Perceptions of Students from Southbound Countries
Read about the perception of students from soutbound countries to share the insight of studying in Taiwan.
Jaya L. Sitjar/ National Cheng Kung University
Nationality : the Philippines
Major : Nano-Micro Engineering Ph.D. Degree Program
I’m Jaya from the Philippines. I‘ve been living/studying in Taiwan for 3 years already. As I’m pursuing research in science and engineering, I try to balance it out by trying out creative activities like painting, photography, and traveling. I believe that once we truly accept and love ourselves, we begin to realize our full potential. In my case, deciding to study abroad made me get out of my comfort zone so I got to explore my capabilities.
1. What made you decide to study in Taiwan?
At first, I never considered studying abroad, more so for a country where language barrier is present. Then I heard of graduate school scholarships being offered in NCKU, and knowing the high quality of materials science research in Taiwan, I took the chance to apply. When I knew that I was accepted, it suddenly dawned upon me to why not take this chance not only for advanced learning but also for experiencing a totally new environment and at the same time, taking the opportunity to widen my perspective? Yes, I would need to overcome a lot of hurdles to adapt but this could bring growth so why not? This decision has been one of the major critical points in my life and I didn’t expect that this brought me more opportunities than I expected.
Sa simula, hindi ko inakalang mag-aral sa ibang bansa, lalo na sa bansang kung saan hindi ako pamilyar sa wika. Napag-alaman kong may mga iskolarship na inaalok ang NCKU para sa mga nagbabalak mag-aral para sa graduate school, at dahil sa kaalamang mataas ang pamantayan ng pananaliksik sa materials science sa Taiwan, kinuha ko ang pagkakataong ito. Noong nalaman kong ako ay natanggap, napag-isipan kong kunin ko na ang pagkakataong ito para sa mga panibagong karanasang magpapalawak ng aking perspektibo. Kahit na alam kong hindi ito magiging madali, ito naman ay para ikauunlad ko. Isa ito sa mga desisyong nag-iwan ng malaking tatak sa aking buhay at hindi ko inasahang makapagdadala pa pala ito ng maraming oportunidad.
2. Briefly tell us about the program you are studying. What subjects are you studying? What have you enjoyed the most in your studies?
I’m currently enrolled in Nano-Micro Engineering Ph.D. program under the Materials Science and Engineering Department in NCKU. I actually graduated with a Master’s degree from the same department and university a year ago so I’m basically doing a continuation of my graduate studies right now. My research focuses on the development of Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS)-based sensors that could potentially be applied for rapid detection of chemical residues. I have taken a variety of subjects to provide me the necessary knowledge I could apply to my research, such as thermodynamics and nanomaterials, among others.
What I have enjoyed the most with my studies is that in doing research, not only was I able to apply my technical skills and fundamental knowledge, I also had the freedom to exercise my creative and critical thinking which all proved to be useful in problem solving situations I encountered a lot along the way as I perform experiments and analyze results. Aside from this, NCKU also offered free Chinese classes to international students so I was able to learn the basics of the language, which made me appreciate the culture and environment even more.
Ako ay kasalukuyang nag-aaral ng Nano-Micro Engineering Ph.D. program sa ilalim ng Materials Science and Engineering Department sa NCKU. Nakapagtapos din ako ng aking Master’s degree sa nasabing unibersidad at departamento noong nakaraang taon. Ang aking pananaliksik ay nakatuon sa paggawa ng Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS)-based sensor na maaaring gamitin sa pag-detect ng mga kemikal. Upang lalong madagdagan ang kaalaman ko sa aking pananaliksik, ako ay kumuha ng mga kinakailangang klase katulad ng thermodynamics at nanomaterials, atbp.
Natutuwa ako lalo sa proseso ng aking pananaliksik dahil hindi lamang na nagamit ko ang technical skills at mga natutunan kong konsepto sa klase, ngunit ako rin ay nagkaroon ng kalayaang magamit ang aking kritikal na pag-iisip. Bukod dito, mayroon ding libreng klase sa wikang Intsik na inalik ng NCKU para sa mga banyagang estudyante kaya ako natuto nang kaunti, kaya lalo akong napahanga sa kanilang kultura.
3. How does studying in Taiwan compare with studying in your home country (e.g., teaching quality, environment, school equipment, facilities, etc.)?
What stood out for me the most when it comes to comparing Taiwan and Philippines in terms of education is the availability of resources. Research is pretty much essential in the field of materials science and engineering, as with any sciences, and it is undeniable that there is a need for advanced equipment and facilities to be able to keep up with the rapidly changing research landscape. When I started graduate school in Taiwan, I was honestly in awe at the diversity of specific topics I could take for my research since the facilities needed for such advanced studies are all basically within reach, and I even got to have short course trainings in handling and operating the equipment I needed for my experiments –all of these I couldn’t even do back in the Philippines, based on my experience.
