Tamkang University | Working at the best school in Taiwan

Nicholas Hartowidjojo

Bachelor :

Tamkang University – Major in Banking and Finance

Current Job :

National Taiwan University (OIA) – Global Relations Manager

Internship :

Katon Education – Marketing Team

TUTEEMI – Marketing Positions

What made me decide to study abroad?

Why didn’t you choose to study in Indonesian instead?

Coming from Indonesia, a developing country, I’ve always wanted to experience what living in a developed country is like. Studying abroad, I believe, can help me gain invaluable experience and broaden my perspectives on diverse cultures. Furthermore, in my career journey abroad, I anticipate the opportunity to immerse myself in various work cultures and collaborate with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Why don’t I study in Indonesia? Well, I feel that I wouldn’t be able to improve myself as much as I could in a place like Taiwan or another foreign country. Being abroad would allow me to expand my knowledge, build a wider network, and learn a new language. In Indonesia, I might be held back by my parents’ expectations and my established comfort zone. I want to step out of that comfort zone.

Being in Indonesia is too comfortable for me. I’m already part of various organizations, have plenty of friends, and can drive my car around easily. This comfort has made me less independent and has limited my opportunities to expand my network and broaden my horizons.

After deciding to study abroad, why did you choose Taiwan as your destination for undergraduate studies? Did you consider other countries as well?

I considered going to the USA, but ultimately decided against it because of the belief that “in order for someone to succeed, it’s better to learn something challenging at a young age.” Learning the Chinese language is particularly challenging. If I were to learn English first and then learn Chinese in my mid-20s, I wouldn’t have the same learning spirit to tackle Chinese as I did in my undergraduate years. English is more comfortable for Indonesians because it’s like a second language. Despite being of Chinese descent, Chinese is essentially our fourth language. So, I’m trying to change my mindset: if I’ve already overcome the difficulties of something, I’ll wait until my mid-20s to continue with English in the USA. This is why I want to pursue a master’s degree in the USA and decided to study in Taiwan for my bachelor’s degree.

As for Australia or Singapore, they are close to Indonesia, and since many Indonesians go there, there’s a concern that the experience might not take me completely out of my comfort zone or fully immerse me in their cultures. So, I considered Taiwan because my sister has studied in Taiwan before me and she believes it’s a good place to study. When I first visited Taiwan in 2018, there weren’t as many Indonesians as there are now, so I got a better sense of the local Taiwanese which was a unique experience. I also want to learn traditional Chinese that’s truly authentic. 

What university did you go to and why did you choose that university?

I studied at Tamkang University which is a private university in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Initially at that time, when I was in high school, there wasn’t much promotion about higher education opportunities in Taiwan. However, my sister informed me that there are two universities with a good reputation for business majors. There were two top choices: private and national universities. Among these, National Chengchi University (NCCU) represented the national university, while Tamkang University represented the private university.  Since I heard a lot about how Tamkang University is a good school with a favorable location from my seniors, I decided to choose Tamkang University as the first choice of my university destination. This decision was also influenced by consultations with Taipei Economic and Trade Office (TETO) in Indonesia. 

How did you apply for Tamkang University

I went through the school principal’s recommendation, which allowed me to list several schools based on my most desired university choices. My number 1 choice was Tamkang University, number 2 was National Chengchi University (NCCU), and number 3 was National Taiwan University (NTU). After months of anticipation, I finally received the announcement in February or March of 2018 that I had been accepted to my first choice, Tamkang University. I applied as an overseas Chinese student using the school principal’s recommendation letter, which is a formal document in which the principal endorses the student’s academic performance, character, achievements, and potential.

Additionally, the application period for Tamkang University started earlier compared to other applications. In October 2017, during my first semester of senior year, I submitted my application. The results were announced in January or February 2018, which was during my second semester of senior year. In contrast, the pathway for other international students’ applications opened in March or April. Therefore, I applied earlier. I acquired this information from TETO. I utilized TETO’s services to send and authenticate documents and to apply for a VISA. As for the rest, such as writing the motivation letter and study plans in English and Chinese, I handled those all by myself.

