The Mandarin Training Centre at Shida is clearly a well-run and well managed school. As with any Asian educational institution, its teaching standards are low and not orientated to learning but rather to passing tests.
The Mandarin Training Centre also has a very commercial feel. Over-priced tours and extremely expensive extra cultural activities just reinforce the feeling that all they want is your money. Customer Service is very helpful before you apply and up to the point of paying, but once you’ve actually swiped your credit card, there is little support. They do not assist you when looking for your own accommodation except for links to websites or referrals to companies that specialise with foreigners (rip you off).
It’s obvious the centre is designed to cater for the needs of foreign exchange students who come from wealthier countries and are prepared to spend their money more freely for the comforts of home. I felt that the South East Asian students especially are marginalised and ignored because of their smaller budgets – and use of English as a means of communication to everyone. All of this does not create a friendly or productive learning atmosphere - instead it creates a slick customer orientated experience
When I was 18 and carefree and put having a good time before learning, I would have got a lot more out of my time at Shida. Instead I felt the easy life of Taipei, where everyone wants to speak English and make the foreigners happy, held me back. Apart from getting a solid foundation in writing Chinese characters, I got little else out of the $800+ I spent on the course. If you have your heart set on Taiwan (and it really is a lovely place) don’t waste your money on Shida, instead find the cheapest course possible. The standards will be the same, and if you’re lucky it’ll be less commercial and you won’t have to worry about all the visa nonsense either!
Have a look herefor a more upbeat blog about studying at Shida.