Spring Semester so far

I realized that I’m doing more highlights posts than usual, and maybe you think it looks/feels lazy. But I also think that it’s the only way I can write something interesting, since I won’t have a lot to say if I wrote about every single day of the semester. Oh well, here goes!

Classes

I only have classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I was supposed to have a class on Friday as well but I dropped that class and switched to a class scheduled on a Tuesday (the PhD-level class I mentioned in my last entry). To be honest, I am only feeling the school mood now that the midterms are over and I have a lot of catching up to do because some of my exam scores are pretty dismal – a bad situation to be in if you want to maintain your scholarship! *cries*

I also don’t think I would be saying this, but I hate that there are too many holidays this semester (I literally get one 6-day break every month because of all the holidays, it’s crazy). The holidays are taking away my momentum so it took me quite a while to feel like I’m in the zone.

Language learning

I finally took the risk and signed up for Advanced Mandarin class. Well, it’s not really advanced, the course name just means that it’s not a course for total beginners. I always sign up for beginner classes but for the first time ever, I felt that I already learned enough Chinese last semester so I finally decided that it’s time for me to sign up for the Advanced Mandarin class.

Before formal classes started, they had us take a placement test to determine our level and the test had two stages: written and oral. As I predicted, I still didn’t know enough characters to be able to comprehend some of the questions, but I can’t believe I didn’t end up submitting a totally blank paper. I think my oral exam was what saved me; I could answer all of the proctor’s questions using the things I learned last semester, though I must admit that my listening skills could still be better. I can now comprehend basic sentences and questions spoken a bit slower than the normal speed, but it’s still not good enough if I want to be conversational. More practice!

I’ve also continued my supplementary Mandarin tutorial courtesy of the university, and I also started a language exchange. These are not formal classes, for me they’re more like venues to practice what I’ve learned in class. They’re pretty helpful because it’s focused on conversation. My tutor thinks it’s time to upgrade my level, which means that she would expand the topics of our conversations and teach me more vocabulary. I’m pleased to hear this because obviously I need to learn all the words I can to talk with locals. But at the same time, I feel like I’m still not good enough to keep up, so I don’t know.

My roommate and I have also been speaking more Chinese. I don’t mean a full conversation because obviously I can’t manage that yet – but we’ve already started to pepper our speech with random Chinese words or phrases in the middle of our conversations. It’s quite funny but it works because I find that I retain all these new words when used in this setting!

Student clubs

This semester, I’m coming back to my first love: singing. I had some doubts before I decided to do it though, because I wasn’t sure whether they only wanted members who were fluent in Chinese. But after being assured that I would have no problems with the language barrier, I signed up for the school choir. It’s fun, but incredibly busy and sometimes difficult. I’m just having problems singing some Chinese songs, but I can handle it with a bit of help from the other members. The bigger problem, though, is that I can’t sight-read music. Apparently, everyone is really good at it, so it’s a bit difficult to keep up. Luckily, my ears are quite sharp so I can learn the parts easily after hearing them, but I still need to learn sight-reading if I want to keep up with them!

Being in the chorus also gave me opportunities to perform outside school and I think it’s really awesome! We’re actually scheduled to perform on May 6th (at 中正紀念堂 Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall) and May 14th (with another university choir in 新竹 Hsinchu), which means that for the next few days we’ll be busy practicing and perfecting the songs. Hoping for the best!

Job

I don’t think I’ve written about this before, but last semester my professor hired me as his research assistant. I don’t have regular office hours so I can do research at my own leisure – but I do need to turn in literature for his research from time to time.  I still read every day but I do need to step up my game because I feel like I’m not turning in enough research material every month.

Social life

Ugh, I feel like I’m lacking in this aspect. At first glance, my schedule looks pretty relaxing, but in reality I spend all my free days doing schoolwork. I also need to spend lots of time reading research for my job, so I rarely have time to hang out with people. If I really have nothing to do, I use the time to practice music or catch up on sleep.

