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After having finished last semester with reasonably good results (thriving rather than merely surviving), I was quite sure that my second semester in the graduate institute of teaching Chinese as a second language wouldn’t crush me, even though I took more courses than the previous semester. In fact, the spring semester flew by and it feels like it was over even before it started.

Just like I did after the fall semester, I’m going to share some thoughts both about the program itself and my own performance. I will also say a few words about the coming academic year and my plans for the future.

My thoughts about the program after the first year

First things first. The program is called 華語文教學研究所 (Graduate Institute for Teaching Chinese as a Second Language) and is primarily aimed at native speakers, but also accepts international students. The institute is part of National Taiwan Normal University and is located in Taipei, Taiwan. I have now completed one academic year here and know infinitely much more about the program than I did when applying.

In general, i haven’t changed my opinion from after the fall semester. The program isn’t perfect (no program is) but is actually much better than I expected. Still, how much I learn here is much dependent on how much I do on my own and not all courses feel meaningful. With some effort, almost everything can be turned to a learning opportunity, especially since all teaching, exams, reports and presentations are held in Chinese and almost all social interaction is also done in Chinese. I might hesitate to choose this program if judged only on the actual content, but if I include the language I learn, it’s more than worthwhile. In other words, I feel that the program is perfect for me at this point in my life, but it might not have been so good earlier or later.

My grades for the spring semester

I typically underestimate my own grades, especially with courses that feel difficult. This semester, we had at least one course that I found very hard (Syntactic Structures of Chinese) and for some of the other courses, I simply had no means of predicting the results. Still, the below grades are roughly what I expected and the grades for the individual courses are more aligned with my expectations than last year when I received some undeservedly high grades.

  1. 華語文教學實習 (Chinese Teaching Practicum): 90
  2. 華語語法學 (Syntactic Structures of Chinese): 90
  3. 研究方法 (Research Methodology): 96
  4. 漢語語音研究專題 (Special Topics on Chinese Phonetics): 88
  5. 高級華語 (Advanced Chinese language course): 94
  • Weighted average: 91.4

I also passed two important bureaucratic milestones. I didn’t spend any time preparing for these, but I still want to mention that I passed both a pronunciation exam for Chinese teachers in Taiwan (華語口語表達考試) and the highest level of TOCFL (Test Of Chinese as a Foreign Language, Taiwan’s HSK), which is a requirement for graduation. I still find the reading section hard on the latter (so much to read, so little time), but the listening was relatively easy.

These results probably say less about my proficiency than the grades above, but they are still important academically. Surviving in the program ought to be harder than passing the exams, but that’s not obvious for casual observers.

The future

Apart from taking another five courses during the coming academic year, I also need to start focusing my research in preparation for my thesis writing. I don’t plan to stay in the program longer than necessary and since I already have a pretty good idea of what kind of research I want to do for my thesis, I feel that my plan is realistic. It’s going to be something about teaching pronunciation to Swedish high school and university students, but exactly what area I will focus on remains to be seen. Much more about this later, stay tuned!


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I try to do at least one time log every time I change my habits drastically, usually because of larger changes in my life in general. This is the first time log I’ve made since returning to Taiwan and the goal was to examine how I generally spend my time. If you have no idea what I time log is, read the next section. If you already know and only want to read about the result, skip the next section. If you don’t care about my time log at all, you shouldn’t be reading this article. Read this Wikipedia article about the velar lateral ejective affricate instead.

What is time logging and what is it for?

A time log is very simple. Just write down everything you do for a given period of time and you have one. Exactly how detailed you are and for how long you keep at it depends on what your goal is, but you should be fairly specific and do it for at least one “normal” day (i.e. don’t choose a weekend or a day which isn’t typical of how you normally spend your time).

The goal with a time log is to become aware of how you spend your time. What you want to do with this information is up to you, but in my case, I want to see if my perception of how I spend my time matches how I actually spend it. Most people who do their first time log find out that they actually spend much less time working or studying than they really think, for instance. I’ve done many time logs in my life and I’m sort of past that, though.

