I’m currently starting my first week of school in NCKU at Tainan on the southern part of Taiwan, supported by the Taiwan scholarship. The Taiwan scholarship offers 30,000NT$ per month for students for a period of 3 years. Usually, when I tell my Taiwanese friends about this scholarship and that I’m studying in Tainan, the response is usually – "oh, you are SO lucky! Tainan is very cheap, so this scholarship is really too much.

Now, after over a month in Tainan and figuring out the basics here, I finally know what the Taiwan scholarship gives a foreign student in Taiwan and how much things cost over here, so – jumping to the bottom line – it is not "too much", it barely covers expenses.

The first surprising realization, and this is not mentioned anywhere on the university sites is that if you’re supported by the Taiwan scholarship, then you need to pay all tuition and living expenses yourself. While everybody keeps telling me that tuition in Taiwan is "SO cheap", it’s actually not if you consider that most foreigners expect to study Chinese while here. Furthermore, when buying the ticket to Taiwan I was told that the Taiwan scholarship I got does not cover my flight and when asked why they said it’s because Israel doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a country. :S

 

Basic tuition for the PhD program is about 2000US$ for a year or 160US$ (5100NT$), to which you add the tuition of the Chinese classes, which is around 400US$ for 2.5 months or 160US$ (5100NT$) per month.

Dorms, while not free, are ridiculously cheap for about 5000NT$ per semester, but after talking to some of the western students here this Saturday I can finally say that it’s not just me – the dorms in NCKU are not an option for western graduate students. So, sharing a flat or getting an en-suite room will bring up costs to at least 5000NT$ per month. 

Since there’s no MRT in Tainan and the local bus system (proclaimed by Lonely Planet as non-existent) is undecipherable even to the locals, then it’s best to get your own transport. Sure, you can get a bicycle for a 100NT$, but if you want more than that, and I do – then you’ll be needing a basic motorbike. An old (/illegal) one would cost between 7500-12000NT$.

To this, you could add books, resident VISA application (3000NT$), ARC application (1000NT$), National Health Insurance after 4 months of studying (604NT$ monthly).

 

Got lost? I’ll sum it up for you for the first year : 41600 (round-trip air-ticket from Israel) + 66000 (tuition) + 66000 (Chinese) + 5000*12 (very cheap rent) + 7500 (illegal motorbike) + 6000 (gas) + 4000 (VISA + ARC) + 8000 (insurances) = ~260,000NT$. Monthly : ~21,550$. So, that are the basics, before food-drink-studybooks-leisure-etc., and as you can see – that’s the very minimum.  It doesn’t matter how you look at it, this barely covers expenses. True, you don’t have to study Chinese, you can ride a bicycle everywhere and you can stay in the dorms, like most Asian foreign students do, but in my personal opinion that might make your life in Tainan unbearable.

Almost every Asian student in the IMBA program starts off by telling me how lucky I am since "people who look like me" can find high-income jobs with teaching English. I try explaining that  I don’t teach English nor do I plan to since I didn’t come here for that. So, I need to figure out something else. To make things worse – just a week ago, I was told I wouldn’t get the scholarship money before November because that’s how they always do it.

 

It remarkable how difficult it is for me as a foreigner coming from a different country to get the right information about the program and living here. I was completely unprepared for what I encountered here this past month, even though I lived in Taipei for a few months. Not a day goes by that I don’t realize some new policy-regulation-‘fact’-custom that brings up a completely new challenge and thus – really really tests my limits.

That leaves me with an interesting dilemma and a slight concern regarding how things are going to work out here, but – hopefully – I’ll slowly adjust to things.



Tags: Studies; Taiwan;


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Mashhood
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Mashhood

Hi there! I’m from the UK. I was at NCKU a couple of months ago for an elective placement. Firstly…you’re absolutely right…the student dorms although cheap are nowhere near the standard of western uni dorms. Generally speaking though I really really enjoyed Tainan. I liked it more than Taipei. And NCKU’s reputation is very good. In terms of saving money, you might be able to cut down on the chinese classes and self study with internet resources. There’s a huge amount of free resources on the web for studying mandarin…the best one is probably http://www.chinesepod.com. Anyway, hope you have a… Read more »

Helen
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Helen

I am a new PhD student at NCKU as well. All what you describe is so much what I have been feeling here. I have heard that school does provide free Chinese classes … but seems as you have some Chinese knowledge already.
Might see you in class.

Mashhood
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Mashhood

I basically did a 6 weeks placement at the affiliated hospital. In terms of my own feedback – I found it insightful and for the most part enjoyed it tremendously. A slight negative from my part is that this was my first time in a chinese speaking environment, and 1 1/2 years of mandarin study wasn’t enough preparation to deal with patients on my own. It took me a month to fully settle in and for my chinese to catch up. In terms of the uni’s feedback, they weren’t quite sure what to do. The elective placement doesnt actually count… Read more »

Mark
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Furthermore, when buying the ticket to Taiwan I was told that the Taiwan scholarship I got does not cover my flight and when asked why they said it’s because Israel doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a country. :S

Touche!

I second the vote for ChinesePod. If I had the time, I’d be on their site every day. I suppose I should disclose that three of my friends are managers there, but I really do think it’s a great service.

Another option, would be to find a private tutor. I think you might make faster progress that way.

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