Phoebe - National Taiwan University

B. International Studies
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I chose The National Taiwan University because of the extensive English courses offered that encompassed my other interests of history and language. I was especially excited for the opportunity to study Taiwanese. Before arriving in Taiwan this year, I was undoubtedly less aware of Taiwan’s rich history, but I knew that the Taiwanese language was an essential part of older Taiwanese culture and a bridge to understanding Taiwan a little more.
NTU offered me the chance to understand Taiwan at a far greater depth than I ever expected. The Exploring Taiwan classes covered history that high schools had long since surpassed, and had been tailored to cater to foreign students. I feel that the greatest enrichment to my exchange was my Museum class. Professor Tsai’s ‘Taiwan Through the Lens of its Museums’ course covered facets of history I had never considered. The upturn of Taiwanese culture during the Japanese Occupation, followed by the rule of Chiang Kai Shek endlessly fascinated me. Inspired by Professor Tsai, I found myself incredibly lucky to enjoy a volunteer position at the National Taiwan Museum. Through this program, I made international friends and challenged my public speaking skills. I conducted English tours of the museum by myself, taking on the responsibility or sharing my knowledge on Taiwanese culture and history with foreigner visitors. The role was incredibly daunting at first, but soon the museum was a familiar second-home, and a place I will dearly miss.

Personal experience

The Taiwanese language proved to be as hard as I expected, but the few words I managed to pick up where always useful, and always delighted the older locals I interacted with. The very small moments can sometimes hold the strongest memories, and I will never be able to explain the unique relationship I shared with the Taiwanese-speaking man who sold me watermelon every afternoon. But I will remember the Taiwanese words he taught me- which, naturally, were all kinds of fruit.
The international students I met at NTU inspired me to re-assess my goals and future. I encountered people from various cultural backgrounds, who I am sure will be on the world stage in the realms of business, trade, and politics in a few years time.

Accommodation

Working as a docent at the National Taiwan Museum
Working as a docent at the National Taiwan Museum

The on-campus accommodation was a tangible culture shock. The tiny kitchenette wasn't fit for cooking in, with only featuring a small microwave and sink. Of course, it naturally wasn't designed to be regularly used, as eating out was far cheaper and convenient. 
As it was my first time living on campus, I enjoyed the location and close proximity to not only my classes but most of my classmates. While the small kitchens of Taiwan can be a struggle, campus-living is always a great chance to mingle with international and local students.

Budget

Taiwan is a cheap country for daily living, but you will surely want to spare some money for travel. Mountains, rivers, and beaches are a short day trip away from all major cities, and worth the journey. On-campus living meets about AUD$300 a month, and in a day I would spend approximately (overestimating) AUD$20 on food (breakfast, lunch, dinner and a coffee). But AUD$10 will go a long way.

Professional development and employability

As an international student, I was given the responsibility to regularly share the experiences of my home country and to be trusted to talk honestly and truthfully about the politics, culture, and identity of Australia. This responsibility pushed me to further my understandings of things I previously had little interest in. Learning of Taiwan's trade, export and foreign ties beckoned my curiosity to my own country's relations. Due to this experience, I have a deeper interest in the politics and trade of Australia.

Highlight

Volunteering at the National Taiwan Museum (a program through NTU) was the highlight of my exchange. I worked closely with famous Taiwanese history and culture and was exposed to historic events I had not learned before. Through the NTM docent program, I had the honour to meet William Shen, a famous gay rights activist. My understanding of Taiwanese identity has been heightened by my work at the museum, and I have discovered a love of docent work.

Top tips

There will be hard times. But you will come out of this experience with a stronger identity, and more skills than you could expect.

Phoebe - National Taiwan University