You don’t need to be a personal development freak to be interested in time logs. A time log isn’t about controlling everything you do and trying to become more productive, it’s about awareness. I’m fine with spending ten hours a week playing computer games, but I want to be aware of the fact that I’m doing it. I want to do it because I want to do it, not because I do it without actually thinking about it. Or, to quote Socrates:

“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.”

This quote obviously has problems, but it I do think that self-awareness is one of the most important abilities or skills to posses. It influences everything we do and enables us to understand who we are, who we want to become and how to get there. Doing a time log is one step on the road towards better understanding of oneself.

My time log for a week in March 2013

Since my schedule is radically different each day of the week, I decided to record a whole week. This means that I wrote down everything I did between 2013-03-15 and 2013-03-21. I also sorted everything I did into crude categories to facilitate the analysis and the writing of this article. To give you an idea of how detailed my time log is, I recorded about 300 activities in seven days.

Below, I have presented some stuff I find interesting from the time log:

  1. Time spent using different languages
  2. Time spent on different types activities
  3. A closer look at overlapping tasks
  4. What I have learnt from this time log

Time spent using different languages

People sometimes ask me how much time I spend using different languages and I have written about this earlier (Internal discourse and operational languages). Of course, it’s close to impossible to time internal discourse, so this is merely an overview of the languages I use for the various activities I’m engaged in. Note that I have omitted activities that aren’t related to languages at all, such as sleeping, eating or playing non-language related games.


  • Chinese: 67 hours
  • English: 29 hours
  • Swedish: 2 hour
  • (Non-language): 70 hours

Is this result surprising? No, not really. Is it representative for what I normal week looks like? Sort of, although I do believe that I normally spend more than one hour a week listening/speaking/reading/writing Swedish. This almost matches my expectations, although I think I would spend more time using English than I actually did. Most of the English comes from listening to the Economist and a lecture series about linguistics, as well as editing and writing articles on Hacking Chinese.

Time spent on different activities

The list below is a breakdown of different kinds of activities in my life. The categories aren’t very well defined and should be taken with a pinch of salt. For instance, “studying” doesn’t merely include actual studying (reading textbooks, reviewing vocabulary and so on), but also using Chinese to do other things.

  • Studying (85 hours)

    • Chinese: 37 hours
    • Linguistics: 28 hours
    • Meta: 4 hours
    • Not Chinese: 16 hours

The high number for “linguistics” comes from reading a book about Chinese phonology, listening to lectures about Chinese grammar (both live and recorded) along with related homework and so on. “Not Chinese” refers to other attempts at educating myself, including a lecture series in general linguistics (the other category is only for Chinese linguistics in Chinese) and some other projects I have running in the background.

  • Essential (62 hours)
    • Sleep: 51 hours
    • Other: 11 hours

“Sleep” should be obvious; “other” means things like eating, showering, brushing my teeth and so on. This category is pretty boring in general, but I will say some interesting things about it below.

  • Gymnastics (16 hours)

This is self-explanatory, I think. Includes stretching.

  • Social (13 hours)

Mostly with classmates, team mates (gymnastics) and online (social media not included).

  • Hacking Chinese (4 hours)
    • Writing, editing: 2 hours
    • Social media, updates: 2 hours

Again, this should be self-explanatory.

  • Miscellaneous (22 hours)

    • Games: 13 hours
    • Social media, news, Wikipedia: 4 hours
    • Teaching Swedish: 3 hours
    • Snigel.nu: 1 hour
    • Time-log: 1 hour

Any category system will have a “all the other stuff I couldn’t fit into the other categories” category and here it is. Games refer to various online games or Rubik’s cube (mostly the former, though). The second point is somewhat arbitrarily grouped, but since I didn’t spend much time on any of those things, it simply didn’t feel worthwhile to analyse further.

A closer look at overlapping tasks

I really hope you have better things to do than adding all those numbers up, but if you do, you will find that the total time is 202 hours. A week has 168 hours. This is because some tasks overlap. However, I only note overlapping tasks if I’m able to do both adequately at once.

