I arrived in Singapore on Monday the 6th of Jan, admittedly still slightly dusty from RNV over New Years. Yet still ready to get fully immersed in the exchange experience.
I had made sure to get to Singapore a few days before the opening of the dorm accommodation at NTU in order to get a feel of the city on my own. This did mean that I had to book a hotel, but I have to say it was definitely worth it.
The first thing you notice in Singapore is the heat, it truly is a city within a jungle. Situated only just above the equator, temperatures in Singapore vary between 30-35 degrees Celsius, with humidity hovering around the 70-80% mark. This can be quite jolting to some people (especially some of my exchange friends from colder climates), but I love the heat here. If it ever gets overbearing it is super easy to seek out the sweet relief of air conditioning or even better a swimming pool (of which there is a free one on campus). That being said, Singapore probably isn’t for those that love the cold.
Another thing that is great about Singapore is the absolutely insane amount of infrastructure that is present in the city. Massive public parks such as the infamous Gardens by the Bay litter the city and there is an MRT station seemingly every third block in some parts of town. The trains are fast, cheap and extraordinarily convenient. They come past every 5 mins and a trip won’t ever cost you much more than a dollar… I walked out of the terminal at Changi airport directly onto a train and arrived within a block from my hotel (Auckland Transport take notes!).
Accommodation at NTU
After a sick couple of days exploring the city on my own it was time to head to NTU and check out where I would be living for the next four or so months…
Accommodation in the on-campus housing halls is guaranteed for all exchange students at NTU. I really see no reason why you wouldn’t stay in this housing. It’s probably cheaper per month than the weekly rent in an Auckland apartment and provides insanely easy access to the university. More so it also allows you to get right amongst the action on campus with locals and other exchange students from all over the world (it’s been really easy to make friends here, remember everyone else is in the exact same boat as you!).
The only disadvantages of NTU’s campus is that it is about as far away from downtown as you can get within Singapore, however it is still only an hour MRT ride to the centre of the city! And the trip is a breeze for anyone used to commuting in Auckland.
Also your accommodation will be allocated on ballot style system. Keep in mind single rooms are in especially high demand and as such are hard to get. I got given a twin room located in Hall 12 which looks like it was recently refurbished. Living with a roommate, whilst taking slight adjustment to begin with, has been a heap of fun. Once you get the air conditioning system figured out (which did take a while!) life on campus is literally a breeze…
Actual Uni – Classes & Slight Hassles
Unfortunately exchange isn’t just a giant holiday, surprisingly you will need to take classes whilst here…
As Finance and Management are my Majors my classroom experience here is limited to the Nanyang Business School. I am taking four papers as of the moment, all of them are in the format of a 4-hour long seminar style session once a week. Each of these seminars has about 30-40 students in it and the level of education seems pretty consistent with what I would expect from third year commerce papers back home. At the moment I have one of these seminars each day from Tuesday through to Friday. This is quite a difference from the 1-hour long lectures at UoA, and I have found it a little hard to maintain my attention span for such a long period of time. However most professors here are quite relaxed and allow plenty of breaks as well as often finishing class up to an hour early.
My classes have been a mixed bag in relation to who is actually in them. Two contain about 70% exchange students (not surprising as they are both international business related papers), whilst in the other two I am one of perhaps three exchange students in the entire class.
Whilst my classes have been quite interesting, they did involve a lot of hassle to organise. The system for allocating your courses here is called STARS, and local students have accurately named the allocation period ‘STARS WARS’, it can be difficult to say the least.
I would recommend having at least 6 courses pre-approved before arrival in NTU. This would help you avoid the majority of hassle involved in getting courses during the two week add/drop period at the start of semester. Keep in mind that ‘approved’ does not mean ‘registered’. I had many courses approved that I simply could not get registered due to the class size restrictions and lengthy waiting lists. Definitely something to keep in mind if you are in desperate need of a certain paper for graduation back home.
If there is one thing Singapore is known for then it would be its food… From the tastiest Chicken Tikka Masala you’ve ever had in Little India to Michelin Starred $4 Chicken Rice in Chinatown.
A filling delicious meal in Singapore will cost you approximately $3-6, the canteens at NTU are all around this price point and have an insane amount of variety for you to choose from. Including a decent amount of vegetarian options. In total there are about 10 or so canteens scattered amongst the campus and its halls. But don’t worry there is always a Macca’s and Subway right on campus for when the inevitable cravings for something other than rice or noodles hit.
These incredibly cheap prices are offset by the high prices you can expect to find in Supermarkets. Staples like milk in NZ are all greatly more expensive here ($6 for 2L), due to the fact that most of these foods have to be imported.
Till Next Time…
I hope I’ve been able to provide a decent overview of my time here so far through this post. For all those at home wondering if they should embark on their own exchange I can only recommend it to the absolute maximum. I’m having the time of my life and will continue to do so for the remainder of my trip.
I have already started planning further travel overseas for during my semester, so the next post should highlight some of these travel experiences! In fact I’m headed to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia this weekend and Bali the next! The fact that Singapore is a major travel hub results in some insanely good deals on flights, which I’m sure I’ll be taking full advantage of…