Iven: The Final Chapter

Hii everyoneeeee  ₍˄⌓⃘ ˳̫̬ ⌓⃘˄₎ค˒ ~~

Wowwww…. What a crazy few months it has been since my last blog post in February. First of all, I hope you all are keeping safe and coping well during this unprecedented global pandemic. I really wanted to take this time to reflect on these past few months and more importantly, discuss how I personally have been dealing with everything going on at the moment and offer some advice I have for everyone especially my fellow exchange students and UoA peers. Today is the first day where I have been able to sit down and actually process everything that is going on as I submitted my final assignment for the semester. It is going to be a lengthy one so I hope you’re ready, grab a drink or a snack and lets go!

Picking Up Where I Left Off…

Me and my exchange friends on our last day in Bali

The last time I caught up with you all I was in Bali and I truly did have the time of my life. Travelling during exchange with the life-long friends you have made in such a short amount of time is an indescribable feeling that you really have to experience. There will be highs and some lows, but the memories created will make everything worthwhile. Especially now, I would give anything to be back in Bali or just simply being able to travel with my friends— time is precious!

Check out my Bali Vlog on my channel! (◕ε◕✿)・:*:・。

Online Courses During Exchange

At this point of my exchange around early March, classes with 50 or more students started to become online so two of my lecturers became online with one being pre-recorded and the other being a Zoom session every week. Therefore, I still had to go to one lecture and all my tutorials. Personally, as an exchange student, I preferred this method of teaching as my courses were practical based so it was only the tutorials that were more important to physically attend.

Tip: Although classes are online, create a routine/timetable to follow so that you are still productive!

Also during this time, NUS started implementing some rules, for example, we were required to take our temperature twice daily with our thermometers ( that we were given for free at the start of the semester ironically) and take photos of it to upload online. The lecturers also had to take pictures of the class and check if students took their temperatures.

Covid-19 During March

As March progressed, the rules got stricter and soon all classes and tutorials were online. Social distancing rules started to be put into place so it would be common to see places marked with X and chairs removed so that the people would be keeping a safe distance from one another.

An example of a sign at a Mall in Singapore

Securing Another Internship

With all the craziness going on at this time, something amazing came out of it. Although I was still in Singapore, I was able to secure a social promo role for Umusic NZ! I was so so so happy as it was right up my alley, especially for my degree. The best thing was that I was able to create content while on exchange without having to physically be in New Zealand.

Tip: Never stop furthering your career even while on exchange! Always look for awesome opportunities

One Last Trip to Malaysia

I didn’t know it then but my one-day trip to Malaysia with a few of my exchange friends would be our last trip together 😢 We spent the day shopping, eating, living in the moment and simply enjoying each other’s company. Looking back now is very very bittersweet, it was the first and last trip with most of my exchange friends and I couldn’t be more content.

The Start of The End

My favorite people from all over the world <333

Mid-March towards the end of April would probably be one of the hardest and most emotionally draining times on my exchange and probably my life. Think of it like this, you live with a group of people, you see each other every day and get to know one another— you do everything together from having dinner to sightseeing to celebrating each other’s birthdays and then all of a sudden…. you have to say goodbye with no warning. That was the reality for me, all my Australian flatmates and most of my exchange friends were forced to go back to their home countries by their universities. For me, I was so thankful to be able to have the choice to stay or go back, it was a no brainer for me, I absolutely did not want to end my exchange early. This time was not only stressful but really really really heartbreaking. It really hit me like a brick wall having to say goodbye everyone, we all thought we would be together till the end, have more time with one another but that was not the case. For everyone reading this right now, cherish the time you have with your friends, loved ones and don’t take that time for granted especially during this unprecedented time.

Life in Singapore’s Lockdown aka ‘Circuit-Breaker’

Around April 7th, the Singaporean Government implemented a ‘Circuit- Breaker’, for a couple of days life was still the same then everything got way more strict and then it hit me, we’re basically in lock down now. Singapore’s handling of the situation at the start of this pandemic was definitely amazing but during this time the situation got progressively worse rapidly. If I had known that this ‘Circuit-Breaker’ meant lock down I would have definitely made the most of my last true freedom in Singapore — major regrets. During this time I basically stayed at home doing my final assignments as I didn’t have any exams. Whenever we go out to get food, do laundry or get some fresh air it’s compulsory to wear a face mask otherwise we would get fined. I also would Zoom with my exchange friends and video call with my friends and family back home to keep some sense of socialization and not loose my sanity!

