Joseph - National Chengchi University

B. Arts
Semester 1, 2018
Making lifelong friends and sharing great experiences with them.

Academic experience

I went to Chengchi because they offered a load of great English courses related to my majors: history and international relations. In my full-time load, I managed to sneak in a beginner's Mandarin class also. While these were all satisfying, I found the teaching style radically different to UQ. Exchange courses especially are not intended to be difficult, and most classes are run as a type of 'seminar'. The diversity of students within these did benefit my learning, and I made a load of friends through the class setting.

Personal experience

As you've probably read previously, exchange really is invaluable, and I hope to add another voice to that chorus. The friendships I've made count for most of my experience and I'm still making plans to meet up with them months later. There is a lovely feeling of being able to explore a new country with new people. At the end of my semester, I did have quite an interest in Mandarin, and it has certainly influenced my future studies. Simply being exposed to a place radically different from home brings natural curiosity. While everybody faces hiccups in Taiwan, these are simply character building. If you don't speak Mandarin (like me), things will always turn into a laugh. Since, I've found myself much more assertive and willing to step out of my comfort zone.

As for places to visit - they're innumerable. As most of the travel guides say: Taiwan really is a hidden gem. I found myself cycling through the mountainous East coast, hiking through national parks, visiting world-class bars, and sampling famous foods. The National Chengchi University (NCCU) student body also runs plenty of excursions for foreigners and Taiwanese alike. I never got bored.

Accommodation

Living on campus was a treat. As well as incredibly cheap accommodation (I chose the lowest tier, the four-bed room), it was a fantastic way of meeting other Taiwanese and foreigners alike. Although it may be a little rough, the experience of it was unmatched, and most amenities are close by. Campus support is open 24hrs and just a two minute walk from the dorms. NCCU is not in central Taipei, and it takes about 40 or so minutes to get there, so some people do opt for off-campus accommodation to be closer to the city. Nevertheless, the Wenshan District is beautiful, and there are plenty of the things to do there. Keep in mind that the metro stops at about midnight, and getting home requires a taxi or a bike ride of over an hour.

Budget

Elephant Rock on the Northern Coast
Elephant Rock on the Northern Coast.

Taiwan is a very cheap place to live for an Australian. A decent meal close to campus may cost you $4, a bubble tea $2 and an MRT ride about 80c. Likewise, travelling around the country is inexpensive, and I found myself jumping on trains to the south for about $15. An OS-Help loan is more than enough to cover expenses if you are living cheaply.
The cost will obviously depend on the kind of lifestyle you want, but on average the living expenses will be cheaper than in Australia.

Challenge

If you do not speak Mandarin, the language barrier can be quite alienating. However, people are always willing to help, and the locals always want to make friends despite this. Just work on your language skills and you'll find opportunities open up in front of you.

Professional development and employability

Living in a different country automatically shows a willingness to adapt. Taiwan's politics and the courses I took greatly added to my knowledge of East Asian international relations, which I hope to employ in the future.

Highlight

Simply making lifelong friends and sharing great experiences with them.

Top tips

Get involved in some clubs on campus and make the most of every weekend. Don't get too wrapped up with studying! Taipei is up there with Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing for things to do, it just takes a little Googling and exploring.

Joseph - National Chengchi University