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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
- 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. ↩