Me at my current home: UTown Residence at NUS

New YouTube Video!

Checkout my newest YouTube video for a NUS dorm room tour, especially for those of you who are planning to go to The National University of Singapore for an exchange in the future after this pandemic. Also towards the end of the video, I talk more about how this current situation has affected me and my exchange. I’d really really appreciate it if you watch and leave a like/comment <333

Thank you ALL!

For now, I’m done with my exchange yet I’m still here in Singapore still trying to sort out how I will get back home. Right now, everything is uncertain but all I can say for now is that this has been a crazy first half of 2020 and I am so so so glad that I chose to come on exchange, as cliché as it sounds, this was such a life-changing experience that I will forever cherish. If you’re reading this and contemplating whether exchange is for you (after this global pandemic), the answer is simple — YES! To the 360 International Team, thank you for this amazing opportunity and thank you for being an awesome bunch of people throughout this whole process. To whoever has been keeping up with my blog posts, thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my blog and I hope you learned something valuable. Feel free to connect with me and follow me on my social medias @IvenThePanda (Click the circle icons below), seeyaaa! (✿◠‿◠)

Iven aka IvenThePanda Signing Out…..

Maxwell: Routines and Travels

Hi again everyone, it’s Maxwell! After two months of being in Singapore, I’ve definitely started to fall into a routine. Due to the recent outbreak of the coronavirus, the majority of my classes have unfortunately been moved to E-learning, meaning that I have no physical lectures. As such, my days have mostly consisted of sleeping in, and trying to muster up the motivation to study. However on the bright side, I’ve also gained a lot more free time in the absence of lectures! Whether that means spending more time with my friends, or even heading over to Malaysia for the weekend, my days here have be super vibrant and colourful!

The Famous Petronas Twin Towers at Night

Speaking of travelling, the most exciting part of every exchange student’s time overseas occurs around this period, and that’s recess week. During recess week, local students and international students alike take the opportunity of a free week to travel all across Asia! As a kiwi who was born and bred in New Zealand, thoughts of travelling to foreign countries have always been more fantasy than possibility. This mostly because flights to any country outside of Australia were at least several hours long, and crazy expensive as well. Flying from Singapore however, is a different story entirely, with many countries famous for their tourism located less than a 2hrs flight away. From South Korea to Myanmar, no country is safe from Singaporean university students during recess week.

Friends and Elephant Friends at Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary


Me personally, I chose to go to Thailand and Indonesia. My friends and I came to this decision mainly because of two factors. The first reason was basic: both Thailand and Indonesia are quite close to Singapore and therefore flight tickets are dirt cheap. The second reason is more exciting and that’s because we had heard AMAZING things about both countries. Whether it was their beautiful beaches, sky-high mountains or historical temples, Thailand and Indonesia sounded like they had what it took to make a dream holiday.

Crazy Blue Waters at Phi Phi Islands

Our first stop was Phuket, and right off the bat we learnt a very valuable life lesson. Bad things happen, no matter how careful you are. Upon arriving at our Airbnb, we were expecting to be greeted by our host as had been arranged. Instead, we were forced to wait an hour outside, with no real method of contacting our host(we didn’t have any data or minutes on our phones), hoping that the next minute of waiting in the scorching sun would be the last. When we host finally arrived, we all let out a collective sigh of relief, glad that we could finally seek some shelter, only to find out that the Airbnb had not yet been cleaned. And so, there was naught we could do except wait outside for another 2hrs while the cleaners tidied up. After that misshap, everyone was so exhausted that we simply decided to call it a day.

