留學風向球

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1995 / 4月

文‧滕淑芬 圖‧林盟山


「來來來,來台大;去去去,去美國。」一提到留學,多少年來,大多數台灣學生的第一個選擇,都是到美國取經。

到美國留學仍是台灣學生的「最愛」,不過,值得注意的是,從一九九二年開始,到美國的台灣留學生人數就一路滑落。留學趨勢難道已經悄悄改變了?現在吹的又是什麼風?


台大化學研究所畢業的魏國晉,年初申請了幾所美國學校,準備秋季去攻讀博士學位。就有同學對他說,「怎麼現在還敢出去念書啊?」

「高學歷,高失業率」現象在媒體上的熱烈討論,並沒有嚇阻他的出國決心。「想太多,很多事情就不敢做,現在就考慮出路,也沒有什麼用」,他說。不過,他將攻讀生化中的醣類研究,國內相關領域還在起步階段,他覺得自己的未來應該還是有發展的。

兵家必爭的市場

出國留學幾乎是許多台灣高等教育學子奉守的傳統,不留洋一趟,人生好像有所缺憾。放眼國內官場、學界檯面上的人物,少有人不頂著鍍金學位。向來,洋學位在國內代表的意義是——光宗耀祖和更上一層樓。

只不過,才幾年的工夫,生態環境就大為改觀。

近兩年,回國的留學生驟然增加,一九八一年以前每年回來只有數百人,一九九○年增加到二千八百多人,去年更高達六千五百人,造成高學歷就業市場的供需失調。有經濟學者指出,高級人力的過剩,可能只是短暫的現象。這個話題,雖然讓一些人放慢了腳步,但堅守留洋傳統的還是大有人在。

今年三月,中央圖書館、台北國際會議中心分別有留學展,不少學校都派了代表前來面談學生。會場上,但見人頭鑽動,人人蒐集各國留學資訊。一時要打破留學傳統,談何容易,轉變也許只在於,留學地不再以美國為唯一目標。

由美國在台協會所核發的學生簽證數看來,一九九二年,到美國留學的台灣學生人數達到最高峰,有一萬三千多人,之後開始慢慢減少,到去年減至九千七百多人。

三年來,美國減少的四千多人,是不是都轉移到其他國家呢?

五、六年前,英澳紐等英語系國家,陸續開始在國內大規模促銷他們的高等教育學府。幾個西方國家景氣不佳,看中台灣學生的荷包,遂大開留學之門,台灣留學生市場儼然成為各西方國家的必爭之地。

成長率最明顯的留學國正是英國。

一九九二年到英國留學的台灣學生約二千人,去年增加到三千九百多人。

今年將從政大新聞系畢業的陳育琪,就準備到英國念公共關係。為什麼去英國?「因為去美國的台灣學生太多了」,而她要去的英國是晚上除了上酒館小酌、什麼娛樂都沒有的環境,對喝酒沒多大興趣的她來說,這樣刻苦的生活,努力一年就可以念完碩士學位,正符合她的需求。

就以碩士學位修業時間相比,一般而言,美國要兩年時間,英國只需一年。再加上英鎊的貶值,一年學費約需台幣三十萬,花費比到美國留學低。不少到英國留學的學生也非常嚮往歐洲豐富的藝術文化,但常苦於不通法、德、或西班牙語,才選擇英國。臨近歐洲的大不列顛,在時間、經濟、和語文三方的考量下,也就異軍突起。

四面八方留學風

同樣是英語系國家的紐澳加,也賣力地吸引台灣學生,但成績就不如英國。

以澳洲來說,一九九二年到澳洲留學的台灣學生,有一千五百多人,增加到去年為二千一百多人。雖然有百分之廿七的成長率,「但不少人是當作移民之路」,澳洲教育中心主任袁倫天不諱言地說。

