My name is Merel Fase and I am currently 23 years old. The past four years I have followed the bachelor Watermanagement at the University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The study gave insights to problems related to the climate change, rising sea levels, heavy rainfall, or drought in the summer, particularly in urban areas. With small-scale courses that focus on collaboration and direct contact with the (work)field.
At the start of the study, I knew that I wanted to at least go abroad for one semester. This is possible for a third year or fourth year internship or during a minor abroad. Unfortunately, the epidemic made it impossible to do so for the third-year internship. My school has an agreement that enables students from Rotterdam to study in Taipei, but also vice versa. I had never visited Taiwan before and have never studied the language, but I was intrigued by the information found about the university and the country.
During my time at NTU I had to follow English courses with credits that add up to 15 in total. In the Netherlands the systems require 30 ECTS, where the 1 Taiwanese credit is the same as 2 ECTS.
The main requirement is to follow courses that offer new and/or supplementary information for my studies. My goal was to gain knowledge in general. I was curious if certain “Dutch” beliefs and practices would be the same as in Taiwan, or if people would look at the same problems with a different mindset. In the end I choose to partake in the following courses: Forest Climate & Practice, Introduction to Agriculture in Taiwan, Landscape Ecological Measuring and Planning, Exploring Taiwan: Conservation and Management of Natural Resources, Global competence with internationalization at home, Climate and Ocean: From Past to Future, Introduction to Marine Geology and lastly, General Chinese. I really enjoying take each of these classes. I was able to meet lots of different students and experience how school life at NTU looks like.
Preparing for departure
It takes around 14 hours to fly from Amsterdam (The Netherlands) to Taipei (Taiwan). Apart from the long distance, the language, culture, and money currency are just some of the big differences between the two places. It took quite a long time to prepare for departure.
The first steps are to be selected to go to NTU. At my home university this means writing a motivational letter and to show that your grades are above average. When selected, the procedure steps from NTU are to be followed next. Some of them are an application form, writing a study plan, making sure you have a passport photo, showing your academic records and a filled in health exam. My experience was that this was not too difficult to arrange. Most of them are existing items, but you might have to assemble the items. And the health care in the Netherlands is good and it is common for students to receive a health exam when going abroad (outside of Europe).
The trickiest steps were the last ones: applying for a visa and the special entry permit (during the COVID period). The rest would be taken care of by NTU: a room in a student dorm, a quarantine room for the first week, a welcoming gift and a buddy at NTU (a fellow student) to help me with selection courses and daily life.
My advice for other students wanting to go to Taipei, or Taiwanese students wanting to go to Rotterdam and Europe: Do not be afraid of the (seemingly difficult) application requirements. It might take a while for you to organize everything, but it is worth the time. And when you do get to a point where it gets difficult or confusing, there will always be a representative of NTU to help you along the way.
Life In Taipei
As for my life in Taipei I followed my studies at NTU and tried to explore places in the country and city during my free time. One of the conditions as a Dutch (foreign) student was that I was not allowed to work besides following studies.
During my free time I have been to the places such as Tainan, Kaohsiung, Sun Moon Lake, Hualien, Taroko National Park, Yangmingshan National Park, Juifen, Yingge and Pingxi Crags. But also in Taipei: different night markets, museums, Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei Zoo, Beitou, Huashan 1914 Creative Park and many more. I loved going to all these places and learning new information about Taiwan. Moreover, the people are extremely nice and helpful which made traveling so much more fun.
There is one place that I spend a lot of free time at and that was the riverside in Taipei. I was able to combine a project for my home university and my experience in Taipei. My goal was to research the relation between the riverside and the people of Taipei. As an outsider visiting the riverside it seems to be a clean area with lots of recreational functions such as sport fields, events, and nearby night market. The riverside is well connected with the metro lines and the city has an interesting YouBike system. All of these are appearances lots of urban rivers in Europe do not (always) seem to have. This research eventually turned into my thesis subject which I successfully achieved and defended last July.
I hope this gives other students the motivation to combine your experiences abroad with your home university and see what you can gain academically with this knowledge.