Fortunately, the next day made up for it in spades. When people think Phuket, they think of the famous Phi Phi Islands, and that was exactly where we were headed. Phi Phi Islands really was gorgeous, worthy of its fame. From the crystal water, to the white beaches, we as if we were in paradise. The only downside was that since the islands are huge, we were regrettably only able to explore a small portion of it. I can also thank Phi Phi Islands for teaching me another life lesson. Life lesson number two for me was that no matter how much a place resembles paradise, you should never fully drop your guard. Being a popular tourist destination, there are tourist traps everywhere that you need to watch out for, such as compulsory donations before entering the island, and toilets that require fees to enter (this was surprisingly common throughout Thailand and Indonesia).

Golden Temple, Chiang Mai

Our next stop was Chiang Mai, and I can say that the Elephant Sanctuary was easily the highlight of that journey. Unfortunately there are many cases of unethical elephant treatment around Thailand such as elephant riding or manual labour, but the elephants in this particular sanctuary were treated like royalty! After hearing about how an elephant spends up to 18 hours a day just eating, I was really starting to question why I couldn’t have been born as an elephant. Once I got over being a human, we participated in the care taking of the elephants, which I found much more enjoyable than I had originally anticipated. We fed the elephants bananas, helped grind up their digestion medicine, and even gave them a bath in the lake! Oh, and did I mention that I also ate a scorpion at a local food market?

Early Morning Sunrise at Mount Batur

I love Bali. I really love it. Did I mention how much I love Bali? There were so many gorgeous and amazing places to see, I even started to lose track of world-class tourist attractions. One particular highlight of my time in Bali was when we woke up at 1am in order to trek up Mount Batur. The trek up was cold and hard and possibility even dangerous, but the view when the sun rose into the sky was simply majestic. At that moment, nationalities faded away as every hiker on that peak watched the sunrise quietly, and in collective awe.

Unfortunately, the hike back down was nowhere near as nice. After we tripped over for the 10th time, we decided that we had to find an alternate method. Conveniently enough, it was at that time that our tour guide mentioned the existence of motorcyclists nearby who were willing to take tourists down the mountain, for a fee. Any nagging worries I had about cheating the hike quickly disappeared as I got onto the motorbike. That ride quickly took its spot as one of the best moments of the trip, as we were treated to amazing views of lakes and villages; all while racing along at exhilarating speeds!

Broken Beach at Nusa Penida

Located to the east of Bali is Nusa Penida, the final stop on our recess week trip. Never had the phrase “saving the best until last” rung so true to me. As far as I’m concerned, Nusa Penida is just a collection of the world’s most beautiful places all placed conveniently on one island together for us to enjoy. Weaving along the ridiculously tight two-way road with only one lane , we visited places such as Angels Billabong, Broken Beach, and the famous Kelingking Beach. Is there such a thing as too many beautiful things in one place?

Kelingking Beach Ft.Me
Ianely Steep Hike, But Every Step Was Worth It

That’s about it for my travel story! The amazing sights I saw during those eleven days were definitely worth my currently messed up sleeping schedule. It’s been a long blog post, but I’ve really enjoyed sharing the stories of my trip with you. Thailand and Indonesia definitely exceeded my expectations, and if you ever get the opportunity to visit these two countries I highly recommend it! For now, I need to start studying again ugh. Until next time!

Iven: Chapter 2 of My Journey to Singapore

Heyyy y’all  *:・゚✧\ʕ◕ᴥ◕\ʔ

I hope you all are healthy and having a blessed day, as semester one at UoA is soon approaching, it’s the ‘recess week’ here at NUS which is our mid-semester break. I am currently living the tourist life in Bali with a few of my exchange friends while writing this blog post.

For this chapter, I wanted to continue on from my earlier chapter and talk more about what I have been up to but in the form of key highlights rather than by a weekly basis. Also, I have uploaded my first YouTube in Singapore! So please click the link below to watch, it has more helpful tips and info about exchange, especially at NUS 😊

Dragon Boat: #TeamEggplant 🍆

All my life I always wanted to try Dragon Boat Racing as it’s something I’ve seen my relatives in China do and talk about. Here on exchange, I was finally able to learn and try it out for the first time!

This was an event which was created for exchange students to sign up and try out dragon boat racing for a day. We all got put into separate teams by colour which reminded me of Survivor (one of my fav tv shows) and then we got started by learning the basics to some fun tricks to winning races! By the end of it we were all soaked but it was 100% worth it, being able to meet more exchange students and bonding as a team especially during this time when the Coronavirus was preventing a lot of events from happening.

