Shanti: First Impressions of Taiwan and National Cheng Kung University

大家好!My name is Shanti and I am currently on a study abroad in Tainan, Taiwan, all thanks to the Prime Ministers Scholarship for Asia and the University of Auckland! I am currently in my second year of learning Mandarin Chinese and I am super excited to be here to practice my Chinese, not only in the classroom but in daily life.

The morning sun on the pond outside the National Cheng Kung University Chinese Language Centre.


A week has passed since I landed in Taipei, and so far I have already seen some sites, learnt about Taiwanese culture, ate lots of food, and had my first week of Chinese classes. It has been quite difficult with the lack of English spoken by the locals, but everyone is super friendly and have all been patient with me while I struggle to figure out what I want to say. Coming to the end of the first week I’ve memorised a few set phrases to use when buying food and already my vocabulary has grown; not only with Mandarin but a couple of Taiwanese words as well.

Unfortunately, the first two days in Taipei and two days in Tainan were all raining. The temperature was a cool 17℃, coming from a warmer 20℃ in New Zealand and a hot 30℃ (!!!) stopover in Singapore. I was not prepared for the cold so I had to pile on all of the thin jumpers I had brought along with me. Luckily now, the rain has stopped and the temperature is a nice 25℃. 李老師, my Chinese teacher says the temperature “還是很冷” – It’s still cold.

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Rain outside the Taiwan National Museum in Taipei


Taipei: Landing in Taiwan by myself was a little daunting, but luckily the express train from Taoyuan airport was super easy to get on and ride to Taipei. While walking from the train station to my accommodation I fell in love with all the alleyways and small streets that sprouted off the main roads.  In my one and a half days in Taipei, I managed to eat some 牛肉麵 (Beef noodles), a Taiwanese specialty. I also tried some 小籠包 (Soup Dumplings) at Din Tai Fung and visited the Taiwan National Museum that is situated in the 2/28 Peace Park. Some of the exhibits were closed but I was able to see a range of Taiwanese flora and fauna that had been collected by Japanese naturalists. 

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One of the many small lanes in Taipei
牛肉麵 – Beef noodles, in Taipei on my first day.


Tainan: After travelling on the highspeed rail for 3 hours to Tainan  (very smooth), other UoA students and I were met by our language buddies, who took us on a bus to our dormitory. Tainan is known as the food capital of Taiwan, so I’ve been trying lots of new food and I aim to try at least one new food every day for the rest of the month. So far in Tainan, I’ve tried stinky tofu, soup dumpings, 牛肉麵 (beef noodle soup),  鱔魚意麵 (fried eel with noodles) and 地瓜球 (fried sweet potato balls). In the future, I will have a post dedicated to all my food adventures so stay tuned!

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大东夜市 – Da Dong Night Market, the place to try stinky tofu and other Taiwanese streetfood.


Classes: Cheng Kung University is made up of nine different campuses, separated by several roads. In the morning along these roads, you can see small makeshift breakfast stands out of trucks, which sell egg pancakes, toast and of course milk tea. For the first week, we were split into three classes of only University of Auckland students. These classes allowed us to familiarise ourselves with traditional characters which we don’t learn at UoA. In addition to this, we had individual tutoring and hangouts with our language buddies that allowed us to further revise the class content and practice speaking.  Next week we will be joining the 10-week winter language program and will be in the same classes as other international students. As part of our program, we have cultural classes and excursions which I will dedicate a whole blog post to. 

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National Cheng Kung University’s Chinese Language Center
Doing homework at our dorm with classmates Elise and Molly.
First week
My University of Auckland classmates and I with our teacher 李老師 after our first week.


Thank you for reading all this way, I am excited to share more with you!

– Shanti Truong-George, 張湘婷。


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