Chinese teachers in China tend to be kind, traditional and at times strict. The teachers stick to their curriculums and believe that by following certain steps and repeating them over students will be able to solidify their language studies.
In fact, having gone to various universities and Mandarin training schools in Beijing, the teachers really tend to follow the same set of rules and patterns for helping their students learn. I think that has to do with their training in general and if you think you will get some miraculous teacher at a program that costs 3-5 times the amount as others you may want to reconsider. The advantages of those programs, however, is that the teachers tend to baby-sit students and are always making sure their students are on top of things. This was particularly true for Ivy league students from the USA studying in Beijing, as some teachers or staff would even go to the students’ rooms and force them out in order to get them in the classroom. It sounds kinda crazy but it’s true, so if you are thinking of taking an advanced program it may be the path for you otherwise don’t worry.
It is best to be on time to class as it is with any teacher but in China the teachers are pretty relaxed about students coming in late (assuming you are not in a high intensive and strict program). That’s not to say you should take advantage of the situation, but know that if you have something going on and are late, and then you explain it to the teacher afterwards, most likely they are not going to take away any points or punish you etc. Most of the teachers in general are very aware that not all students come to Beijing to study diligently and tend to take the approach that you get what you want from the program.
That’s not to say they don’t manage the classroom well, however. The teachers are very dedicated to helping students and know their jobs are on the line if they do not perform well. There also seemed to be a sense of fear that if they were too strict students would still find a way to complain so the teachers tend to find balances between everything and push the students to be a bit more pro-active.
Compared with Taiwan, I think the languages programs in China are much better. Despite the repetitive more traditional-like nature of the teachers in China I actually think it is quite effective and they really stick to their belief in the teaching curriculums and follow similar patterns in teaching students writing, reading, listening and speaking. This was particularly true at the university I went to-Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). In Taiwan, however, the teachers do have set curriculums but tend to give into students’ various demands more easily, making it hard to find a standard for the classroom since the direction of the studies always seemed to be changing. This happened at National Chengchi University (NCCU) when I was there but I was told from students at other universities such as National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) and National Taiwan University (NTU) that teachers and curriculums were a bit more balanced. However, being in Taiwan to study traditional Chinese characters is a major plus as well but overall learning simplified is more useful now adays.
If you study Chinese in Beijing you will get very diverse classmates. Out of 20 people in my class, there were students from 15 different countries stretching across major continents all over the world. You get to learn a lot from your classmates as well and even tend to speak a lot of Chinese with them as there are many from South Korea, Mongolia and Russia that could care less about speaking English. They all had incredible stories to tell as well and come from diverse backgrounds, which includes being able to speak multiple languages.
In Taiwan, there are a lot of students who were afraid to take on the mainland first off so first settled to Taiwan. Or, the other half seemed to be people who went to the mainland and decided it was too much, causing them to move to Taiwan.
At NCCU, most of the students are from Russia and South America due scholarship and sister school arrangements the school has in those two areas. As for NTU and NTNU, expect to see a lot more Japanese, Southeast Asians and many native speakers of English.
I highly recommend not getting a dorm room in China unless it is a newly renovated one. When I arrived to China in February my dorm room didn’t have heat and I slept in my winter clothing for about a month before I bailed to get an apartment. Make sure to ask if your potential has heat, hot water, air conditioning and your own/shared bathroom. Also, it is very important to note that most dorm rooms allow smoking in them so if you are not a smoker this could be a big problem if your roommate is. You need to request a non-smoking roommate ahead of time.
In Taiwan, no such extremities exist but the rooms tend to be really worn down and wet due to the humidity and lack of renovation. Most people I knew living in them did not like it but did so to save money. Otherwise, outside rooms can be better but you should be ready to pay at least NT$7,500 and up.
In Taiwan you won’t get the Peiking opera/martial arts/Tai ji courses that you can get in China. If you are really into that then you definitely want to choose China. Taiwan for many reasons hasn’t preserved Chinese culture the way you find it across the Taiwan Strait but if you are looking for something as a warm-up for China then it may be the place to go.