Guest post by Nathanial Post, a Foster Junior studying Entrepreneurship. He is currently studying abroad in Taipei, Taiwan at the National Chengchi University.
This is the first time I’ve written anything like this in quite some time, so please bear with me. The first thing to do when you’ve been admitted, beyond the paperwork and admin stuff, it to reach out to your assigned buddy/buddies in June and get to know them. For the first few days in Taiwan, they were my lifeline in figuring out where to go and what to do. They are very helpful, so I’d recommend getting to know them. I arrived in Taiwan a day before check-ins opened at the iHouse, so I had to book a hotel for one night.
A quick aside about the paperwork: It should all be trivial, except for the course selection process. At UW we know all too well that we need to register in the first 5-10 mins because classes are first-come, first-serve. It is NOT this way at NCCU. Class selection opens in late August, and you have 3 days to load up as many courses as you want/can, and selection is determined via a lottery-style process. DON’T WORRY! Getting into classes here isn’t nearly as competitive as at UW. I got every one I chose on the first try. Also, there are two different sites you register on. The first is iNCCU, which is open to locals and exchange students. I chose 3 of my 4 classes here. The other one is only for exchange students, and is where I chose my 4th class. More on classes later.
Now, when I arrived at Taipei airport (TPE), my buddies picked me up at the airport, and took me in a cab to my hotel in the central Taipei area (it was the Hyatt, if you’re curious). They took me to a nice spot for dinner, and then took me to campus the next morning. Some more things to consider:
- Jet lag will be a factor! Taipei is 15 hours ahead of Seattle, so sleeping on the 15 hour plane ride for a few hours, and forcing yourself to get about 8-9 hours of sleep on your first night is crucial in fighting this off. It should take 3-6 days to fully accustom to Taipei time.
- Tap/sink/shower water is not very safe to drink, so if you’re concerned about this, I would recommend avoiding water-based things (Tea and ice) and stick to bottled water. Some fountains on campus are filtered, and sinks in the iHouse seem to be ok for brushing teeth.
When you get to the iHouse (which I would highly recommend over the on-campus dorms), check-in will not be until 3pm, so it isn’t worth getting there more than 30-60 minutes early. Adjusting will be a challenge at first, but I’ve got used to things here after the first week.
When you check in, make sure you’ve spoken with your bank thoroughly. Let them know you’ll be in the region for the time period you’re staying, and have them raise your daily spending limits and ATM withdrawl limits so you won’t get rejected on charges. (The iHouse deposit is around $1500usd, and I learned these bank things the hard way, so make sure to call them in advance!) You’ll then have to fill out a couple forms, and eventually you’ll get your room key!
The rooms in the iHouse are quite nice, for the most part. They are modern, like west campus at UW, spacious, and have good amenities, including AC and personal wifi (you get around 5mbps download, if you’re curious, which isn’t bad.) The room has a mini fridge, bathroom with shower, and ample space for closets, shelving, and a desk.
There are a couple downsides, however. The bed and included pillow are rocks. I think being in a sleeping bag on the floor would offer the same level of comfort. To remedy this, I went to IKEA and bought two mattress pads and two new pillows. I brought a flat sheet, fitted sheet, blanket, and pillowcases from home, which I intend to dispose of before I come home. These four beddings are also provided by iHouse. The other issue is that the showerhead is not fixed into the wall, rather, you have to pull the head off the wall and rinse yourself manually, which I found to be rather inconvenient. Also, the water pressure is low, but if you unscrew the head from the hose, there is a black rubber limiter inside which you can take out with something like a pen.
As far as basic necessities go, you have to buy a lot more compared to UW. For bathroom needs, you’ll need to buy hand soap, toiletries, paper towels, and even TP. For your room, I’d recommend stocking up on bottled water and filling your fridge with it. In Taiwan, it is over 100 degrees every day from heat and humidity. I’ve yet to see it cool down, but in the winter it is supposed to. Anyways, it is VITAL to stay hydrated. Some kid in orientation passed out because he was dehydrated. Fell right out of his chair. Thud. Since you’ll likely be sweating just minutes after leaving your room, I’d prepare for hot and humid weather accordingly. In your room, you have your own AC. But, your room key is your electricity, so your room won’t always be refreshingly cool after a hot day out on the town.
Food is another important subject to mention. Unlike UW dorms like McMahon with dining halls just an elevator away, in Taiwan, a little more walking will be required. There is a grocery store called Jason’s about a 2 minute walk from the iHouse, and they are the equivalent of the QFC down in U Village, just with less inventory. Personally, I eat cereal and fruit every single morning, so they cover my breakfasts with milk, cereal, apples, and bananas. They have good fruit here, thankfully. I also stocked up on water there, as well as some soda, disposable plates, bowls, and silverware. It’s also a good spot for snacks, since they carry snacks from all around the world.
As far as restaurants go, there are plenty of solid options, but like the dining halls back home, they can get a bit old after awhile, which I’m already starting to notice. They have American staples, such as a McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway, but all three are inferior to their American counterparts, since the food has a Taiwanese spin to it. Food is no more than 5-8 minutes away on foot as well.
For local eats, there are good choices. The main road by NCCU is pretty comparable to the Ave at UW. Lots of restaurants here, and aesthetically, it’s just a bit dirtier than the Ave. However, there are no homeless/sketchy people here. Taiwan is a very safe area in general. The restaurants I’ve enjoyed most are J Plus 5, a hot pot restaurant next to Starbucks, and a dumpling place down the road on the right, just before the bridge over the river. Food here is really cheap. Coming from the US where we’ve got the 5 Buck Lunch, McPick 2, and other such deals, here the average meal runs around that price. But the quantity of food is far greater, so you get more bang for your buck. For example, me and 9 other guys had a big dinner, and we had dishes covering the table twice-over. Per person, it was $7 each.
Overall, I would suggest being well-prepared and ready to adapt to spur-of-the-moment changes in your first week in Taiwan. Make friends, go out, explore, sign up for events, clubs, and trips, and just get involved! Everyone here is very chill and hospitable, and there are people to suit every interest. There’s people who are casual, people who are studious, and people who like to party. Everyone is friendly, so this is a great opportunity to make new friends and go on lots of new adventures.