Students Looking Southward
Finding New Opportunities in ASEAN
Southeast Asia has rarely been considered by Taiwanese students as a place to get a degree or learn a skill, but many of them are finding out that studying there can open a wealth of opportunities and contacts. Three of them tell CommonWealth about their experiences.
Finding New Opportunities in ASEANBy Stacy Chang and Monique Hou
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 605 )
Tsai Yi-ting (25)
Easy to Find Work after Graduating
When I was a student in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering at National Taiwan Ocean University, I would travel abroad with my classmates during summer and winter vacations, spending as little as possible. I’m not a big fan of white society, and prices in Southeast Asia are very low, so we always went to Southeast Asia.
I had been to Thailand at least 10 times, and I liked it a lot. So I decided to enroll in the English MBA program at Assumption University. Tuition for two years was 400,000 baht.
After graduating, there were many job opportunities.
When I was still studying in night school here, I worked during the day at a company that makes components for petrochemical pipelines and was responsible for handling communications with Chinese customers and translating specifications.
The pay was 27,000 baht a month, which wasn’t bad. My teachers were from India, Thailand, Africa, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, and my classmates also hailed from around the world. It was very easy to make friends with people from different places.
The biggest difference between universities here and those in Taiwan is that students here really respect their teachers and formally greet their teachers when they see them. Discipline in Taiwanese classrooms is getting worse, and cutting class is normal. In Taiwan, students wear shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops to class, while in Thailand, we have to wear shirts with collars, long pants and dress or casual shoes.
When it comes to appearance, there’s no need to put pressure on the Thais because they care a lot about what they wear and how they look. They are always well-dressed from head to toe, and their clothes are all ironed.
I really encourage Taiwan’s university students to do like me and head to Southeast Asia to study. Many schools have classes in English or Chinese.
Taiwanese companies see everybody as pretty much the same. But companies here, when they see your value, they are willing to give you opportunities for promotion. You can make 40,000 a month after two or three years. I have a friend from China who works for a French company here. In less than a year, his salary had gone from 25,000 baht a month to 45,000 baht a month, and with sales bonuses, it ended up being more than 60,000 baht.
When Thais finish what they’ve been assigned, they generally don’t take the initiative to find something else to do, and they usually head home punctually when the work day ends. Chinese sometimes dump companies and do whatever they can to get the greatest benefit for themselves. Relatively speaking, Taiwanese are harder working, and they tend to follow the rules, take responsibility, show initiative and act with the company’s interests in mind, so of course bosses will treat them well.
Frank Zhao (21)
Studying the Language in Thailand
Before this experience, I had never been to Thailand. I came to study Thai because I saw a discussion online saying that foreigners who came here to work were making a minimum of 45,000 baht a month. [Editor’s note: If a Thai enterprise wants to hire a foreign national, it has to pay a minimum salary based on government-designated tiers for different nationalities. Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore are all in the second tier, with a minimum monthly salary of 45,000 baht.
My parents initially wondered why I wanted to go to such a backward country, but they didn’t stop me. I used my summer vacation to come to Bangkok and attend a language school. I attended class 20 days a month, and it cost 7,000 baht.
After graduating from university, I intend to directly look for work here.
Leah Lee (23)
Studying, Traveling and Making Money
I went to Thailand for the first time with my mother when I was in my senior year of high school. I thought it would be a desert, but I absolutely fell in love with modern Bangkok. After that, I wanted to “go back” every year.
When I reached my senior year at college, I decided to take time off to get away from the campus and give myself two years to let myself go. I first worked in Taiwan in digital marketing and advertising to make money to pay for a trip to study in Thailand.
I was accepted into Assumption College’s Department of Business English. But once I got started, I wasn’t able to take electives in marketing that I was interested in, so aside from studying, I started hanging out around Thailand. I met many people involved in digital marketing and media advertising, and it really opened my eyes. Many Western friends who set up businesses in Thailand were actually traveling here while still doing their own business.
I took internet cases from Taiwanese clients with me to Thailand to work on to pay for my travel. I also helped Chinese friends plan travel itineraries, making money as a travel planner.
Thai companies pay pretty well. For somebody with experience, a digital marketing position at a big Thai company pays a starting salary of about NT$40,000 to NT$50,000 a month. And you can quickly get a raise, and a big one at that, and there are plenty of opportunities for promotion.
In the future, I think I want to use the new ideas I’ve learned in Taiwan and Thailand to start a business in Europe.
Translated from the Chinese by Luke Sabatier