The activities that most often overlap are the “essential” ones plus any kind of studying (I almost always listen to lectures or something educational while eating, walking, doing the laundry and so on). The “games” category actually overlaps 100% with other activities, meaning that I never play games without listening to something worthwhile at the same time.

A typical day in March 2013

What follows is an edited extract from my time log. I’ve removed references to particular people, overly detailed category information and some other things I don’t want to share online. I have also swapped some activities to try to make this day match what is most typical of my life right now. The time noted is the time when that activity ends. Asterisks (*) denote activities mainly in Chinese. In cases where activities overlap, I have simply omitted the less important one (often “eating”, “walking” and so on).

This is a slightly modified version of Monday 18th:

06:05    Sleep
06:12    Essential
06:47    Social*
06:59    HC    Daily check-up
07:08    Misc    Social media, news
08:28    Phonology*    Writing
08:31    Misc    Social media
09:01    Grammar*    Lecture
09:15    Social*
12:14    Class*    Teaching
14:02    Social*
14:04    Meta    Time log management
14:06    Misc    Social media, news
15:16    Phonology*    Writing
15:28    Grammar*    Lecture
16:10    Phonology*    Discussion
16:26    Phonolgy    Planning
16:30    Meta    Time-log management
17:23    Economist
17:50    Sleep
17:56    Essential
18:12    Grammar*    Lecture
21:01    Physical    Gymnastics
21:14    Grammar*    Lecture
21:23    HC    E-mail, comments
21:30    Misc    Social media, e-mail
22:00    Economist
22:31    Phonology*    Writing
22:54    HC    Social media, e-mail
23:06    Physical    Stretching
23:44    Economist

What I have learnt from this time log

These are my thoughts after doing this time log, looking through the result and writing this article:

  • I spend more time than I think doing things I want to do
  • I spend much less time on social media than I thought I did
  • I spend much more time on language consumption rather than production
  • I spend almost no time at all being creative
  • I sleep more than I thought (slightly above seven hours per day)

To be honest, though, this time log is probably the least helpful I have ever done. It mostly tells me that I’m on the right track and that I spend a huge majority of my time doing things I actually want to do for various reasons. Now, this might be useful in itself (it’s a great morale boost if nothing else), but it isn’t very helpful.

The two major things that are lacking include deliberate practice target at areas of Chinese I know I have problems with (I’m talking about actual skills here, so linguistics doesn’t count) and creative output. I need more of that. Much more. However, I also feel that I’m way behind in my reading, so as long as I feel that writing articles like this one is enough to satisfy my need to express myself in writing, I might be fine with this for the foreseeable future.

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Like many other articles I have planned for this website, this article is long overdue. The difference between this one and the others is that I’ve actually written this one and now also published it. It would feel a bit silly to post a summary of my first semester in the Graduate Institute for Teaching Chinese as a Second Language (華語文教學研究所) months or even years after it actually ended.

Since many people have asked me about how I’m doing so far, I thought I’d write about it here. Therefore, this is in a sense also a Chinese proficiency report, even if I won’t bother to evaluate the different skills this time.

In short, I want to talk about three things:

  • My previous long-term goal for learning Chinese
  • My actual grades for the past semester
  • My thoughts about the program in general

My previous long-term goal for learning Chinese

Roughly three years ago, I set the long-term goal of being able to survive a graduate program in a language-heavy subject taught with native speakers in mind. I didn’t know that I would actually do that back then, but it sounded like a good idea and the goal was fairly concrete as well and something to work towards.

As my grades in the next section will show, I have now reached that goal. Sure, I haven’t graduated yet, but if I encounter problems during the rest of my time here, it’s not going to be because my Chinese isn’t up to par. Obviously, I have an almost infinite amount of Chinese left to learn and I still have some serious problems, but they aren’t of the nature that will make me fail my courses. Spending enough time will solve most problems.

I have been thinking about setting a new long-term goal, but rather than rushing it, I’m going to think about that for a while before I write anything about it. It’s likely to to be something related to teaching, explicit knowledge of Chinese or something similar, rather than language competence in general, as has been the case earlier.

My actual grades for the past semester

I took four courses last semester with a total of eleven credits. The maximum score for each course is 100. 70 is required for passing and 80 to keep receiving my scholarship without problems.

