Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

The Pre-Exchange Experience: Part 1

Posted in Exchange, NTU, Taiwan, University by J on June 30, 2007

Table of Contents:

Part 1:
1. Introduction
2. Before Applying to the Exchange Program
3. Applying to the Exchange Program at my University

Part 2:
4. Applying to National Taiwan University
5. Waiting for Acceptance to NTU
6. Conclusion


1. Introduction:

When I was going through this “Pre-exchange experience” I thought that I was refused for acceptance a few times. Boo. One of those more nerve wracking experiences. Actually, it was more like anticipation built up really high and then sort of crashed into disappointment and then skyrocketed when I was accepted.

So! I’m writing this quick little run-down of what happens in the exchange application process to help anyone considering applying for an exchange because I wished that someone who had already gone through the process told me that waiting until mid-June for your official acceptance from the other university is not a sign that they’ll refuse you. The waiting and the unknown killlls! So, please read on if you’d like to know roughly what happens in the exchange application process:


2. Before Applying to the Exchange Program:

Dreaming about going on an exchange started before I entered university because I had always wanted to go away to study. So, the next natural step was to turn that wish into reality.

Fast forward to December 2006. I started to seriously consider going away on an exchange to a place in Asia. I decided I wanted to go to a place where Mandarin was the main language because learning Mandarin fit into my study and career goals. And well, Asia is just plain cool.

Initially I had only considered universities in China but when National Taiwan University popped onto my radar, I decided it was the best fit for me because I could also take classes in English as well as participate in an excellent Mandarin language program. Oh, and cost was a main factor in my considerations, too. Deciding where to go was such fun because there were so many possibilities. I hope that you feel a thrill of excitement and happiness when you finally settle on a university to exchange to!

A really useful website during my decision making was the University of California’s Education Abroad Program (EAP) website. http://eap.ucop.edu/eap/country/ It has a lot of information and student quotes about what to expect. I find it’s better than reading all those travel guide things, like Rough Guides and Lonely Planet because those are geared for Western non-students (read: Caucasian people. I will write about this in my next post.) Basically, I liked it a lot because my university’s website was not the most intuitive one and the information on it about NTU was fairly outdated. (Like, 2 years outdated.)


3. Applying to the Exchange Program at my University:

To even be eligible for an academic exchange, I had to apply online to my university’s exchange program. At this stage of the application, you really get to know the other university’s website because you have to figure out things like your living costs, courses you will take, etc. Oh, some imaginative guesswork was involved about airplane flight costs for the online application. Those calendar things that let you choose your dates for round-trips didn’t go as far as over a year and a bit away. So, guess, guess it was! (Educated guesses, not the pick-any-number type.)

I also had to submit some extra forms that included a photocopy of my passport which I wasn’t able to get in on time because when it was time to apply for exchange (the deadline was the end of January), new rules regarding Canadian passports were just being implemented. These rules were/are supposed to make the world safer from, oh! that buzzword, terrorists. However, with a quick email to my exchange office, a solution was found, no problem! So after getting everything done, the waiting began.

Hmm, that reminds me. If you want to go on an exchange, it’s best to start getting stuff for your application ready way ahead of time so you won’t have a problem with your documents because it’s a bit time consuming to try and fix things rather than getting it right the first time.

So now, please continue onto the second part.

The Pre-Exchange Experience: Part 2

Posted in Exchange, NTU, Taiwan, University by J on June 27, 2007

Table of Contents:

Part 1:
1. Introduction
2. Before Applying to the Exchange Program
3. Applying to the Exchange Program at my University

Part 2:
4. Applying to National Taiwan University
5. Waiting for Acceptance to NTU
6. Conclusion


So, here’s Part 2! Enjoy!

4. Applying to National Taiwan University:

For the next few weeks, I kept my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t have to do an interview for NTU because that meant that demand exceeded supply. Which meant I might not be able to go to NTU. So, I waited, and waited, and waited some more. No interview invitation came and after I resigned myself to thinking that I hadn’t been accepted, after almost 6 weeks, I was accepted! Yes!! That so made my day, even though it wasn’t acceptance into NTU.

