Thursday, March 11, 2010

Study Mandarin and explore Taiwan through scholarships

Each year, the Ministry of Education offers two types of scholarship for students interested in studying in Taiwan. These scholarships are a great opportunity to explore another culture with the reassuring cushion of a monthly stipend. Students can choose to apply for a long-term certification scholarship, like the Taiwan Scholarship Program or a one-year language program, like the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship (HES). Applications for both scholarship programs are being accepted now for this fall. The deadline is March 31, 2010.

Recently, Taiwan Insights caught up with three of last year’s scholarship recipients and asked them to give some overall impressions of their time in Taiwan.

“Studying Chinese was very humbling”

Before Kerry Seed left for Taiwan, he was a student at the Graduate School of Journalism, University of California at Berkeley. He wanted to learn Chinese with the intention of using it in his work as a reporter. He was in Taipei for five months, studying at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). Seed knew very little Chinese before entering his program at the Mandarin Training Center.

“Studying Chinese was very humbling. I felt like I had to work so hard to make even modest gains, but the work was very satisfying.” Besides taking one class per day for two hours, he also studied about four hours per day outside of class. “I really enjoyed my time in Taiwan. The people I met there were very friendly and willing to help me learn. I felt like I had a million teachers.”

One of the things he liked most about the program was his classmates. “My classmates were from all over the world, and meeting them was one of the most enjoyable parts of my stay in Taiwan.”

The most challenging aspect of his time in Taiwan was to manage his studies as well as exploring Taipei. His advice to anyone considering the program is to simply “Do it!!!”

Opportunities to soak up local culture

Emily Rupp swapped the fall semester of her master’s program in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of San Francisco to study at National Taiwan Normal University. She had prepared for her trip by taking a summer intensive Mandarin Chinese class at the University of California at Berkeley just before her departure. Like Seed, she was in class for ten hours a week at the Mandarin Training Center.

When asked about her experience there, she mentioned how friendly she found the Taiwanese people. After her stay in Taiwan, she visited other parts of Asia and this confirmed her feelings that the people in Taiwan were “so much nicer than anywhere else in Asia.” She found “a lot of kindness.” In fact, she was overwhelmed to have perfect strangers invite her to their homes and go “all-out” with preparing a meal for her.

One thing that Rupp especially liked was Taiwan’s Tea Culture. “If you meet your friends here, you would meet for drinks, but the kids there hang out all night drinking tea…” She likened tea to the “social glue” in Taiwan, a drink minus the guilt normally associated with alcohol. She enjoyed going to the tea stations and getting a huge tea for merely a dollar.

She also found the food to be amazing and affordable, with a lot of vegetable and organic restaurants everywhere. One can get a completely healthy meal for US$3-4.

For anyone considering studying in Taipei, Rupp cautioned overseas students when renting a room. “Don’t pay more than NT$8,000 (around US$250) for a room.” In the Bay Area, US$600 a month might be reasonable, but it is way more than you need to pay in Taiwan.

Although the scholarship was sufficient to live on and pay the tuition, she advised students studying overseas to ask when their first scholarship check will arrive. Regardless, be sure to take extra cash. If the first stipend does not arrive right away, you might need a month or two of living expense and tuition money. Seed also suggested students take extra money.

Study Mandarin at Taiwan’s top universities

In June 2009, graduate student Zayar Ohn took a three-month summer break from his studies to enroll in Taiwan’s top-ranked university, National Taiwan University (NTU). As a former journalist in Burma, he arrived in America as a refugee and is now a graduate student at the Center for the Pacific Rim at the University of San Francisco. While in Taiwan, he enrolled in the NTU’s Language Center’s intensive Mandarin Chinese course, meeting for 15 hours a week. He found the class size to be perfect and his intensive language class not as grueling as he had expected.

While studying in Taipei, he lived in Xindian, a suburb of Taipei City. He got to know the public transportation well. In fact, the “fantastic transportation system” was one of his favorable impressions. “Buses and the subway are really clean.” He was less fond of the air pollution.

One thing that stood out for Ohn was Taiwanese politeness. “They did not yell at each other when they spoke. They spoke politely. People were nice, welcoming and considerate, when not driving a motor cycle on the streets.” Upon his return to San Francisco, he has a renewed appreciation of his pedestrian rights.

While in Taiwan, Ohn fell in love with Taiwanese Oolong tea. “I went to many tea houses. The only thing I bought for my home was tea.” He predicts he will not run out of tea for another year. “Brewing tea and making tea is an art in Taiwan.”

Taiwan scholarships now available

The scholarship program that Ohn, Rupp and Seed participated in was similar to the HES program. Whereas the program before allowed a minimum stay of three months, the minimum stay is now one year. The program is especially ideal for students looking to study Mandarin and to participate in cross-cultural exchanges. The monthly stipend is NT$25,000 (about US$770). Applicants wishing to apply to this program can visit find out more information at:

Another scholarship is the Taiwan Scholarship Program. It is intended for students who wish to undertake a degree program in Taiwan. Although students need not be accepted into an accredited university or college in Taiwan when applying, the applicant MUST BE accepted to an accredited institution to be awarded the scholarship.

The program offers four different scholarships, of varying lengths and monthly stipends. The monthly stipends awarded range from NT$25,000 (about US$770) to NT$30,000 (about US$900). Applicants can apply for the Undergraduate, Master’s, Doctoral or the Pre-degree Mandarin Language Enrichment Program (LEP) Scholarships.

The LEP scholarship is a one-year scholarship intended for the recipient to study Mandarin Chinese. However, the award may be extended if the student continues on to another accredited program. The undergraduate scholarship is for a maximum of 4 years. Both LEP and the undergraduate scholarships provide a monthly stipend of about US$770. The graduate scholarships offer a slightly more generous scholarship of about US$900 a month.

Applicants accepted onto the master’s program can get the scholarship for a maximum of 2 years, while the doctoral program students can receive the stipend for up to 3 years. Applicants who wish to learn more about this program should visit: Applicants living in the state of Alaska, Northern California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington or Wyoming must send their completed documents to the Ministry of Education’s regional office in San Francisco before the deadline:

Attention: MOE Language Scholarship
Cultural Division
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco
555 Montgomery Street, Ste. 503
San Francisco, CA 94111

Interest applicants can also contact Abby Wu at (415) 364-5607 or or

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.