In terms of professional development, learning Chinese has given me a boost to my employability. Despite not being able to use it in a professional setting, it takes dedication to learn, and having a basic grasp in the language is a great base to improve in the future.

Highlight

Renting a car and going on a road trip around Taiwan!

Top tips

My advice for students going on exchange to Taiwan is to buy a second-hand bike and go to IKEA to buy a mattress that isn’t 2 inches thick. Say yes to everything, even if you’re too tired. Go meet people from a diverse range of countries and put yourself out of your comfort zone. If you go to Franny on a night out, don’t get a number 3.