Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

Term 1 is Ending! The Final Push

Posted in Academics, Culture, Exchange, Exchange Students, NTU, Taiwan, Thoughts, University by J on January 6, 2008

The year starts off slightly off-centred. A new adventure to be found every day!

A news brief to kick off the new year…

With this week left before the finals start, it’s starting to get a little… how shall I say this? It’s time to turn the gas on! Vroom, vroom!

Reporting on other areas:

This month has been the preparation and steeling of feelings, for people are departing throughout this month. Many of whom I will probably never see again. But hey! At least there’s the internet… and visitation rights.

So, in culmination, in contrast to December’s mostly party-like atmosphere (as much as we could make it), January looks to be a balance between send-offs and school.

Finally a posting related to academics.


Temples, Temples, Temples

Posted in Academics, Chinese, Culture, NTU, Observations, Outdoors, Sightseeing, Taipei, Thoughts, University by J on December 6, 2007


Taipei Confucius Temple

Thanks to a field trip arrange by my Chinese philosophy professor, with my class, we had the opportunity to take an actual look inside a Confucian temple. With a tour guide! In English! (See National Palace Museum post for why one should have a tour guide. You’ll be bored otherwise.)

When we were watching the film of one of the biggest Confucian ceremonies, Teachers’ Day, I remembered that in September of this year I didn’t go! NOooooOOoo, it looked so cool. So… ritualized and filled with meaning. As well as having special music played for it.

The Confucian temple itself was under construction (due to termites?), but that didn’t detract from the vibrant colours of the decorative adornments or from the Southern style swallow-tail architecture. At least that’s what I think the guide said.


Ritualized clothing for the Teachers’ Day ceremony.

After, we just crossed the street and, voila! We were in a Daoist/Buddhist temple. The Bao’an (大龍峒保安宮) temple was more 熱鬧 (lively) than the Confucian one. I was surprised that the Daoist and the Buddhist philosophies were combined into one temple. Actually, I was just very surprised overall that, if you wanted to, you could do an extremely quick tour of hitting up the Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist philosophy within 15 minutes.

From a very secular viewpoint, both temples were beautiful. Something new to learn everyday.


Bao’an Temple

Commentary on NTU’s Main Library’s Study Facilities

Posted in Academics, Exchange, Home, Learning, Library, NTU, Observations, Transportation, University by J on September 19, 2007

Right now, I’m sitting in the basement of NTU’s Main Library. It’s alright. I actually much prefer the study facilities of the libraries at my university because it is much more comfortable. Here, the study areas actually promote study. They do this by having straight-back wooden chairs, lamps and only one electrical outlet per table, each of which, seats 6 people in total. However, this suits NTU’s studious atmosphere and most likely helps keep the school’s reputation as the top – and most difficult to get into university – in Taiwan.

At home, the libraries have multiple electrical outlets, extremely comfortable chairs, study space everywhere in places that look like an English gentleman’s reading room. Mind you, this is Canada, so some of the study spaces are in imitation of places abroad and have a sense of newness rather than tradition to them. I guess the state of my university’s libraries’ study spaces is indicative of the laid back feel of my university. Unless it’s exam time: Everyone’s a bit anxious then.

After checking out all 5 floors + the basement of the Main Library, I settled myself down in the study space in the basement. To enter basically anywhere that has books or study spaces in the Main Library, you need to have your student id card. You scan it before the gate to get access, much like swiping your card at the MRT stations to get the platforms.

Also, something interesting here is that in this particular study space (I don’t know about the others) is that when you swipe your card to enter, you’re assigned a spot to study in. You can change your spot once you get inside on a computer, but wow. There’s a couple hundred spots in this basement study area. The chart makes the study space look bigger than it actually is. At home, you just try to find a free spot wherever you can.

This orderliness is also something reminiscent of the MRT stations here because when people wait for the MRT, they will wait (for the most part) within the indicated waiting lines outlined on the floor of the platform. Again, I think this really promotes the work hard, study harder mentality that I’m imposing on NTU students right now.