The courses and my grades were as follows:

  1. 華語文教材教法 (Chinese Language Teaching Methods and Materials): 89
  2. 話語語音教學研究 (Studies in Phonetic Instruction in Chinese): 90
  3. 漢語語音學 (Chinese Linguistics): 96
  4. 高級華語 (Advanced Chinese language course): 94
  • Weighted average: 92.1

The last course isn’t actually a part of our academic courses, but a requirement from our institution. All foreigners who don’t have the right qualifications have to enrol in language courses for foreigners. Of the three regular courses, the first and third were compulsory, whereas the second was elective.

In general, I’m quite happy with my grades. I think I deserved the 90 in the phonetics course and the 94 in advanced Chinese, but I actually didn’t expect the 96 in linguistics. I would have expected a result below 90. I don’t know what I expected for teaching course, but perhaps 85. This course had a midterm in-class written exam that made everybody nervous as hell, but since I got 84.5 on that one, I wasn’t too nervous about the final grade.

Apart from actual courses, I also passed the 華語口語表達考試, which is an oral exam that all teachers (including native speakers) in Taiwan have to pass in order to become Chinese teachers. I don’t think I did very well on the exam, actually, but obviously someone thought it was enough. That’s one less hurdle left on my way to graduation! Yay.

My thoughts about the program in general

My overall impression of the program so far is actually a lot more positive than I thought it would be before I came here. As you might know, I have studied at this university before and didn’t like it very much, but this is a new department (sort of), new teachers, new campus and, perhaps most importantly, a new level (master). A new start, so to speak.

The quality of the courses vary, but I know that I will learn an awful lot during my time here. Sometimes it might not be because of innovative teaching methods or brilliant lecturers, but that doesn’t really matter. The program provides enough support, a wide variety of interesting courses and a very stimulating environment. That’s more than enough to make me happy.

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As some of you know, I applied for one scholarship and two master’s degree programs earlier this spring. The scholarship is from Taiwan’s ministry of education and basically covers tuition fees and living expenses in Taiwan for two years. The master’s degree programs are both identical, at least on the surface, and are called 華語文教學研究所, which in English is usually called Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language. One is offered by 國立臺灣師範大學 (NTNU) in Taipei, the other by 文藻外語學院 (Wenzao) in Gaoxiong. Applying for this scholarship and these master’s programs was at times frustrating and took a lot of effort, time and money. By the end of March, I had submitted all three application.

Scholarship acquired, admissions granted

I have now received the results from all three selection processes and I’m happy to say that all of them were successful. In other words, I have acquired the scholarship and I have been admitted to both institutions.

This leaves me with a delicate choice, however, because I need to decide which choice is the best one. Go to NTNU in Taipei or Wenzao in Gaoxiong? In this post, I will discuss these options. I do this in equal parts because I want to tell you what’s going on (and thereby perhaps receiving some helpful input) and because I need this kind of structured writing to better understand the two options myself. Writing this, I have not yet decided what I want and I’m not likely to make the final decision for at least a week.

Therefore, any input you have to offer would be much appreciated.

Factors influencing my choice

Below, I will discuss some factors influencing my choice. These aren’t necessarily carefully ordered, but I’ve tried to keep important factors closer to the top. I need your help to come up with things I haven’t really thought about that might influence my choice. Are there other factors I should take into consideration? Do you find my discussion of these factors faulty or lacking in some area?

Quality of education

This is tricky, because quality can mean many things. NTNU is generally ranked higher than Wenzao, but that means little or nothing to me. First, every university has it’s strengths and weaknesses, and considering Wenzao is a language college, it would surprise me if their language teachers aren’t good. Saying that one university ranks higher than another says little about a particular program taught at that university. Second, the criteria natives use to assess education quality isn’t necessarily the same as the ones I would use. I consider the two options equal here.