甚至他還有點感傷地指出,促銷澳洲學制的困難處在於,澳洲是台灣學生除了英美之外的「第二個選擇」,有時候是因為他們申請美國簽證被拒絕才去澳洲的。

數字無法看出台灣學生到澳洲念語文、大學、碩士或博士的比例,根據袁倫天的觀察,「以念大學的居多」,尤其不少專科生是到澳洲念大學。到澳洲留學,兼帶移民考量的心態,可能也同樣發生在屬於台灣移民主力國的紐西蘭、加拿大身上。

不論拿學位、或念語文,出國留學現在當然不是難事。但要考慮的層面,可能也不像以往只要走幾趟位於台北市南海路的學術交流基金會就可知曉。

現在出去留學的人,「面臨的衝突比回來的人大」,學術交流基金會管理發展中心主任陳甫彥強調,問題不在於到美國留學的人數會不會繼續往下降,英國是不是向上升;而是「四面八方吹來的留學風」,吹得讓不少人不知所措。

第一步怎麼踏出?

往好的方面看,留學走向多元化,選擇多;從另一個角度看,「踏出留學的第一步就有很多問題」,陳甫彥說,在這樣選擇混亂的時代,如果方向不太確定,不免有去哪個國家、念哪個學校比較好的困惑。

英國教育中心主任李祿也發現台灣學生有類似的問題,有時他會碰見台灣學生一進來諮詢顧問意見,就直接問,「告訴我申請哪個學校比較好?」

這樣的困擾有層次差別,念博士學位者通常是心意已決、心態成熟。

因為念博士學位,不論去哪個國家,取得學位起碼五年以上。沒有興趣的原動力支撐,怎麼熬得下一盞孤燈苦讀的日子?對想取得博士學位者來說,他們的考量不外是,如何在經濟上沒有後顧之憂。

準備到美國念博士的魏國晉就說,哪個學校給他獎學金,他就去哪裡。

東吳社會研究所的王岸,之所以不選擇人人都去的美國,轉而到社會學思潮的啟蒙地——德國,經濟因素也佔很大比重。

說到圓社會學博士的夢,他也不禁感嘆,時不我予。念大學時,老師都對他們說,念完博士不可能找不到工作的,「只要悶頭下去,報酬是相對的」。

但即使大勢有變化,他仍然篤定要出國念書。美國和德國學制比較之下,德國高等教育不需要學費,和美國州立大學學費年年調漲,他覺得「美國是用金錢換得學位,德國則是用青春換學位」。雖然不少人建議他,去美國,第二年可以申請獎學金,但是他覺得到時再「拚命找獎學金」的想法非常不實際,萬一沒有呢?所以他寧願先花時間把德語學好。

念什麼熱門?

準博士對要念什麼比較沒有困擾,但是對佔留學生人數最多的「未來碩士」而言,第一個決定就得多費心思。根據統計,到美國的留學生有一半人數都改念其他科系。

尤其原來在國內念人文、物理學科者,百分之五十都轉念管理或電腦。這些人是不是因為考慮出路,才有此轉變呢?

保守估計,到美國的台灣學生百分之六十以上想取得碩士學位;英國教育中心統計去年四月到今年二月的人數也顯示,有百分之四十七的台灣學生要念碩士。

選擇碩士這條路,所需時間一至二年,大多數人也許比較沒有經濟上的顧慮,但這個階層的競爭也最為激烈。

行政院主計處不久前公佈了高學歷勞動力的研究結果,顯示若以教育程度來分,一九九○年以前失業率最高者都以高職者居冠,但從一九九一年開始,其中有三年,轉為研究所以上者失業率居首。

主計處並指出,在供過於求的情況下,研究所以上的就業者已經逐漸搶奪大專畢業者的就業市場。

看到這些現象,準留學生不免得思考,到底念什麼科系比較有出路?有沒有所謂的熱門、所謂的趨勢呢?

