When I decided to enroll in Telecommunication engineering, I could not even imagine the consequence of this choice. At that time, the reason why I choose to enroll in that program were the wide range of course one could take and the several opportunity of career it offered. When I heard that the teaching program would be renovated just one year after that I enrolled to the new ICT program, I felt very unlucky. The new ICT program is more flexible and even more suitable for my interest, but I thought I could not take advantage of it. But, as they say, never say never. I heard that there was the possibility of a double degree with National Taiwan University and that I could be suitable for it if I enroll in the ICT master course. I decided to try and after a few exams and some fight with bureaucratic issues, I finally landed in Taiwan. At the beginning, everything was strange, different and difficult. Even understand what and where to eat was a big challenge. But after a few days everything became easier and I started to understand that there are many reason why one should apply for this Double Degree. From the academic point of view, NTU is for sure the best university of Taiwan and one of the best one in Asia. The academic level is high and there are several opportunity to work with people that has a completely different point of view. You can trust me when I say that this is priceless. It opens your mind in a unbelievable way and gives you something that you cannot learn in any course in Padova. Moreover, the fact that you will be forced to use English for academic (and non-academic) porpoise for one year will give you an extremely appealing soft skill.
However, there is something more. The academic side is just a little part of the experience. You probably do not have any idea how Taiwan looks like. I can say it because I could not imagine how this island is before coming here and how many things to do you can find here. Starting from Taipei, the first must do is the Taipei 101, the 5th skyscraper in the world. Then you can see lots of buddhist and taoist temples spread around the city. When it is rainy, you can find a shelter in the National Palace Museum, where you can find the biggest collection of Chinese art and culture. If it is sunny and the sky is clear, to me the temptation of taking the Elephant path to the top of Xiangshan mountain is to strong. From here you can have a view of Taipei from the top and watching the sunset from here is priceless. When you get tired of Xiangshan, you should take a Gondola and go to Maokong tea houses. These are only a little part of the thing you can do in Taipei.
But maybe now you are tired of the big city environment, and you need a jump in the wilderness nature. Then you should take a train and go to the east coast of Taiwan, where most of aboriginal people lives. This coast is less humanized and the scenario is unique. From all of the places one can go, Taroko National Park is for sure a must do. With its 20 km gouge and many trails, it is the best place to start experiencing the wilderness of Formosa island. Here the landscape is unbelievable and miles far away from the one you can find in the European mountains.
If you are not fully satisfied with Taroko, you can have a trip to Sun Moon lake. This mountain lake in the middle of Taiwan offers breath taking landscapes and amazing sunrise. The round trip I had by bike is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Formosa.
If after this you want to come back to more urbanized scenario, then Tainan, the ancient capital city of Taiwan is the right choice. Here you can find the oldest temple of Taiwan, but there are a lot that deserve a visit.
Also Kaohsiung, the second biggest city of Taiwan is worth to visit. The Buddha museum and sanctuary situated in Foguangshan is absolutely a thing you must see, but also the city itself and the pagodas near the lake deserve a visit.
Feel tired? Wanna have some relax at the seaside? Then go to kenting, the southest point of Taiwan. Here you can find beautiful beaches and a fully tropical environment. If, like me, you don't like to lie under the sun doing nothing for more than 20 minutes, than in Kenting you can also rent a surfboard and try to surf some waves.
Hiking, traveling, visiting museum and so on probably got you hungry, so it is time to experience the lifestyle and food of Taiwan. In Taipei you can find lots of night market selling almost any kind of food. Dumplings, noodles, fried chicken and the famous bubble milk tea are only some things you must try. To the brave ones, I also suggest to give a try to stinky tofu. Apart from night market, there are plenty of restaurants where to eat and usually the price is really low! Personally, I think that 5 years would not be enough to try all places. This because Taiwanese do not (and probably cannot!) cook. Here the culture is totally different from Europe. The street are always full of people, the city seems to be much more alive and almost everybody go out for dinner. Just think that many houses do not even have the kitchen! Hence, you eat outside surrounded by taiwanese is what you will experience most of the time.
But, how do taiwan people are? How they behave with foreigners?
Forgot your prejudice about Asian people. Taiwan is not China, here there are not the “Pigs on the loose”. Here people are really nice, friendly, helpful and polite. They are also curious about foreigners, although they are also very shy. Personally, I like taiwanese and especially their willing to help you even they cannot speak english.
But do not worry, you will be not alone. National Taiwan University has a lot of exchange students from all over the world, there are events for international students and the environment is really friendly, so it is not difficult to make new friends.
Of couse, taiwan is not the heaven. There are also some drawbacks, but I think that they are not impossible to overcome at all and mainly they depends on the personality of each one. What I can say, generally speaking, is that if you are available to open your mind to an entirely new culture, coming to Taiwan is the right choice and you will love this experience as much as I do or even more.
Last, but not least, the position of Taiwan is very convenient for traveling around Asia. Cambodia, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Philippines, Singapore and many others are less than 3 hours by plane. Whenever you have time, go to the airport, take a plane and visit one of them. I am sure that you will not regret.