Life as a student in Taiwan

What major did you choose for your undergraduate studies? Why did you choose that major?

I majored in Banking and Finance with a minor in Diplomacy and International Relations. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been deeply interested in pursuing a major related to finance and business since high school. In the third year of my university studies, some of my classes were feeling a bit empty, so I thought, ‘Why not try a minor degree?’ Then, I received tips from seniors. Since I was getting a bit tired of Chinese classes (since my Banking and Finance major was all in Chinese), I went for International Relations because it was taught in English. Also, fortunately, at Tamkang University, additional courses for majors or minors don’t come with extra fees, as long as you complete the courses within the graduation year timeframe. Major degree requirements were 40 credits, while a minor required 20 credits at Tamkang. So, I decided to take a minor.

How was the overall student-teacher interaction for the courses in your studies?

Both my major and minor degrees involve very different types of student-teacher interaction. Let’s start with my major degree. In the Banking and Finance program, the professors and students engage in a one-way interaction, with professors emphasizing listening rather than encouraging dialogue, which I find can be monotonous for some students.

On the other hand, in my International Relations minor studies, there’s a more balanced two-way interaction, where students are encouraged to ask questions and take turns presenting. Therefore, studying in these major and minor classes provides me with very distinct atmospheres and experiences.”

The most memorable subject during university

In my university years, I thoroughly enjoyed the International Relations minor courses where we delved into diplomatic alleyways, diplomatic issues, and political analysis methods. We even studied concepts like international political economy, communism, Marxism, and more. The first semester focused on definitions, while the second semester applied practical learning using cases from Ukraine and Russia, analyzing their leadership styles. The class, which involved a two-way interaction between the professors and students, was truly engaging, making it a memorable experience in Taiwan. I also got to know my classmates better as the courses allowed us to have a lot of discussions with them.

The most challenging aspect of studying in Taiwan (perhaps related to the language barrier / specific courses) + how did you overcome it?

In the Banking and Finance major, there were two classes: Class A and Class B. I was in Class B, and in that class, I was the only international student, while the rest consisted of around 79 Taiwanese students. So, during the first year, I faced mental challenges. Examinations were all in Chinese, but I received tips from seniors regarding the courses. They mentioned that during the orientation week (the first week of the school term), it was possible to request an English-language test from professors due to language difficulties. This required negotiation. Some teachers permitted English during exams without additional tasks, while others conducted exams in English but included added tasks.

During this time, I conducted research and analysis on Gojek, as well as the differences between the Central Bank of Indonesia and banks in Taiwan. Some teachers considered this research as an alternative to the exam. There were also teachers who strictly adhered to teaching in Chinese to maintain equality with Taiwanese students. This situation led me to search for Chinese books and then translate them into English for specific sections. I also looked for English versions with similar content and verified the content with the teachers.

Forming friendships with foreign friends also greatly helped me in my studies. In Class A, there were students from Malaysia and Hong Kong. I befriended them and formed a study group. I also had friends from Taiwan who were fluent in English, and we also created a study group.

So, how did I overcome the challenges of using Chinese in all of my courses? At the beginning of each semester, I would inquire with professors about taking exams in English. Then, I would find friends to join a study group, translate books, and compare them with the English versions. This sequence is something I consistently repeated at the start of every new semester.

Living cost (tuition fee international student + 僑生 di Tamkang per semester + living expenses per month)

The living cost for overseas students is approximately 58,000 New Taiwan Dollars (NTD) per semester. For international students, it ranges from 70,000 to 80,000 NTD. This amount covers various financial fees. In terms of dormitory expenses, during the freshman year, you have the option to reside in the dormitory, which costs 27,000 NTD per semester. The dormitory offers good quality and numerous facilities. For the second to fourth year, there was a chance to secure a spot in the dormitory, but the likelihood was quite low. So, many of us opted to live outside the dormitory, renting rooms or boarding houses. The prices for such accommodations range from 3,000 to 6,000 NTD for single bed, providing comfortable living conditions with various amenities. During that period, I shared accommodation with my twin brother. The cost for two people sharing a room is approximately 9,000 NTD per person or 4,500 NTD per month.

