Wed, Dec 24, 2008 - Page 2 News List

British Council in Taipei provides a bridge for students

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

“Work hard, play hard” is not just a popular catchphrase lazy college freshmen use to ditch Organic Chemistry 101, but sincere advice for anyone who wishes to maximize his or her experience studying in the UK.

“Taiwanese students are already incredibly hardworking. But there needs to be some sort of a work-life balance. The UK is a fantastic country to get to know and it would be a great pity if you did not explore the country while you are there,” said Christine Skinner, the director of the British Council in Taipei.

Touting her homeland as the perfect mixture of tradition and cutting-edge technology, Skinner said Taiwanese students should go to the UK with the intention of “getting to know the British people and enjoy the culture.”

Taiwanese students who participated in homestay programs have built life-long ties with their British families, she said, and fostering relations between Taiwan and the UK was the very purpose of the British Council in Taipei, she said.

Established in 1996, British Council Taipei offers a plethora of reference guides to education in the UK and detailed histories of major universities and language schools in the country.

Visitors are also welcome to use the center’s computers to do online research as they prepare to embark on their UK adventure, Skinner said.

On an appointment basis, people who prefer face-to-face consultation can also meet counselors who can offer advice on compatibility between students and educational institutions. Using state-of-the-art technology, the English classes taught at the center are designed to accommodate all ages, ranging from fun summer activities for children to formal business English classes for working professionals.

Skinner said the global economic downturn and the increasingly high cost of living in Europe had kept many Taiwanese students from heading to the UK in recent years.

Statistics from the visa section showed that enrollment in language schools had shrunk dramatically and the number of students seeking higher education in the UK had dropped 10 percent, she said.

Despite the drop, the UK still remains a strong second after the US as the most popular study destination among Taiwanese, with an average of 15,000 Taiwanese studying in the UK at any given time.

“People who study at the UK view it as an investment because they know an UK degree is very highly respected,” Skinner said.

While the top choice of subject for Taiwanese students in the UK is business management, what really sets Taiwanese students apart, Skinner said, is the high level of interest in arts and design programs.

“I think it’s because Taiwan is a very sophisticated place and there is a high awareness of the value placed on the creative industry and the arts. Taiwan also has a very strong network of art specialists in their universities such as the National Taiwan University of the Arts,” she said.

In line with its goal to create beneficial relations between Taiwan and the UK, the British Council also serves as a bridge connecting creative minds from both cultures, she said.

Many British artists, such as acclaimed sculptor Martyn Baratt, have also come to Taiwan to work with local artists as part of Taipei Artist village program.

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