Shida or Taipei National Normal University or 國立台灣師範大學 is the number one Chinese teaching institution on the island. It’s Chinese Language programme is also the number 1 most expensive programme on the island. The Mandarin Training Centre (Where you actually learn Chinese), is very slick and well organised with a good website and customer service department - it all feels very professional. Its central Taipei location is very easy to get to and the campus is very pleasant.
The centre itself is well established and has many resources at the students disposal – listening labs, computer rooms and a library, all of which foreign students are given access to and encouraged to use.
When you go to Shida they recommend you get a student visa (although it might not be entirely necessary as some nationalities can get 3-6month tourist visas). The visa requirements are basically a bank statement showing you have funds for the course and living costs.
The Taiwanese embassy I went to was extremely kind and helpful and getting the visa was no hassle. Unfortunately in Taiwan this student visa becomes a major hassle. And it’s a major hassle for two reasons.
- You need to literally sign in to classes and make up a certain number of hours to keep your visa – so halfway through the course you have to go to the immigration office and have it reprocessed, with all the paperwork it takes at least half a day.
- The visa expires literally on the last day of your classes. That means that if you don’t want to have to catch a flight immediately after your class finishes you have to make a second trip to the immigration office and have it extended – obviously this means more paperwork and forms and another half day wasted.
This is by far the most ludicrous visa policy I’ve ever heard of. And it made me feel, as a paying guest in Taiwan, extremely unwelcome.
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