Name: Patrick Martin
Type of year: Studying abroad
Location: Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Course: International Relations
· Why did you choose to do a year abroad?
I chose to do a year abroad because I wanted to see a little more of the world, extend my time as a student and improve my Mandarin Chinese. At the end of the year I also will receive an extra qualification that will add to my degree.
· How did you choose where to go?
I had actually applied by myself to Shanghai University at the start of my second year at Loughborough and then again through Loughborough for Taiwan. In the end I decided to go with Taiwan because of its close links to Loughborough and the extra qualification it would earn. I minor in Mandarin at Loughborough so it made sense.
· How have you enjoyed being abroad?
Yes I have enjoyed being abroad. I have found it to be very different from home terms of culture, and also the lack of rain is a nice change for a while. The people here are predominantly helpful and seem genuinely interested in you and why you have come to their country.
· What is a typical day like?
Rise for 8am classes every day, and try to pick up some food on the way into class. Two hours of Mandarin, and then three times a week I have IR related modules, which unfortunately last for three hours each. We try to use the weekends or some evenings to go and see the local sights and general touristy things. Trying bizarre food is usually fun.
· What (if any) problems/issues have you come across and how did you overcome them?
I have had very few real issues to contend with – I am aware that I am pretty lucky about this. The only irritating thing I (we all) have had to deal with is the Visa issue. Before coming to Taiwan to be a student, we were required to apply for a Residency Visa. The university sent out a packet of documents to us and it was supposed to contain all forms and letters that would enable us to get our Visa. After going through a fairly long process involving medical checks and many many letters, we were all told that we actually could only apply for a Visitor Visa because our university in Taiwan had not provided the embassy with one specific letter. We have had to all undertake another costly medical examination (which says exactly the same thing as our initial one, only it has both English and Chinese on it) and try to upgrade our Visas here. We have not been able to upgrade yet because the specific letter that we didn’t have in the first place is still not in our possession! However, we all understand the processes now so it should be resolved soon.
· How has it/it not benefitted you?
In terms of my Mandarin, I feel that this experience has benefited me greatly. I am speaking every day, surrounded by those who speak it or are learning it, and getting used to the speed at which it is spoken. In terms of my IR modules, I think I haven’t benefited as much as they are quite basic compared to Loughborough. However, as I am mainly here for the language, it doesn’t bother me as much,
· Would you recommend other students to do a year abroad and why?
I would recommend a year abroad to any student – particularly a student who is focusing on a language. You also get to be somewhere else for a year or a semester, which is no bad thing.
· What are your plans after university?
I’m thinking about joining a programme where I can become a Teaching Assistant teaching English for a year in China, I know two people who have done this and highly recommend it – particularly for the language. However, I could stay in the UK and search for a job too. They are only ideas at this stage.