Studying abroad is a dream of many people, especially for lecturers who are working in Indonesia. By studying abroad, there are many benefits that people can be obtained such as adding insight and knowledge in certain fields. In addition, it can also increase networking or friends, enhance cultural knowledge, and visit tourist attractions in the destination country. As one of the lecturers in the Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Nursing, Hasanuddin University, we are required to have a higher level of education because the university has the vision to improve human resources to become one of the world-class universities. Therefore, the university allows and facilitates us to join any scholarship around the world. Fortunately, I got one of the best scholarships organized by Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP), Ministry of Finance, the Republic of Indonesia and National Taiwan University (NTU) is my first university choice.
National Taiwan University is the best university in Taiwan, ranked the 20th in Asia, and also ranked the 60th in the QS world ranking in 2020. This university is also one of the universities in Asia that establishes a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program and is equipped with high-tech laboratory facilities. Therefore, I am really interested in continuing my study at NTU, even the university has a fairly strict selection system. The university only accepts one Ph.D. student per semester, so all candidates should prepare their best documents to compete with other candidates from other countries.
Nevertheless, I have already had an education experience in Australia, at Griffith University, Brisbane in 2014-2015. I still faced a culture shock when I arrived for the first time in Taiwan. Foremost, I arrived in Taiwan during the Covid-19 pandemic, so I need to be quarantined for two weeks, then continue with 7 days of self-health management. During the quarantine period, I received very satisfying services in the hotel because the hotel provided halal food. However, I was still struggling with the taste and aroma of the food because it has a slight difference from Indonesian food. Furthermore, the cost of quarantine is quite expensive, so it would be the most issue for international students to visit this country.
I was supposed to be in Taiwan to start my study on the 22 of February, 2021, but I could not apply for the visa at the time due to the borderline of Taiwan was closed. Therefore, I was not joining any class until the second of April, 2021, which was too late to attend. Fortunately, representative students of NTU and NTUISA (National Taiwan University Indonesian Students Association) help me through all the registration and adaptation processes at NTU, such as how to get Taiwan's phone numbers and bedding stuff, and visit the university which is super huge in the middle of Taipei city. Professor Chai, who is my supervisor for my Ph.D. program at NTU, really helps me in preparing everything when I was in my back home. She has described the real situation to live in Taipei such as the apartment rent, living cost, and teaching method at NTU. She also invited me for lunch with a very famous menu in Taiwan called “Peking Duck” which is extraordinarily delicious.
I am still struggling with the language in the educational process because, in the independent study that I took in the first semester, other students discussed in Mandarin. Fortunately, Professor Chai can facilitate us to tackle the issue by asking other students to create their PPT in the English language and she also explained the topic in English, so the discussion could run well. Professor Chai also gave me an opportunity to improve my teaching skill by inviting as one of her teaching assistants in Surface Anatomy subject. Moreover, she also involved me as a PT intern in the Health Center of NTU to escalate my clinical experiences. Finally, to reduce the level of stress among PT students, Professor Chai invited us to play archery and it was a really fun game that can release our pressure before facing the mid-term. All of the activities really can help me in reducing my homesickness with family and all activities that I usually do in my country.
As a minority group, I do not feel any limitation in my activities especially related to my religious activities. NTU has provided us a specific room in the library and NTU hospital to pray. All Muslim students can access the room using their student ID cards. In addition, canteens at NTU also provides halal food. "Muslim Friendly food" makes me not to worry about where to get food. Furthermore, NTU also allows Muslim students to create a forum called NTU Muslim Club. This club facilitates Muslim students from various countries to participate in Muslim activities such as iftar and tarawih activities in the Grand Mosque in Taipei.
Another experience in the pandemic, when I prayed in the grand mosque and three of us were detected with positive of the covid-19 virus, the Taiwanese government, especially NTU, directly tracked all the Muslim students who were going to pray at the time and provided 14-day quarantine in the dorm. Moreover, NTU also facilitated the PCR test freely after the quarantine was completed in NTU hospital. Another strategy that NTU did was that the learning method was immediately switched into the online process and public facilities such as a library, sports center, and other facilities were temporarily closed. In addition, the university also monitored and limited the number of people entering NTU by applying a one-door system. As a result, only academic members who have an ID card, including students, lecturers, and staff members have an access to enter the university. Those strategies showed that the Taiwanese government, especially NTU, really concerned about how to solve the pandemic situation with an excellent system.
The covid-19 cases reached the highest number in one month with more than 700 new cases and the government announced that Taiwan status was in the third level. Therefore, the government applied restrictions on community activities in public areas such as traditional markets, shops, and public transportation. Community awareness and strict roles from the government were the keys in facing the pandemic, thus the case has decreased significantly in the next month about 50 persons per day. In the pandemic, Taiwanese obey the roles from the government in keeping the distance, using maskers anywhere, and doing regular exercises like jogging and cycling in the riverside areas provided by the government. The area provides various sports facilities which are convenient and free for the community to use such as tennis courts, baseball, and fishing spots.
Taipei as the capital city of Taiwan has attraction places where are located around the city. The 101 tower is the most favorite destination for domestic and international travelers in Taipei. The building is the tallest tower and also the business center in Taiwan serving a variety of international brands. Furthermore, from the tower’s rooftop, we can enjoy the panoramic view of Taipei city from any direction. Another spot that I have visited is Elephant Mountain. More efforts are needed to reach this area because we need to climb hundreds of stairs. However, after getting to the top, we can enjoy the great panoramic view of Taipei city especially during the sunset time and the mountain also has some Instagram able spots to capture the memorable moment in the Elephant Mountain.
Another tourism spot in Taipei is the memorable Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall. The memorial hall is one of the historical buildings describing how Chiang Kai-Shek created and developed this country in the past. Those interesting areas are in the city and very easy to get there by using MRT or other public transportations like bus or taxi. However, it would be difficult for international visitors who cannot speak Mandarin to use a bus or taxi because of the instruction in the local language. Another unique transportation in Taiwan is a bicycle called “U-bike”. This is the most convenient transportation in Taipei because the price is affordable and the government also has developed special routes to ensure bicycle users’ safety. U-bike is also very common among NTU students because they will use to move to another building at NTU besides walking.
To conclude this story is that Taiwan is one of the recommended countries to be visited because the country appreciates diversity and has a good system in many aspects. For example, in the education sector, NTU has shown the quality of educational level in Taiwan, whereas the university provides an advanced technology and international curriculum for overseas students from around the world. As a result, international students can improve their knowledge in the top-level education for their future. In the College of Medicine of NTU, for example, especially in the school and graduate institute of Physical Therapy, I found that the qualification of human resources is at a high level. The majority of the lecturers have the educational background from the United State of America and also the department is equipped with the high technology laboratory such Kinesiology Laboratory, Applied Electrophysiology Laboratory, Neurorehab and Brain Research Laboratory, and other laboratories. Based on the considerations that I describe, I am so motivated to continue my study at NTU to develop my knowledge in Physical Therapy, especially in Musculoskeletal and Sport science. Finally, I really hope that Hasanuddin University and National Taiwan University can develop a partnership in the learning process and collaboration in research, so the Physical Therapy department in our university can grow as well as Physical Therapy in National Taiwan University.