In the Philippines, doing research would not be as convenient as doing it in Taiwan. The facilities could be there but most of the time, there is a need to reach out to other institutions and industries just so one can perform simple analytical techniques, or even worse, the facilities are not available at all. In some cases, there is a need in coming up with alternatives or totally redesigning some experiments, and all of these consequently delay the research. I would also like to note that it is a very fulfilling experience to be able to have a hands-on operation of equipment for experiments, which I was able to experience in the NCKU Center for Micro and Nano Science and Technology; in my experience in the Philippines, as much as possible, students are limited to handling only a few equipment (and only the simple ones) since it would mean additional training costs.
All of these comparisons boil down to the extent of funding given to research – the availability and diversity of facilities could play a large role in allowing students to freely practice their ideas and in Taiwan, that freedom is very evident while in the Philippines, there is a restriction, so hopefully we could learn something from this situation.
Kung ikukumpara ang Pilipinas at Taiwan sa aspeto ng edukasyon, para sa akin, malaki ang pinagkaiba pagdating sa availability ng mga kagamitan at pasilidad na may napakalaking papel pagdating sa pananaliksik lalo na sa materials science and engineering, kung saan napakabilis ang progreso sa mga teknolohiyang nabubuo nito. Noong ako ay nagsimula ng graduate school dito sa Taiwan, namangha ako sa pananaliksik na nagagawa rito, lalo na yung mga kagamitan at pasilidad na halos kumpleto at kinakailangan lang ng mabilis na mga training upang ito ay magamit ko – lahat ng ito ay bihira ko lamang maranasan sa Pilipinas.
Dahil sa kakulangan ng mga kagamitan at pasilidad sa Pilipinas, mahirap ang pagsasagawa ng pananaliksik; minsan ay kinakailangan pang ibahin ang iilang parte ng mga eksperimento para lang makamit pa rin ang mga layunin ng pananaliksik. Dahil dito, lalo lang napapatagal ang panahong kailangan para tapusin ang nasabing mga pananaliksik. Nais ko ring ibahagi na ikinatutuwa ko ang aking karanasang makagamit ng mga advanced na pasilidad sa NCKU Center for Micro and Nano Science and Technology.
Malaki ang maidudulot ng pagkakaroon ng pondo na naiisintabi para sa pananaliksik. Dito sa Taiwan, maraming research fields ang maaaring pag-aralan dahil sa pagkakaroon ng kumpletong pasilidad habang sa Pilipinas naman, limitado ang maaaring pag-aaralan dahil lamang sa kakulangan naman ng pasilidad, kaya sana ay maituturing na magandang halimbawa ang estado ng pananaliksik dito sa Taiwan.
4. What has been the greatest challenge you faced in applying to study in Taiwan? How did you overcome this challenge?
The online application process for NCKU is straightforward and only involves uploading necessary documents, so I didn’t encounter any difficulties with that. During the application, I didn’t expect to have high chances of being accepted since it was my first time applying for a degree program abroad. I just held onto the hope that maybe with my drive in doing research, I’d be able to get into the program. When I received my acceptance email, I was notified that my admission came with a scholarship from the school and that I could receive additional financial support depending on the research group I choose to be affiliated with. This made me feel relieved and secure so I went on with the procedures needed to obtain the documents and visa prior to my arrival in Taiwan. Although it was a quite complicated process that took me a total of around 2-3 weeks to complete everything, I don’t remember having any major difficulties.
Ang proseso ng pag-apply ay simple sapagkat ito naman ay nagagawa online at kinakailangan lamang mag-upload ng mga kinakailangang dokumento. Pagkatanggap ko ng email na ako ay natanggap sa NCKU, sinabi namang ako ay mabibigyan ng iskolarship galing sa unibersidad at madadagdagan pa depende sa laboratory group na aking pipiliing salihan. Dahil dito, napagdesisyunan kong ituloy ang pag-aaral ko sa NCKU kaya agad kong inasikaso ang mga dokumento at visa; nagawa kong kumpletuhin ang lahat ng pagpoproseso ng mga papeles sa loob n 2-3 linggo.
5. What do you plan to do after you have finish your studies in Taiwan? Would you like to stay in Taiwan? Why?
To be honest, I keep asking myself the same question. I don’t really have specific plans in mind but what I do know is that I want to keep on doing research so that maybe, no matter how small it may be, I could somehow have a contribution to the community with a purpose, hoping that I would be able to connect my studies to practical applications that could even potentially take part in nation-building.
I’d say I have a pretty vague vision for now but I’m sure I’ll be able to figure out everything along the way, and with Taiwan having a pleasantly conducive environment to perform research, I’m planning to stay in Taiwan maybe for a few years more to expand my experience and knowledge while making my contribution as well. Upon going back to the Philippines, I plan to share what I learned from Taiwan and if possible, come up with research collaborations with Taiwan.
