National Taiwan University (臺灣大學) – Biomechatronics Engineering
Current Job :
IAdea – IT Support Specialist
TECHMAN ROBOT – Engineering Trainee
Universe Circular Technology – Intern
Study Conditions and High School Life (Before Studying Abroad)
Can you tell us about your educational background before studying in Taiwan?
I attended a modest private Christian school in Surabaya, Indonesia, which prioritized both academics and character development. While not prestigious, it provided a solid education environment.
During high school, I thrived academically as competition was limited and expectations were moderate. However, upon entering University, I abandoned my competitive attitude due to increased competition, particularly as a foreign student. The need to put in extra effort to keep up was evident. Additionally, adjusting to various aspects of university life, including making friends, posed greater challenges.
What motivated you to pursue studying abroad?
I could totally see myself becoming more of my own person, you know, having way more freedom to do my thing. The idea of jumping into this whole new world really appealed to me. I thought that by taking on all these new challenges, I could grow in so many ways, like getting way better at foreign languages and stuff.
And guess what? One of my buddies from high school who’s also heading to Taiwan for studies totally pumped me up even more about it!
- Getting out of my comfort zone
- Improving my language skills
- Overcoming as many challenges as I could
Why did you choose Taiwan as your study destination? Did you consider any other countries?
First, I wanted to level up my Chinese, and what better way than to be surrounded by it every day? Taiwan seemed like the perfect place for that.
Then there’s the money thing. College tuition there doesn’t put a dent in your wallet, especially with the government chipping in. Way more budget-friendly than back home in Indonesia.
But it’s not just about smarts and cents. When I visited Taipei, I fell in love with the whole vibe. The city, the culture, everything just clicked.
Sure, I considered other options, weighed the pros and cons. But when it came down to it, Taiwan had this pull I couldn’t resist. And looking back, I’m pretty darn happy I went with my gut.
Exploring University Life in Taiwan
What led you to choose NTU as your university, and were there any other options you considered during that decision-making process?
I was just testing my luck applying to NTU. I went to NTU through an Overseas Chinese program in Taiwan which allowed me to apply to numerous universities in the order of preference. During that time, I actually applied to around 30 different universities/programs and had low expectations.
Literally, everyone I met said that NTU is the most prestigious university in Taiwan. Also, I met some NTU seniors during the period of the university application. Their insights and influence were the main reason why I put NTU on my top preference list.
What led you to choose Bio-Mechatronics Engineering as your major?
I was looking for something broader for my major because I was not sure about what I wanted to pursue. During that time, Agriculture, Mechanical engineering, and Electrical/electronic engineering grabbed my interest, but my parents limited my options to only Civil engineering and computer science due to the relatively higher average salary in Indonesia. I was never good at agriculture, and it seems too risky to take the agriculture-focused program. As for the engineering options, I felt that I am always good at Math and Physics. Therefore, Bio-Mechatronic seemed perfect for someone that could not determine which direction to go.
Could you share your most memorable class or experience during your NTU studies? What made it stand out to you?
During my university days, I embarked on a diverse academic journey that greatly influenced both my personal and professional development.
In the possibly named Mechatronic or System Integration class, I dove deep into image processing, mastering OpenCV and its integration with Arduino. Meanwhile, courses like Introduction to Agriculture Technology and Genomic Science, Introduction to Wind Energy, and Waste Treatment Engineering revealed potential career paths. They didn’t just offer theory but hands-on internships, experiments, and valuable insights from guest speakers.
In the realm of Engineering Economics, I was introduced to the financial aspects of projects, understanding investment strategies, risk assessments, and returns. But it wasn’t all intense; the 3D CAD Design class was a joyful blend of creativity and technicality, thanks to an engaging professor and the wonders of 3D Inventor.
Did these classes shape me? Absolutely. They provided a myriad of opportunities from internships to research projects. While I couldn’t pursue every avenue, the experiences broadened my horizons, giving me a clearer vision of my career’s direction.
What were some of the most challenging or frustrating aspects you encountered when you first started studying in Taiwan?
Making friends within my own department was incredibly difficult. I believe the language and culture barrier should have played some role, competition also makes it worse, but it was not the main reason since not only foreigners could have a hard time.
