NATIONAL CHENGCHI UNIVERSITY, TAIPEI — Walking toward campus, a few final hurdles to clear. I’m up early and I’ve got a breakfast routine down. There’s a few coffeeshops dotting the campus perimeter: Starbucks, Louisa Coffee, and a really good spot on campus that I can’t quite seem to get the name of. They’re all pretty fantastic, although I rarely order a coffee over here. Instead, I’m usually with a black tea latte (紅茶拿鐵) that oddly enough, translates to “red tea latte.” We’ll clarify that in some other post.
Breakfast and beverage in hand, it’s time for the campus gate and a quick date with the thermal scanners. I’ve talked about campus security measures against COVID-19 in a previous post, and suffice it to say that you will absolutely get yelled at if you carry coffee through one. Coffee? Hot. Much warmer than the human body. Buzzers are triggered, health officers are alarmed, and I learn a valuable lesson in how not to pass through a scanner. At least it’s not as bad as Arnold’s brush with thermal scanners.
Safely through campus security, it’s time for quick check of our campus systems. For most, logging on to a learning management system is pretty mundane. My experience is slightly different, given that my Mandarin Chinese skills are about on par with … well, they’re just not very good.
All said, necessity breeds learning. I’m on it.
As for the classes themselves? They’re going very, very well. Both classes take a very unstructured “discussion table” format. Our classroom is a long and narrow room, not too different from a conference room that you might find in a large organization (in my head, I see the conference tables from Hamlin, Hamlin, & McGill, only not as swank). Out of respect for my students’ privacy, I’ve chosen not to take pictures of the classroom. Just the one below.
Our lectures are in Da Yong Hall (大勇樓) — a four-story classroom that sits at in the foothills of the mountains, like most of the NCCU campus. Although the classroom itself is windowless, the hallways provide fantastic view of the green and quiet that surrounds us. For a college campus, it’s a fantastic setting.
For Spring 2020, I’m offering two courses (hyperlinks below redirect to course syllabi and readings, for those interested):
We’re only two weeks into semester and really, we’ve only had one real class day. So, some quick observations about our students at NCCU:
- The group is profoundly international, and in ways that I have never experienced before. Of two classes and ~40 total students, they hail from Taiwan (naturally), but also from Canada, France, Germany, Korea, Kuwait, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and the United States…and I am sure that I’m missing others. Without question, the International Master’s Program in International Communication Studies is an international one.
- The group has a diverse set of work experience. In class right now, I have teachers, translators, film producers, video game industry insiders, and researchers. I also have a few undergraduate students on one-semester exchanges, and even a few students from neighboring universities (including two from cross-town National Taiwan University).
- The group is chatty, and this is a good thing. I’ve chosen not to lecture from PowerPoints after getting some very positive feedback from my Texas Tech students about using a more open-ended discussion format. I was concerned that students would be shy (a stereotype in Taiwan, in particular) and this is simply not the case. They are an engaged and inquisitive bunch.
- We’re all ready to get past COVID-19. I had asked the students if they were worried about the virus or concerned about school. Mostly, it’s on their mind … but they’re also just ready for a routine. The novelty of a few extra days of vacation seems to have worn off pretty quickly.
- Our campus has a schoolbell, and it actually matters. For my classes, we run from 09:00 to 12:00. Except, not really. There’s a bell schedule that goes off as follows:
- 09:00. You should be walking in the door of your class now.
- 09:10. Okay, class starts.
- 10:00. Time to potty, or sprint over for a cuppa coffee (I’ve timed it. Six minutes. So long as you don’t break the COVID-19 security perimeter).
- 10:10. Back for class.
- 11:00. Break, again. But you just went to the bathroom less than an hour ago, so … maybe just sit awkwardly for a second while none of us leave the room, but I stop lecturing? Maybe go outside for a breath of fresh air.
- 11:10. Back for class. We’ll probably move to student Q&A sessions, because Dr. Bowman’s throat is getting a tiny bit sore.
- 12:00. PEACE!
Let’s see how our semester at “Zhèngdà / 政大” (a shorthand for the university) develops, but so far there’s quite a bit to look forward to. =)