I'm going to be a senior. Should I bother studying abroad now?
I asked a bunch of people (students, teachers, people from work) whether I should study abroad, and based on everyone's reaction: Yes. Everyone who had studied abroad never regretted it, and those that haven't always regretted it.
Will I make it back to Winter Quarter in time?
Yes. Teachers are flexible about student schedules, so I just had to ask them before if I can take the final exams early. The semester in Taiwan ends January 16, but I'm leaving January 10 (just in time for week 2 in Winter). My friend is leaving December 31, so she can actually make it back before Week 1 if she wanted to.
Would it be easy to make friends?
I found the easiest way to make friends is through school clubs or courses with group-based projects. I'm in a user experience class where I do one project with the same 5 people for 18 weeks, so it's an easy excuse for weekly meetings and lunch. Also easier if you can speak Chinese relatively fluently. I was too lazy to join a club, but my friends in tennis club or coffee club all have friend groups with local students. You also end up having a lot of international and exchange student friends simply because they're the ones you see most often.
Studying abroad in Taiwan would be one of the best decisions you have made! The entire process may look intimidating, but it isn't actually that bad once you get through the initial hump. Everything is actually spaced out over a series of several months, so there isn't too much that needs to be done at the same time.
Here's the entire process a.k.a. what you should expect when applying for UCEAP NTU for the Fall.
1. Submit UCEAP Online Application
- Know when the deadline is. It's usually in
mid-Februaryto go to Taiwan, regardless of which semester you're planning on going to. Also, don't wait until February to fill out the online portion, because you'll have to submit a paper version, which requires you to do a bunch of other tedious administrative stuff.
- Register for an account on the UCEAP login page and fill out an online application. FYI, Fall quarter requires that you at least have learned a year of Chinese before applying.
2. Submit Paper Application
- Print out the online application.
- Print out an unofficial transcript from myUCLA. (Classes -> Transcript - Student Copy (Unofficial))
- Print out the clearance form and have your department approve it. This might take you a couple trips/days.
3. Waiting for Response = Scholarship time!
- Check the list of UCEAP Scholarships.
- Also check the UCLA study abroad scholarships page. Just as a note, I applied to 100,000 Strong Initiative ($2500) and Global Community Scholarship ($2000). The first one required only a few short answer questions and I assume they award the scholarship to 100,000 people, so I would say it's a good bet! Global Community Scholars is also just really fun, because they want you to blog about your trip. It's a great to document what you did anyways regardless of the scholarship, so why not?!
4. Submit NTU Online Application
In 2015, the deadline for this online application for Fall semester students was March 31. For spring semester, it's around September 30.
Yes, you need to fill out another application for NTU, in addition to your UCEAP application that was due mid-February.
- Register and apply to NTU exchange student application. In the application portion, take note that your major actually matters when you want to enroll in classes later. When choosing dorms, I recommend living in ShuiYuan dorms, either in a double or a single. I chose the double so that I can make friends with a local NTU student and force myself to practice Chinese with them. ShuiYuan is right next to a huge shopping and food street, so it's really convenient for meals.
- Yes, you would like a volunteer. There are unexpected things that you might need help on, and also it's a way to make a local friend!
- There are also a number of things this application asks you to upload, so have them prepared! The list from NTU includes:
- 1. JPG of a passport photo - I took one with my cellphone and edited it.
- 2. PDF of one-page statement of purpose - Honestly, I just wrote one in half an hour for this.
- 3. PDF of OFFICIAL transcript (order for free through myUCLA - takes about 3 days; it's $15 if you go in person)
- 4. PDF of the personal info page of your passport (must be non-Taiwanese).
- 5. PDF of the NTU health exam form.Make an appointment with UCLA Ashe Center for a free checkup. You can actually submit this form when you arrive in Taiwan, though getting checked in US is easier. I recommend doing the exam within 3 months of your arrival in Taiwan. I did mine too early, and my chest x-ray expired... WHICH TOTALLY SUCKED because I had to do another one. They might also ask for something called the Health Form C, which you don't need to submit if you have a valid chest x-ray report and your immunization records.
- 6. PDF of Medical and accident insurance proof - UCEAP will email this file to you.
- The "Application Status" tab from the website will let you know what you are missing and which step you're at in the application process. I found this page really useful because it gives your your student id number. You will need your student id for MANY things, and I couldn't find it anywhere other than on this page and in the paper packet they send out.
