I have the luck of having an MOE (Ministry of Education) Scholarship in Taiwan. It covers my tuition and I also get a monthly stipend so I don’t starve to death or live on the streets, or have to do anything else on the streets mind you. The process behind being awarded the scholarship was nothing short of a nightmare in terms of the bureaucracy and the unnecessary amount of paperwork. Applying for the scholarship in Ireland was difficult enough, but I cannot image how difficult it would be if you need to get all the following done whilst being in Taiwan.
1. Applying Through your Local Taipei Representative Office at Home.
I was awarded the scholarship by the Dublin Taipei Representative Office in the middle of 2016, after applying for it in April. The process of applying for the scholarship was the easy part, getting it was luck, but accepting my spot in NCCU (National Chengchi University) and applying for my visa was a small nightmare. These two task went as follows.
- To accept my offer from NCCU for their IMICS program (International Masters in Communications), I had to send a copy of my degree and transcripts. Now that sounded easy at first, but then I read on further in my acceptance letter. My documents had to be authenticated by the local Taipei Representative Office. Well, that would make two trip, one to the offices in my former college, DIT, to get my degree photocopied and verified by the college and to grab some official transcripts and a second one to the representative office. But it didn’t end there. Added to this, I had to also have my documents authenticated by the Irish Department for Foreign Affairs and again added to this, I had to get my transcripts combined as one document by a barrister before going to the Department for Foreign Affairs. After getting my documents, having the barrister sign them off, having the Department for Foreign Affairs authenticate them and finally have them in the Taipei Representative Office, I had spent close to €200 ($220 USD, $6,777 NTD) just to have my documents verified by all these issuing bodies.
- I sent off my documents by courier to arrive in Taipei no less than 3 days after parting ways with the little guy. Next, was my visa. Now this a real headache. In order to gain a residency visa, you need a foreign physical.Thankfully, I didn’t need to get my stool examined for parasites, but I still paid an arm and a leg to get this physical done. Unlike Taiwan, there are very few places in Ireland that will have facilities that can give you an x-ray to check for Tuberculosis, test your STD’s and test to make sure you have had your MMR vaccine in the same hospital on the same day, along with a physical. Instead, I went to my local GP (General Practitioner) who gave me a letter that allowed me to get all three of these tests done in three different hospitals. The total price was about €220 ($240 USD, $7,500 NTD). It took about 5 weeks for all my tests to come back and for the GP to sign off on my form because he didn’t think it was necessary. It was a complete waste of money and time, and I should have been allowed to do it when I arrived in Taiwan instead. The world doesn’t have the same healthcare system as Taiwan.
So despite these two big headaches and causing my bank account to go into the red, I made it. My applications were all accepted, I got my visa, booked my flight and waited nervously for a few weeks hoping my decision wasn’t the worst one I had made yet.
2. Applying Through your Local Taipei Representative Office in Taiwan.
This is where things get a bit difficult. I know some people who got an MOE scholarship after attending University for 1 year, but as far as I know, if you are applying for an MOE scholarship through a Representative Office, it is more complicated.
If you are working in Taiwan, you probably had to get your foreign degree authenticated in your home country. Now, for the scholarship application, you will have to figure out, with the help of someone back home, how to get your hands on your full university transcripts and degree, and how to get them authenticated in a ministry for foreign affairs, and then in the Representative office.
The process could take weeks depending on what country you are from. My friend from Poland told me if she had not been in Poland to do it, she wouldn’t be sure she would have even been able to have done it. The problem with the application is that it assumes the procedures and steps in foreign countries are the same as Taiwan. Other friends from America told me they were posting documents to so many departments and to so many people that it was like planning the D-Day landings just to keep on top of things.
One thing is for certain, start early because things might not go to plan. You should also register everything you post. I worked in a mail sorting center and I can tell you this from experience, it is not uncommon for packages, letters and documents to get ripped or destroyed or go simply missing. Register everything, even if it costs a small fortune.
However, there is one advantage to being in Taiwan for the process, the foreign medical is cheaper and only takes 7 days. Best of all, the documents will not require authentication.
3. Final Thoughts
Making a big change in life can either feel like it is weighing down hard on your, or you don’t feel it at all. I was kind of in between. I knew it was a big change, but I also knew I wanted it. I think it is easier to to feel weighed down totally or have no weight on your mind than being conflicted about how you should feel.
Once I arrived in Taiwan, I didn’t receive my stipend until 1 month after I arrived. They will not give you the scholarship money until you have gotten your ARC, though they are nice enough to pay the tuition in the mean time. Supporting myself for that time wasn’t a problem, I had worked for the Summer and I had enough money to enjoy a few drinks and adventures in the mean time. When the money came through, I had a budget of $20,000 NTD a month or just shy of €600.
It is enough money to have rent and not starve, but not a whole lot else. If your laptop breaks, good luck. If your professor wants you to buy an expensive book because it is not available in the library, good luck and if you want to have national health insurance, you have to pay for it yourself. So, while you might have a heavy load taken off you by having the scholarship, you do need something else to supplement your income because the scholarship will not help you with a lot of things.
While some students take to tutoring and teaching illegally, my own anxiety wouldn’t allow me to do that. Instead, I found legal work with a work permit and I am currently proofreading at a marketing company in Taipei. It is the reason I live comfortably, because the scholarship will cover the basics, but nothing else, and unless they offer your airfare, good luck.
Taiwan itself is a lot different that China was for me. The rhythm of life here is slower and that is a good thing. Life in Beijing moved so fast people forgot there were other people around them.