May 10, 2006 3:23 AM   Subscribe

Please help a confused student (US citizen) figure out how to study Mandarin in Taiwan.

So, this has a few elements.

First, I'm about to graduate school in June or so. I'm going to be going to Taiwan this September to study on a Taiwan Scholarship, for about NT$25,000/m ($US 730/m -ish). According to the terms of the scholarship, I have 1 year for a language study program (I've taken about one year of university-level Chinese*), and two for a Masters - say, an International MBA, or whatever strikes my fancy.

What I'm most concerned about is my first year. I decided that I want to study at a rather expensive university (National Taiwan University), in their ICLP program. The tuition alone runs about $3500/quarter, which, needless to say, is insanely more expensive than any of the other language programs and won't be covered by my scholarship. BUT, it seems good (I want the most intensive coursework possible), and given that NTU is a "good school", I would like to go.

I'm not averse to working my way through school. However, I'm totally confused on the legality of this. Does my scholarship preclude me from working? Could I, for example, get a job teaching/tutoring English to pay for my tuition? What sort of visa would I need? Is, for example Hess a good move? I've done a bit of asking around, and googling, but I can't seem to get clear answers.

Additionally, since, you know, I've never been to Taiwan, I'd sort of like some advice. If anyone knows of any particularly great language schools where an industrious student could get as fluent as humanly possible, I'd love to hear about it. I've seen many of these schools' websites, but it's extremely difficult to judge a school's quality on their PR spin alone, yaoming?

Any other advice about postgrad student (dorms? food? etc?) life in Taipei particularly (or Taiwan in general) is great. Be a pal and assume that I'm adventurous and not concerned with living lavishly - just pursuing knowledge and culture.

Bonus points, shiny objects, and an e-hug go to anyone who has done something similar on the same scholarship and can offer advice.

*And, as an aside, though I am kinda bad at Mandarin, I have four plus years of Japanese under my belt. When I was studying Japanese, I found Heisig's Remembering the Kanji to be extremely helpful. Is there any book that uses a similar approach for Chinese?

Thanks in advance, green!
posted by dihutenosa to Education (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For funding, try going to Bank of America's website to see if your Taiwanese university is listed as a place that you can get a student loan for. I'm an American in school in London and my school was listed.

If that doesn't work, seems to have significantly more flexible student loan rules.

Either way, you'll need proof of enrollment.

Have you contacted the financial aid department at your university yet?
posted by k8t at 3:56 AM on May 10, 2006

Jobs to do: get your phone unlocked. Buy a pay-as-you-go sim card as soon as you get to Taiwan. You wont get anywhere to live, or a job unless they can call you back. Buy shoes if you got big feet.

Taiwan is very pragmatic; I worked for 4yrs regularly renewing a 90day tourist visa. They would only renew the visa if I could prove that I was paying income tax on my earnings, but officially I wasnt allowed to work on the visa.

Taipei looks like a dump. It is a terrible place to visit but a great place to live. Don't be dissappointed at the start, you will grow to love it.

If you can get to Taiwan earlier than the other students you will have a better choice of rooms. Contact people now. Have a look here or here. Get intouch with people through these websites and they will be able to help.

Lots of old people can speak Japanese, and they have some good stories.

man man zhou
posted by priorpark17 at 5:01 AM on May 10, 2006

given that NTU is a "good school"

Yeah, but it's far from being "the Harvard of Taiwan" (as they try to promote themselves). There are a number of schools as good as Taida; unfortunately, Taiwan inherited the Japanese educational system with its rigid ranking of schools and departments, so that the English Department at Taida is the #1 department in the #1 school. This has sunk deeply into people's consciousness; I spent a lot of time at the college where I taught trying to convince students that they were just as good as the ones at Taida (which I happened to know, because I was living with a couple of Taida grad students and a woman who'd taught there), but I don't think I convinced them. Don't get me wrong, it's a good school and if you want to study there, fine, but if I were you I wouldn't pay the premium for it. You're basically paying for the brand name.

As priorpark17 said, Taipei is a great place to live. The food is amazing, the people are endlessly interesting to talk to, and you'll learn important survival skills in crossing intersections where cars are whizzing by in every direction.
posted by languagehat at 6:20 AM on May 10, 2006

I currently live in Taiwan. Things have changed a lot since priorpark17 left.

1.) Taipei city is a fairly clean city now. Perhaps not up to the standards of Japan, but certainly better than anything in mainland China and even Hong Kong. Taipei county is another story.

2.) At least in Taipei city, they are starting to crack down on illegal English teachers. If you work at an English cram school without a work permit, you will get deported if you get caught during one of the occassional Ministry of Education raids (raids do happen in Taipei city, but are virtually unheard of outside of Taipei) This is true even if you have an ARC from a university.

That being said, assuming that you have at least a BA, I believe you could get work permit even if your ARC is from your university

3.) Don't work for Hess. Nothing wrong with Hess (they won't outright rip you off or hide your passport from you), but it's just that they recruit primarily newbies from overseas. You can find better salaries and better conditions once you're in Taiwan. Check out for plenty of opportunities. Trust me, once you get here, if you look, you'll be able to find something. Don't sign up for anything before coming.

4.) As to other language schools, I suggest you stick with your NTU classes (I don't personally know about NTU, but I know people who are pretty satisfied with the classes there) and then try to find language exchanges/friends/girlfriends to fill in the rest.

5.) If you live a typical student life, $25,000NT/month should just barely cover your living expenses in Taipei. On the other hand, if you live outside of Taipei (I'd personally recommend Tainan), living expenses will be significantly lower and there will be a lot less English spoken around you.

Go to It's a very active expat forum. They'll be more than happy to help you with any visa/work/living questions you have.
posted by alidarbac at 6:28 AM on May 10, 2006

Check out Michael Turton's site. I don't know if it has anything you don't already know, but I like to look at the pictures.
posted by liet at 12:31 PM on May 10, 2006

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