School: National Taiwan University
Why choose/Application process
I chose National Taiwan University (NTU) because it is the top university in Taiwan. For local Taiwanese students, only the top 2 percentile of all high school graduates are eligible to attend. It also offers a very extensive study abroad program for international students. The campus itself is a historical landmark and it is a great place for students to get together.
I have to admit the classes were somewhat dull. The professor’s teaching methods have absolutely no trace of creativity. Everything is strictly out of the text book. There’s a lot of memorization involved in the learning process and not as much emphasis on comprehension as I would’ve liked. However, I believe that’s another part of the “study-abroad” learning process. You can experience how students from other cultures are taught and there is no better way to learn a foreign language.
NTU had an apartment specifically for international students. It was right on the campus so it was very convenient for us to get to our classes. It’s very quiet and very ideal for studying. There are a set of ground rules that everyone is required to follow such as no guests past 9pm, quiet hours start at 9pm, etc. One negative aspect about this apartment was that it’s relatively crowded. However, it’s all part of the culture. Taiwan’s population is very high density; therefore, most places are very crowded. Each room is about 200 square feet with 2 twin beds and two desks. Closet space was very limited and 4 people shared one bathroom. Other than the fact that it was a little crowded, it was a very pleasant living environment.
I must say, Taiwan has the BEST food. Everything is delicious and very affordable. My favorite part of the entire experience is the food there. They have lots of delicacies that people in the United States wouldn’t dare to taste. In the night markets, they have a whole street that just consists of different food stands. Some of the more unique delicacies include pig’s blood mixed with rice which is served on a stick and dipped in peanut powder, pig’s intestine, deep fried meat balls, and duck tongue. When I first heard of these “delicacies” I thought Taiwan people were crazy. However, after I finally mustered up the courage to taste it, I realized that everything is in fact delicious! The food culture is totally different. There’s no way to explain it in writing, you simply must go experience it. I wish I could’ve stayed in Taiwan longer if only to EAT!
Eating after clubbing
Taipei has the most unbelievable night life. In most areas that I know, past 9pm, the only activity available is clubbing/drinking. However, that is far from the case in Taipei. They even have a mall that’s open 24 hrs a day called the “Living Mall.” Night markets are a great place to shop and relax. There are three more popular clubs that I would recommend checking out: Plush, Luxy, and Room 18. Room 18 is my personal favorite – the crowd is chic and the music’s awesome. Luxy is my least favorite because I feel that the crowd is a little younger and not as classy. There are also great lounges to check out if you just wish chill and hang out with friends such as Barcode, which is located right next to Room 18 and IN House, which is also in the same vicinity.
To list a few, Asian people don’t like to tan. Women walk around carrying umbrellas or wearing ridiculous hats that cover their entire face. The gentlemen aren’t gentlemen at all. Once I was waiting for the elevator and when it came, it’s customary to let the people IN the elevator OUT before you step in. However, ONCE the door to the elevator opened, the people swarmed inside whilst shoving the people trying to walk out. Did I mention that these were men? They had no intention of letting the people out or letting me in for that matter.
In any foreign country, language barriers are expected. However, knowledge of the English language is rapidly becoming a requirement to graduate from school. Therefore, more and more people can understand and speak the language. As far as getting around, there is no problem. The biggest challenge comes in the classrooms. In class, obviously you are learning new materials, which is already somewhat of a challenge, but it is a totally different story when the material is being taught in a foreign language. So be prepared that there will be a bit of a learning obstacle if you are not proficient in Mandarin.
The people are not anything like Americans. They don’t say hi or smile at strangers, they don’t say good morning to their neighbors, and pretty much just keep to themselves. They certainly aren’t hostile, but just not nearly as outgoing as people who live in America.
While you are in Taipei, you will never be bored. There’s an endless list of activities you can do. One of my personal favorites is “Shrimping”, as opposed to fishing. It’s exactly as it sounds. You are basically fishing for shrimp right out of a big pool where they dump the shrimp. You cut up little pieces of pig liver to use as bait and you can grill the shrimp that you catch (they charge by the hour). These are not your ordinary shrimp. These shrimp are HUGE with claws that can pinch you! It was nothing like the shrimp I’d ever seen before. They are DELICIOUS! Another thing I really like about Taipei is that everything is open very late, whereas in the United States, there isn’t much to do past 9pm. Shrimping for example is open 24 hrs a day. Other activities I highly enjoyed includes Karaoke, which is also available 24 hrs a day, clubbing, shopping, and MTVs. MTVs are like private movie theatres. You walk in, pick out a movie, and you and your friends/bf/gf are given a private room to enjoy your movie and they also serve food! This is ALSO available 24 hrs a day.
Karaoke @ Cashbox
Kenting is the only place worth visiting outside of Taipei. In Taipei, you get the city life, whereas in Kenting it’s the exact opposite. The beaches there are the best in all of Taiwan. They have lots of water activities including water skiing, banana boat, and water motorcycle. It is also a great place to eat fresh seafood. Highly recommended!
For more high-end shopping, they have SOGO department stores with all the brand names such as Chanel, Dior, Cartier, and Louis Vuitton. If you are looking for something a little more wallet-friendly, the night markets are a great place to go. Shi-Lin night market is the biggest night market in Taipei city. It has a newly renovated food court with all the Taiwanese delicacies previously mentioned. You can buy a cute bag for a mere 3 dollars and lots of jewelry for a bargain price as well.
Unbelievably HOT summers! It is definitely not a good place to visit during the summer being that it is uncomfortably hot. For girls, we spend hours applying makeup just to walk out and have it smear across our faces. The sweating is almost instantaneous once you step outside. Also, during summer, they have typhoon season in which case it is dangerous to go outside and classes are effectively put on hold until it is safe to go outside.