NTNU: 5     Wenzao: 5


This is something I think is fairly important, mostly because I’m convinced that accommodation was a main factor making me dislike Linkou during my stay in northern Taiwan in 2009/2010. This time, I want to live somewhere which is larger than 10 square metres. It would be awesome to share an apartment with other people, but I don’t know how difficult this will be to arrange. I don’t want to live in the university dormitory, at least not more than temporarily. Taipei is the inferior choice here, considering that apartments are harder to find and much more expensive. Finding accommodation close to Wenzao is very easy. If you know anyone who might be able to help me find room mates or somewhere to live in either city, please let me know!

NTNU: 2     Wenzao: 4

Class composition

The two institutions offer educations which are quite similar, but they are wildly different when it comes to enrolled students. At NTNU, half of the students are foreigners, at Wenzao, there are only four foreign students spread over three departments (thus, I might be the only international student). Classes at NTNU are also significantly bigger than at Wenzao. However, I’m not entirely sure if it’s good or bad with many international students. Sure, the immersion environment and the opportunities to interact with natives will suffer slightly, but on the other hand, the education might be more suited to the needs of non-native speakers. On the other hand, a smaller institution might be more flexible.

NTNU: 3     Wenzao: 5

Facilities and transportation

Making my choice based only on matters related to education would be stupid. If I want to learn a lot of Chinese during my stay, I need to be happy and lead a satisfactory life in general. Thus, there are some practical factors which greatly influence the choice. For instance, Taipei is much more convenient for someone who refuses to go by scooter. NTNU is also a bigger university, which includes better facilities (library, computers, sports, restaurants). The same goes for Taipei in general, which is obviously a bigger and more modern city than Gaoxiong and is therefore more likely to satisfy my needs in general.

NTNU: 5     Wenzao: 2

Social networks

This is a factor which is quite important, not only because social connections matter to me, but also because it will facilitate everything else. If I know lots of people close to where I live, I will have an easier time readjusting to life in Taiwan. Taipei is bigger and I know more people in the north. Furthermore, Taipei offers vastly superior public transport, so it’s much easier to go to other places from there. This might be a significant problem in Gaoxiong.

NTNU: 5     Wenzao: 2

Climate and atmosphere

Here, I refer both to actual climate (rainfall, temperature, etc.) and social atmosphere. The fact is that I like southern Taiwan much more than I do northern Taiwan. I have lived one year in each area and based on personal experience, I’ve liked life in the south much better. Furthermore, the weather is a lot better, even though the summers are hot. The bad weather in the north might be slightly alleviated if I find proper accommodation, because being locked in a 10-square-metre box when it rains for weeks is not my idea of a good life, and living in a bigger place should make the winters endurable.

NTNU: 2     Wenzao: 4

Money and price levels

I put this last because even though it is a factor, it’s not the most important one. I have received a scholarship, which means that I should be able to afford to live wherever I want to live (within reasonable limits, of course). Taipei is more expensive in every regard, so even if the tuition fees are more or less the same, Wenzao is definitely to prefer if money is to be considered. Still, this time I will not be stupid enough to skimp on accommodation, food or living standard in general. I treat this as the least important factor; I mostly bring it up because I know people are going to ask if I don’t

NTNU: 1   Wenzao: 5

Further discussion

Having written this introduction, I think that I now understand the options more clearly than I did before.

The question of accommodation

I think that since some major factors are equal or close to equal, the one that will be the most determining is accommodation. If I were guaranteed to find suitable accommodation in Taipei, I think that’s where I would choose to go right now. The problem is that there is no such guarantee. Naturally, this means that I will do my best to find accommodation, starting now. If I can find somebody who wants to live with me, it would be much easier. If you know anyone who can help, please let me know!

Future development

I think my goal for writing this post has been fulfilled. I feel that I understand the choice better than I did a couple of hours ago. I also hope that you understand the situation more clearly (and that you now know about it if you didn’t already). The next step will be to ponder this for a while, ask other people for their opinions (yes, that includes you, please leave a comment). Having done this, I will write a second post detailing how things have developed. As soon as I decide what to do, I will of course also post something about that. Stay tuned!

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Recently, I’ve made two important decisions and I now feel ready to share them with you. The reason I haven’t said anything publicly before is that I wanted to be sure myself and I wanted to be able to explain myself, which is what I intend to do here. Neither decision was easy, but I hope you can understand my thinking.


