By Kieren Lam
The National Taiwan University (NTU) is located in Gongguan, Taipei, Taiwan. It is very close to heart of Taipei, therefore making it convenient to travel to places where there is much activity throughout the week, such as Xinyi Anhe or Ximending. Getting here from the airport is also very easy as there is a new Airport MRT that was built last year, where it’ll take just over an hour to get from the Airport to Gongguan. The price is around ($7 AUD), making it the most affordable and common option to get from the airport. Nearby NTU there are many food stores, shops, night markets and plenty of activity, making it very convenient and cheap for an everyday student. The Metro is only 5 minutes away, and all the main stations are no more than 20 minutes away. Super Convenient!
In terms of accommodation, there are three main choices for exchange students. Shuiyuan dormitory, Guoying dormitory and living off-campus. As someone who stayed in the Shuiyuan dorms, as it is the newest and recommended option, I can only speak for from my experience living in Shuiyuan dorms. The Shuiyuan dormitories are split up into 3 groups: A for Females only, B for Male only and C for mixed. You get the option of selecting whether you want a kitchen and/or roommate, although your choice may be denied in the end.
I stayed by myself without a kitchen, which is the most common choice for international students. In terms of the room, I’ll say it was passable. The room is a fair size, enough to fit all the necessities: bed, desk, fridge. The bathroom, however, is a big let-down. It has the worst ventilation on the planet, as there is no window in the bathroom. Be prepared to fork out some cash for some humidifiers, otherwise you’ll bathroom will get very mouldy very quickly.
Fortunately, you won’t be needing to spend much time in your room, as the Shuiyuan dorms has a lounge room, where you can meet new people, play pool, table tennis or just kick back.
But the best thing about the accommodation is the convenience. It is only a 10 minute walk from campus, 5 mins if you have a bike (which I absolutely recommend purchasing. It’s $15 AUD for a second-hand bike.) Gongguan has some amazing food nearby, such as the famous Chen San Ding Milk and Lan Jia Gua Bao.
The Campus is pretty big, roughly 3 times the size of UNSW. I can say this with confidence as there are so many places I still haven’t explored. There are many convenience stores around (7-11, FamilyMart), as well as cafes and food stores, so grabbing food throughout the day is easy.
The campus also has 3 main libraries. The Main Library, Law Library and Social Sciences Library. All of them are pretty new and depending on where your classes are, you might want to familiarise yourself with the closest library. There are also plenty of sporting facilities, with tennis courts, baseball courts, athletics and a massive sports centre. The gym is located inside, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as it tends to get packed and you’ll have to wait to use the weights. Again, I would definitely recommend getting a bike to get around, since meeting up with friends or travelling to different buildings may take some time.
NTU is ranked as Taiwan’s top university and is ranked in the top 100 universities worldwide.
The workload in NTU is surprisingly quite heavy, however, the courses are easy. This is because of the ridiculous course matching system of UNSW, meaning for every course at UNSW, I had to take two courses at NTU. The biggest challenge was to find courses that are offered in English and finding courses available, as entering NTU semester two made my options quite limited. For exchange students, there were a lot of Taiwanese and Asian studies courses offered in English and were easy to achieve an A grade. Classes were mostly lecture style, meeting only once a week and attendance not being a pre-requisite. There are not many assignments, with many courses just a mid-term paper and final paper.
Unfortunately, I had to take a course in Chinese which was the bane of my existence. I only knew basic mandarin before leaving Australia, meaning I had a good chance of failing this course. Luckily, the teacher was extremely nice and since this course was only offered to exchange students, she was lenient and passed all of us in the end, despite me understanding 50% of what she was saying throughout the semester.
Most students attending NTU would be taking the General Chinese Courses offered. These courses would require students to attend class three times a week to learn Chinese. An entrance exam is required at the beginning of the semester to assess your level. There is quite a bit of homework and assessments, but it really does help you to improve your Chinese and the course is quite easy to pass. If you going to Taiwan to improve your Mandarin, I would absolutely recommend it and if you have not learnt Mandarin before you’re going to need some basic Chinese, as it will be useful in helping you get around. More importantly, you will meet some awesome people from different countries and create some lifelong friendships, which I think is super important when studying abroad.
Social Activities and Night Life:
NTU offers a wide range of clubs to join and there is an O-weekend at the beginning of the semester for students to get a feel of what clubs NTU has to offer. There are some cool clubs such as: the Cocktail club, Dragon-Boat club and Food Lovers club. Personally, I highly recommend immersing yourself in some clubs, as its a great opportunity to meet local students. The Taiwanese locals are extremely friendly, so even if you don’t speak English, they will accommodate you and always include you in their events.
The nightlife in Taipei is pretty solid with many clubs and bars all around the city. Taipei is quite a small city, so it’s quite easy to visit all the famous clubs by the time you leave. Taipei is lit all week round, with Ladies Night every night and a lot of all-you-can-drink clubs. Unfortunately there are not many bars around campus, but no fear, as the local tradition is to have a piss up at the closest 7-11. It’s cheap, convenient and a great change of pace from nightclubs.
Surrounding area and travel:
Taiwan is located in the centre of Asia, so there is always opportunities to visit other neighbouring Asian countries. Flights are often quite cheap, but if you do decide to do some travelling, it is advised to book tickets early, as tickets do get expensive really quickly.
I do recommend travelling around Taiwan, as there are plenty of cities, islands and villages that are worth visiting as they hold different cultures, attractions and food that you do not normally get to experience in Taipei. Cities like Tainan and Hualien are much more slow paced and offer some amazing natural scenery.