While the dormitory has no specific time limit for staying, it does close at 11 PM and requires a key for access. As for general living expenses, they are relatively economical, with around 10,000 NTD being sufficient for a month. Food costs are also reasonable, with a meal typically costing about 50-60 NTD.

Apart from academics, can you share about your involvement in organizations

Every year, I get involved in various organizations. My first experience was becoming the president of TKUISA (Tamkang University Indonesian Student Association). The role of the president at TKUISA in Taiwan is quite distinct from Indonesian Student Associations in other schools. Typically, second-year students take on this position, but many of them are often not fully prepared for it. By the third or fourth year, students tend to focus more on self-interest and self-development, particularly with internships, which leads to a decreased inclination to manage organizations. Additionally, since many of these students are relatively new to Taiwan and are accustomed to a more close-knit community, they prefer staying on campus rather than going to Taipei. This has constrained the growth of TKUISA. When I assumed the role of TKUISA president, I aimed to implement changes and improvements. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and take on the challenging position. Although I felt a bit apprehensive, I decided to seize the opportunity. After around five interviews and two screening rounds, I eventually became the president of TKUISA.

As part of my responsibilities, I created TKUISA’s first YouTube video. In 2019, I also produced an introduction video to Tamkang University. I observed that many Indonesian students were joining the university, yet they lacked proper information and guidance. TKUISA members from different cities in Indonesia provided assistance to newcomers from their respective cities. For instance, if a student from Semarang needed help, someone from Semarang would provide support. The same applied to Jakarta and other cities. Throughout June and July, when students returned to Indonesia, committee members in each city organized online sessions and workshops. This ensured new students received clear and accurate information about Tamkang University. Our goal was to establish a dependable source for Indonesian students interested in the university, making them aware that they could directly approach TKUISA for information instead of relying on other sources. This effort earned TKUISA appreciation and a certificate of official recognition as an organization, given it had at least 300 to 400 members, from the university’s club division. Moreover, during my tenure, TKUISA collaborated with other universities’ Indonesian student associations, such as NTUISA and NTUST, to organize events like the Indonesian Student Olympics. This helped raise Tamkang University’s profile among Indonesians in Taiwan. My approach was to foster collaborations and interactions with other organizations.

Secondly, I became the advisor of TKUISA. During this period, the focus was on enhancing the registration process for TKUISA. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we transitioned to conducting podcasts online. These podcasts covered topics such as applying to Tamkang University, elective and required courses, and more. This approach led to longer and increased engagement with our audience. Furthermore, during this time, TKUISA significantly improved its presence on social media. Additionally, TKUISA took the initiative to organize live music events for the Indonesian community in Taiwan, such as Dim Night and RMP.

Thirdly, I was also involved with PERPITA, the largest organization for Indonesian communities in Taiwan. I became a representative for the school to introduce the Indonesian Entrance Test Admission (印輔班) to new students.

After graduating, I became involved with the Indonesia Diaspora Network (IDN), an organization operating under the Ministry of Tourism. IDN has chapters in various countries, focusing on cultural engagement. Through my participation in IDN, I gained valuable experience in leadership, management, communication skills, and even Chinese language proficiency. I undertook multiple roles within IDN, including being an MC and translating between English and Chinese during events. I also served as a project lead for events like Kartini Day, where I managed all aspects of the event. This year, I took on a sponsorship role within IDN.

During your studies, can you briefly describe your school life and daily life there

Tamkang University is situated in a mountainous area in New Taipei City, which makes it relatively distant from various communities.

Some Indonesian students at Tamkang prefer not to venture out too often due to the convenience of having everything they need on campus, including a Carrefour supermarket, a gym, and other facilities. As a result, they tend to stay within the Tamkang area and avoid traveling to Taipei, which takes around an hour due to transportation times. In the past, before the introduction of the All-Pass transportation pass, traveling between Tamsui and Taipei could be expensive, costing around 100 NTD for a round trip to the Main Station. However, there is a direct bus service, R27, operating every 10 minutes, connecting Tamsui to Tamkang University, which makes transportation within the campus area more convenient.

