Here, I seek to outline all of the major aspects of living and studying at NCCU. This is an evolving list, as I am sure perspectives will change throughout the year and I will always be learning new things. If you have any questions about life at NCCU or corrections about life at NCCU, please do not hesitate to contact me or comment on this post! I look forward to hearing from you!
• Campus: NCCU’s campus in located in the Wenshan District (文山區, Wénshān Qū), the southernmost point of Taipei City. This means you will not be living in the “downtown” region of the city characterized by large avenues and easy access from one area to another; rather, NCCU lies in a more natural setting. The university is located on the side of a mountain, two small rivers cross through the campus, and the neighborhood around it is entirely residential. Buses run frequently during the day from NCCU that can take you to nearly every part of the city you would need to go to, but the bus routes often take a long while and the campus is still an 8 minute bus ride away from the last stop of the MRT line. Basically, you always have to allot a certain chunk of travel time before you go anywhere.
Needless to say, however, the campus setting is beautiful. It is one of the few places in the city where the air is always clean and fresh and you can feel like you are really away from busy city life. The campus itself is arranged in two parts. The lower campus is where you will enter and most of the main buildings are located here. The administration building, computer lab, College of Commerce, College of General Studies, College of International Affairs, College of Education, cafeteria, gymnasium, library, girls’ dormitories, etc. are all located on the lower campus. Upper campus has the Chinese and Foreign Language Center, College of Communication, Art & Culture Center, and boys’ dormitories, as well as another 7-Eleven. There is a shuttle bus that runs about every 10 minutes all day to take you to the part of campus that is on the hill. It costs $1(NTD) one way. You can catch the bus on the left side of the Administration Building.
• Office of International Cooperation: This is your initial point of contact to NCCU. The Office of International Cooperation (OIC) handles all international student affairs, from admissions to course selection to counseling to setting up work-study to solving any random problems you have. The office is located on the 8th floor of the Administration Building in the center of campus. The people working here all speak Chinese and English fluently and they can provide contacts in nearly any other major language. I have found every person in the OIC to be extremely helpful and welcoming; e-mails or phone calls are always answered immediately and I can walk in any time (9am-5pm anyway). International student recruitment is still a relatively new phenomenon at NCCU and the program is forever evolving, but it is moving in an excellent direction. The school hired a counselor, Dira Berman, specifically for international students last year. Students can contact her any time any day for any random help they need with guaranteed confidentiality. A series of orientations and group discussions are also provided throughout the semester. More exciting developments to come!
• NCCU Buddy Program: You will be assigned a “buddy,” or local NCCU student, before you arrive to help you with your transition on campus and in Taiwan. It is a good idea to contact your buddy as soon as possible. Some are known to meet you at the airport to pick you up; mine was waiting for me at the front gate of the school with a cold carton of OJ and another friend to help move in. Go to lunch/dinner with your buddy the first day (they may treat you anyway) and pick their ear about the school and campus life. You’ll have a ton more questions when you arrive than you did before. This would also be a good time to exchange phone numbers and Facebook pages if you haven’t already. If they don’t mind, ask them to give you a tour of the campus. You will have the opportunity to go on a campus tour at orientation, but a private tour is definitely better.
• Airport Pick-up: I suggest you sign up for the airport pick-up service. You will need to fill out and submit a document at least 10 days in advance of your arrival to the OIC to arrange for a driver. It cost me $1000NTD (about $30USD). The driver will be waiting for you in the lobby pick-up area when you arrive. The car I traveled in was a cool black Benz…talk about arriving in style. Alternatively, you can take public transport. There is a bus that takes you to the nearest MRT stop, from which you can ride the subway and then take another bus to NCCU. With multiple bags and luggage, however, I believe the personal driver is more than worth it.
• International Student Orientation: This is usually scheduled about a week before classes start. It is chock full of useful information, but be warned – it is a full day event in lecture-style format and is quite boring. Bring extra snacks for lunchtime just in case you don’t like the food in the free boxed lunch they provide (mine consisted mostly of pastries, bread, and Taiwanese sweet sausage). This is also the perfect opportunity to meet other international students and the Student Ambassadors. The Student Ambassadors are NCCU students who facilitate events throughout the year for international students and are there to help international students with basically anything. During the orientation they will probably be very rah-rah-cheerleader-like. The campus tour is scheduled at the end of the orientation and lasts about an hour. I skipped this since my student buddy already showed me around; plus I didn’t feel like walking outside in 40°C heat.