The really short version

These are the two decision: first, I’m not going to complete my university studies in Taiwan, instead I’m going back to Sweden to complete my degree this autumn. Second, I’m moving back to Gaoxiong to study at Wenzao next semester.

The short version

For various reasons, I’ve decided that I don’t have either the time or the money to stay in Taiwan for a bachelor’s degree. As a result of this, after weighing the different alternatives carefully, I think that going back to Wenzao is a better alternative than staying in Linkou for what might be my last semester in Taiwan. Linkou has many things I like: my classmates, whom I will miss sorely; good teachers and high-standard education. However, staying in Linkou also comes with some problems, such as the remoteness and isolation of the place itself, the generally depressing state of the campus and the fact that studying for a bachelor’s degree in a Taiwanese university suit neither my personality nor my learning style.

On the other hand, going back to Gaoxiong and Wenzao offers some serious benefits, apart from escaping the problems mentioned above. It would allow me a freer learning environment where I can control what I do to a much higher extent. The class I will be attending will have very few students (three, at the moment), which means more direct interaction with the teacher. I think the level of the courses might be equal at both institutions. Moving to Gaoxiong will also mean that I’ll live with Taiwanese friends, which is a bit of a wild card, but which I hope will turn out to be very good. On the negative side, it’s more expensive than staying in Taipei and it also mean additional trouble to move yet again. These, however, are practical matters that I can handle.

Comparing these two alternatives and trying to find as much pertinent information as possible, I’ve come the conclusion that moving to Gaoxiong is better than staying in Linkou. I’m terribly sad to leave my class mates (you’re all awesome, and some of you write really beautiful characters, too), but I know you will continue to be awesome without me.

The not so short version

This decision is in reality two, one about the role of Chinese in my future career and one about how to best learn the language here in Taiwan. The first question is by far the most important one, and the second can in a sense be said to be a result of the first. Career choices are long-term and stretch far into an unforeseeable future, but before I take you there, let me start by talking a little bit about the past.

The iceberg

Since I was about eighteen or so, I’ve known that teaching is a career that would suit my personality and ability fairly well. I first started studying psychology at university, but then changed programmes and began studying to become a language teacher instead. Down this road I’ve walked ever since, because not even a three-year foray into the realm of Chinese should be regarded as a different path altogether, just a more indirect way of reaching the same goal. But is it really that easy? What if this road turned out to be so interesting and important that it became a goal in itself? What if “Chinese” turned out to be more important than “teach” in the phrase “I want to teach Chinese”?

That’s the question I’ve been pondering for a couple of weeks now. What do I really want? Has this Chinese detour become the real road? Am I prepared to stay here for three and a half years and earn my degree, and only then contemplate returning to Sweden to try to make a living on my then hopefully adequate language skills? In short, have I, perhaps unconsciously, changed course in my life, away from teaching and towards pure language?

The answer to that question is “no”. It’s not an obvious or self-evident “no” by any means; behind that single word lies a long and sometimes angst-ridden thought process. However, the answer is a certain as it’s ever likely to become (it might grow less certain in the future, but let’s worry about the present for now). I want to be a teacher and to be that in Sweden, I need to graduate from the teachers’ programme.

In practical terms, this means that I will go home to Sweden this summer, and I will stay there for the foreseeable future. After graduating, if I feel that Taiwan is pulling me back, well, then I might have to change course again (for instance, I might consider studying for a master’s degree here), but that’s not the issue right now. If I’m truly so interested in Chinese that I’m willing to base my career on it, I’m sure I’ll know that after having been back to Sweden for a couple of years. I’m still young, the sky is the limit, as they say. In any case, I’m not prepared to sacrifice the relative certainty that being a teacher offers, for something which might well be more interesting, but also a lot less secure.

What I’ve just described is the true conundrum here, the question I couldn’t get my head around until very recently. The reason for this was that the larger question was mostly under the surface, and the tip of the iceberg was actually something altogether different: The question whether I wanted to move back south to Gaoxiong or stay in Linkou. This smaller question hid something much bigger that needed to be taken care of first. Since I’ve done that now, let’s look at the tip of the iceberg, which simply is an extension of the above argument.