拿這個問題詢問留學代辦業者,和各國教育中心,他們的回答都以出國學生中最多人念的科系為依據。因此,答案相當近似。

學術交流基金會調查前年赴美留學的學生背景,顯示有百分之三十念管理。若列入性別因素,更發現到美國的女學生有百分之五十六讀管理,其次為社會科學;而男學生仍以念工科居多,其次為管理、電腦。

到英國念碩士學位的也和美國一樣,以申請企業管理居多,其次為大眾傳播、藝術設計、會計等科系。

以不管大學念什麼科系都有申請資格的企管所來說,也有媒體報導指出,「企管碩士失寵」,因為土產加洋產的大量企管碩士,使得企管人才已經是「買方市場」。

儘管企管碩士不再吃香,但不少學者仍然相信,管理人才是未來國內需要的人力。

中央大學人力資源管理研究所所長黃同圳認為,以成長率來看,國內產業以資訊業成長最快,而我們一直在談論的產業升級,極需要專業人才,因為透過管理提升效率是必然趨勢,所以工科和管理人才都會有出路。而人才流向中小企業,也是一個好現象。

需要注意的只是,企管是通才而不是專才,沒有實際工作經驗,如果還抱持著剛取得學位就想擁有高薪、高職的心態,大概就太不切實際了。

一家電腦公司董事長的特別助理就坦承,在他之前的三個人每位都是企管碩士,都因實務經驗不足、自覺無法勝任而離職。

博士也可以賣燒餅

至於博士人才,大家都知道,學術界已經飽和,勢必要由實務界吸納。黃同圳指出,諸如醫學工程、生物科技、管理等領域的博士人才,只要不排斥進入實務界,都會有機會。

事實上,情勢的轉變已經讓很多博士不再執著非當教授不可。

在法國巴黎十年,取得哲學博士的賴小姐,去年回國在報社任編譯。談到為什麼念一個這麼冷門的科系,賴小姐輕鬆地說,「念博士是因為想留在巴黎」。當她在巴黎三年取得碩士學位後,覺得還沒有看夠巴黎、對法文的掌握也還不夠精練,所以就決定念博士。

念博士的決定並沒有帶給她太大的心理壓力,因為她早知道念人文科學不容易找到飯碗,所以「不會靠學位來工作」。對她而言,這個學位的價值在,「讓我有機會待在巴黎十年,也跨進了學術研究的殿堂」。

喜歡學術研究的王岸,在踏出留學步伐前,就對學術界「一位難求」的警訊有了各種因應措施。

根據他蒐集留德同學的經驗,中德貿易正開展,遇有台灣廠商到德國開商展時,非常需要會德語和中文的人,做為溝通橋樑。如果這個打工的機會,讓他「跑商展跑出興趣」,他也可以從商。

第一條路若行不通,還有第二方案,他說眼光放遠一點,其實還是回到中國的一句老話「萬貫家產,不如薄技在身」。看到賣傳統燒餅的準岳父,從大清早忙到中午,不得一刻休息,買餅的人潮卻未斷過。他決定在出國前,跟著準岳父學得這門燒餅技術。日後若是真的找不到工作,那麼還可以早上賣餅,下午到學校兼一、兩門課。學位嘛,就「擺在抽屜裡,有機會就發揮」,王岸說。

未來的天空

如果博士都不覺得出賣勞力有何不妥,那麼碩士的天空應該更寬廣。

「幾乎沒有人可以告訴你趨勢在哪」,黃同圳強調,研究所課程應該訓練解決問題的能力,這比學得專、讀更多的書還有用。他建議準碩士要有廣泛的興趣,那麼即使大環境有所改變,也能夠隨時接受挑戰。

「趨勢可以想,但不用擔心太多,因為我們畢竟是關起門來想」,學術交流基金會陳甫彥以他所瞭解的大眾傳播未來發展表示,「不搞多媒體不行」。這個領域就不附屬在任何一個科系下,而是需要整合傳播、電腦、美術設計三方的課程。多媒體也正符合要廣泛修課的說法。

其實,要不要出國一趟,要念什麼,陳甫彥認為這個談了十幾年的老話題,還是要回歸到最基本的要素:個人興趣、價值觀、能力和能掌握的機會。

也有人說,念書不重要,只要增廣見聞就好。陳甫彥說,那就要想清楚,要不要花那麼多錢去增廣見聞?還是因為自助旅行不好聽,遊學、念語文比較好聽?那麼,值不值得花那麼多錢去念語文學校?難道國內沒有好的語文訓練?或者只是要強迫自己進入當地的語文環境?

