Rachel: NUS Campus – What’s On?

One of the best ways I’ve found to knit myself into the community here at NUS is to partake in the different events that happen around campus. So many things happen all at once, so I’ve decided to share with you below little snippets of what’s been going on thus far.

Orientation

In the first week of arrival before university courses start, a multitude of orientation activities happen, something almost every day. An added bonus: a lot of the people I’ve been lucky enough to go travelling with I met at these events.

  • Clementi Shopping Trip – The first event of the season which happened the day of arrival. I was able to grab all the living essentials that didn’t make the cut into my check-in luggage while having my first introduction to people with many many different accents and backgrounds.
  • SG Kaki Group – An afternoon of ice breakers and little challenges. Ice breaker-like games seem fairly popular around here, because according to one of our Kakis (meaning buddy), most of his time during his first-year orientation camp was spent doing similar types of activities.
  • Singapore Food Hunt – We went around to three different Hawker Centres in one afternoon and pretty much didn’t stop eating. I was introduced to biryani, cendol, qing tang and many other popular foods among Singaporeans.
  • Amazing Race – More exploration around the city. We followed clues and hunted for murals and elephants around little India, and tried to dress up one of our group members as the Merlion (official mascot of Singapore) with newspaper and string at Sentosa Island.
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Our task to find the elephants was a success!

ENGIN Day

A day of carnival-like games within the Engineering department was a perfect way for everyone to ease back into the study grind. NUS students are known for being academically focused and driven, so believe my surprise when I found out that most of the classes within the Engineering department were cancelled from 12pm onwards! I’m starting to think the locals like to follow the approach of ‘work hard play hard’. There were different stations dotted along outside the lecture halls, grouped by different colours. The goal was to collect different coloured stamps from different stalls, which we could then use to exchange for goodies like free burgers, ice cream vouchers and ENGIN day t-shirts! Some of my favourite games/challenges that day were:

  • Angry Birds real life edition (a life-sized slingshot with dodgeballs hitting down boxes and teddies)
  • Beer pong (minus the beer of course)
  • Learning common phrases in sign language
  • Guiding a distance sensing drone across an obstacle course with our hands

As with any carnival, there was a raffle of course! So some people walked away not only with the buzz of an afternoon of fun, but also with a tablet, a TV, and even season passes to Universal Studios.

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Our card to keep track of our stamps for the goodie swap

Dragon Boat Race

Dragon boat racing is a canoe sport, and is a competitive sport many Singaporeans take part in. A team is usually made up of 18-20 people, sitting in rows of two with a paddle each. Each semester the Peer Advising Programme organise a day out where we get to experience this fun sport. .

This event took place on the Kallang River, which is actually part of the water catchment area for the Marina Reservoir storing water that gets treated for drinking. This meant that whenever someone on board would threaten to flip the dragon boat, we would (kindly) yell at them saying that none of us wanted to eventually drink each other’s bath water. There was a total of six dragon boats on the river that day, and the natural rivalry between the boats meant that a lot of splashing happened as we were racing up and down the river.

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I often don’t realise how many different things I’ve been up to since embarking on my exchange until I catch up with my friends back at home. The fast pace of life in Singapore means I’m always on my toes, something I’m finding myself to really enjoy. I think I’ve found a good balance going on here between me having fun and me studying, despite what my family must think when I spam them with photos that aren’t of my books.

Rachel

Rachel: Things to Note Before the Adventure – a Guide

Hello! So I’ve had some time to explore the wondrous country-city that is Singapore, and I’d say I’m pretty well settled now. “Oh, going overseas sounds like an awesome time, I’m going to do it” sums up pretty well my thought process to pursue an exchange. I love the idea of exploring the different cultures around the world, and so, an exchange seemed like the perfect opportunity. This was of course until all the admin details and logistics started to roll at me in a bunch of different directions. But being here for a few weeks already I can tell you that every stressful moment was 100% worth it, and so I thought I’d share some of the things that I found useful to research/keep in mind before departure, to prepare you to hit the ground running.

1. How will you stay connected?

Some people prefer to roam with their phone company back home, while many others decide to get a local SIM card. In the initial frenzy of everyone rushing to buy one, the options can be quite overwhelming – which SIM card do you get? In Singapore, the main service providers are Singtel, Starhub and M1. Personally, I went with a $15 prepaid SIM with Starhub. On top of the $15 credit, it came with 1GB of local data valid for 6 months, 200MB each month for six months and some pretty neat data roaming locations, handy for travelling! Singtel do have some cheaper plans, so see ahead of time which you might prefer.

2. Money?

Money is one of those things that everyone has to deal with, but sometimes can be a bit of an elephant in the room. For me, it was really hard to gauge how much money I would be spending, because I had no idea what price range to expect.

So, my observations so far of Singapore is that a meal, on campus or at Hawker Centres (food courts that are less McDonald’s and more like your Asian Grandmother’s) can range from about S$3 – S$6. If you go into AC restaurants, you can start seeing prices to rise to something similar to New Zealand, a meal that may cost around S$20. Getting from one side of Singapore to another on MRT or bus can cost around S$1.10 – S$2.00 depending on the distance, and a Grab or GOJEK ride (Southeast Asia’s alternatives to Uber) from the NUS campus to Changi Airport can be about S$25. In terms of clothing or food/daily life things from the supermarket, the prices here are pretty similar to that of New Zealand.

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One of the many designs of Singapore’s EZ-Link card (AT Hop equivalent) for $12 with $7 credit loaded. Available at most MRT stations or 7-Eleven convenience stores

And in terms of how to deal with the money logistically, I personally have been making cash withdrawals from the ATM with my VISA debit card. The conversion fee for me hasn’t been too different from the currency exchange bureaus back at home. Another common option is to open up a Singapore bank account. Popular banks are DBS, OCBC and POSB, with easy to find ATMs around campus. Different banks operate differently, but most of them have an early closure fee of around $60 if you close your account within six months. Seeing as cash had worked well for me and my exchange is only a semester long, I decided to stick with the cash. Cash is super common in Singapore, especially around Hawker Centres. I have however noticed a push on cashless payments, with payments being made by scanning QR codes from the stalls through an app which is linked to your bank card – so you never know, I soon might be a bit behind the times!

3. What do people wear with the high temperatures and humidity?

I had wondered, do people just wear the bare minimum in Singapore to deal with the heat? But despite the 35-degree average heat, people dress the same as back home, as if it was 25 degrees. Lots of indoor places (e.g. the mall, MRT station, lecture theatres) have AC, so people do brave it out and wear long jeans and long sleeve shirts when they commute from AC room 1 to AC room 2. On that note, when you’re packing all your favourite summer items, don’t forget to pack a long sleeve because sometimes, the AC rooms can actually get a little chilly.

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A bunch of us exchange students exploring the Singapore island Sentosa – can’t go wrong with shorts and a t-shirt

When we leave the house, many of us are programmed to check that we have our phone, wallet and keys, so leaving for an exchange should be no different. So before you start the adventure, doing a little bit of research beforehand can help ease a lot of the in-the-moment stress due to unpredictable events. Once all the tedious stuff is out of the way, time flies by so fast!

Rachel