My Time in NTNU: How My Master’s Journey Shaped Me

Marina Papadopoulou / MBA Candidate
Graduate Institute of International Human Resource Development

When I first applied for NTNU, I did it because I wanted to stay in Taiwan and improve my Chinese, but I did not know how it would change my life. Two years later, I am now a student at the Graduate Institute of International Human Resource Development (IHRD) at NTNU, almost ready to graduate. Trying to summarize my experience in NTNU in just a few hundred words seems like an impossible task, but I have always enjoyed challenges. I come from Belgium, but my family is Greek, so being in multicultural environments always felt natural to me. However, moving to Taiwan, on the other side of the globe, was a bigger challenge than I could have imagined.

The first year of my master’s degree was full of new experiences. I made new friends from around the world and lived life as a Taiwanese person, by spending the major holidays here, going to night markets, and singing my heart out at KTV. My schedule at school was heavy, I had a lot of courses with heavy workload, but in our department, the professors make teamwork a priority, so preparing different projects allowed me to get closer to my classmates. For the first time in my academic life, the most important thing while preparing projects and assignments was teamwork and creativity. The professors here encourage us to find creative ways to approach problems, and almost all (if not all) assignments and projects were done in groups, which allowed me and my classmates to learn how to work together while cultivating our friendships.

But studying in NTNU, in particular IHRD, is not just about academic work. Together with my classmates, we participated in the sports day, parading around and chanting a slogan that I came up with. A few weeks later, we were all on a bus with our professors, on our way to Yilan to make traditional scallion pancakes. Thinking back to those times feels me with warmth every time, and I cherish those memories. Being a student in NTNU has also allowed me to enrich my professional experiences, as students in our department are required to help prepare a conference every year. The first year, I was one of the helpers; the second year, I took on the responsibility of being one of the MCs of the conference. This experience was unique, it was the first time that I had ever been to a conference, let alone help prepare it. When I was the MC for the event, I saw how much preparation and teamwork a conference requires, and it opened my mind to new possibilities.

Choosing a university to do a master’s degree is no easy feat. I chose IHRD because of the English-taught courses, as I did not feel that my Chinese was good enough. I expected the material in English to be easy, but in reality, reading academic papers in any language is very challenging, and I can remember myself agonizing to read a single paper in half an hour. Now, almost two years later, I am amazed at my progress as I read countless papers to write my own thesis. The professors and the curriculum at IHRD gave me and my classmates the tools we will need to thrive in our academic and professional lives, something I am very grateful for.

NTNU offers its students so many different opportunities. For international students as myself, English might not be a challenge, but Chinese is a big difficulty that we must overcome. Thanks to NTNU, I was able to take Chinese courses as part of my curriculum, where I met students from different departments. I found the professors to be very professional and helpful, and thanks to them, I eventually took the TOCFL (Test of Chinese as a Second Language) exam and passed the level I was aiming for.

Another resource that NTNU provides is counseling for the students. I contemplated going to counseling many times, as I sometimes found myself in dark places mentally. Being a university student is very difficult, as it is often the first step that people take towards independence and adulthood. As a university student, you may have to leave your parents’ house and live on your own for the first time. Suddenly, the burden of feeding yourself, cleaning the house, and taking care of any problems that arise falls on your shoulders. In addition, young people tend to be very anxious about their future. “What will I do once I graduate?”, “Do I even like what I am studying?” These kinds of questions pop up in our heads and make us wonder about our future. Because of that, it is not uncommon for university students to develop anxiety issues, so having a counselor to help them navigate through their emotions is very important. In addition, international students as myself may feel homesick, and counselors can help us alleviate the pressure and loneliness that we feel.

My time in NTNU and Taiwan is coming to an end soon. I will finish my thesis soon, and when that is done, I will officially graduate. It feels surreal to think that I will not only leave NTNU, but Taiwan as well. After all these years, Taiwan has become a second home for me, where I have a new family, a new school, and new friends. I am beyond grateful for the way NTNU has made my time in Taiwan memorable and has shaped me as a person. The road to arrive where I am today was not always easy, but it was worth it. As I look on to the future, I know that a piece of me will always remain in Taiwan, and a piece of Taiwan will remain in me.