Student’s Comment on the Foreign Student Experience in Taiwan

To date, I have only been able to talk with university administrators and professors about education in Asia. I have been trying for some time to get student’s opinions on studying in Taiwan and Asia as a foreign student, but until recently have not been able to get any. In my last post about international students, a comment was left by M. Dujon Johnson. Mr. Johnson has a blog about his experience as a foreign student

His on-line biography describes him as

…a Sinologist, lawyer and author. I am currently conducting research for my second book on international law concerning the U.S., Mainland China and Taiwanese triangular relationship; I am also a world-class 10k runner. I received my Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctor degrees from the University of Iowa and my Master of Arts from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. I am currently a visiting scholar at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and a Ph.D. student at National Sun Yat-sen University located in Taiwan, Republic of China. I was only the third African-American to study at Nanjing University in Mainland China. I am the first African-American Ph.D. student to study at National Sun Yat-sen University and the first African-American Ph.D. student at the Institute of Mainland China Studies. I am also, you guessed it, the first African-American to be named a visiting scholar by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

In his comment, he compares the financial aid situation for foreign students in Taiwan and China

I can provide some information concerning fees and tuition. I have been a student or taught in Mainland China, Taiwan and U.S. universities at the undergraduate, graduate and professional [law] levels. I think that it is important to remember if a student comes to Taiwan and his/her standard of living is like that of local students, then these fees are not trivial and could be very burdensome financially. In both the U.S. and Mainland China when I was matriculating as a student, the amount of tuition costs varied greatly between the two nations. However, all fees and tuition were covered in full plus a monthly stipend was given on top of this in both Mainland China and the U.S. As an MOE recipient here in Taiwan, fees and tuition are paid out of student’s pocket. That is the stipend is given to the student and then s/he must pay their fees; most foreign students see this as ‘hidden fees’ because this is not always made clear when a student is deciding to come to Taiwan on a scholarship. I think the main difference is, from my standpoint, that a student can very easily lose his or her scholarship for non-academic reasons (e.g., attendance which may vary from professor to professor, taking an authorized sabbatical to do research, grades or incompletes given by instructor of college due to administrative mix-ups, etc.). In Mainland China and the U.S., once a scholarship is given, it is rarely taken away or altered. In short, the granting of a scholarship in the U.S. and Mainland China is seen as a legally binding contract. In Taiwan it is not.

In a further comment, Mr. Johnson sums up his opinion

Coming to Taiwan was probably one of the worst decisions that I have made.



dear Scott,

for many years your own (foreign) students have been struggling with the administration in Taoyuan..

i will see if i can get the IC satisfaction survey results of last year.

p.s. in December 2007 GSIA (of MCU) conducted alumni satisfaction survey as well, but no results have been distributed yet.

i suppose you could contact GSIA via & (03) 350-7001#3300).

“Coming to Taiwan was one of the worst decisions that I have made.”

Dealing with the Taiwanese bureaucracy is mind numbing sometimes. Currently, I am in Canada for a few months. I’ll be back in Taiwan in April.

As frustrating as the student situation is, my wife is an international phd student at Shida, the situation at work isn’t pleasant either.

I’ve worked at different schools and have never really had a truly positive experience.

dear Scott,

i promised to get you MCU IC student satisfaction survey.

and this is what i got as a response from the guy who initiated that project:
“I still have it, why do you need it?
we got in troubles with those info last year )”

why don’t you ask Ellen directly, she’s the dean of IC. good luck!

I’m sorry, but I fail to understand the point made by that comment and the personal story of Mr. Johnson. One of the worst decision ever made because… money? insecurity? regulations? does it have something to do with the fact he’s African American? I’m lost (and I’ve personally met with him before).

Better do a short interview with the person on messenger/e-mail to get the full story…

I did an MA in Taiwan (in Chinese) and had no difficulties. The government practically paid for it.

I recently attended an Asia-Pacific conference and talked to various professors and MA/PhD candidates about the prospects of studying in Taiwan or China.

Most suggested that enrolling in a North American (or equivalent) university, and then going to Taiwan as an exchange student, or to study language and conduct research (if necessary for one’s thesis) was preferable to enrolling at a local university. They suggested that having a school overseas to back you up would ensure better treatment and avoid the experience the subject of this article described.


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