這麼多的問題,其實他要說的是,「有很多理由,我們並沒有找到基礎動力」,花台幣一、兩百萬出國去,要自己高興,否則會很不平衡。

面對眾多選擇,在這樣一個混沌的時代,除了自己,誰又能有一支仙女棒,一點,未來就大放光明呢?

〔圖片說明〕

P.38

要不要出國留學?洋學位會帶給我更光明的前途嗎?

P.39

看到這麼多國家向台灣學生招手,蒐集留學資訊之餘,也需想想未來的生涯規劃。(張良綱攝)

P.40

留學美國之前,許多人不可避免得走一趟補習街。

P.41

看中台灣荷包的各西方國家高等學府,不遠千里而來,在台北舉行說明會,研究所、大學,或是語文學校,一應俱全。

P.42

沈浸在古老的建築、濃郁的歷史書香中,英國大學成為台灣學子的第二最愛。圖為英國劍橋大學的三一學院。(張良綱攝)

P.43

歐洲的人文氣質,吸引著社會、人文科學者的目光。國內政壇不少人物都曾來德國取經。圖為德國科隆大學。(鄭元慶攝)

P.44

(上)嘉義的中正大學經評鑑,在師生比、學生所享校地面積、博士學位教師比例等項都居首。國內研究所的水準,其實並不輸國外;而在國內念書的另一好處是,人脈未斷,就業資訊較能掌握。(卜華志攝)

P.44

(下)工科人才仍是台灣未來亟需的人力資源。(卜華志攝)

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EN

Changing Fashions in Foreign Study

Teng Sue-feng /photos courtesy of Lin Meng-san /tr. by Jonathan Barnard

"Come one, come all, come to Taiwan University; Go one, go all, go to America." Mention foreign study and you can't help but mention America, the perennial favorite among students from Taiwan going abroad.

While America still leads the pack, it's worth noting that the number of Taiwanese traveling to its shores has been falling since 1992. Are foreign study trends changing? Which ways are the winds of education blowing now?


Wei Kuo-chin, with a master's from Taiwan University in Chemistry, applied to a number of American universities at the beginning of this year, planning to start in a doctoral program this fall. His decision made classmates gasp, "Even today you still dare to go abroad to study!"

The high rate of unemployment among people with advanced degrees has been a hot topic in the media, but it didn't scare him away from his plans. "If you think too much, there's too much that you'll never dare do," he says. "And if you spend your time now carefully mapping out a future, it won't be of any use anyway." Still, to get his PhD in biochemistry he plans to study carbohydrates. Since that field is just getting off the ground in Taiwan, he feels it offers more room for career growth.

A competitive market

The fact is that among highly educated Taiwanese there is a long tradition of going abroad to study. It's almost as if they feel that life will lack something without at least one foreign study trip. Few academics and major government officials don't have foreign degrees, which have traditionally been seen to bring glory upon one's forebears and to represent status and achievement of a higher level.

But in a few years things have greatly changed. Over the last two years, the number of students returning from study abroad has suddenly leaped. Before 1981, only a couple of hundred were coming back a year; in 1990 the figure reached 2800; and last year it surpassed 6500, resulting in an imbalance between supply and demand in the job market for the highly educated. Yet economists conjecture that the overabundance may prove to be a short-lived phenomenon. While the imbalance may have caused some to slow their steps, great numbers of Taiwan's students are still heading to foreign lands.

In March the National Central Library and the Taipei International Convention Center each separately held foreign study fairs, and numerous educational institutions sent representatives to talk with students face to face. The fairs drew throngs of students collecting information about studying in various countries. Clearly, there is not going to be a sudden break with the tradition of studying abroad. Perhaps the only change is that America is no longer the only choice.

