I am a research assistant (or a research associate in the UK), sometimes called a RA, just to be different from TA (teaching assistant). RAs usually require postgraduate certificates, often MA. TAs, on the other hand, are constantly graduate students who work part time, helping with the courses. I suppose the positions in the Universities in Taiwan are similar to those in the US or UK. But apparently most history professor prefer work on their own instead of hiring an assistant. It's really difficult to find a position such as RA relating to humanities, let along history department. Therefore it's quite natural when Ian (my supervisor at King's) asked 'what do research assistant do?' after I told him that I am hired.
After few weeks, I kind of realised that my boss needs a secretary rather than a research assistant. Basically she wants another 'her' to do everything that she doesn't like so much, including:
1. cleaning the office
2. making tea or coffee
3. babysitting when her kid's around
4. translating her papers and books form Chinese to English
5. revising her papers, including adding some 'theories' or 'arguments' which are not my specialty
6. doing research, writing papers
To be honest, many have told me that she's an exception. She has a reputation for her 'exceptional style' in the Uni. No research assistant was asked to do the cleaning but hers. Not many have to translate the papers from Chinese to English for a UCLA PhD associate professor like I do. Above all, I find the last task outrageously unacceptable.
I just wish that she's really an exception, and not everyone of the academia in Taiwan works this way.