All the exchange students on the Dragon Boats
Me and my fellow #TeamEggplant🍆

CNY Festivities with a BANG!

The first of February marked the final day of the Lunar New Year festivities which is one of the most beloved festivals in Chinese culture so I was glad I was here in Singapore to celebrate as it’s not as big in terms of celebration compared to New Zealand.

The festivities at River Hongbao were so amazing to see, especially the elaborate fireworks, the beautiful decorations and the well-choreographed parade which included various ethnicities and their native attire and dance.

Volunteering Internship with MatchMde

Before coming on exchange, I really wanted to expand my connections career-wise as living in a new country it is inevitable to meet people that will help you gain experience in your field of study. I was fortunate to be involved in filming an advertisement for ‘MatchMde’, a dating app involving A.I which lead me to helping their marketing and social media team. This is something I do on top of my uni work, I wouldn’t recommend doing a volunteering internship for those of you who aren’t able to balance uni work but I would recommend it if you are able to balance and really want to expand your CV and set up your future career by gaining this valuable experience.

Once in an Exchange Moments

February has been a special month for me as I got to celebrate my exchange friends’ birthdays. I really am so thankful to meet so many people from all over the world and create such close bonds with them to be able to celebrate their special day – it’s truly a once in an exchange but also once in a lifetime moment.

Living my best life in Bali!

As I mentioned earlier, it is recess week at the moment, so this is when almost every exchange student travels to different countries, for example, a few of my other exchange friends are in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam right now. I chose to come to Bali as it is a very cheap plane ticket away from Singapore, I’ve never been here before and I’ve heard good things about it.

My exchange friends and I have been exploring Bali and still are as I am writing this blog post so for my next chapter I will talk more about Bali but for now goodbye until next time :))

Iven aka IvenThePanda Signing Out…..

Tom: Weekend Traveling

It hasn’t been that long at all since my last post, but it feels like a lifetime ago that I was writing it. Part of the reason that my time here has felt so long is because of the amount of travel that I have been doing. From Singapore it super cheap and easy to fly to destinations all over Asia, and the exchange students here at NTU have been taking full advantage of that!

Despite some slight worries about the COVID-19 Virus and its spread, most people continue to travel often. In fact I know some particular exchange students that have been away every single weekend since the start of semester… whilst I may not be at that level of travel I have gone to a few places and plan to go to even more in the future. 

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia

My first trip from Singapore was an organised weekend away with a bunch of other exchange students from both NTU and NUS universities. This ‘organised format’ of travel allowed me to ease into the trips overseas. Included in what I paid was a bus trip to KL (Kuala Lumpur), multiple meals, accommodation, two insane nights out and tours of some of KL’s most famous attractions.

The trip up from Singapore through Malaysia to KL was quite memorable. We all jumped in a party bus from central Singapore which took us the entire 5 hour journey. After making our way through immigration we drove for an hour until we reached a small traditional Malay roadside restaurant. Here we had a meal of local dishes, including chicken, seafood and vegetarian options. I enjoyed the spicy Tom Yum Style soup the most, as it was the perfect blend of spice and powerful flavours.

After this pit-stop we continued on our long journey north, and the trips host distributed the long awaited drinks. We had a long time to socialise with our fellow passengers and made a bunch of new and interesting friends from around the world (some of which I have hung out with afterwards aswell!). Four hours and a few too many toilet stops later we made it to our hotel. The Hotel became our base to explore the city and we immediately spent a long night out in town (we made full advantage of the comparatively cheap prices in Malaysia).

Petronas Twin Towers
Previously the World’s Tallest Buildings (1998-2004)

The next day we spent exploring some of KL’s more famous sights. Attractions such as the Petronas Towers, Central Market and Chinatown… The contrast between Singapore and Malaysia was quite clearly visible walking around the streets. Whilst Malaysia had beautiful buildings and districts akin to Singapore there was also a very clear undertone of poverty and the city was very clearly nowhere near as developed as Singapore. The contrast between rich and poor was very clear when looking at luxury apartment complexes next to neighbourhoods made entirely of corrugated metal. As such our trip was quite an eye opener as to how lucky we all were to study in Singapore, which is so incredibly safe, efficient and well-polished.