In the peak year of 1992 the American Institute in Taiwan granted 13,000 student visas to Taiwanese. The figure has been falling ever since, down to 9700 last year.

In three years America has attracted 4000 less students. Are they all going to other countries?

Five or six years ago, such English-speaking countries as Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand started in a big way to promote their institutions of higher education to Taiwanese. With their economies slumping, these countries have noted the spending power of students from Taiwan and have opened wide their educational doors. Taiwanese students are being hotly fought over by various Western Countries.

Britain is the country with the most obvious increase. In 1992, less than 2000 Taiwanese students were going to Britain a year; by last year their numbers had risen to 3900.

Chen Yu-chi, who will graduate from Chengchih University's journalism department this year, is preparing to go to Britain to study public relations. Why Britain? "Because there are too many Taiwanese studying in the United States." Furthermore, Britain doesn't have much nightlife outside of pubs, and she doesn't have much interest in drinking anyway. Without distractions, she'll be able to bear down and get her master's in a year. The choice exactly suits her requirements.

Generally speaking, getting a master's takes two years in America but only one in Britain. Then there's the favorable exchange rate. One year's tuition only costs about NT$300,000, cheaper than in the States. And quite a few students from Taiwan who long for the abundant artistic culture of Europe, choose Britain because they can't speak French, German or Spanish. With the continent nearby, and with high marks for length of study, cost, and language, the dark horse of Great Britain has become a front runner.

Scattered to the winds

Other English-speaking countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada, have also been sparing no effort to attract students from Taiwan, but they're not meeting with the same success.

Take Australia. In 1992 students from Taiwan making their way there totalled 1500, rising to 2100 last year, an increase of 27 percent. Yet "many are using study as the first step to immigration," admits Alan Yuan, director of Australia's International Development Program in Taiwan.

Lamenting that Australia is often only a "second choice" to America and Britain, he notes that some students don't go to Australia until they've been refused a visa by the United States.

There are no breakdowns to show the numbers going for language study as opposed to an undergraduate, master's or doctoral degree, but Yuan has observed that most are going to enroll in undergraduate programs. In particular, many students at technical junior colleges go to Australia for a university degree, and in deciding to go they usually consider the question of immigration. This may happen as well in other major targets for Taiwanese emigration, such as New Zealand and Canada.

Whether for a degree or just to take a language course, going abroad to study is no longer a great feat to pull off. Yet there are more considerations involved than in the old days, when the process just entailed a few trips to the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange.

"Those leaving now have more inner turmoil than those coming back," stresses Chen Pu-yan, director of management development at the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange. It isn't a matter of America's losing students to Great Britain, but rather that "Taiwan's students are scattering in every which direction," so that many don't know what to do.

Taking the firet step

To look on the bright side, you could say that students, given a greater selection, are choosing a diversity of destinations. But from another angle, you could describe "the first step toward studying abroad as becoming fraught with peril," says Chen Pu-yen. The baffling array of choices may make it hard to choose a country and school.

Roo Reid, director of Taipei's Anglo-Taiwan Education Center (ATEC), has noticed this sort of problem. Sometimes he'll come across a student who asks straight-out his first time in, "Which school should I apply to?"

It's more or less of a problem depending on educational level. Those going for their doctorates are usually more mature and clearer about what they want.

Wherever they're studying, a doctorate will take upwards of five years to obtain. Without genuine interest in their studies, doctoral students could never bear the long, lonely days bent over their books. For those aiming to get a doctorate abroad, the concern is always financial support.

Wei Kuo-chin, who is applying to doctoral programs in the United States, says that he'll go where he can get a scholarship.

Wang An, a sociology department graduate student at Soochow University, says economic factors also played a big part in his decision not to take the well-trod path to America but instead go to Germany, the birthplace of sociology.

Mention of his dream to obtain a doctorate in sociology makes him sigh. "Time waits for no man," he says. When he was an undergraduate, his teachers would say that PhDs would never have problems finding work. "Bear down with your studies and the rewards will be there," they said.