Now came the next part of the pre-exchange process. Applying to NTU was a different experience than applying to my university’s side of the exchange program. First off the bat, the forms didn’t print out properly on 8X11 paper because they were made for A4 paper. Another thing was the medical exam. Which was a very thorough medical exam, and I only had 2.5 weeks to get it done! Allez-y! (Long wait and then short deadline? Eep! The deadline was later extended.)

I found the NTU application invasive but very funny. One question asked me the portion of vegetables that I ate in comparison to deep fried food. Another asked about my sleeping and betel nut chewing habits. (Betel nut?! What is that? I know now…) I have no idea why NTU needs to know those things.

Things that I had to include in my application to NTU:

  • medical and insurance proofs
  • statement of purpose
  • head shots of myself (Just in case I become a criminal)
  • passport photocopy
  • letters of recommendation from professors (get on these early, just in case you’re refused)

However, the medical form was the most memorable and fun. I had the opportunity pee into a cup, bare my chest, get it x-rayed and to root through my own excrement for laboratory testing! Mmm tasty… It really was fun to do! It was like squash at Thanksgiving.


5. Waiting for Acceptance to NTU:

Another waiting period! However, this one felt a teensy bit faster because there were finals to study for. While waiting, actually procrastinating a bit from studying, I found out that the HIV test was mandatory from the NTU site.

Mandatory?! No HIV test = possible refusal?!

My mind at that point leapt ahead to drastic situations where I was refused acceptance to where I was accepted but deported in handcuffs upon arrival in Taiwan. Urgh… This was due to a little bit of a mix-up where I was tested for chickenpox instead of HIV. After getting the test done and the results in, and after a total of almost 11 weeks of waiting, in the middle of June, I was finally accepted! I guess NTU was very thorough with my application.


6. Conclusion:

So now, I am currently waiting for my official acceptance letter so I can apply for my resident visa. I’m also getting visas to other places so that I can travel while over in Asia. Yay, Asia!

Tip: For Taiwan visa information, go directly to the consular services because the website(s) are confusing. And, going 1/2 hour before they close to ask some visa questions, is not the best idea. You might not get the most friendly of service.

And, before I forget, I want to thank the people I’ve talked to about this subject because this opportunity is simultaneously scary and exciting. Thank-you.

To close, I truly, truly think that I’ve become a more patient person as a result of this. Maybe. Hah! Anyways, I hope that you’ve found my story about applying for an university exchange helpful to you. Thank-you for reading all this. If you have any questions or comments pertaining to this subject matter, please leave a comment or email me. But now I must brush up on my rudimentary Mandarin now so I’m not totally lost in Taiwan. Ciao!

The Benefits of an Arts Degree: The History Major

Posted in Miscellaneous, University by J on June 23, 2007

Introduction:

I was thinking today, what can I do with an Arts degree? Granted the following excerpts follow a very Western idea of thinking, but I must agree, there is worth in anything that expands your thinking.

On the Value of a Liberal Arts Degree:

No major, no academic program, is more practical than another. To approach a liberal arts education as a preparation for a particular vocation violates the spirit and integrity of the liberal arts and risks losing the very benefits that a liberal arts education brings to professional careers.

from: http://history.hanover.edu/do.html

My Comment: You’re not pigeon-holed unless you think you are.

On the Justification of Why I Want to be a History Major:

Historians are specialists in change… History sharpens our hindsight, which must be clear if we expect to wisely judge current challenges and issues… [History majors] are people of curiosity…They learn to be critical and suspect the simple story, and expect to use evidence in their judgments.

from: http://www.chass.ncsu.edu/history/page.php?id=76

My Comment: Evidence to back up your point is necessary for any argument. A skill I want to strengthen.

Conclusion:

So, dear Society, please stop telling me or giving me the impression that I’m wasting my time pursuing an Arts degree. There’s other people who can specialize in those other things they’re good in. I can pick up carpentry in my spare time.

Originally posted on April 25, 2007. Edited June 23, 2007.