I just read Fili’s most recent post about his stint at a Taiwanese university (I couldn’t tell which from the post). Having been an international student at NTNU, in the graduate program of Mathematics since ’09, I have different things to report. Granted, I am studying in sciences at the graduate level, so the classes are ultimately very small. I have 4 students in one class and 2 in another.
Still, there are some important points to remember when you think about doing a graduate program in Taiwan.
- Stay with the state National universities, NTU, NTNU. Their programs are recognized internationally, in Canada and the USA. This isn’t a guarantee for private universities. Best check with your home country to ensure that the degree you are studying for is recognized.
- Many people will say that getting a scholarship is easy. It’s not. It’s gotten extremely competitive over the last 3 years. The Taiwan government and other organizations like the DPU have severely reduced the number of scholarships. Be prepared to study without one. If you do well, you can qualify for a small government stipend of $10,000 NT a month ($345 USD) . Some offer plane tickets home as part or their package, some waive tuition, but almost all of them require you keep a B average and more.
- Remember that most people in your department, the staff and other students, won’t speak much English. Most professors do speak English, at least in my department, but be prepared to face many people who won’t understand you. Luckily, most departments have a senior graduate student who works with the department to help integrate the international students.
- Be prepared to work. Graduate school in Taiwan, just like graduate school back home, is a lot of work. I have 3 graduate classes this semester, and I work on mathematics every day, for many hours.
- Difference between international programs and programs open to international students. My graduate program in open to international students. Each university has a list of these programs. There are more and more and admission can be competitive if there are a lot of applicants, especially in the bachelor degrees that involve studying and learning Mandarin. The classes in international programs will be in English. The classes in programs open to international students are mostly taught in Mandarin. This semester, I have one class that’s taught in Mandarin, one that’s taught in English, and a colloquium class. The professors are always happy to explain something in English.
- The Graduate Class format is different from ungrad classes. Both of my non-colloquium classes involve that the students prepare 3h lectures, each in turn. Preparing a lecture can be quite complicated and time consuming, but there are dividends. You learn a lot more and quicker than if the professor were giving the lecture.
- Departmental Support. Most departments are eager for you to succeed and will find ways to either give you extra money, give you money to attend conferences, help you out in many different ways.
- Quality of the Professors. Just like back home, this varies tremendously. I’ve had some boring professors and some very interesting professors. At the graduate level, I find it’s less about the professors but more about what you do with the subject matter in your own time. I spend countless hours researching on my own, developing my knowledge in different fields, from Functional Analysis to Homology Theory, in order to get a better grasp of what I’m studying.