For those who work full time, waking up an hour earlier than their counterparts in Taipei becomes a necessity due to the longer commute. Even now, TKUISA has recognized the inclination of Indonesian members to stay in Tamsui and has initiated its own business ventures within the community. These ventures include eyelash extensions, shoe cleaning services, food sales, and even a delivery service similar to Gojek. They maintain a warehouse where fellow students can purchase items, eliminating the need to travel further for supplies.

However, this dynamic poses a challenge for Indonesian students at Tamkang University. I hope that Indonesian students here can establish connections with a diverse range of people, extending beyond their immediate community. As the TKUISA committee, we encourage Indonesian students to engage in events like PERPITA to broaden their experiences and knowledge. I think it is really important to step out of our comfort zone.

Career in Taiwan

Could you share about the content of your internship and its help towards your subsequent career?

My first internship was at Tuteemi, where they employ tutors providing in-person teaching services. However, my internship focused on digital marketing and content marketing. My main role was to assist with the organization’s online presence on platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

The second internship was with Katon Education, an online education platform with branches in Canada and Taiwan. My task was to teach English to children around 6 years old, who came from various countries. In this internship, I was paid per task completed. I interned here for three months while also exploring full-time job opportunities. The company’s founder is Taiwanese but resides in Canada, so the working hours followed Canadian time. This occasionally clashed with my full-time job at NTUOIA.

How did you find internships during your university studies?

When it comes to my first internship, the process involves establishing initial connections through organizations like IDN (Indonesia Diaspora Network), where I meet foreign individuals and then work on maintaining those relationships. Eventually, this led to internship opportunities at Tuteemi.

For KATON, I achieved this through LinkedIn. I found that LinkedIn provides a more English-oriented environment and greater certainty. In the past, I had an experience of receiving an offer from the 104 app (a job-seeking platform in Taiwan) for a marketing position at a crematory. I was surprised that it was a crematory company. From this, I also learned to always conduct thorough research on companies before interviews. As I delved deeper into the crematory position, I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue.

Career planning after graduation, what kind of job did you want to find at that time (industry, position)

After graduation, I desired to work in a field more closely related to finance. Despite all of my internships being in the education sector, I was particularly drawn to roles connected to business operations and international dimensions, such as international logistics or global markets.

I found the opportunity at NTUOIA through LinkedIn. When it comes to interviews, I had several references from senior students. However, in Taiwan, the job search tends to be more independent, so I mostly relied on my own efforts for job searching.

Current job – daily work sharing of NTUOIA (you can share the workplace culture, or share the working atmosphere in the company as a foreigner)

My current job is with the National Taiwan University Office of International Affairs (NTUOIA). I started to work here in August 2022. Initially, I wasn’t keen on joining NTUOIA because the educational field wasn’t my true passion. As I mentioned before, I was more interested with finance-related stuff as a full-time job. Despite this, I decided to join NTUOIA and saw it as a challenging step. 

At NTUOIA, my main focus is on the mentorship program for the public and civic sectors. Aside from this, I also assist with overseas internships and the iNGO Academy, although I’m not the person in charge. The work culture at NTUOIA is quite intense. With only 7 people in my department, we handle work for several dozen companies. This involves managing Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs), updating the website, and coordinating mentors for various companies. Some companies have one or two mentors, and these arrangements need to be updated annually. This year, the number of students has increased to 112 from last year’s 60, and nearly one-third of them are involved in the public and civic sector, which is a significant rise from the previous year’s dozen students.

This work environment was a bit of a culture shock for me. I work with individuals who are around 25 to 26 years old, and it’s considered normal for them to dedicate long hours to their jobs. They might work until 1 or 2 in the morning. In contrast, I have a limit of around 11 PM due to the one-hour MRT commute from Gongguan to Tamsui. Additionally, I am the first Indonesian in this NTUOIA department, which adds to the feeling of being out of my comfort zone.

