Where you live can have quite a significant impact on your experience abroad, whether that be on or off campus. At NUS, most of the exchange students can be found in a residence or college in UTown, while the other exchangers are scattered amongst different NUS halls or have found off-campus accommodation. The residential towers in UTown can be likened to Carlaw Student Village at UoA, but instead of greeting the motorway on your way to class, you would be exiting straight into the ‘quad’ where many of the uni-wide events are held.
For me, I had chosen to live in a hall, with the hopes of being able to meet more of the local students. While I do not regret this choice, it was difficult at the start when almost every one of my exchanger friends I had met during O’week lived in UTown. This meant that everything always seemed to involve the hassle of a small bus ride (the uni has blessed everyone with free buses to get across its enormous campus), which you can imagine wasn’t all that fun. But despite the initial hurdles, I’ve come to really love living in my hall and I would choose to live here again in a heartbeat. Without getting too biased about why halls might be the greatest, I thought I’d share some of my favourite memories so far, as well as some of the things I’ve learnt along the way.
DnD (Dinner and Dance) Regalia Formal dinner
Everyone dressed up in their formal attire for formal dinner, located in and catered by a hotel. We had waiters that would bring out the food, dish it out into individual portions if it was soup or noodles, then bring out the next dish after we were done. While all the food was happening, there were band performances and a pageant happening at the same time. Each block nominated a guy and a girl to run for king and queen, so everyone was solidly entertained as each pair put on a dance/song/skit performance that quite literally had the crowd screaming
The suppers seem to always have a punny name that would score a 10/10 for effort (e.g. B-A-E supper night for blocks A, B and E on the week of valentines). This is where the block committee would prepare food and activities on a random night once every two or three weeks, and everyone gets together to have a jolly time. Sometimes there are even prizes!
Random celebration get-togethers
We always have card signing and surprise cakes for the birthday kiddos, and we also got together to celebrate Chinese New Year. Everyone got their hands dirty trying their hand at creating them delicious dumplings.
Some of the things I’ve noticed and learnt while at halls:
- Since halls are mostly populated with local students, they all tend to go home over the weekends. Now, this was a strange thought for me until I realised that their trip home was not likely to take up more than an hour. This also explains why the compulsory meal plan (breakfast and dinner each day) skips out on Saturday dinner and Sunday breakfast – may as well give the lovely catering team a day off while most of the students are back home anyway.
- Singaporean students take on a lot more responsibility for their extra-curricular happenings. A lot of the events (sports practises, block suppers, camps, and the formal dinner) are organised by the students themselves with minimal input from the staff here. This is on top of all the assignments and studies that they have to do. Granted, involvement in hall activities earn them points which help them secure accommodation for the following year, but I am in complete awe of their participation and dedication within the hall.
- The first floor of every block are always the male floors. I didn’t think much of it until someone mentioned that it was likely to be a safety measure due to the obvious foot traffic of anyone and everyone walking around. Safety is taken very seriously in Singapore; there are CCTV cameras around the hall and a security guard who is always present during the night.
- Sports run from semester one to the beginning of semester two, which means I didn’t get to experience this part of life. There seems to be a team for every sport imaginable and it appears that everyone I spoke to played in at least one of the teams (and my hall is not at all known for its sporting abilities)
- People here are really into wearing NUS merch/promotional t-shirts around here. It could be a sport-team shirt, an orientation camp shirt, an NUS faculty shirt or a shirt from a particular committee/culture group, 70% of people seem to be wearing one at any given time.
- Now this isn’t a hall-exclusive thing, but on my way to breakfast every morning I’m almost guaranteed to run into a squirrel or a gecko/lizard (re: my reptile identification skills are still awaiting improvement).
Living in a hall has given me an amazing opportunity to expose myself to the life of an NUS student and it makes me sad even now to think that at some point I’m going to have to leave. I’ve been able to grow really close to the small handful of exchange students who live here, and I’ve had some of the most entertaining banter and hangouts with the local students.
Despite the lack of AC, I’ve definitely found my home.