Sebuah Pengalaman: Universitas Desa

I originally posted this on my old Weblog. It recounts an unpleasant experience I had when first looking for a job at a Taiwan university.

Several years ago, I was invited for an interview at a private school in Chang Hwa County. Chang Hwa is situated in the southern part of Taiwan. This area has many excellent schools, however, the school that contacted me is not particularly well known, either in Taiwan or even in that area. The president of the school is the son of the founder and owner. It is situated several stations past Chang Hwa City, and the school itself is a 20 minute taxi ride from the station. The residents of the area work mostly in agriculture or in supporting agricultural workers. This was the first time the school had hired foreign teachers.

I had to make my own way to the school. Once there, I was met by two Taiwanese English teachers. Both had studied TESOL in Britain and spoke excellent English. I was interviewed at length by one of them then taken on a tour of the school where I met several other teachers. I was never introduced to students. Finally, I met the president of the school who had a PhD from the USA and also spoke excellent English.

The school has until recently been a high school / 2-year technical college. That year, it had been promoted to university status by the Ministry of Education. Despite calling itself a university, students continued to wear uniforms, and class times were indicated with a bell. The feeling was much more like a high school than anything I would call a university.

During the interview with the first local teacher, I naturally asked questions about what hours I would have to teach. These were spelled out to me in detail. I was told that for the first two years, I would have to be at the school all the time. Following that, I could be absent when I was not teaching. The teaching load was 18 hours a week of classes with about 50 students each. I could decide on my own what I wanted to teach.
Following a less formal conversation with the Taiwanese teachers, I was left quite confused about what was going on. They informed me that the school would be able to sponsor me for a visa, and as a result, I would not have to leave the country to obtain tourist visas. This is widely done by illegal teachers working without a proper work permit, but I had been a legally sponsored teacher in Taiwan for years and had told them this. They seemed unaware that most foreign teachers, particularly well-qualified ones, do not have trouble working legally.
Before I returned home, they offered me a job, which I told them I would consider. By the time I returned home, it struck me that some of things they had said about working hours didn't match. For example, when I initially asked them what the working hours were, they had mentioned nothing about teaching at night. Later in our conversations, they had mentioned a night school, but in the excitement of the day, I had forgotten about this. When I arrived home, I phoned them to ask about this and why it had not been mentioned when I had asked about teaching hours. The answer the school gave me was quite abrupt; "Do you want the job or not?" The discussion was quite heated.
My interpretation of these events is that the school believed foreign teachers are mostly illegal vagrants and desperately need their help. That they can be hired them easily and got to do the work the local teachers find to be too much trouble.
After all of this, the school disappeared for 6 weeks, without contacting me even once about what was going on. I was sure that they had changed their mind about hiring me. Evidently they had different ideas about communication with candidates. Suddenly, out of nowhere, they contacted me asking for documents they needed for visa application. I never taught at that school.
I have heard other stories about private, rural universities that make this appear typical. The assumption is that you must want their job desperately and are willing to do anything to get it. It does not matter if they correctly tell you about the working conditions or communicate anything to you. The attitude is, as they put it to me, do you want the job or not?
My advice is that when dealing with rural schools who have no experience hiring foreign teachers, make sure you first find out everything. Ask every question you can think of. If the school has had foreign teachers before, talk to them. Find out everything you can about the job.