4. You got placed at NTU!
5. First Payment to UCEAP and Health Clearance. Withdrawal Deadline.
In April, you will receive an email asking you to pay for the first payment for UCEAP. During my year, it was $950 and was due May 1. Exact wording from email is provided below. However, because I usually get financial aid and get refunded money every quarter, I did not need to do anything. FinAid automatically paid through the system.
Also note that the
After that, you also want to make you have mailed in your UCEAP Health Clearance Form. Simply make an appointment at the Ashe Center. Under "Appointments" -> Schedule an Appointment -> I need a statement of health or health clearance. I don't think you need to print it out, as the Ashe Center have copies. In a couple days, Ashe Center will notify you that the form is ready for pick up. Mail the form to UCEAP Systemwide Office, 6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200, Goleta, CA 93117-5823 (address is listed on the bottom of the health clearance form).
The weird thing is that I haven't gotten an email to mail in the Health Clearance form until July, and that was when they said "it was due over a month ago!!". Don't wait for an email, and simply send the form in by May/June.
6. Get Taiwanese Visa
July - August
To study in Taiwan for one semester, you can apply for a Visitor Visa, which lasts for 180 days. You can extend your visa in Taiwan if you wish to stay for the whole year; else you can apply for the Resident Visa.
The Visa process takes maybe 2-3 days, assuming you had all your materials ready in the first trip. I believe I was doing the Visitor Visa for Studying Chinese; turned materials in Monday/Tuesday and the visa was ready for pickup on Thursday.
Some notes on my experience
- Make sure you fill out the application form online and print it before going to the Visa office. The San Francisco branch did not have printers.
- Bring passport, 2 passport photos, admission letter from NTU (I was mailed the package sometime near end of June), bank account statement (and/or financial aid statement).
- Bring cash amount of $120. I don't remember why, but I was required to pay in cash rather than credit/debit card.
Los Angeles Taiwan Embassy Address: 3731 Wilshire Blvd #700, Los Angeles, CA 90010, United States
San Francisco Taiwan Embassy Address: 555 Montgomery St #501, San Francisco, CA 94111, United States
7. Down Payment for Dorms and Signing up for Classes
Near the end of July, you will get an email asking for a downpayment of however much your dorms cost (see below). It will be the cost of one month's rent, and you will need to send it through your bank.
Just so you know and won't waste time like I did, Western Union does NOT work. You will have to pay through your bank, and the bank will probably charge you a fee. Wells Fargo charged me $45.00 as the wiring fee, and I doubt there's a way to avoid this. You can check how much your bank charges for foreign wiring beforehand. I googled a chart for you.
Around mid-August is also the first time you'll be signing up for classes. Because searching and signing up for classes requires quite a bit of explanation, I suggest you see the Enrolling in Classes post. There are several rounds/stages for you to sign up for classes, and before the next round, you'll find out whether you got the class or not. For deadline purposes, know that the 1st one is in mid-August and the 2nd is near end of August.
8. Packing the Suitcase
After you have finished gone through the first two stages of course enrollment, there is not much for you to do until arrival in Taiwan. So... YAY!!!
For my year, classes started Mid September (around September 15), and NTU/UCEAP wanted me to arrive in Taiwan - Taoyuan Airport either on September 8 or 9. (There are orientation activities prior to the first week of class). If you arrive on the days they give you, there are NTU people there to help you with getting your sim card, cash, and free shuttle to the dorm you're staying at.
9. Classes and Deadlines
First Four Weeks of Class
Please see Enrolling in Classes post for deadlines for classes and myEAP.
Shui Yuan Dorms C (Kinda Co-Ed)
I lived in Prince Housing - Shui Yuan Dorms, Building C. Here are some notes!
- Building C is the only Shui Yuan Dorms with double rooms. Building A are all single female rooms, while Building B are all single male rooms.
- Rent is 4900NT ($150USD) per month for a double.
- Girls all live on the left side of the building. Guys all on the right. It's not really co-ed.
- You are not allowed to have guests past 11pm; you can be sneaky if your friend is the same gender as you.
- There is no ATM machine. You can go to a nearby 7-11. There are two in the area, about 5-minutes walk away.
- You'll have to buy your own portable stove if you want to cook.
- There's 2 microwaves, 2 slow cookers, and 1 toaster.
- They have a couple vending machines for instant noodles, drinks, and snacks.
- Online shopping can ship directly to the dorm, and the lobby will hold the items for you.
- The room felt pretty bare when you first move in, and the walls had weird marks, so I plastered papers all over it.
- Your fellow roommate (if you're in a double) probably moved in before you did.
- You can lock your desk and closet if you want to.
- There is no bathtub, but you get your own bathroom.