Despite the initial challenges, I’m grateful for this experience as it has provided me with an opportunity to understand and immerse myself in a different work culture. The pace is fast, with numerous projects that demand quick responses. I’ve been told that handling 30 to 40 emails a day is considered too little here, while other colleagues may send 60 to 70 emails and some even more.

Part of my role involves collaborating with different companies, communicating with HR teams, and assisting in various sectors, all within a tight timeframe of two months. There were times when I received criticism for being too slow. However, despite the initial feedback not always being positive, by the middle of July to mid-August, I successfully matched 30 out of 50 public and civic sector company slots for interviews, receiving praise from my supervisor for covering more slots than expected.

I’ve learned to be more careful, engage in critical thinking, and adapt to a project manager role. My time at TKUISA has provided me with leadership skills that I’ve applied here. While it’s a bit stressful managing everything on my own, I know that the skills I’m developing will be valuable in the long run. The nature of this role also tests my leadership skills, as I’m the sole person responsible for 30 companies. I’m in charge of coordinating interview times for students, negotiating with companies for interviews, and ensuring all logistics are well-managed. It’s demanding, but I’m confident that the experience and skills I’m gaining will be beneficial in my future endeavors.

Next Step : Embracing the growth I gained from Taiwan

I want to pursue a master’s degree in the USA. Because of the influence of Asian education, courses here tend to be more theoretical. In Western countries, they lean more towards practical approaches. After analyzing and asking senior students who focused on the USA, I decided not to continue in Taiwan. The major that I’m considering is Environmental Sustainable Studies, which is currently trending. Given the ongoing discussions about climate change and global warming, I believe that in the next 5 years, sustainable careers will become popular and in demand.

Initially, I thought about continuing from my bachelor’s degree to pursue a master’s in Business Administration or Management. However, after observing the impact of technology and climate change, I became interested in pursuing a degree in Environmental Studies, Earth Science, or Geopolitical Science. One positive aspect of studying in the West is that they don’t categorize based on science or social studies. This gives me the confidence to consider majors beyond my previous field. As far as I know, In the USA, they don’t heavily rely on GPA or your previous degree. As long as you have strong recommendation letters, a compelling motivation letter, and a clear future plan, and if you can convince them, it’s possible to be admitted. From my perspective, the education system in Western countries is more flexible, allowing individuals to explore different fields. 

If you could give advice to Indonesian students (who have 1-2 years left) intending to study in Taiwan, what would it be?

  • Position Yourself: When applying for jobs or communicating with others, try to position yourself from the perspective of the opposing party. For example, when applying for a job, think of yourself as the HR manager reviewing applications. Consider why they would hire you and what attracts them. Research the company’s field of operation to tailor your cover letter, CV, and motivation letter specifically to the job and company. Customize your CV for each company. Some companies are particularly selective, so tailor your application to stand out. During the interview, focus on convincing the interviewers and expressing yourself clearly.
  • Specific Goals: For newcomers entering Taiwan, don’t just pursue general goals like having fun or meeting fellow Indonesians. Set specific goals. If your aim is networking, define the type of networking you want to achieve, such as meeting professionals in a certain field or attending workshops. Be self-motivated and not hesitant to introduce yourself to Taiwanese people. Join various communities, both Indonesian and foreign, and participate in workshops and internships. Remember that learning is a lifelong journey filled with challenges and opportunities.
  • Learning Journey: Embrace the idea that learning is continuous, regardless of age. Seek advice from seniors to gain knowledge, but also recognize that seniors can learn from younger generations who bring new technology and globalization insights. Collaboration between different generations creates a cycle of learning. There are no limitations to learning, so remain curious and ambitious about your dreams. Mistakes can shape you into a better person, and each error is an opportunity for growth.
  • Stay Out of Your Comfort Zone: Avoid staying in your comfort zone. Don’t settle for being satisfied; always strive to learn something new. Don’t fear making mistakes; they are stepping stones to improvement.
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If you're seeking additional information about studying in Taiwan, feel free to get in touch with me.