• NCCU Mandarin Language Center: This is an interesting system, I think. The Mandarin Language Center at NCCU is not actually part of the university; it is a separate school solely for Chinese language learning and people who are not university students can go study there. Tuition for this school is also separate from the university. However, exchange and degree seeking students at NCCU can set up a special arrangement to take classes. Most exchange students will take the “Special Course,” which is broken up in to two three hour classes per week. At the beginning of the Language Center’s semester, all students will take a placement exam which includes a written section and an oral section. Don’t be nervous. The point is to place you at the level you are meant to be at, and for the most part the exam works. Still, if you feel like you were put in the wrong class (ie: put in the beginner level 1 class when you already know how to say “你好“) you can talk to your teacher and be switched.
The Language Center follows its own four-quarter term system, which is both different in the length and dates of the the two-term system used by the university. Thus, your Chinese class will most likely start at least a week later than all of your other university classes. The final exam for the Chinese class will also be at least a month earlier than all of your other final exams. Basically, the fall term for Chinese courses runs from September through end of November. The winter term starts at the beginning of December and ends at the beginning of February. This is important to note if you want to take Chinese classes during the winter, but only plan to stay at NCCU for one semester. NCCU (specifically, the OIC) offers a Mandarin Language Scholarship for exchange students who want to take the Chinese classes. An application will be sent out to everyone who is signed up to take language classes, and I believe they are pretty generous with the amount of awards they hand out each term.
In my personal experience, I have found that two classes per week is not enough if you really want to learn the language. Mandarin Chinese is something that needs to be diligently practiced and repeated every day to acquire better ability to communicate. Therefore, I have chosen to take the “regular” course during the spring term. This course meets every day in three hour increments and all of the students are better focused on truly learning the language; interest amongst students in the “special” course usually wanes because they are not learning fast enough. Of course, the Mandarin Language Scholarship offered by NCCU does not cover the entire cost of the “regular” course tuition, but it can cover approximately 1/3. The rest you will have to finance out of pocket or find a separate scholarship elsewhere.
For more information, check out the Center’s website.
• Club/Organization Fair: This is usually scheduled during the first week of classes. Most student organizations host a table on the main walk in campus to recruit members. Sign up for as many clubs/organizations as you can. In all likelihood you will not join more than half of them, but it’s good to be on their mailing list just in case you are ever interested. There are over 200 clubs on campus ranging from sports and fitness to art and performance to community service to debate and leadership. Students are very active on campus, so don’t be hesitant to participate.
• ID Number: You will be given your student ID number before you arrive to campus. Memorize it. ASAP. You will have to write it down on a million different documents within the first few weeks, so it’s better just to know it rather than have to fumble to find your ID card every time.
• Dorms: Dorms are single-sex at NCCU. Girls dorms are on the main campus and boys dorms are up on the mountain. There is no such thing as a co-ed dorm in Taiwan. The newest dormitory was renovated a decade ago—that’s the one I lived in. Local students think it’s good because there is a TV lounge and vending machine; however, in my opinion the inside looks like a US high school built in the 1970s. There are mostly four students to one dorm room, though I think you do have the option of being in a 2-person room (costs more) or a 6-person room. Each room is slightly longer than a typical dorm room at AU. In my dorm, the first floor only had international students housed in it. Dorms are air-conditioned, but you have to purchase an AC card at the student store (you can recharge it there too). There are two bunk beds, four desks, four three-tiered shelves, four closets, and four cabinets on top of the closets in every room. There are laundry facilities on every floor (including washers and a drier), showers, and toilets. There is one western-style toilet; the rest are Eastern-style – “squatty potties”(they’re not as bad as they seem, though they do take some getting used to). Make sure you purchase your own toilet paper/tissues and always take it with you. Toilet paper is not provided.