- There is a mini-fridge with a small freezer compartment.
- You need to turn on the water-heater to get hot water when taking a bath.
- You might have a walk-in closet if you're lucky.
- There is one laundry room at the basement level. You can either walk down from the lobby or take the elevator.
- Washing clothes = 10NT ($0.31USD)
- Dryer = 10NT for 20~25 minutes.
I created this small website to document the many exciting things that I've done as a UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) exchange student in Taiwan. It took me some time to research about UCEAP (University of California Education Abroad Program), and about the feasibility to study abroad as a fourth year undergrad!
To get you all excited about choosing and going to Taiwan, I just wanted to start everything off with the few reasons I decided to come here!!
You can also follow me on instagram through the Snaps page.
Before I ever did any research on Taiwan, the most common thing that happened whenever I went to eat out with my Taiwanese friends in the states is that "everything here is expensive and sucks". I didn't harbor particularly negative feelings toward restaurants in America, but images of what everyone was eating while they went to Taiwan just made me drool.
Now that I am in Taiwan, I have to say that my Taiwanese friends are correct. While most of the food here is catered to Asian taste buds, everything is simply so cheap, humble, and delicious. You can get great food in the US, but usually that requires going to a fancier restaurant, and any semi-good nearby place tended to be intensely popular.
Here in Taiwan, you have a mix of a hundred mom-and-pop shops (some have been here for over 50 years!!), hotpot and korean bbq places, night market stands, and more... literally a five minute walk away from the dorms. The same quality of food that I get in the US for $15, I can get here for $5 to $6. Many can go even to $3.
DIRT. CHEAP. DELICIOUS FOOD...!!!!!
Taking Chinese classes for native speakers
I am minoring in Chinese, so it only felt right to actually become GOOD at the language if I were to spend so much time learning this anyways. National Taiwan University lets you become a Chinese major as an exchange student (I'm listed as a first-year Chinese major, and no one knows how old I am, hahahaha). If you are confident enough, you can take the same literature courses that native speakers take.
Art and Design
Taiwan is often neglected when it comes to the international art and design scene, but if you look at the work that's been put out by the artisans here, it is simply amazing! Taiwan's contemporary design circle had especially been on the rise in the past five years, so much that I'd say it's catching up to Japan. As a design major, I was particularly attracted to Taiwan's book design and films. Images above are from Taiwanese website mydesy.com, a design website I highly recommend checking out.
That last image with the beautiful space is actually one of Taiwan's Yoshinoya shops...you know, that Japanese Panda Express. I just find that so crazy!!!
It did not interfere with winter quarter.
This was more of a practical reason more than anything else. The online UCEAP website indicates that the semester here runs from mid-September to mid-January. I talked with the professors here beforehand, and it was totally possible to take final exams early and return before the start of Winter quarter. I am leaving in between Week 1 and 2, simply because I needed more time here, but other students I've met here left much closer to New Years.
These Exciting Posts and Videos
It takes more to convince a person...
10 Things I loved about Taiwan - To quote the guy here a little... "Holy F#*&!@% dammit was the food absolutely amazing. "
Taroko Gorge & Taipei - absolutely MUST visit region of Taiwan. It's like walking in a fantasy world.
Huang's World - Taiwan:
48 Hours in Taiwan - Food Paradise
One of the biggest reasons why I came to Taiwan was for the cheap, delicious food and drinks here. One of the most obvious was for BOBA MILK TEA of course!! I am a stickler for plain milk tea, so most of my reviews would be for the original flavor. If I tried any special flavors, I will list them here as well.
CoCo's Fresh Tea and Juice
Rabbit Rabbit Tea
Everyone from California should know about CoCo's already...! I'm going to use them as a base to compare with the other available options. I find Coco's milk tea to be:
- Price: 35NT
- Menu: Here
- Milk Tea: Thick, dense
- Chewiness: Medium
- Sugar: Different sugar levels available. I recommend doing half-sugar. Full sugar for original flavor.
- Healthiness: Not very (tea + creamer)
- Highlights: cheap, original milk tea flavor I'm used to. Great for those that like a very sweet milk tea with thick consistency.
- Price: 45NT
- Menu: Here
- Milk Tea: Slightly lighter than CoCo but still thick, dense
- Chewiness: Medium-Higher, chewier than CoCo
- Sugar: Different levels available. I recommend doing low-sugar.
- Healthiness: Not very (tea + creamer)
- Highlights: Tasty milk tea that resembles CoCo's. Cuter packaging. More options. I suggest trying their Top 7 for different tea flavors.