Hamish: Accommodation at NUS

About Accommodation

Super serious about exchanging to NUS? Not sure which accommodation to go for? Choosing accommodation at NUS really does impact your experience while abroad so it’s important to choose wisely. In this blog, I’ll enlighten you on my life at halls!

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Not at halls but NUS does have the best campus life!

To give an overview, there are 6 halls (Kent Ridge, Sheares, Temasek, Eusoff, Raffles, King Edward VII), 5 colleges (Cinnamon, Alice & Peter Tan, Tembusu, RC4, Ridge View) and 2 student residences (Prince Georges Park, UTown) on campus. Firstly, let me just say that not all exchange students have all of these options – roughly half to three-quarters of the NUS batch I was with were only given the options for PGP and UTown, where most exchange/international students live. I was very fortunate to be offered all of the halls as well as PGP and UTown – I’m not sure what determines what choices you’re given so at this point I think it’s a bit of RNG.

My Reasoning For Housing

To start off, staying at halls is a very unique opportunity where mainly local Singaporean students live with dribs and drabs of exchange/international students as well. At first, my main reason for choosing Kent Ridge Halls was because it was the closest housing to my classes (Business School/Faculty of Arts).

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After thorough research, Kent Ridge was seen to be recognized as the hall that was the most ‘crazy’ – they partied the most and were the most outgoing hall; the complete opposite of me. Despite this, I strongly believe that a student exchange should be a life-changing experience – one where you challenge yourself and get comfortable with the uncomfortable. So, by forcing myself to live in a totally different environment for 6 months with no way to back out, it was my first challenge and first step out of my comfort zone.

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Entrance to the best hall heh

Halls Life

From what I’ve seen, most halls are quite similar – you’re given one room in a specific block and the toilets/showers/kitchen are all shared. On my floor, there are 16 people altogether with 3 toilets and 3 showers which does sound a bit yikes but it’s really not that bad after a few days when you get used to it. One big highlight for halls is that there is hall culture – something that’s absent from PGP/UTown. At halls, there are tonnes of events going on such as interblock games/interhalls games (competitive sporting events), block dinners and halls related groups. Also, you get some free NUS/halls shirts, so you can represent and be proud of your hall while being able to bring some memorabilia back to NZ too. When it comes down to choosing halls, it isn’t just simply picking a place to stay, it becomes more about choosing a community where you feel welcomed and happy to be a part of.

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Kent Ridge exteriors

Another thing is that since you live with the locals, it becomes more of a cultural exchange where you learn the way of how Singaporeans like to live – study hard and play hard. The average UoA student takes four papers a semester whereas Civil Engineering students take an all-time high of five papers. Meanwhile in Singapore, these people take on average five to six papers per semester.

I found out about this during orientation when I was talking to a 2nd year business student and I asked how many papers he’s taking this semester and he said ‘I’ve got it quite easy this semester, I’m only taking 5 papers’. And I’m just thinking, yeah bro… real chill… I’m taking 3 papers LOL.

On top of that, I’ve seen students take seven papers because they’re doing a conjoint degree and want to graduate a bit earlier. Heck I’ve even heard of one student that takes EIGHT COMPUTER SCIENCE PAPERS WHILE STUDYING. I don’t even know if that’s even possible. Academics aside, the majority of the students are also in a tonne of NUS groups and sports teams, so their schedule is super packed.

That being said, while living at KR, I really do get to appreciate the ‘study hard/play hard’ culture. It’s not surprising to see people up at 1am everyday studying – it’s actually more common that not. I’ve even woken up at 4am to catch flights at KR and I’ve looked across some blocks and there are people in their rooms with their lights on, studying.

It was week 2.

Halls Food

Halls food is catered for the whole semester where you pay around $500 NZD for breakfast/dinner 6 days a week for about 18 weeks. You’re probably thinking the same thing as me – that’s DAMN cheap. That’s about $2 per breakfast/dinner. That being said, the food isn’t the most glamorous – it’s not some 5-star meal served with some wine or normal restaurant food. Some people like it, some people don’t – if you don’t then you can always just go out and get food which is cheap anyway.

Breakfast is usually cereal plus a small portion of fried rice or porridge or sandwiches. The main highlight for me about breakfast is there’s chocolate milk!! I basically drink two cups and I’ve got my money back, but breakfast is only served from 6:30am to 9:30am so if you’re a late waker like me, you’ve got to force yourself up to go eat – and what motivates me to do that? Chocolate milk 🙂

And then there’s dinner. It’s not the best food out there but it’s really not bad for $2 in terms of quality and quantity! It differs everyday but it’s usually chicken/fish plus two extras side foods like veges/fish balls/chicken nuggets plus some soup/drinks. There’s also ‘dessert’ but it’s usually just a small jelly or some fruit which isn’t bad either.

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Food is plonked on with not much care but presentation’s not important here

Overall, you’re getting quite a bang for your buck. It’s also a lot cheaper/more convenient than having to go out every day for every meal because those food and drink expenses really do rack up despite the cheap meals.

