Perceptions of Students from Southbound Countries

Read about the perception of students from soutbound countries to share the insight of studying in Taiwan.

Ralph Nicolai Nasara/ National Cheng Kung University

Nationality : Philippines
Major : Materials Science and Engineering


Hi I'm Ralph! Or lan san (藍三),not the coffee (藍山咖啡). As to why we need to ask the Office of International Affairs! But that name already became a part of my identity here in Taiwan. I already graduated from my Master's, but I can't say no to what NCKU/Taiwan was offering, so I decided to pursue higher education. My goal is to improve myself, while still being able to contribute something to society (with research). I think I am in a perfect position right now, and if ever I decide to move forward with my career after the Ph.D., then I can guarantee myself that I am prepared because of all the learning, skills and connections.

I love to be active! I have been to almost all the key places in Taiwan, maybe except for Kinmen and Green Island. I already rode the south of Taiwan to Taitung, then went for whale watching! I also got to see the famous “twin-heart" in Chimei Island. I've has also been participating in the Dragon Boat competition so far we've won 4th place, then 3rd place and hopefully 2nd place this year! Wish us luck.

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1. What made you decide to study in Taiwan?

A leap of faith? I remember Prof. Ting (Chairperson of Materials Science) doing a good job in convincing me to enroll in the program. I remember him telling me that Research/Graduate school is the only place
where you are encouraged to fail. I was still young at the time, and learning was the most important thing. I didn't know that NCKU was. All I knew was Taiwan had a very strong semiconductor industry (TSMC, Applied Materials, UMC) and that maybe I can find a good job after graduation. But looking back now, I think I made the best decision of my life, yet.

2.  Briefly tell us about the program you are studying. What subjects are you studying? What have you enjoyed the most in your studies?

am taking an International program based on the Materials Science degree offered by the College of Engineering. I have chosen to focus on energy-storage materials and green energy and most of the classes
I took provided fundamental knowledge and even specialized information that will help me contribute better to my field: Advanced Characterization of Materials, Nanotechnology, Thermodynamics etc. I have enjoyed the graduate program. The professors are top notch with experiences from western (mostly top-US universities).

The thing I enjoyed is that NCKU gave me all aspects of freedom, and provided me all the necessary platforms. I was able to focus on my research, offered free Chinese courses, and the same time attend a
multitude of amazing international events being held at campus.

3. How is studying in Taiwan when compared to studying and being a student in your home country? (Teaching Quality、Environment、School Equipment、Laboratory or others)

Graduate studies in Taiwan is very research-oriented, as compared to the Philippines where I was required to take more than 20 credits are semester. I felt that even after studying for 5 years, I was given all the technical and theoretical knowledge thru all the courses and seminars, but not given the chance to actually apply them. Here in Taiwan (or at least in NCKU), I was allowed to pursue research at the same time I am taking my courses. Therefore, I was able to directly apply some learnings, which helps for the appreciation of Materials even more.

The course contents are quite similar, based on US-based materials Engineering program, but the teaching quality is quite different: much higher in Taiwan. Since the professors in here have a strong background in research thru the PhDs and postdoctoral experience, they are able to incorporate functional knowledge; they are able to connect classroom topics to research applications. My experience back in the Philippines is that I was exposed to too much textbook knowledge. Everything was based on the book, and there was no experiential knowledge; everything was derived and very systematic.

Research in all aspects are better in Taiwan (or NCKU). In here, I am able to perform experiments, handle equipment and attend lectures that I would have never been able to. NCKU is a top national university with
a very strong industry-academe partner, which means there is tangible funding to pursue useful research. And almost every professor is a functioning unit of his/her own, there is a surplus of opportunities for the student to divulge on. Back in the Philippines, everyone needs to fight for a funding, but only a small portion will be awarded. Therefore, a larger portion of well-capable researchers have left with ideas but nothing to move/test the feasibility. Also, there is greater academic freedom here in Taiwan, I am able to pursue any research as
long as it is something my Professor can contribute assist me with. If not, he/she will probably cross-advise me with a more apt professor. Since funding is not as abundant back in the Philippines, researchers are usually tied to government or private interest.

4.  What has been the most difficult part about applying to study in Taiwan? How did you overcome the difficulty?

For my case, applying was not really difficult because as a part of an effort by NCKU to introduce the program in southeast Asia, I was immediately awarded a scholarship on the spot after the interview. Taiwan gave a very warm welcome. NCKU had a buddy-buddy program, the Ministry of Education arranged for host-family programs. I never felt that I was a foreign land. It was very easy to be comfortable and familiar, especially when everyone is very welcoming and warm. My hardest problem was using a chopstick! Back in the Philippines, we were primarily using spoon and fork and sometimes even using our bare hands to eat. That was definitely a challenge I needed to accomplish, but I can say that I am an expert now.

5.  What do you plan to do after you have finish your studies in Taiwan? Would you like to stay in Taiwan?  Why? 

This is a question I am trying to ask myself every day. If I always planned for the future and stuck with my decision, then I would have been working for a company in the Philippines and have nothing to do with graduate school. I like to take things one day at a time, but I still have short-term and long-term goals, that I always re-assess. There are lots of exciting happenings in Taiwan. Taiwan is leading the Asia Silicon
Valley development and a green technological park (focusing on renewable energy and storage) in Shalun is under its way. So it's very excitingly or me as a materials Engineer. I would love to be a part of Taiwan's
drive to being a top eco-city.

6.  How do you think studying in Taiwan can benefit you in your future career?

How do I even start? Taiwan has a very good economy with a very strong semiconductor and technology background. It's a very small island as compared to its south-east Asian neighbors but still is highly regarded, which clearly means they are doing something correctly. We also have to acknowledge that Mandarin is one of the widest and strongest languages and being able to immerse and converse will just widen your possible markets/placements. Therefore, I am having a world-class education, performing an internationally acknowledge research, while immersing in one of the most beautifully preserved heritage while learning one of the of possibly most impactful language in the years to come, all in one place. All in Taiwan.

7.  What do you see as your key achievements when studying in Taiwan?

If I am able to make a tangible impact: a patent, a research paper, a research presentation, an initiated collaboration etc.

I still have a long way to go, but I know there is progress!

8. What advice do you have for other interested overseas students who want to come to Taiwan to study?

Apply! Immediately! Unlike before, I made an uninformed decision when I took a leap of faith to NCKU/Taiwan. But now, there is a steadily increasing number of Filipino (or even international students) here
in Taiwan. Ask them, and I am sure that they can attest to the wonderful experience and learn that they had. The beauty of Taiwan is waiting for you! What are you waiting for?

In the near future, Taiwan will develop the Asian Silicon Valley, synergizing with its strong industries, will be the top city for interested overseas talent.