Francesca is one of our Peer Advisors who spent a semester of her year abroad in 2019/2020 in Taiwan studying at National Cheng Kung University. We are so happy to hear all about Francesca’s time abroad!
By Francesca Mendoza, Liberal Arts
International Year at Hong Kong Baptist University and NCKU, Taiwan
Having spent the previous semester in Hong Kong, I was excited to see what Taiwan had in store for me. Asking my friends if any of them had ever been to Taiwan, many said that it was a wonderful country with delicious street food and that Taiwan was just like Hong Kong but more ‘traditional’. And, let me tell you, they weren’t lying!
Much like Hong Kong, the city I was in (Tainan – the old capital) was sprawled with high-rise buildings and surrounded in huge, shining towers. However, alongside these, the city was also adorned with many traditional temples, and secret side-streets full of locals’ homes and small restaurants. Alongside these features, the city held in its heart many multi-style architectural buildings, showing the likes of Western and Japanese styles of architecture.
During my time in Tainan, I studied at the National Cheng Kung University (or NCKU for short) which is situated in the Eastern District of the city. The University is made up of 9 colleges and spread across 11 campuses, and yes, there was a lot of walking involved!
However, the surrounding area of the campus was exuberant (both during the daytime and night time) and was littered with dozens of local eating spots and street markets – the most popular being Yule Street, which was a bustling mix of local and international cuisine, perfect for any student budget!
Now, there were some difficulties whilst being in Taiwan, with the language barrier taking the top spot; however, at what first seemed a daunting situation, proved more hopeful later on, as, sooner than later, I realised how friendly and accommodating Taiwanese locals were! (Of course, knowing basic Mandarin would give you extra points). Whether it be ordering food, or asking for directions, the locals would easily go out of their way to give a helping hand!
This friendliness and eagerness to help radiated not only from the local people but also from my classmates, other students, as well as the staff members and faculty of NCKU! This being one of the main reasons as to why settling into a new city was much easier done than thought. Not only were they helpful when it came to academic-related work but also took the time and effort to encourage exploring the city or trying out new food. What I found was that my relationship with my classmates easily became memorable, life-long friendships.
The people and the culture of Taiwan made me fall in love with this country and enjoy my experience at NCKU and Tainan. As a whole having these people by my side distracted me from focussing too much on the negativity of there being a global pandemic.
I think that the warmth of the Taiwanese people and their can-do attitude resulted in me feeling entirely safe during my time there, despite the happenings around me. NCKU is a great University, and Taiwan is a beautiful country with much to offer. I highly suggest considering this exchange to those interested!