Other stuff

I already got my National Health Insurance card1 and I seriously feel like a legit local now, lol! I’m so happy that they provide insurance for us too because I’ve experienced getting sick last semester – it’s not fun at all, plus the expenses can really add up if you’re not insured! Here’s to hoping that I will never, ever need to use it, but if ever I run into medical problems I’m now confident that I’m insured.

Another thing: My dorm guarantee expires this June. I would still apply for the dorm assignment lottery, but I’m also finding the idea of off-campus living appealing. I think it would be a different experience from dorm living, and I’d like to see how I would fare living all by myself (I guess it’s finally time to learn how to cook!). I’m currently looking at several apartments and they each have their pros and cons. One apartment I’ve seen looks pretty cozy and is in a good location with lots of establishments around but I would need to commute to school, while others are in walking distance to school but the location feels kind of isolated.

Housing in Taipei is pretty SUPER expensive though, and if this happens my parents would need to help me with the rent. Do you think it’s a good idea? I need your thoughts on this guys!

  1. This is the Taiwanese government’s mandatory health insurance, and is available both for locals and foreigners. All foreigners residing in Taiwan for more than 6 months must register for the National Health Insurance. Since I’m a student, the premiums are included on my tuition and miscellaneous fee bills.

19 Comments

  1. It can be hard with loads of holidays. You always feel like you’re on vacation. But seems like you’re doing pretty well! And living on your own sounds like a nice way to see how you’d fare. If you’re comfortable with it go for it!

    1. That’s exactly how I felt too, I always felt like winter vacation never ended XD

      I’d love to live on my own off-campus, and I’m still searching for nicer (and cheaper) apartments. Haha I hope I find one that suits my needs!

  2. I don’t think these posts are lazy at all! I actually really like posts like this because in a writers point of view, like you said, you get to write a bit more which is always good! Better than nothing 😀

    I feel exactly like you, recently there has just been too many holidays and it’s also been hard for me to get back into the swing of work. I think it’s always like this between April – May which is really bad because this is usually the exam season for students here in the UK. Gah 😭 I hope you become as productive as possible!

    I tried learning Mandarin earlier this year but found it so hard. I applaud you for signing up to the Advanced class and even submitting work that had something. It’s honestly very impressive, go you! 😀 Keep practising! Sometimes having friends to practice within an informal setting/everyday setting can really help!

    Congrats on getting the job with your professor, that is pretty cool! 👌🏻 I can imagine that there is a lot of reading involved though but good luck! My friend had a similar role over the summer last year and she’s very into the research so even if she didn’t read every day, she was enthusiastic enough about it and willing to learn really quickly!

    Eek, good luck with finding a place to stay! I think if you can’t handle it, there’s no shame asking your parents for a help in hand 🙂 That’s what they’re there for – to love and support you! <3

    1. Mandarin can be really hard at first, especially all those tones! 😮

      You’re right, there’s lots of reading involved in my job since I screen all the literature before I give it to my professor for his research! But it’s also fun because I’m learning something new in every journal article or book that I read 🙂

      Thanks, I really need all the good luck right now in finding a good place in Taipei XD My parents already agreed on helping me and we’ve already figured out how to split the expenses. Haha!

  3. Nothing wrong with highlight posts! I love reading them so it’s all good ;).

    Part of me likes having a lot of holidays but at the same time, I do see the downside of it because it’s hard to get back to that grinding mode. Even though the Mandarin placement test was challenging, at least you tried your best. It’s great that the university provided a supplemental Mandarin tutorial. Practice makes permanent!

    It’s great that you’re involved with the choir club! The more you do things, the easier things get. Congratulations on getting hired as a research assistant!

    I personally don’t like having my parents help me financially because I feel like I’m too old for it. Though, I wouldn’t mind loans from them XD. Hope you’ll figure something out with your living situation for next year!