The tip of the iceberg

Since the link between these two questions wasn’t obvious for me, I think I’d better explain it to make clear what took some serious thinking for me to figure out for myself.

If I stay in Linkou, it means (disregarding everything but the big picture) that I have the possibility to continue studying in Taiwan and earn my university degree here. However, staying in Linkou doesn’t necessarily entail that I will stay in Taiwan longer than one year, but it does include the option of doing so if I want to. By contrast, moving back to Gaoxiong and studying at Wenzao for another semester, precludes the option of graduating from a Taiwanese university. I cannot stay in this country forever, hopping between different cities and language centres. If I stay here for an extended period of time, I need some real proof of all the effort I’ve invested in learning Chinese. A degree is the only unambiguous and useful proof of that.

So, having decided that I’m not staying in Taiwan longer than this semester, the second choice (the tip of the iceberg) becomes easier to understand: either I spend another semester in Linkou, or I study at Wenzao next semester and then go back home. Even though it’s smaller, this choice was a lot harder to make, and I would be lying if I said that I’m one hundred percent sure I’m doing the right thing. Rationally speaking, I know moving is a good idea, but since I’m human and not a machine, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Let’s examine the two options and what they have to offer.

About staying in Linkou

The most important reason to stay in Linkou is, without any doubt whatsoever, my classmates and other friends here. I know that whatever happens next semester, I’d have a great time while in class, and I will learn a lot at the same time. In addition to this, the education offered in Linkou is fairly predictable (even though we will change teachers, I still no roughly what to expect). I know that the education is of high quality. Furthermore, staying in the north is a lot cheaper, recognising the fact that I have a scholarship there and the tuition fee is lower.

There are some arguments for not staying in Linkou as well. Generally speaking, I’m not too happy with studying for a bachelor’s degree at a Taiwanese university, because it feels very much like being back in junior high (attitude, courses, environment, teaching style; here is one example). I realise that this is what it’s like here, but I’m afraid that doesn’t make it any better. Furthermore, I think the campus itself is depressing in many ways (dirty, dilapidated, distant) and Linkou itself feels a bit like the end of the world (and we live at the very end of Linkou!). Last, but not least, the schedule is quite tightly packed, meaning lots of class time and much homework. I feel like I haven’t got time to study Chinese, which sounds self-contradictory, but is nonetheless true. I learn better if I have more control over what I’m studying, but as it is now, there is hardly any time for that. Also note that going anywhere else than Linkou takes at least an hour, which naturally makes it even more difficult to expand my horizons, either geographically or socially speaking.

About going back to Wenzao

There are some arguments in favour of moving back south. Firstly, it would mean returning to an institution I have very fond memories of; I didn’t leave Gaoxiong last time because I was unhappy with my life there. I know the college can provide me with courses more suitable to my personality and learning style. Secondly, if I move back south, it would mean living with two Taiwanese students (one of my friends from last year and her current room mate). It’s of course difficult to say how important this is and what kind of impact it will have on my studies and my life, but I would be surprised if it didn’t trump living alone in Linkou.

Added to that, I’m a social person, I need people around be to be happy. The only reason I live alone now is that I don’t want to live in the dormitory, (see the comments about the campus above). Living with my friends in Gaoxiong might make me happier at the same time as enabling me to understand Taiwan and the Chinese language on a deeper level. Furthermore, I do of course already have other friends in the south, and they do also play a big part in all this. I would not move into social terra incognita, like I’ve done my previous three moves in Taiwan.

I’m aware that my girlfriend hasn’t been mentioned here, and that’s no accident. Our relationship hasn’t been working very well since I came back to Taiwan last year, and it didn’t work at all towards the end of last year. Moving might or might not improve this, but I want to make it very clear that she is not the reason why I’m moving.

