International studies in Taiwan – an excellent scholarship in the East
How and when did the idea come that you would like to study in Taiwan?
I graduated from ELTE as an International Studies major. I did my compulsory internship at the Chinese Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That’s where I got interested in Taiwan and consequently, I decided to write my dissertation about the relations between China and Taiwan. One of my professors suggested that if I was really interested in the topic, I should study in Taiwan. Therefore, I got in touch with the Embassy of Taiwan, where I got information about the various scholarships and academic opportunities. I applied for the scholarship of MOE (Taiwan’s Ministry of Education), which is awarded to students of the countries who acknowledge China – most countries of the world, including Hungary.
What was the application process like, what kind of documents did you need?
First of all, I have to distinguish between the application for the university and the application for the scholarship – the two must be applied for separately. Applications for the respective courses at the Taiwanese universities are closed at the end of March, therefore, by then, I had already handed in my application for my chosen course. After this, in April, I applied for the MOE scholarship through the Embassy of Taiwan with my academic results, language certificates, motivation letter and recommendation letters. Two months later, at the end of May, I was also invited for a personal interview. In May, I was notified that I had been admitted to the university and in June, I found out that my scholarship application had been successful as well.
How much money did you need for the start? Is your scholarship enough for your everyday costs?
I applied for an MA scholarship at the Ministry of Education in Taiwan, which means that my full tuition fee is subsidised and on top of this, I receive a monthly scholarship. However, I had to pay for the flight ticket myself and during the first months, I had to buy all the things that I needed in the dormitory, so it was helpful that my parents could support me financially. Apart from this, after the first 1-3 months, I think the scholarship is enough.
Did you notice any differences between the education system in Taiwan and Hungary?
As International Studies majors, we don’t really have exams, to complete our modules, we have to do research and write essays. In order to keep receiving the scholarship, we have to keep up a certain standard in all of our courses. I have to complete 11 modules in total during the three semesters. During the last semester, I will only have to work on my dissertation and there is no exam upon finishing the course. We have a special timetable that takes the schedule of foreigners and students who work full time into consideration. They only have time at night, therefore most of our classes start at 7 pm. Sometimes it is inconvenient being at classes so late, but on the other hand, it is good, because like this, I can intensively participate in the Chinese course in the mornings and we don’t have to visit classes in the midday heat.
What are your impressions about the country and the locals? How much are you affected by cultural shock in your everyday life?
The notion of cultural shock comes up quite often in the group of my friends which consists mostly of foreigners. The thing that surprised me the most was the locals’ attitude to and relationship with foreigners. They make you feel welcome everywhere and help you with anything. This kindness is both easy and sometimes hard to get used to. Public safety was a similar issue. In the first few weeks I paid more attention to belongings, for instance on public transportation, but I was told, and I noticed it as well, that there was no use in doing it. Another thing that was hard to get used to was the weather: it is predominantly humid and warm and it can start raining at any time.
What advice would you give to those who are applying for the scholarship in the future?
I have two pieces of advice, both concerning their stay in Taiwan. I think it is worth starting to learn Chinese even if you are doing your degree in English. Where else would you have the opportunity to learn a language so well like in a place where you can practise and use it every day? The other piece of advice concerns the locals. It was bad and hard not to know any Taiwanese people, but I managed to get to know a few of them later. In my opinion wherever one lives, it is good to make friends with locals. We could say that one cannot live a ’full life’ without knowing local people.
Translated by Judit Molnár