Tamkang UniversityStudent Experience - Taiwan
Exchange Student, Joshua Friednash
Tamkang University, Taiwan – Fall 2007 to Spring 2008
“English was used widely, especially in the classrooms, but of course I had some communication difficulties.”
In order to get my student visa numerous steps were needed. First, there was an online application to be printed and filled out. Passport sized photos needed to be taken, as well as sending my passport to the proper office of jurisdiction. Second, the host university needed to send me letters of acceptance. A fee of $100 (US dollars) was taken in order to process the proper paper work. The waiting time took about one week. It also happened that while I was applying for my visa and waiting for my acceptance the International Office at TamKang University was on summer vacation and unreachable. My original visa was just a ninety day visitor visa which the school handles upon arrival. After arriving there is some paper work to fill out in order to get a ROC card which gives you unlimited entry into the country. However, if you are staying for one semester this is unnecessary, and you can extend your visa if you need to. The fees for the ROC card are about $100 (US dollars).
Prior to my departure, I received information about the rules of the student dormitory that I would be living in. I also was in constant e-mail contact with the International office at Tamkang. I spent a lot of time searching for tickets. Student Universe, Kayak.com, cheaptickets.com and others are the best bet. Sometimes buying directly from the airlines is also a good choice.
Upon my arrival to Tao-Yuan airport, the school hired a shuttle driver to greet and drive me to the University dormitory. The University did have some small party and events to get to know each other. The international dormitory did have some events, and the international office scheduled some trips to places around Taiwan. The International office did assist with problems and matters regarding the exchange. They were a bit organized when it came to sending in grades back to HPU. I asked them once before winter break, once during, once after (in which they gave it to me to send), and once after spring started. They also help with visa related issues.
I chose classes from the schools website with the help of my Taiwanese friends. Some of my friends gave great recommendations and were in some of my classes. All but one or two classes were available for me to take. Most of the classes taken in Taiwan were on the graduate and doctorate level as they were taught all in English. Sometimes classes for undergraduate were harder to find in English. Textbooks were available for purchase in Taiwan. Some classes I had with my roommate so we shared books. Book prices were a little more than they would be in the US because they needed to be brought in. However, most students got there books photocopied and bounded.
To be honest, I feel that my classes in Taiwan were a much higher quality with more experienced teachers. The classroom was also very conducive to learning and the students took learning more seriously.I would recommend students to do their research when thinking of what classes to take, and ask others for what the best classes are.
After receiving the list of rules before going to Taiwan, I started to research apartments. The rules of the dorms were not something that I agreed with. One of the rules required you to be inside the dorm before 1 am or you could not re enter the dorms until 6 am. Also, the dormitory was considered by the rest of the school to be the nicest one. However, the beds and desks were quite old and did not seem safe. Not to mention not having a proper mattress. As such, I found my own apartment within walking distance to the school for about $100 per month plus utilities.Most of my meals were eaten in restaurants. The price was cheap ranging 60 cents us-10 dollars for something expensive. Most meals did not cost more then 2 dollars.
In Taiwan I did get a cell phone. You may get a plan or pay for minutes with one company. For international calls I bought credits for my Skype account. This was like having a prepaid phone through my computer. It can be downloaded from Skype.com. The currency used in Taiwan is called the Taiwanese Dollar or New Taiwanese Dollar. The conversion rate changed dramatically during my time there. Upon arrival it was 1 us dollar= 35 Taiwanese dollars. Near the end of my time the rate depreciated to barely 1 to 30. If I needed money in Taiwan I could go to the ATM and use my US ATM cards. As far as changing you can change in the airport or at any bank. When changing currency try to have a 100 dollar bill, instead of five 20 dollar bills (The newer the currency the better). On average an exchange student would spend about $100-300/month depending on where you go and what you do.
There are numerous facilities for campus recreation. There was a swimming pool, two gymnasiums, indoor and outdoor basketball and volleyball courts, auditorium, racket ball courts, track and field for soccer, and badminton courts. The school has numerous sports clubs, regular clubs, and teams. During my time I joined the Rugby club which allowed me to learn more about the school, the country, and meet more people. All the resources available on the campus are great - the library and computer lab being open 24 hours. The other facilities like the gym are also great.
English was used widely, especially in the classrooms. Of course I had some communication difficulties but many friends who could, helped me in situations where a native speaker was needed. The most difficulty I had was with the language. Taipei 101- the second tallest building in the world is a must see. Tour around the country, the whole place can be beautiful especially, the beaches in the south. In general, I recommend organizing all the necessary paperwork, talk to students from the school before hand, and try something new.