On every group project I had, I was always left out with no options in terms of choosing my own teammates. There was one time when I needed to carry the whole group due to their extreme laziness (4 members group). Even if they were on the wrong side, moving on without speaking out always be the best option since speaking out could have worsened your relationship with the other classmates.
During the second year, I was active in approaching the newly transferred student. I also tried my best at improving my Chinese. In the end, I would not say it ‘overcome’, but it was more likely that after the sophomore year, the need for interactions with classmates were getting less and less. I always felt relieved when there was no group project in the course I took.
If you could give advice to Indonesian students planning to study in Taiwan, what would it be?
In the initial phase, prioritize blending in over being competitive. Many NTU students tend to gravitate away from overtly competitive peers. Dedicate time to understand and connect with your classmates. As time progresses, cliques tend to form, making it harder to assimilate. Should you ever feel out of place, remember, it’s not your failing. Beyond your department, NTU boasts a plethora of communities where you can find kindred spirits and supportive friendships.
Academic Strategies & Resources:
- Community Support: Connect with seniors, especially fellow Indonesians, as they can offer invaluable advice, course recommendations, and a comforting camaraderie.
- Open Communication: Your journey may have its challenges. Ensure you have trusted confidants with whom you can share your struggles. Keeping your feelings bottled up can be detrimental.
- Study Smart: While academic excellence is a goal, efficiency should be the means. For instance, translating lectures may seem helpful, but if it’s draining you mentally, it’s not the best use of your time. Focus on understanding concepts and finding study methods that suit you best.
Remember, the key is to strike a balance between blending in culturally and excelling academically while ensuring your well-being.
As an international student, how did you navigate the process of finding internships during your university studies and what was your experience like?
Internship opportunities do not come by themselves that often. But whenever you are ready, there are a lot of platforms to look for. Below is how I found my internship windows:
- I took some introductory master-level classes and talked to their invited guests. I showed my interest in their company and asked them if they have internship opportunities. These speakers usually like students that are active and engaging. Once I applied, I asked my professor (the same person that invited the speaker) to recommend me to them.
Prior to the internship, I believed that the industry was right for me and it provided some good business prospects ahead in both Taiwan and Indonesia. However, while I was in the program, I got the opportunity to do my own market research and after consulting with my supervisor, I concluded that it was too risky to take or continue.
The takeaway is that even in the end you decided not to pursue the career, you are still lucky to be given a chance to realize it early. In addition, you will still learn one or two things that might be useful for drafting your next career plan.
How did the content of your internship(s) contribute to your subsequent career development?
During the internship, I learned about the struggle of working in a startup company and how to be active beside that there are no clear guidelines on how to do things. I also got the opportunity to practice what I have learned during courses I took and realized the hard truth about the industry I was interested in.
Without this internship, I might have realized it a little bit too late. What we planned to do and what we learned from the books might reflect differently on the field. Realizing it early before entering the job market is a valuable opportunity.
Nothing specific aside from soft skills. From the internship, I learned that being a field engineer might also mean that you must work in a harsh environment. I also learned how to do market and prospect research, how to carefully plan your career, and a little bit about how a startup company operates. Moreover, 2 of my internship supervisors helped me provide recommendations for my current job recruiters. So, keep in mind that having their contact information might be beneficial when you are looking for your first job.
Could you shed some light on the cost of studying in Taiwan, including tuition, living expenses, rent, and other related expenses?
I did not manage my finances while I was in the university, but I considered myself a cheapskate in terms of expenditure during my university period.
- Tuition: around 35k to 40k per semester
- Rent: Depending on the dormitory you lived
- Living expenses: less than 6k a month (already considered lavish)
Can you share any interesting or memorable experiences from your life outside of studying in Taiwan, such as leisure activities, travel experiences, or exploring different aspects of Taiwanese culture?
I met a lot of memorable friends in Taiwan coming from different cultures and backgrounds through participating in organizational events and becoming a committee member. In my leisure time, I always found myself trying out different food (many options for international food), traveling and sightseeing around Taiwan, participating in organizational events, and hanging out.
I could say Taiwan is a very globalized country and perfect for someone that likes to explore other countries’ food.
