Survey sheds light on international student issues

Students must feel “understood and respected” before they can integrate, said the director of migrant services at the Garden of Hope Foundation.

  • By Yang Yuan-ting and Jason Pan / Staff Reporters

The number of foreign students in Taiwan is increasing, but half of those enrolled in degree programs do not want to stay in Taiwan after graduation, the Garden of Hope Foundation said in presenting the results of a survey of 100 foreign students.

Those who don’t want to stay said they face a language barrier, they don’t know Taiwan’s work culture, and Taiwanese companies often don’t know about hiring foreigners. said the foundation.

The government should ease requirements to ensure talented foreigners can start their careers in Taiwan and the nation can benefit, he added.

Photo: ANC

Enrollment data showed that Taiwanese universities have become more attractive to foreign applicants, with the number of foreign students rising from 51,741 in 2016 to 65,383 last year, said Kaili Lee (李凱莉), director of the division. foundation’s migrant services.

The increase over the past five years came despite a drop in enrollment in 2020 due to border restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee said.

The government’s “open door” policy, which includes providing scholarships, and the schools’ increased international recruitment efforts are driving the trend, Lee said.

Some foreign students might also choose Taiwan because they think the country’s aging population might mean labor shortages lead to more attractive labor market conditions for skilled workers, Lee said.

Last year, the top four places of origin for foreigners starting post-secondary programs in Taiwan were Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong, she said.

Lee said 50% of respondents in the survey said they wanted to seek employment in Taiwan after graduating, while 50% said they did not want to stay.

Those who don’t want to stay said they were afraid of facing problems in a professional Chinese-speaking environment, Lee said.

Some interviewees also cited problems integrating into Taiwanese society, a “difficult” work culture, low wages and employment restrictions for foreigners, she said.

The foundation held a workshop yesterday for students from Southeast Asia on the theme “A Safe Journey to Dynamic Integration: A Prosperous Future”. The event at Huashan 1914 Creative Park also brought together scholars.

Director of National Chengchi University’s International College of Innovation Tu Wen-ling (杜文苓) said two-thirds of students in the college’s international academic programs are foreigners.

“At our middle school, Taiwanese and foreigners learn together. It helps our foreign students learn about Taiwan,” Tu said, calling the college a “center for multicultural interaction.”

Foundation CEO Wang Yue-hao (王玥好) praised the government’s policy to attract foreign students, but said students should additionally feel “understood and respected by Taiwanese society” before to be able to integrate.

According to Wang, there are two main groups of foreign students: those who can converse in Chinese and those who mainly converse in English with their classmates and in their daily lives.

Some students in the latter group feel stressed when conversing, Wang said.

Foreign students also reported difficulties with classes and financial problems, Wang said.

Lee said 60% of respondents said they ask other students for help when they run into problems.

Some are also asking for help from compatriots they knew before settling in Taiwan, she said.

Many respondents say their schools should offer more courses designed for international students, including courses taught in English, Lee said.

Many of them would also like more help from their schools with internships, including contacts at local businesses, she said.

“It would pave the way for a job in Taiwan,” Lee said.

Those willing to stay after graduation mostly say salaries in Taiwan are higher than in their home country, Lee said.

The results also indicate that students who are fluent in Chinese see more employment opportunities for themselves in Taiwan, while most of those seeking an English-speaking work environment see employment in Taiwan as a stepping stone to a job elsewhere, she said.

Many of those who don’t want to stay acknowledge that the country has good welfare programs, good working conditions and friendly people, “but there is a limited understanding of foreigners”, which diminishes their chances in the market. labor, Lee said.

The foundation is getting more and more reports of international students who say they are underpaid in their part-time jobs, as well as reports of sexual harassment, Lee said.

“Due to language and cultural barriers, international students are often reluctant to report such incidents, and those who do report them often do so too late for authorities to address the issues,” she said.

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Robert M. Larson