But even now that jobs for sociology doctorates have dried up, he is still determined to go abroad and study. German universities, unlike their American counterparts, charge no tuition, and state universities in America keep raising tuition year after year. He feels that the difference is between paying with money in America or with one's youth in Germany. Although many people suggested that he go to an American university and apply for a scholarship in his second year, he felt that relying on hard work to get himself a scholarship wasn't practical. What if he didn't get one? And so he decided to learn German instead, an investment of time instead of money.

What's hot?

Those preparing to get their doctorates know what they want to study, but for those leaving to get their master's--the single largest group of students going abroad--it's a decision that requires a lot of thought. Statistics suggest that half of those going to America don't study what they did as undergraduates.

For those who studied humanities or physical sciences in Taiwan, more than half switch to studying business administration or computers. Is the change of heart due to practical considerations?

By conservative estimates, 60 percent of all students going to America go for their masters'. And 47 percent of students polled by ATEC from last April to this January revealed plans to get a master's degree.

After all, a master's only requires a year or two, which represents much less of an economic burden. But the competition is also fiercest at this level.

The Executive Yuan's Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics recently released work-force figures that break down based on educational level. Before 1990 the graduates of vocational high schools had the highest rate of unemployment. But in 1991 those with graduate degrees took over the lead, which they've held for three of the four years since.

The directorate points out that when supply exceeds demand, those with graduate degrees start sinking to the undergraduate-degree labor market.

Seeing these trends, students going abroad can't help wondering which fields will offer the best career prospects. What fields are hot? Do trends show what makes most sense to study?

We took these questions and asked overseas study agents and the educational centers of various countries, and they responded by describing what fields students are choosing. Their answers were very similar.

The Foundation for Scholarly Exchange conducted a survey of students going to study in the United States the year before last, which revealed that 30 percent of them, and a whopping 56 percent of the women among them, were entering MBA programs, which accept applicants regardless of their undergraduate majors. Social sciences were the women's second favorite area of study. For the men, engineering topped the list, followed by business administration and computers.

And among those going to Britain too, MBA programs take the lion's share, followed by such fields as mass communications, art and design, and accounting.

Yet the growing numbers of MBAs earned abroad combined with those taken in Taiwan have been eliciting headlines like "MBAs fall from favor." It's a buyer's job market.

Still, many scholars predict that MBAs will once again become highly prized.

Huang Tung-chun, the director of the Institute of Human Resources at National Central University, says that the information industry is growing fastest in Taiwan. To accomplish much-discussed industrial upgrading, great numbers of professionals will be required, including MBAs, whose administrative skills will be needed to raise efficiency. Without a doubt, they and engineers will both have bright futures. He also sees the flow of personnel to small and medium-sized firms as a good development.

Most MBAs, it must be noted, are generalists lacking practical work experience. It isn't realistic for them to hold onto the old expectations of getting a high salary and high position right after earning their degrees.

The special assistant to the president of a computer company frankly states that the three people in the job before him all had MBAs, but with insufficient practical experience, they all felt unqualified and quit.

PhDs selling sesame seed cakes

The sated demand for doctorates in the academic world, which has forced PhDs to turn to industry, is well known. Yet Huang Tung-chun notes that those with doctorates in such fields as medical administration, medical engineering and biotechnology will have opportunities as long as they don't scorn offers from industry.

The fact is that these changes have already weakened many PhDs' resolve to become professors at all costs.

A Miss Lai, who spent 10 years in Paris getting her doctorate in philosophy, came back last year and began working as a writer for a newspaper. When asked why she studied a field as unpopular as philosophy, she says, "I studied for my doctorate because I wanted to stay in Paris." After she had been in Paris for three years and earned her MA, she felt that she had neither had enough of the city nor attained a satisfactory command of the French language, and so she decided to go for a doctorate.

Since she has long known that advanced study in the humanities is not a road to riches. her decision to get a PhD didn't impose much psychological pressure on her, and later she didn't even end up looking for a job that made use of her degree. As far as she's concerned, her doctorate's value was in "giving me the opportunity to stay in Paris for 10 years and enjoy the sanctuary of academia."

