The new semester

Seal of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, Republic of China.

Image via Wikipedia

This week marked the start of the fall semester in Taiwan.  Back at the books!  The 2 1/2 month summer vacation was nice, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also impossible to complete a task unless one first starts it.  Thus, starting back at school is good!

I’m really excited about the classes I have this semester.  I am in a new department at my university.  Last year I studied in the Institute of Political Science, but over the summer I transferred to the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies.  The course selections I had to choose from were far better this semester as compared to last.  I picked five courses:

  1. 20th Century American Foreign Policy
  2. American Foreign Policy (comprehensive, not scope-limited to a particular century)
  3. Studies in China’s Foreign Policy
  4. National Security and Crisis Management
  5. China and Southeast Asia

Two of the five are taught in Chinese, while three are in English.  Two (not the same two) are doctorate-level courses which I am now eligible to take, as a second year master’s student.  Nice!

Now that the first week of classes is done, I am performing the enjoyable task of ordering the books for the courses.  A year ago, I spent a considerable amount of time going to virtually every book store I could find in Kaohsiung to try to source the books I needed for my classes.  Unlike in America, the university bookstore here has a very low probability of having the required books.  I found exactly *one* text I needed at the university bookstore over the past 2 semesters, and a whopping one more at a local bookstore.  In the end, and despite the sometimes breathtakingly steep shipping costs, the only plausible way to get the majority of the books was online.  This semester, I am not even wasting my time looking at brick-and-mortar bookstores here in Taiwan; I know from past experience that the best way to go is just to bite the bullet and buy online.

Of course, the fastest and often cheapest way to obtain the books I need is in the e-book format.  I have a Kindle reading device and last semester was able to get a few of the books I needed on it.  This virtually instantaneously gives me access to the book I want and I don’t have to pay all the ridiculous shipping costs – win-win!  Unfortunately, even though Amazon is continuously adding more Kindle e-books to its selection, the majority of the books I need are not available to me on the Kindle. (For a review of my Kindle experiences written about a year ago, see here.  I’m a fan.)

I like books and reading, so it is fun to shop around at various sites to see where I can get the best deal.  It is even more fun when the big boxes of books arrive in the mail – like Christmas!  Looking forward to lots of good readings this semester…

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