Naturally, there are also drawbacks with moving again, otherwise I wouldn’t need to write such a long post about what I’m going to do. Please read the first part of that sentence again, the keywords are “moving again”. I have moved six times in two years, do I really want to make it seven times in two and a half? Sure, in the ancient past, I said that I wanted to be more like a snail with its house on its back, but I feel more like I have no home at all rather than always carrying it with me. Leaving Linkou would mean more uncertainty, even though it would be significantly less unknown than any of my previous moves in Taiwan. I know roughly what I will get if I move.

Another negative factor is money: going back south costs more money than staying in Linkou; my rough calculations tell me about NT$40.000, which is a bit less than 10,000 Swedish crowns. That’s not an astronomical sum, especially not when compared with living in Sweden, but it is still a factor. On the other hand, my decision to stay in Taiwan one semester and not more, means that I’m prepared to spend some extra money to optimise the time I have left here. In addition, I won’t go home this winter vacation, and will thus save approximately NT$30.000. I’m not a rich man, but I think I know when to spend money and when to be thrifty.

Final decision

Rationally speaking, I think there are some factors above that cancel each other out, and the social aspect might be one of them. I’m sure I’d be very happy staying in Linkou with my current classmates and friends (I feel a sting of sadness just by thinking about leaving you!), but on the other hand, I know that I can be happy in Gaoxiong as well. It doesn’t feel like that now, because Linkou is where I live now and thus very close, but I really think that both choices should be equally good, socially speaking.

So, what it eventually boils down to is paying more money to get a better learning environment. I’m convinced that I would learn more Chinese and be more satisfied with my studying if I went back to Gaoxiong; this is beyond any doubt. On the other hand, as explained above, it would also be more expensive. Is it worth paying that sum of money to get these extra benefits? Yes, of course it is.

Oh, if only humans were fully rational! Then I wouldn’t have had to spend weeks making up my mind. Alas, I cannot base something like this simply on cold logic, so I thought that if I went to Wenzao to talk to them about this, perhaps I would be able to feel what would be the right thing to do. More importantly, I needed to go to my friend’s place to see if the apartment looked okay, that it was a place I felt comfortable living and that the location wasn’t too off (hard to beat Linkou in that regard, though). I hoped that after doing these things, I would feel what was the right thing to do.

And I do. I feel that moving south again is the right choice. There are too many advantages with moving back. Perhaps moving in with Taiwanese friends is reason enough, because it would be something new, something I haven’t done before, but apart from this, I think the overall study situation will improve. I also know that there are many things in the north I fundamentally dislike, although I’ve grown used to them and come to accept them; moving would alleviate these problems, if not remove them entirely, and allow me to focus on what I like most here, studying Chinese.

I’m truly, honestly sad about leaving my classmates and my other friends in Linkou, but that’s a sacrifice I have to live with. They will no doubt move on without me and even though I think my cube puzzles will be missed in A班, I think my leaving won’t really hurt the wonderful atmosphere in that group. I’m very fond of you all and I hope I’m welcome to visit you whenever there is time.

Personally, I’m on the road yet again, and I need to find again that warm feeling I’ve had recently in class, I need to settle down in a new environment and I need to move on. I hope that those involved can understand my decision and I hope I can keep in touch with those who matter most to me in the north. Thanks for everything and see you soon?





















留在林口當然也有些壞處(否則我不需要考慮是否回高雄的這個難題)。一般來說,我發現我不太喜歡在臺灣的學校念這樣的課程,因為感覺是我回去了瑞典的國中(環境,態度,課程,教法都令我想到好幾年之前念的國中)。我當然明白臺灣與瑞典的制度不一樣,但是我好像無法習慣這樣的教學方式。另外,林口的校園是一個令人憂鬱的地方(偏僻、肮脏、破爛的)。如果校園位於林口醫院那邊附近,那就可能沒有任何問題, 但是校園却是在林口最沒有人煙、最不便利的地方。最後,我有一種沒有時間真的學中文的感覺,因為有那麼多課程、作業,而且如果想要去別的地方,也需要花很多時間在坐公車(結果學習時間更少)。如果我只能再留在臺灣一個學期,我不要只加強閱讀與聽力,我想要有時間自己選擇要加強學習的方向。









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