OU Global Engagement Fellowship

Experiences & Reflections

Month: November 2016

Saturday Adventures

I’m back with the last blog of the month! Without further ado, let’s see what I did today…

This is probably the earliest I have ever woken up on a Saturday. My group of fellow hikers decided to meet at the base of Xiangshan (a small mountain) at 9 am, so I had to wake up around 8 am to get there on time. The mountain is quite small, but with two or three breaks along the way it took us a total of around 2 hours. We had a fun time relaxing and singing songs while enjoying the beautiful nature all around us.

After a quick lunch and resting for a bit, I joined a different group at the main entrance of campus. We took a bus to the National Palace Museum, and during this time I got the chance to meet local students as well as exchange students from Japan and Germany. Once we arrived, everyone finished storing their large items (they can’t be brought in to the museum) and then we went to meet our tour guide. The tour itself lasted around 2 hours and was really interesting, probably thanks to the humor that the guide added to his descriptions of the various artifacts.

One of the items that I remember well is a sphere shaped art piece that was actually a handcrafted combination of 15 or so concentric spheres, with each sphere having the ability to roll in any direction around and inside the other spheres. It took a total of 30 years to make! Talk about dedication and patience. The guide explained that many of the artifacts are worth crazy amounts of money, and they were mostly made for emperors and other important people. Another cool thing we saw was a “Carved olive pit in the form of a boat”. Basically, someone took a regular olive pit and spent a lot of time turning it into a tiny model boat with people and working doors!

After our legs were finally sore, we ended the tour and took a short break. Then we traveled to a nearby garden area that with a beautiful small pond. We saw two black swans that some other tourists were feeding. There was a fun little “lottery” to decide which participants would get a small gift. I was one of the winners! Yay!

Afterwards we traveled to the Shilin Night Market, where we split up into small groups to experience one of the best parts of Taiwanese culture. You guessed it: Food! Sometimes locals will travel to a random night market when they have free time. Everything is really cheap, but if you decide to indulge yourself in more than the usual 2-3 things, it can still be a good chunk of money.

Overall today was a great success. Not only was it a fun day full of activities, but I also got the chance to meet new friends as well as practice a little German with one of the German exchange students. It never hurts to try out my rusty command of the language (I haven’t really used it since middle school) before I end up fully immersed next semester in their culture! The semester is more than halfway over, and I can’t believe how much I’ve learned and experience thoughout my time in Taiwan. I have a few more blogs left this semester, they will most likely be in the reflection type format. Until then, go ace those finals (if you’re in school) and enjoy the rest of fall semester!

How Learning Is Different Here

Something is becoming quite apparent at the halfway point of my semester here in Taiwan. This is something that anyone might expect, but for some reason it still caught me off guard. The teaching style and ways to learn the material are simply different here. When I began the semester, my approach was to try what had worked for me during freshman year. Let’s break down how studying and learning happens differently here.

At OU, I approached most of my classes by focusing on material presented in each lecture. Since engineering is essentially learning how to apply difficult concepts in physics and math, most professors spent the majority of the lecture working out representative problems. The goal of time spent in class was to learn tricks that are useful for tackling the homework sets. Textbooks seemed to be nothing more than a reference, even if they were “required” for most courses. I would only one of my books if I was curious about a specific topic or not sure how to do a certain problem.

Let’s travel back to the engineering department at NTU. I walk into one of my engineering classes and everyone has their textbooks out ready to participate in the lecture. Very few students plan to rely on blank sheets of notebook paper like me to get them through the presentation. The professor starts the lecture and whizzes through the PowerPoint slides as I frantically try my best to write everything down. Only a complete chance of strategy will allow me to succeed. After talking to students and professors, I learn the core of how learning happens here: Textbooks are secondary, but they can by no means be neglected if you want to do remotely well. This might be due to the fact that little to no homework is assigned. We’re essentially given the job of choosing problems to practice in order to master the material.

It’s been a pretty busy semester so far to say the least. After all, the main task during study abroad is to study. This doesn’t mean that I can’t do other things, so I’m still involved in different activities outside of classes. I also really enjoy the occasional chance to spend time with new and old friends each week. It’s like a never ending supply of new cultural experiences! I’ve been talking a lot about my time in the classroom, so I’ll have a blog coming soon that focuses less on academics. Check back soon!

On Midterms & Next Semester

It’s been around a month since I blogged last time. As mentioned previously, this post will be about how tests have been and what I’m doing to prepare for next semester.

I came into the semester ready to take all of my midterms in one week. This is because the university has an official “midterm week”. But it turns out that’s only really true for freshmen. For the rest of us, midterms are scheduled by each professor just like at OU. My exams worked out to be spread evenly throughout this month. Overall, it’s a big relief since I’m not having to review for multiple tests at the same time. Last year at one point I had three midterms back to back in a single day. Talk about pushing time management to the limit!

Next semester I will be studying at the Ruhr University of Bochum in Germany. Now is the point when I’m really glad that I spent a good chunk of time figuring out study abroad logistics (housing, planned courses, etc.) for the entire year while still at OU. Managing two semesters at the same time might not be an ideal situation when you get tests on top of everything. All that is required of me at this point is to submit an official application to the university along with an extra housing application. I’m still trying to figure what I need to do in terms of entrance requirements. Apparently as a US student, I’m supposed to complete my residence visa application after I arrive. I didn’t know this is the process for international students studying in Germany, so I guess each country really does have their own way of doing things!

My current plan for classes is to take two engineering courses and one German language course. From what I’ve heard up to this point, German courses tend to be quite rigorous in terms of independent study time and thorough application of concepts on tests, but more on that in another blog. Also, it would be great to complete an additional internship to complement my coursework if the opportunity arises. We’ll just have to see how everything works out!

Less than two months are left in this semester, and I’m still surprised at how fast the time has gone by. I’ve learned a lot about myself and the culture around me. Students are learning, teachers are lecturing, and others are outside playing a game of pick-up basketball. It’s helpful to remind myself that I get to spend most of my waking hours participating in the day-to-day lives of individuals in a place halfway around the world. Whether I’m working hard or playing hard, I remember that I’m also making connections to a people and society along with memories to last for a lifetime.

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