Licheng: Making Friends in Singapore

There are a lot of different ways to go about this topic, and building relationships with others depends a lot on your personality. Some people are social butterflies and establish themselves in multiple friend groups, while others spend more time with people they see the most often, such as roommates or people in the same housing. There are also the rare bunch of exchange students who travel to a new country every week and buddy up with whoever happens to join the trip. There really isn’t a best method here and it’s important to know what you’re most comfortable with. Personally, I’m an extrovert so I love the notion of meeting new people and becoming acquainted with different crowds. There are always moments where you can introduce yourself, whether it be in the stairwell, the elevator, or even in the laundry room. A helpful tip to meeting new people is to remember names. In the first two weeks you’re likely to meet upwards of 50 new people so if you’re able to connect a name with a face, it goes a long way towards developing your relationship with them.

There may be some rough first impressions here and there, but it’s important to keep an open mind because at the end of the day, everyone’s going through the same thing. If you’re not that comfortable being around a lot of people, spend more time in smaller groups and know that it’s okay to take things at your own pace. There’s definitely a lot of excitement at the start of the exchange and it’s really easy to get caught up in other people’s pace. At the very least, I challenge you to not watch a single episode on Netflix for the first two weeks and spend most of the day outside. The best time to make friends is at the start of the semester – it’s as easy as striking up conversation with the person at the same bus-stop as you. There are several events organised by the NUS GRO (Global Relations Office) that give students the opportunity to do stuff together, so it’s not a bad idea to check those out. I like to frequent populated areas so I’ll often be chilling at the pool, at the study area next to Starbucks, or inside Starbucks.

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Making friends with Singaporeans should also be on your to-do list because it’s always nice to hear things from a local perspective. NUS receives a high volume of exchange students so most of the locals are accustomed to exchange students around campus. You’ll find that work culture here is a fair bit more intense than back home, in fact it wouldn’t be surprising if most of the locals you meet average around 6 hours of sleep. So don’t be disheartened if you don’t get to spend too much time with them, but do make the effort to invite them out for dinner or drinks.

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Licheng: Tips and Tricks for life in Singapore

I had different ideas on how to approach this blog, and after thinking it through, I feel that it would be most helpful to just structure this as a personalised tips and tricks guide. The aim is to help you deal with unfamiliarity as well as introduce some of the issues and challenges that I faced. The first part of this blog shall detail arriving and setting up life, here in Singapore.

Now if you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You have been nominated to the #1 ranked university in Asia. There’s a new adventure just over the horizon, and it’s bound to provide you many character defining experiences.

The NUS application process tends to throw a lot of information at you, and it can be quite challenging to keep track of everything. Here are some key bits of information to help you get through the administrative experience.

  1. Student card ≠ Student pass

The student card is also known as the Matriculation card. This is a physical card that allows you to enter NUS facilities/housing. You will mainly use it for the elevators though.

The Student pass is essentially your student visa. It is card that you receive shortly after settling down on campus. Make sure you finish the relevant paperwork for it though!

  1. Don’t be afraid if you didn’t get your modules the first time

In your NUS application you would’ve been asked to select 10 modules for your workload. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t get any of the modules you were looking for! I only got 1 out of my 10.

Around 2 weeks before semester starts there will be a module add/drop period in which you can apply for the modules you want. If there is a capacity issue and you need the module to meet graduation requirements, you can write to the course administrator and present your case. They tend to be fairly reasonable.

  1. Regarding housing, most people end up in Utown Residence

So to make it simple, you want to avoid Prince George’s Regional Park (PGPR) accommodation as the rooms are smaller and all the fun is situated at Utown. Within Utown you have Utown Residence (UTR) and the Utown Residential College Programme (UTRCP). It can be a bit confusing here, but UTRCP consists of 4 residential colleges (CAPT, Tembusu, Cinnamon, RC4) which has a larger local community. They have a greater emphasis on developing culture and community so they’ll have some sort of activity running every night. UTR is essentially two 25 storey twin towers (North tower and South tower) where students share an apartment with 3 other people. There are fewer locals at UTR as it is predominantly exchange students and postgraduate students. The majority of people either end up in UTR or PGPR.

Alright, moving on:

Upon touching down in Changi airport you should really just take your time and wander around. Changi has been rated world’s best airport for 6 years running so it’s really worth your while to find out if it’s worthy of that title. After you’ve looked around a bit, you should start considering how to get around:

  1. Uber in Singapore was acquired by a company named “Grab”

Typically, ride sharing in South East Asia will be through Grab instead of Uber. There’s an interesting discussion here over why Uber lost the market to Grab so you can go do that homework in your spare time.

  1. Singapore has a very consistent railway transport system

Singapore’s railway system is called the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) and features several lines that spans throughout the entire island. To use the MRT, you need to purchase an EZY-LINK card (AT-HOP card equivalent) so find a booth at the airport and you’ll be good to go. To get to campus, take the East/West (Green) line from Changi to Buona Vista, then transfer to the Circle (Orange) line to HarbourFront and get off at the Kent Ridge stop. From there either walk to PGPR, or take the D2 (free student) shuttle to Utown. Alternatively if that’s too much to take in just take a Grab to Utown Residence.

Download this app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.exploremetro.sg&hl=en) if you want to familiarise yourself with the stations.

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So, after you’ve arrived at your accommodation you should think about buying some bedroom essentials as well as some plants/lights if you want to curate a nice living space. Typically there’ll be a Facebook group for exchange students, so take this opportunity to post and ask if anyone wants to go visit Ikea as a group. Alternatively, just knock on your neighbours door and see if they’re down to go with you. If you’re planning on staying at NUS for two semesters, I really recommend buying a mattress topper as the given mattresses are very hard and uncomfortable. For stuff like detergent, laundry hampers, pillows, and shampoo, you can find them pretty cheap at Clementi shopping mall. (Be sure to try some Tian Tian’s chicken rice while you’re there!)

Settling in is a great opportunity to meet new people. Be sure to challenge yourself and really put yourself out there!

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