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Churr

That wraps up the end of my blog for accommodation. Also, feel free to hit me up if you have any questions on the paperwork/admin processes or anything about life at NUS/Singapore at hcha330@aucklanduni.ac.nz! I know the process is gruelling and many factors can dissuade you from going but I’m sure I can turn things around for you!!

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Hamish: First Impressions of Singapore

Arrival

The first day of Singapore. Oh boy – let’s just say it was a very vivid memory that will be etched in me forever.

Changi Airport.

6:35am.

I wake up after an hour’s sleep at the end of a rough 10-hour flight as the overhead speaker lets me know that we’ve arrived in the land of cheap food, hard-working people and of course, humid climate – Singapore. My young, sleep deprived brain was struck by the size and beauty of the 4-terminal sized Airport. Having to wait 8 hours at Changi airport for my 2pm check-in at halls wasn’t an issue for me since Changi Airport is insanely beautiful and something to experience in and of itself.

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Some badly taken photos at Changi Airport due to my tiredness

 

 

My first meal at the airport was cheap relative to New Zealand, but expensive relative to on-campus food. I ordered a dumpling noodles and tea set (interesting) which cost me about $7 and the conversation went something along the lines of:

Me: One dumplings noodles and tea set please
Cashier: What tea you want?
Me: What types do you have?
Cashier: ________ and black tea
Me: What was that?
Cashier: ________ and black tea
Me: uhhh, pardon?
Cashier: ________ and black tea
Me: … one more time please : ))
Cashier: ________ and black tea (annoyed)
Me: uhh, yeah the first one

Yeah, I had no clue what he said. Turned out to be milk tea.

My first impression of the Singlish accent was not great, especially knowing that I probably wouldn’t understand half of what Singaporeans would be saying during my 6 months stay. From what I’ve learnt and experienced, the accent is strong, spoken quickly, and often informally with the combination of Mandarin and Hokkien.

The Country

The very first thing I noticed as soon as I stepped foot outside was the hot blast of the Singaporean humidity – absolutely destroying me in my chino pants and t-shirt. On average, it’s about 31 degrees every day here and at night it drops to an (all-time) low of about 27 degrees. But it’s usually the humidity that gets to you so if you’re packing for Singapore, I probably wouldn’t suggest any jackets or jumpers!

Singapore itself is a very, very small country – you can probably travel from one side to the other in about 40 minutes or so. The Grab that I ordered (Singaporean Uber) cost me about $15 for a 30-minute drive which is pretty cheap compared to taxiing/Ubering around in New Zealand and since Singapore’s so small, it doesn’t get much more expensive than that during the day time.

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Gardens by the Bay!

Generally, living costs in South East Asian countries are very, very cheap compared to New Zealand. To get around in Singapore most people use the underground MRT system where you usually won’t be paying more than about $2.00 to get from one side of the country to the other. And since NUS is around the middle of the country rather than one end, your average train cost is about $1.20.

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Surreal views on National Singapore Day
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Marina Bay Sands

Food

I was thinking of putting this under ‘Country’ but I think food deserves its own category here. Just like most other Asian/South East Asian country, food here is super cheap, since a lot of the costs are subsidised by the government. Singapore is known to have a lot of food canteens or what they like to call hawker centres around the city, where food is probably the cheapest you’ll get. These prices are on par with campus prices – but I’m here to talk about campus food.

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There are food canteens everywhere on campus – about 6-7 off the top of my head – but there are probably a few more seeing as I haven’t actually been to every faculty around campus. Basically, what you’ll see is that the shops don’t actually have names, instead it’ll be just the type of food that they sell, for example ‘Japanese’, ‘Western’, ‘Si Chuan’, ‘Northern Indian Halal’ etc. Every food canteen has a super diverse range of food that you can buy, but at what price? On average, you’re looking at $3.50 per meal.

That’s right.

$3.50.

And what can you get in New Zealand for $3.50? Absolutely nothing. Maybe like a sub-optimal $1.80 Irvine’s pie at Munchie Mart topped off with a cheap chilled beverage of your choice, which is everything but healthy and doesn’t provide you with enough nutrients/energy to keep you going at your optimal state for study. Compared to meals in Singapore, the quality and quantity of food that you get for $3.50 is quite amazing. They also serve small things like ‘dim sums’ which are small Asian bite size snacks which cost around $1. Since Singapore strongly promotes a healthy diet, you’ll be able to buy a bag of chopped fruit for about $0.70 or convert it into a large smoothie drink at about $1.50.

Cheap right?

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$0.90 iced coffee after I took some sips heh

The Campus

The NUS campus is massive – so massive to the point where there are literally about 6 types of buses specially made for convenient travel around NUS that come every 5-10 minutes to every stop around campus. If you were to walk from one side of the campus to the other, it would take about 30 minutes. At first I didn’t know the buses were free, so I made my first mistake of asking the driver how much the ride costed. He replied ‘free’ as everybody just stared at me while I walked to my seat, happily.

That wraps up my first blog in Singapore and please keep reading if you’re going/interested in going to Singapore for exchange – I might just convince you! 😊 Also, feel free to hit me up if you have any questions on the paperwork/admin processes or anything in Singapore at hcha330@aucklanduni.ac.nz! I know the process is gruelling and many factors can dissuade you from going but I’m sure I can turn things around for you!!

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