You want to leave next year but you do not know yet where to go? You hesitate between several destinations? This post is made for you!
S’konnection baked for you, in collaboration with students, a topic published weekly!!
This topic will be an interview of a student, gone abroad, who tell their experience, who share their tricks (bons plans?), describe the university/campus in which they went! We hope that it will help you to choose!!
The S’Konnection Team! ✈
⌘ Presentation of the student:
I’m Sarah Elmoubarak Grenet, i’m 20, I come from Montpellier where I did a preparatory class in order to enter Skema business school in September 2014 in the campus of Sophia Antipolis.
I am currently in a university exchange in NCCU (National Chengchi University) in Taïwan for the first semester of the first year of Master.
⌘ Why choosing this destination?
First of all, I really wanted to go in Asia because I wanted to have a cultural clash. I wanted to test my abilities to adapt and I wanted to open up my mind by living a cultural immersion in such a different culture than my culture.
My first choice was a University in Hong Kong where I have been accepted but the exchange has been canceled because no chinese students wanted Skema this year.
In the following weeks, Skema proposed me several universities in Taiwan, I immediately said yes to NCCU that is in Taipei, capital of Taiwan. At this time, I thought Taiwan was linked to new technologies and to “made in Taïwan” manufactured products.
However, Taipei correspond exactly to what I was hoping for, this is a huge city in Asia that is modern and true. So I knew I would have the cultural clash that I wanted.
⌘ What are the steps to study there? Is there a need of a visa?
A coordinator of the exchange from Skema and the taiwanese coordinator helped me. The steps in order to apply were made step by step through this summer. I needed to make a visa at the Representation Office of Taiwan in Paris, I sent all the required documents by Chronopost and received my visa ten days after.
⌘ How did you live your arrival in Taipei?
I arrived in Taipei on September 6th of 2015 at 6:00 am, after a 13 hour long flight. I was exhausted and the jet lag was not helping. I was exited about my arrival in an unknown country and so exhausted at the same time. At the airport I was welcomed by my taiwanese buddy Vicky, which is one of the most adorable person I ever met. She was wearing a huge sign with the colors of France where it was written « Sarah, welcome to Taiwan ».
By leaving the air-conditioned airport, I had my first chock. The heat was unbearable, a moist heat that I never really knew and that I was not waiting for. By the way, I didn’t really know to what I was headed and that was my own choice.
On the way to my residence, I looked around. Everything was so different, the people, the smells, the climate, the vegetation… I was in another universe.
My first day in Taiwan has been harsh because I felt alone, on the other side of Earth without any familiar landmark. This feeling didn’t last long, the day after I had an information meeting in the university where I met other exchange students, coming from all over the world. Since that moment the adventure began. I started to become imbued with the taiwanese culture and to live fully the international experience that offers the university exchange.
⌘ What can you say about the lifestyle? The welcoming University?
NCCU is a huge University located in South of Taipei, it is bordered by mountains. I like this compromise between the city and the nature that offers the location of the University. The campus is pretty big, there is an athletic track, a gymnasium, a pool and big buildings.
The campus is animated by night, the families and other inhabitants from the quarter come to do sports. The students that belongs to associations meet there to dance, sing and do many activities linked with their association.
⌘ How is organized your student life? And the courses you take?
The courses are not that complicated. The biggest challenge for me was mostly to understand the courses in English.
Finally this is not that difficult, the teachers are taiwanese so they have a tendency to talk slowly in English because it is not their mother-tongue. The only difficulty I meet is Finance because I don’t know the specific vocabulary in English.
I had to take 6 different courses in order to validate the credits of Skema but I managed my schedule in a way to only have courses on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. That gives me time to discover the taiwanese life and to travel in countries near Taiwan. (Singapour, Hong Kong, Tokyo..)
⌘ What are the differences between studying in France and in Taiwan?
The major difference between studying in France and in Taiwan is the fact that I study in a class comprising different nationalities. It is very rewarding to lead group works with multicultural teams. This difference is almost the same in every exchange.
⌘ How did you found your housing?
While I was suscribing, my welcoming university proposed me to find an accommodation in a student residence, located 5 minutes away by foot from the university. I immediately accepted because I wanted to live the international experience completely. I don’t regret my choice at all, I met people from all over the world and made good friends. We became a big community living in the same building. The private rooms are good and we share a common kitchen.