Wala pa akong naiisip na mga konkretong plano pagkatapos kong mag-aral sa Taiwan ngunit alam kong nais ko pa ring ituloy ang pananaliksik na kahit maliit man ang aking maibabahagi ay masaya na akong makitang makakapag-ambag ako sa larangan na ito sa komunidad at sa bansa. Hindi pa man malinaw ang mga plano ko sa ngayon, naiisip ko rin namang manatili muna sa Taiwan nang iilang taon upang magkaroon ng ng malawak pang mga karanasan sa pananaliksik. Sa pagbabalik ko ng Pilipinas, balak kong ibahagi ang aking mga natututunan sa Taiwan at kung posible man, magkaroon ng kolaborasyon sa Taiwan.
6. How do you think studying in Taiwan can benefit you in your future career?
It is well-acknowledged that Taiwan is considered to be one of the few nations that are leading in science and technology, and from this fact alone, to me as someone taking a career path in science/engineering, studying in Taiwan is beneficial in a way that I get to be trained directly under the direction of top-quality professors and experts in the field, and this could even open up linkages for future research collaborations. Living in Taiwan also gave me more opportunities for personal growth – learning the Chinese language, immersing in a new culture, establishing connections, and much more, which I believe are equally important to maximize the learning process.
Ang Taiwan ay isa sa mga bansang kilala sa larangan ng agham at teknolohiya at dahil dito, bilang pinili kong tahakin ang nasabing larangan, isang malaking bagay sa akin na makapag-aral sa direksyon ng mga ekspertong propesor na may mga malawak na kaalaman. Nakapagbigay rin ng maraming oportunidad sa akin ang pagtitira ko sa Taiwan bilang estudyante dahil kahit papaano ay natuto ako ng kaunting Intsik, napalalim ang aking mga kaalaman tungkol sa kanilang kultura, at nagkaroon din ako ng mga koneksyon sa mga nakikilala kong kapwa estudyante.
7. What do you see as your key achievements during your studies in Taiwan?
Taking up graduate studies comes with a big responsibility, so I always tell myself to prioritize the quality and purpose of my outputs – I ask myself questions like why is there a need for this study? Does it address issues that need immediate and/or innovative solutions? This is why I make it a point to produce research papers with a clear objective in mind, and with my educational training here in Taiwan, I’m sure that I’ll be able to reach these key achievements, which are to answer the abovementioned questions.
My perspective changed while studying in Taiwan as I went far out of my comfort zone. I became more open-minded and confident, wholeheartedly taking criticisms and compliments, which I think I developed from being exposed under a totally new environment, making me more adaptable, and this I consider a key achievement as well.
Isa sa mga maituturing kong tagumpay sa pag-aaral ko rito ay yung pagbubuo ng isang makabuluhang pananaliksik sapagkat binibigyan ko ng halaga ang kalidad ng mga resulta ng aking pananaliksik bukod sa pagsagot nito sa mga layuning kailangang bigyan ng pansin. Kaya sa pag-aaraal ko rito, lagi kong isinasaisip na upang makamit ang mga layuning ito ay kailangang maiging pag-isipan ang dahilan ng pagsasagawa ng pananaliksik.
Nag-iba ang aking perspektibo simula noong nag-aral ako sa Taiwan dahil sa panibagong kultura at kapaligiran. Naging mas bukas-isip ako sa pagtanggap ng mga kritisismo at puri at naituturing ko rin itong isa sa mga tagumpay ko habang ako ay nag-aaral dito.
8. What advice do you have for other foreign students who may want to come to Taiwan to study?
I finished my M.S. degree in Taiwan, but I decided to push forward with taking a Ph.D. degree still in Taiwan when I could have moved to other countries – I think this would be convincingly enough to tell you that I enjoy studying in Taiwan that is why I decided to stay here. Aside from being able to receive high-quality education and training, you’ll get to experience a whole new environment, that I’m sure will make you grow. The cost of living is pretty cheap; when you’re under scholarships, you could still have savings. If language barrier is a problem, think of it as an opportunity instead, that you’ll get to learn a new language easily as you’re immersed in the culture.
You don’t need anything but yourself and openness to opportunities waiting for you. Taiwan still continues to grow, and it will be a fulfilling experience to be a part of that growth. So if you’re considering Taiwan for your studies, don’t hesitate and just go for it.
Ako’y nakapagtapos ng aking M.S. degree sa Taiwan ngunit napagdesisyunan ko pa ring manatili rito para naman sa aking Ph.D. degree na kung iisipan ay maaari ko naman sanang gawin sa ibang bansa naman. Bukod sa mataas na kalidad ng edukasyon dito, mabibigyan ka ng pagkakataong maranasan ang bagong kultura na makakapagpalawak ng iyong perspektibo. Hindi naman masyadong mahal gastos ng pamumuhay rito at kung ikaw naman ay nabigyan ng iskolarship, posible pang magkakaroon ka ng ipon. Kahit namang iba ang pangunahing wika nila rito, isa na rin itong oportunidad para aralin ang kanilang wika.
Basta’t ikaw ay bukas sa bagong mga karanasan at oportunidad, ang maipapayo ko lang ay pag-isipan mo ring mag-aral sa Taiwan.