So I live in Taipei now.
I know, I know, it’s wild. It’s weird to me that I just…decided to move to Taiwan. And then did it.
Anyway. I arrived last Saturday, late at night. I’d asked my school (Chinese Culture University’s Mandarin Learning Center) to arrange a driver to meet me, since I had too much luggage to manage on public transit. (I really should invest in some rolling suitcases.) The car took me to EasyMind Guest House, where I’d booked four nights. (Side note: I recommend EasyMind if you’re heading to Taipei and want somewhere clean, quiet, and modern!)
I had three days before school started and fifteen days to apply for my Alien Resident Card. I afforded myself one day of lying around doing nothing. (Going directly from CELTA to “nothing much” had left me feeling frazzled and directionless, like when I got back from working at camp and was like “privacy?! FREE TIME?! That can’t be right. WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING RIGHT NOW??!)
After that brief break I set in on the nitty gritty work of moving abroad.
The main way expats look for rooms in Taipei is through the Facebook group looking for roommates or apartments in Taipei and Taiwan. There are 26k+ members in this very active group. (My local TECO office actually recommended it.) All you’ve got to do is make a post…
…and the apartments will come to you! (See those comments? They’re all from people saying they DM’ed me.)
If this is a little too Wild West for you, there’s also My Room Abroad, a service that provides foreign students in Taiwan with vetted rooms and guaranteed English contracts. (It’s new and I don’t know much about it, so if you use it to find a room, please get in touch! I’d be happy to add a link to your experience.)
Airbnb is also an option, of course, but those rooms will generally be more expensive than using the Facebook group, My Room Abroad, or just asking around.
Here’s how I found my room:
- Made a post (above) about a week before I wanted to move in.
- Fielded 6-10 messages from people with rooms. Three were close to what I wanted, so I asked to visit them.
- Visit apartments. I visited the third one on Tuesday morning, said I’d move in on the spot, and moved in within 24 hours.
Would I recommend this? NOPE! I would recommend:
- moving in around the first of the month
- beginning your search about a month before you’d like to move in.
(CELTA, Lady Washington, and driving from NH to AL had kept me busy since October, which was why my planning was lacking here.)
Just like applying for HES, actually getting HES money requires many side quests before the main goal is achieved. Let me attempt to break this down:
- To get your scholarship money, you need your scholarship certificate, your ARC, and a Taiwanese bank account. These go to the school office.
- To get a bank account, you need an ID number, 1k NTD (about 30 USD), and, if you’re American, your SSN (for the W-9). You also need to find a convenient bank where (hopefully) someone speaks your language.
- To get your ID number, you will most likely have to get your ARC. (I already had one, although I didn’t realize it.)
- To get your ARC, you need your passport, your visa, proof of residence, a photo of yourself that fits certain requirements, 1k NTD, your health certificate (certified by a TECO office if not done in Taiwan), a copy of your school ID, and an application form. Oh, and lots of photocopies.
At least I *think* that’s what the process is. I’m slowly coming to peace with the fact that doing anything official in Taiwan involves mountains of red tape. I’ve noticed a trend where government websites claim certain documents are required when they actually aren’t. I usually over prepare and end up doing okay.
I was initially concerned about the photos and photocopies necessary for the ARC application. The immigration office has a copy machine and photobooth in the basement. They’re both easy to use and it cost under 200 NTD for eight photos and nearly ten photocopies. NB: if you want a print-out of your ID number for bank account purposes, photocopy your passport twice. (If you prefer, you can use the photobooths scattered across the city in MRT stations and malls. You can also make photocopies in most convenience stores.)
My school recommended a bank to me — apparently they have some sort of agreement where they don’t take a slice of my precious scholarship money every month. Ask your school office for recommendations or check out this post for helpful tips. This article and this one were both helpful, too.
Orientation was on Tuesday and classes started on Wednesday. I was placed in a beginner class. (I flunked the reading-heavy placement test and I only made two-thirds of the way through Practical Audio Visual Chinese 1 the last time I was in Taiwan.) We spent two days on pinyin and character basements, with some practical Chinese thrown in. On Friday we studied Mandarin Phonetic Symbols and began on Lesson 1.
I’m in a class of eight. Out of the seven other students, two are also HES recipients (one is Irish, one is Argentinian), two are on working holidays, two have lived here for a long time and are just now starting to study the language, and one is a missionary. Besides the missionary and myself, the all students are complete beginners.
I have no strong opinions on the class at this point, although I generally like the school. The teacher uses English but is quickly trying to move away from it. I can understand her Chinese most of the time, although I don’t think the other students can. She’s been doing her best to keep the two false beginners in the class engaged, which I appreciate. After several months I’ll update you with my thoughts on the MLC.
If you’re applying for the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship and you’ve got questions about transitioning to life in Taiwan, feel free to get in touch!
Note: this post includes referral links, but only to products or services I genuinely like!