It’s been over a month since the start of the semester and I’m already knee-deep in the content of my courses. Midterms are fast approaching and homework remains a steady stream, but here are some of the fun highlights of this term at NTU so far:
- Typhoons – These beasts of mother nature carry a lot of destructive power and are also known in the Atlantic and East Pacific as hurricanes. Over the course of merely 2-3 weeks we had three Typhoons hit Taiwan! Two of them were relatively harmless, while the 3rd (Typhoon Megi) was bad enough that school and work were cancelled for two days. Everyone essentially got an unexpected two-day vacation in the middle of the week.
That tree is noticeably not perpendicular to the ground
- Classes – I’m taking seven classes, most of which are engineering-related. A huge relief is that powerpoints, quizzes, and exams are mostly in English, so I don’t think that aspect of the courses will give me trouble. The content is quite interesting and challenging, so I’ve spent more than a few hours hunkered over my textbooks. By the way, textbooks here are so cheap! Everyone here gets the international editions, which are basically the same except they are all softcover. I can get an engineering textbook that normally costs 150-250 dollars (ouch…) here for no more than NT$1000 (about 30 US dollars)! Here is a picture of the content that I’ll (hopefully) have gained a grasp of by the end of the semester:
Lots of interesting material to study!
- Life Outside of Classes – Everyone here is always making sure that they are staying up to date with their academics, but that definitely doesn’t mean that they don’t have fun once in a while (or maybe quite a bit more often). I attended the student clubs fair at the beginning of the semester and found a group that I’m still actively involved with throughout the week. The group is called the NTU Navigators, and it is a fellowship of Christians who are dedicated to living according to the Bible and making spreading the Gospel a priority. I think it’s really great getting to know fellow students at a deeper level half-way around the world and to seeing how they approach life in an entirely different context. The main activities are bible studies, morning group prayers, and weekly sports events (like soccer and Frisbee).
A typical scene at the Student Activity Center dining area
- Group Projects & Workshop Experience – Some of my classes are not the “traditional” type, but are instead more focused on team exercises or hands-on work. I’m in a class called Machine Design Theory (機械設計原理) and the entire focus is on a project. The goal is to design a device or machine that will climb a pole and grab small spheres attached to strings by magnets at different radii around the pole. Our group is really diverse internationally, and it’s cool to see the creative forces of Taiwanese, Singaporean, Nicaraguan, Chinese and American students working on a project together. The other class I’m enjoying is not really a class but instead three hours each week in the university’s workshop learning how to use tools and machinery. It’s called Workshop Practice (工場實習) and includes learning the basics of how to use the lathe, mill, and other devices. We just finished learning how tap screw threads and use the drill press, and next week we’ll start working on a mill. It’s exciting to learn all of the technical terminology in Chinese that I can store in my memory bank along with the English equivalents.
The final result of two workshop sessions
- International Companions for Learning (ICL) – I’m currently a volunteer with this program that connects international students like me with a local Elementary or Middle school in Taiwan. We teach the kids about our cultures in English each week. It’s lots of fun, and I’m really enjoying the opportunity to teach my class about American culture and the English language. It’s great to see that NTU makes an effort to include foreign students and allow them to use their full potential to make an impact across the island.
A beautiful courtyard inside the NTU College of Medicine
- Life at OU – I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have any thoughts about life back at my home university. Freshman year was an amazing experience and was a huge transition for me personally and socially. I got plugged into different groups, and it seems strange at times not seeing those people since last Spring. It really helps to stay in contact with friends and family, and I think this challenge will grow me tremendously to say the least. I already know that once these two semesters are over, I’ll be thinking back about my time spent at these universities!
After midterms are over, my next big goal is to get everything sorted out for my semester in Germany. In the next blog I’ll talk about how midterms went and further details for my application to the Ruhr University of Bochum. Hopefully you are having a great time with your own semester at OU or elsewhere. Until next time!