Rookie Experience: Studying Mandarin in Taiwan

Written by Karmen Truong.

Studying Mandarin intermittently throughout university, I became a little frustrated at my progress and overall ability despite taking classes for three years. Learning a second language requires a strong amount of discipline and with little motivating factors around me to encourage improvement in this skill, I found I was just learning to pass exams. This lead me to seek out opportunities to immerse myself in a native speaking environment, where I came across the MOE scholarship.

While there are other scholarships available to study in China, the appeal of Taiwan won me over for a number of reasons. Having visited both, I found that differences in culture and society, ease of communication with the outside world (no VPN needed!) and the opportunity to learn traditional characters cemented my decision to go. Perhaps others also feel the same way, as I get the sense that more and more people are choosing Taiwan over China to learn mandarin. Location dependent, the scholarship’s NTD25000 (~GBP610) stipend can either be a generous amount covering tuition and all living expenses, or a tight budget if studying in Taipei itself.

“(…) studying in Taiwan has proved incredibly invaluable thus far. With one month already tucked under my belt, I feel as if I’ve learnt and retained more than all my previous three years.”

Choosing a Language School

You must apply for a language school in advance of your application and provide proof of acceptance. With a wide range of language schools in Taiwan, not mentioning Taipei alone, it can be overwhelming to decide on one. Since I knew I wanted to study in Taipei, I found this guide quite useful in helping me decide – note: tuition fees are outdated!

Choosing a language school is especially important for those applying to study for longer periods as you are unable to change once the scholarship begins. Other factors to consider includes location – studying away from the city may be more conducive to language learning as there are less occasions to speak English and of course, cost of living is also substantially cheaper.

Currently enrolled (and enjoying my time!) at the National University of Taiwan’s Chinese Learning Division, I’ve talked with students from other language schools and have come to the conclusion that while you can base your choice on reputation and reviews, ultimately it depends on your teacher. Complaints regarding bad teachers can be found at any school, but from my experience, CLD is quite receptive to student feedback and although you may not be able to switch teachers, the current one will be accessed accordingly.

Application Process

According to an information session I attended at the University of Nottingham, 1/3 of all applications are accepted. Funding for the scholarship can be viewed in terms of months available to allocate and I was told that applying for shorter periods can increase your likelihood of acceptance. I guess the opportunity to give more people an experience of Taiwan takes priority over the amount of people who can learn a language well – 3 months seems way too short to me!

There are currently 4 options available: a 2-month summer programme or 3/6/9 months’ study. When applying you state your first and second preferences. If, however, you’re like me and desperate to study in Taiwan, you can mark your interest in offers other than your stated preference, i.e. apply for 9/6 months but open to offers of 3/2.

I decided to bite the bullet, applying for 9-months and was awarded it! I’ve subsequently heard of quite a few others on the 9-month scholarship too, so don’t be deterred by what I just wrote – if you’re driven enough and passionate about study, make sure it comes through in your personal statement and I’m sure you’ll be fine!

Application for the Huayu Scholarship is based primarily on a written personal statement – maximum 500 words I’d say. There is no phone/face-to-face interview, so make sure your statement really showcases your enthusiasm and drive to study. Also important are good references! Referees must send out their references direct to the programme, so definitely talk with them about your motivations before asking them to provide a reference. Some tips for application that I found really helpful was to really emphasise why you wish to study in Taiwan as opposed to China. Make this personal to you and touch upon details specific to Taiwan such as written language and culture.

So Far:

Currently, I am nearing the end of my first semester and will be 2 months into the programme! Slight word of warning, the first scholarship installment comes through one month after the scholarship start date which can be little tough, especially since your first month in Taiwan is littered with heavy expenses such as rent and tuition fees. Despite this small grievance, studying in Taiwan has proved incredibly invaluable thus far. With one month already tucked under my belt, I feel as if I’ve learnt and retained more than all my previous three years. The opportunity to focus on language learning is definitely one to be taken with both hands, to all future applicants, best of luck and 加油!

Karmen Truong is a recent graduate from the University of Nottingham. She went to study Chinese as a means to reconnect with her cultural heritage, expand global perspective and enhance employability prospects. She is also currently documenting her scholarship experience on her blog; rookieexperiences.com. Image credit: Author provided. 

Categories: Education, Studying Abroad, TaiwanTags: , , ,

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