    1. I would prefer not having to ask my parents for help too, lol. I like managing my own finances. But now I understand when people say that Taipei is super expensive – the food and the rest of the daily expenses are really cheap, but housing is just amazingly expensive, the entire amount of my scholarship money is not enough to cover the rent D:

  4. When I was still a student, I also hated holiday breaks because it means my professors will have little time to announce our projects and we’ll have to cram all subjects.
    I salute you for taking the Advanced Mandarin class! It shows that you really go for the things you want 🙂 I’m also learning a new language right now but only by myself because I don’t have the time or money to enroll in a class.
    I didn’t know you have a job! You have so much going on, wow. What do you research for your professor?
    Same, I only have time for my social life for one day because I have to catch up on sleep. I do wish you’d have more time for socializing in the future 😊
    That’s nice to hear that you’ve resumed singing! I was once a choir member and I regret not pursuing singing.
    I have never lived in a dorm so I wouldn’t know how it would feel like as opposed to living off-campus. Living off campus sounds like a fun and new experience for you though because you said you finally can learn to cook for yourself. However, I would be practical. Couldn’t you cook for yourself in the dorm? 🙂

    1. My professor’s research is about the Philippines’ Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 🙂 So I help him research about its implementation 🙂

      We’re not allowed to cook in the dorm 🙁 And there’s no kitchen anyway so there’s no way we can do it. Lol!

  5. If you wanna write highlight posts, keep doing it; it’s your blog, what to write in it is only up to you. 🙂

    Thank you for your comment, by the way. 🙂
    I second everything you said: blogging and socials are not “chained”, the first can work perfectly without the second; I much prefer comments because it’s a closer and more “personal” interaction, whereas socials are kind of…sterile.
    Personally I find those people pathetic and tend to let them remain in their small social-addict world. “Whatever floats your boat”, they say….sure; just don’t involve me, as I don’t really give a damn.

    1. Thanks! 😀 I don’t usually do highlights posts but they’re fun to write and sometimes it’s the only way to make my life sound more interesting, lol!

  6. Don’t ever apologize for doing highlight posts. I feel like they always work the best. Stick to them!

    I don’t have much of a social life anymore either, but I can’t complain. I work retail, so that’s enough socializing for me! Haha.

  7. Sorry to hear about your exam scores 🙁 I hope your classes continue to go well though! I know what you mean about too many holidays bunched up. They’re great to have a break, but when it’s too many at once, it just breaks your concentration and focus.

    That’s great that you’re using Mandarin more with your roommate and at the supplementary tutorials! Learning to read and write Chinese is so hard. I remember having to spend soooo much time memorizing characters. Sadly, I don’t remember a lot of them anymore.

    I’m glad you’ve decided to join the school choir! I feel like sight reading takes a lot of practice. When I used to play violin, we would have to practice sight reading for competitions. I hope the performance goes well!

    Ooh, that’s neat that you’re working as a research assistant, though that’s too bad about lacking in social life. That can be hard when you’re balancing so many things at once. It sounds like you have a lot going on! At least you’re doing things you like though, so hopefully you get some free time later to hang out with people.

    I really enjoyed living off campus when I was in college, mainly because there was more privacy, and it was a bit quieter. Our dorm walls were soooo thin, I could hear the hallway and nearby rooms easily. Our rent wasn’t very expensive though, so we didn’t worry about price too much. That sucks that rent is so expensive in Taiwan!

    1. I agree with you about Chinese characters! I do writing drills as much as I can, I think there really is no shortcut to memorizing Chinese characters, you have to encounter it again and again for it to be retained in your memory XD

      Oh wow, I’d love to experience privacy too, lol! My life in Taiwan is lacking in that aspect. Don’t get me wrong, the community vibe in the dorms is awesome but sometimes, I feel like I just need a break from all the socialization. #introvertproblems LOL

  8. I know exactly what you mean where there are “too many holidays”. When I was in university, we definitely had more breaks that when I was in secondary school and I used to get so demotivated during those breaks!

    Good luck in the Advanced Mandarin class. I remember taking Mandarin classes when I was in China, and I actually got really good. But then when I came back home, I didn’t bother continuing with the lessons because I’m a lazy sh*t XD Kind of wish I had now, though!

    Living on your own is definitely a good way to see how you’d be once you leave school! Obviously, if you are able to find affordable accomm I would definitely go for it 🙂

    1. Wow, Chynna! That is so cool! Can you still speak Chinese until now? 😀

      I do hope I find some affordable accommodation options! Still looking! 🙂

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