Anyways, I still prefer my own study facilities at my university’s libraries because here, it feels too functional, too prison-like, too uniform (but it’s the most economical!). The dorms are more comfortable, thank goodness, but it’s harder to think there, that’s all. It’s a trade-off. However, go to the 24 hour room! (It’s the room that I’m in and I’ve already spent over 7.5 hours here this afternoon and tonight already. =))

Starting Chinese Classes at the CLD

Posted in Academics, Chinese, Exchange, Food, Home, NTU, Observations, University by J on September 3, 2007

Chinese classes have started!!

I was placed in a class that started at Lesson 22 of the first book. It’s good that I’m in this class because I haven’t learned how to write in Traditional characters yet (only Simplified at my university) so this will give me some time to catch up. As well, I have some time to perfect my grammar and such because… it’s kind of bad. Well, also, there’s some things that I haven’t learned yet… For example, like the word zhao 著, I haven’t learned how to use that.

Continuing on, the interesting thing about Chinese classes is that for me, no matter how much I review/study/prepare, I feel that I never can do enough to feel on top of my Chinese class. I guess this is because learning a language is a process. It’s not something that you can pick up, put down and forget about until it’s exam time. I also probably feel like this is because I don’t exactly like to be wrong. At all. The fantastic thing is that I can’t forget almost any of my Chinese because I have to use it so often to get around.

The most trouble I run into is always eating out (which you have to because there’s not kitchen in the dorms here) where I can’t read the menus. However, I’m slowly learning the words used on the menus and the right words and phrases to get me what I want at restaurants 飯館 (fanguan)。

Anyways, the classes. I think it’ll be a different learning style than learning Chinese at my university at home because here, it’s more of a teacher asks you something and then you respond. It’s less of speaking and practicing with your classmates. This is probably because we need to get the basics of the grammar and language down before we can do this or else our Chinese foundation will be rather shaky.

Classes are also nice and small. There’s a maximum of 6 people per class in the CLD (Chinese Language Division) classes. At home, Chinese classes could house up to 25 people, but they usually have a bit less the higher the level you are in. I heard that the EAP classes have only 3-4 people per class. The downside to being in a small class is that you really can’t shirk your work at all. Not that I would do that =P.

Also, I think that classes are structured according to the book but teachers have leeway in the way they can teach it to us. In actuality, I think they all probably teach the material similarly, but I’m happy with my teacher. The actions and facial (very funny!) expressions really help to make the class interesting. I like the daily test too. I don’t know why: It’s just fun.

Lastly, my class is utterly cool because every person in class is from a different country. Myself from Canada as well as these following countries: Sweden, France, America, Germany and Korea.

So, classes have started!

Useful Information: Passing on a Link

Posted in Academics, Dorms, Exchange, NTU, University by J on August 16, 2007

I found this photo of Taipei 101 on flickr. I thought it was electrically colourful. I’m looking forward to going! 

I’d like to thank a very kind person for pointing out this blog to me: In appreciation, I’m making a quick post about this link that was passed onto me.

This blog ( is written from the point of view of a Education Abroad Program student from one of the University of California (UC) branches. The really nice thing about this blog is that the person went very recently (2005-2006). So, the information is fairly current, and I might add, very relevant.

It contains useful information (and pictures!) about things such as:

Of all the pictures and information there, so far, I was the most excited to see the pictures of the International Youth Centre (IYC/國青) dormitories. I wonder if I can paint the room… Hm… Purple would be nice… or perhaps blue. I’ll have to look into the rules about the rooms when I get there.

The second most exciting thing to read about was the Chinese program at NTU. However, since I don’t go to a UC school, it’ll probably be slightly different because the ICLP program is funded by UC. The intensity of the ICLP program that that blog describes sounds scary and thrilling at the same time. Imagine all that standard Chinese (Putonghua) learned in such a short time. Mmmmm… I’m starting to drool here. Hopefully my Chinese program will be similar: I’ll be taking classes with the Chinese Language Division.

Despite what I’ve heard and read about Taiwan’s 96% admission rate of entrance exam takers into its universities, my appetite is still whet for this upcoming adventure. I think that my course, Education and Society in Modern China, has helped put bits of news like this into perspective. Which reminds me. I’m supposed to be studying.