Information About Studying in Taiwan
The most common question Taiwanese people ask when you tell them you are studying in Taiwan is, ironically, “why didn’t you go to mainland China?”
Taiwan still sees itself as the youngest of the Asian siblings, dwarfed by the economy of Japan, the hi-tech futuretopia of South Korea, the tremendous standard of living in Singapore and the sheer mass of China.
In a way it makes sense that they would then ask this question, and I usually answer it with some deflecting response like “I don’t know, maybe I’ll go to China to study eventually“.
What’s cool about studying in Taiwan?
Here are some of the more detailed reasons to study in Taiwan:
Perhaps the most obvious is intellectual freedom. While studying in Taiwan, one feels no pressure about criticizing the government of any country in the world, least of all the Chinese Communist Party.
Whether you’re studying Mandarin, history, literature or even doing an MBA in Taiwan, you won’t be doing much of any of the eggshell-stepping that is daily practice on the mainland. This makes Taiwan a perfect transition from whatever you’re used to into a different world with a deep sense of culture, history and language.
Space to Develop Your Ideas
Next advantage to study in Taiwan I would say, comes from that youngest sibling attitude I talked about before. Taiwanese companies are derided for being mere copiers and imitators, but to me this just shows that people in Taiwan can recognize a good idea when they see one. If you study here, local people are willing to hear you out, give you space to develop your ideas and convince others.
Academics in western countries are often arrogant producers of “original” ideas, but studying here has a refreshing humility to it. Even if your Chinese is atrocious, locals are always willing to speak to you and work to uncover what it is you’re trying to say. (Imagine a Chinese person showing up in New York only knowing a few simple phrases and having someone give him or her the time of day).
Basic Info About Studying in Taiwan
Study Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan / Scholarships
Now some basic info. Most foreigners who come to Taiwan do so to study Mandarin Chinese. Most of those study for a little while, maybe a year at most, then go home or move on.
The Taiwanese Ministry of Education (MOE) offers a large number of scholarships annually for students wanting to study Chinese, though there are also a few awards for Master’s and PhD students (you can google “Taiwan Study Scholarship” or “How to get a scholarship to study in Taiwan” for more info).
These scholarships to study in Taiwan last for 12 months and give recipients about $800-$1,000 USD per month, which is more than adequate for paying school fees, living cheaply and occasionally traveling or having a night out.
Universities in Taiwan tend to be fairly specialized (see article on the best universities in Taiwan), so if you’re looking to study it would be best to do a bit of research before deciding on an institution.
Mandarin learning centers are more or less the same; basically your experience is mostly dependent on your teachers and fellow students, and there’s no guarantee about where to find the best of these.
For studying Mandarin, studying in Taipei is significantly more expensive. However, some who study in the south of Taiwan complain that on the street people use Taiwanese most of the time, which kind of negates the experience. Taichung is a comfortable mix between the two, but city-lovers should go directly to the capital.