⌘ What is the cost of living in Taiwan?
In Taiwan, the food is really cheap. I eat at lunch and for dinner at the restaurant because it is cheaper than to buy my own food at a supermarket. Here we can eat for 6€ per day. The public transports are cheaper than the ones in France, and mostly the cabs.
However, the cheese and the wine are more expensive than in France…
But the strongest points of Taiwan are linked to the parties in clubs. The taiwanese do not party much in general, there is not much bars, but the clubs in Taipei are really modern.
We find there a majority of internationals. There’s lots of parties where the enter is free for the women and where the alcohol is free flowing inside. Indeed I just had to pay 3€ for the cab to go home. I think I never partied cheaper.
⌘ What should we see and do in Taipei?
In Taipei, there are lots of beautiful places to visit, such as the memorial of Tchang Kaï-chek, the Longshan Temple, the 101 Taipei tour, the by night market in Shilin. And in Taiwan, you must absolutely see the Sun Moon Lake, the Taroko gorges and the white sand beaches of Kenting.
⌘ What did you like the most/the least during your exchange in Taiwan?
What I liked the most in Taiwan was the quality of living. The people are adorable, extremely obliging, they are doing the maximum to help us. And the life in Taiwan is very secure, I never felt in danger. It is one the most safe destination in the world after Japan.
What I liked the least was the weather. Here the climate is totally unstable, and can vary in one day. It is simple, you always have to have your umbrella with you because it can rain any time.
I lived my first typhoon at the end of September, it was impressing. I did not go out for 2 days, the water was turned off. But here it happens every year, the people are « used to it », you simply have to make water and food provision and wait until the storm goes away.
To finish, the earthquake were frequent. it is really something that you have to live with here. I don’t like it because I’m always afraid for something to fall on my head. The earthquakes are unpredictable and we have the feeling that everything that is next to us is vibrating or haunted, that is a really weird feeling.
⌘ What did you exchange in the university of Taiwan brought you?
This exchange first brought me the cultural clash I was hoping for. It feels good to discover new cultures, I am learning everyday here.
This is also funny to know what other people think about french people. We have many different reputations, some see us as impolite, others as romantics. The french people are considered as really good kissers. Some also think that french girls do not wax. But the best thing is our accent: everybody is totally seduced by the french accent.
Finally this exchange makes me want to do another exchange in Master 2. This experience was so humanly rewarding that it would be too bad to miss the opportunity.
⌘ Do you have some advices for those who also wants to go to Taipei?
For those who wants to go to Taiwan, I hope they love rice, noodles, chicken and beef because this will become your daily feed. I have the chance to love it but it’s true that the food is less varied than in France. In fact, it depends on each one budget. If you know some word in mandarin, it is a good thing because the population here does not speak English a lot. In Taipei, the people from other countries represent a minority, this city is less cosmopolite than I expected but it makes its authenticity. I took mandarin courses at the university, I have to admit that it helped me day-to-day, even if you can manage with English.
To finish, the tall girls that have big feet are not going to find shoes in Taiwan… The population is smaller than the french average. An advice: bring all your shoes here !!
⌘ Would you recommend this country for a student exchange?
I highly recommend this destination for an exchange and even for a touristic travel. I know that Taiwan is an unknown island in France but it hides many magnificent places to visit. Its asset is that we feel good here pretty quickly, it is an island in which to live.
⌘ Do you have an anecdote?
I was arrived for 3 days in Taipei, I went out by night on the campus of the university with mates from my residence. We were getting to know each other by drinking beers in a very joyful atmosphere. At a moment, I went to the toilets with girls I met, it was around midnight and the quarter began to fall asleep. I was in the toilets but I couldn’t find the flush, i saw a red button and thought it was the flush so I pushed it but it was the alarm of the campus…
All the girls ran away and I stayed there for 5 minutes, ashamed of what I did. After a little moment a taiwanese police officer came to turn off the alarm, he was angry, I couldn’t understand a thing he was saying and it was really embarrassing.
After he left, I laughed about my own mess, all night long and I still laugh about it.
The fact is that I didn’t understand that I was in toilets for disabled person. Everything was written in chinese and I didn’t expected to find an alarm in the toilets.
Well, it is part of the cultural clash I was hoping to find…