A fantastic learning environment, great teachers, an experience worth reminiscing about – this is how I would summarize the twelve months I studied at the NTCU Chinese Language Center in Taichung.
Taiwan is no longer an insider tip but a well-established destination for Western students eager to study Mandarin, stroll through mysterious cloud forests, or simply seeking the best boba. While most people seem to be attracted by Taipei and its prestigious universities, I urge everybody who is serious about studying Mandarin to look beyond the capital and its big names, to places like NTCU.
My classes were of small to moderate size, consisting of five to 15 students from all around the world but mostly Asia. As this included people who struggled with English, hence speaking Mandarin naturally became the easiest way for us to communicate, including breaks and extracurricular activities. This not only created a very homely and natural learning environment, plus I also got to learn a great deal about the culture of my new friends from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, or Korea.
The workload of my programme included three hours of classes per day each workday for three months, plus homework, course prep, and studying. I stayed for one year and for most of that time, I took two classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This would not have been possible without enthusiastic, dedicated, and experienced teachers like Ms Wang and Ms Xu who always managed to engage us with exciting, interesting, and up-to-date course materials.
After class and on weekends, I very much enjoyed roaming through and exploring the local area, with lots of different food, night markets, or traditional temples to discover. Despite my tight schedule there were plenty of opportunities to do that as my dorm, a modern appartement building for foreign students, was in walking distance of the campus and just a stone’s throw away from the historical city centre. And thanks to Taichung's good bus and train connections and the city’s location in Central Taiwan, I also conveniently got to make trips to destinations all over the island.
Had I decided against my year in Taiwan, in Taichung, at NTCU – I might have still managed to achieve Chinese proficiency on a C1/2 level. But it is safe to say that I would have missed out on a good deal of great memories.