Wang An, who likes academic research and has heard the dire warnings about the highly educated unemployed, has given himself several options. He's learned from others who have studied in Germany that Taiwan-German trade is taking off. Taiwanese firms going to Germany for trade fairs are in desperate need of workers who can speak German and Chinese. If this chance to work turns his interest to trade fairs, he could even change fields.

And so if his first plan doesn't work out, he still has an alternative. Thinking long term, he says that an old Chinese expression puts it best: "Having a skill is better than 10,000 pieces of gold." He sees his future father-in-law, who sells fried sesame seed cake, working from early morning to noon; the unrelenting stream of customers gives him not a moment to spare. He has decided to ask the old man to teach him how to make them before he goes to Germany. If worse comes to worse, he can always sell sesame cakes in the morning and then teach a class or two in the afternoon. And his degree? "I'll just put it in a drawer, and use it if I get the chance."

The future

If PhDs see nothing wrong with doing physical labor, then those with masters' degrees should be prepared to descend even lower.

"No one can tell you what the future will bring," stresses Huang Tung-chun. Yet pursuing research should hone problem-solving skills, which are more valuable than mere book learning. Huang recommends that students go after their masters' to broaden their interests. In that way, they will be able to take on new challenges at a moment's notice, whatever changes the future brings.

"You can think about future trends, but don't fret over them too much, because you are probably just groping in the dark," says the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange's Chen Pu-yan. Regarding the future of mass communications, he says, "The move toward multi-media is inevitable." This realm isn't contained in any one discipline, but rather combines the three fields of mass communications, computers, and art and design. And studying multi-media also answers the call to broaden skills.

For more than a decade people have been asking whether they should go abroad, and what they should study if they do. To answer these questions, Chen says it's best to go back to the basics: personal interests, values, abilities, and opportunities.

Others say that the academic side isn't the be-all and end-all of a foreign study trip, that just broadening one's horizons is enough. Chen asks them to think long and hard: Do you really want to spend so much money doing it? Is it worth spending all that money on a language school abroad just because "taking a language course" or "traveling and studying" sounds better than just plain "traveling." Can it be that there aren't any good foreign-language courses in Taiwan? Or do you just want to force yourself to enter a native-speaking environment?

With these questions, what he really wants to say is this: "There are a lot of reasons for going abroad to study, but we haven't found the underlying motivation." How lousy you'll feel if you spend NT$1-2 million to go abroad and don't end up happy about the trip.

No one holds a magic wand that can put you on the right track with one tap. In this mixed-up age, you'll have to guide yourself.

[Picture Caption]

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Should I study abroad? Will a foreign degree brighten my future job prospects?

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Look how many countries are welcoming students from Taiwan! Besides collecting information about foreign study, think about future career plans too. (photo by Vincent Chang)

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Before going to America, many students can't avoid coming to Nanyang street, known for its Stanley Kaplan-style cram schools and language centers.

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With an eye on Taiwan's bulging wallets, institutions of higher education in various Western nations make the trek to Taiwan. Graduate and undergraduate education, as well as language study, are all for sale.

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Trinity College, Cambridge University. With their ancient architecture and air of history, British universities attract the second largest numbers of Taiwanese students. (photo by Vincent Chang)

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Germany's Cologne University. Europe's aura of high culture attracts people studying social sciences and humanities. Many players on Taiwan's political stage studied in Germany. (photo by Cheng Yuan-ching)

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(top) Among Taiwanese universities, National Chungcheng University in Chiayi leads in student-faculty ratio, square footage per student, and the percentage of instructors with doctorates. Graduate education in Taiwan does in fact match up to what is offered abroad. And since contacts won't be broken in leaving and returning, students have a head start on grabbing hold of job opportunities. (photo by Pu Hua-chih)

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(bottom) Engineers will still be in high demand in Taiwan's future. (photo by Pu Hua-chih)

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