Taiwan is also quite dense in terms of hiking spots and is perfect for someone who likes outdoor activities. It is fascinating to me that even Taipei itself has a lot of hiking trails to offer.
It provides the right balance between working/studying and relaxing. I believe that sometimes students also need to loosen up a little bit to do what they love. In fact, once I found the right balance, I could perform better at studying.
Career Planning and Current Job in Taiwan
What were your career plans as you approached graduation from NTU? What kind of job were you aiming for in terms of industry and position?
My career plan was to find as many job opportunities as I could and gain foresight about the current technology trends in Taiwan. I always have the feeling that I want to become an entrepreneur in the far future and in my situation at that time, finding jobs that could help me understand the trends was more important than jobs that required skill-focused types.
To achieve this long-term goal, my priorities were to improve my communication and language skills, keep up with the technological trend, especially in IT, and gain experience with as many technology tools as I can.
After I graduated, I aimed for an IT Support Specialist position (or tech support, FAE) in a tech company, especially one that is more software-focused. I believe that this position provides a balance between engineering and improving interpersonal skills.
For the industry choice, IT is undeniably one of the most well-paid and advanced industries everywhere in the world. Therefore, it was a no-brainer for me to choose this field.
Could you share your job-hunting experiences, including resume submissions and interview processes?
Since I am quite a perfectionist, I always wanted to have the best options in hand in terms of jobs. Therefore, I intentionally extend my university period for 1 semester. I personally believe that it offers several benefits for me in terms of job-hunting:
- Better timing, more job opportunities, less competition.
- Gained self-confidence by taking several courses that have less relation to my fields of study (I felt that engineering students always lack in terms of life-skill and interpersonal skills).
- Gave myself time and a break to reflect on my career and life ahead. During this time, I learned more about self-awareness and self-management.
After leaving the university, I immediately created a CV (in English) and an offer letter (in Chinese) and asked a lot of people to review it. I created both in different languages to showcase both of my language writing skills to the job recruiter, a skill that foreigners should excel at in Taiwan.
After that, I applied for all of the jobs related to IT and Technical support that I could find on 104 websites. I believe that it will be more efficient to filter them later after getting the chance to interview. In addition, I prefer this method to allow myself to get as many opportunities as possible, to know every side of the industry landscape, business common practices, types of companies and their culture, average salary, and also honing my interview skills. It is important to use this opportunity to understand what you want so you will be able to ask questions back to the interviewer.
Within 2 months, I got called for both remote and on-site interviews around 50 times with 30 different companies. As a result, I received several offers from them.
My tips on conducting the interview as a foreigner is to try to showcase your language skills and presentation skills. Most importantly is to understand what works best for you through practice and to come to an actual interview.
Can you share your current job as an IAdea IT Support Specialist? What does your daily work entail?
- Main job: replying to customers’ emails (Q&A, training requests, troubleshooting requests, etc.)
- Troubleshooting scope: handling RMA and simple hardware repair, software troubleshooting through logs and tests, programming code review (mainly XML, sometimes HTML related languages), Android debugging, remote network troubleshooting, checking database and cloud
- Q&A, training, and documentation: answering technical and non-technical questions regarding our products, providing training for customers on how to use our product (both software and hardware), creating documentation and articles for support sites)
- Product testing: to confirm a possible issue/ bug, to check the performance of the product.
- Internal communication: acting as a bridge between multiple departments (engineer, operation, sales, QA, client)
- Keep in touch with the technological trend: As IT Support at entry levels, we are expected to keep honing our skills and knowledge by taking online courses.
- Customer service: handling different types of customers across the globe. Some of the customers need extra attention.
In the heart of Taiwan’s vibrant IT and electronics scene, I found more than just a job—I found a home. My company wasn’t just about work but growth. Here, I charted my own path, setting challenges and embracing daily learnings. While my growth wasn’t solely attributed to Taiwan, its thriving tech environment was the perfect backdrop. Lucky for me, I didn’t just land a role in this industry; I landed in a company where the culture truly resonated with my aspirations.
Nathanael Richard Ha Hanes
- National Taiwan University - Department of Biomechatronics Engineering (1st-year undergraduate student)
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