After yet another long night out, the next morning was spent at the famous Batu Caves Temple Complex. It was a few days before the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in which the deity of Lord Murugan is celebrated, and as Batu Caves has the world’s largest statue of Lord Murugan it was a perfect chance to experience Malaysia’s minority Hindu culture!

43 Meter Tall Statue of Lord Murugan

We went back late that night to Singapore, and it felt comfortably like I was arriving back home as soon as I saw my dorm in the distance. Overall I really enjoyed Malaysia and will definitely plan to spend a week or so there in the future after my exams.

Bali – Indonesia

The Friday after my trip to Malaysia I was already jetting off to Indonesia. You can’t get more stereotypically Kiwi than going to spend a long weekend in Bali, especially since I went with my mate DJ from Australia!

Indonesia is super cheap compared to Singapore and NZ! Therefore me and my group of 4 friends were able to afford a very nice villa in the heart of Seminyak to call home for 5 nights. I thought it wasn’t even possible, but Bali was even hotter than Singapore… So having a pool to cool of in after the long sweaty days was super nice and our villa definitely felt like paradise on earth.

I can neither confirm nor deny if I jumped off the roof into the pool…

One of the first things we did after our arrival was hire scooters. These are by far the best method of getting around the island on your own and at 5 dollars a day hiring them was also well within budget. I hadn’t driven one before getting there yet got used to it really fast and although the traffic was absolutely mad it was a bunch of fun weaving between cars, other bikes and over footpaths. In fact the most fun I think I had all week was hooning down country lanes between the rice paddies.

Using our scooters we explored various parts of the Island, including waterfalls, the famous monkey temple and many of Bali’s beautiful beaches. We also spent a day on Nusa Penida (a smaller island about 40 mins away) which has world famous beaches and amazing seascape vistas.

Kelingking Beach on Nusa Penida

Another thing that Bali is known for is its nightlife… We spent time at various beach clubs such as Potato Head, as well as the Brazilian themed La Favela bar! Bali was definitely a heap of fun and I believe I’ll probably head back here in the future as a break from NZ!

Future Plans

All this traveling has amped me up to continue my trips from my home base of Singapore. One great opportunity for travel is the mid-semester recess break. During this time I’ll be spending 10 days in the Philippines on the southern islands of Cebu and Bohol.

One thing about studying abroad in Singapore was that I missed the majority of the summer holidays back in NZ. But since my last exam will be taking place on the 8th of May this means I have approximately two months before semester two starts back at UoA! I’ll be using the most of my time and have brought my hiking backpack from home to continue my travels throughout South East Asia. I plan to backpack my way through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam… spending two months or however long my funds last.

Till next time!

Not bad for a long weekend!

Iven: Chapter 1 of My Journey to Singapore

Kia ora! *:・゚✧(ꈍᴗꈍ)✧・゚:*

It is currently the last day of January as I am writing this post in my dorm, but how was my first month being on exchange in Singapore? What is it like living in Singapore? Are there certain things I should be aware of if I’m going to Singapore? What are the classes like at The National University of Singapore (NUS)? Don’t worry I will cover all these questions along with some of my key tips I’ve learnt along the way!

WEEK 1: Settling in and Exploring Singapore

After celebrating New Years with a bang in Auckland, I flew over 8,000kms to Singapore where I stayed at a hotel on my first night and then an Airbnb for the rest of the week. For me, I really wanted to come to Singapore earlier to be able to adjust and have time to settle in. Taking my first step into Singapore honestly felt like entering a sauna, the hot and humid air was super overwhelming.

Tip: Buy a travel adapter from Auckland Airport and bring your Student Pass documents on paper to show immigration when you arrive 🙂

The MRT in Singapore (very efficient but be prepared to stand)

During my first week, I tried to adapt to the humid weather, explore different parts of Singapore, familiarize myself with the public transport and the way of life in Singapore. Some interesting differences compared to New Zealand, which I noticed during this time were that most traffic crossings don’t make the ‘beeping’ sound and Uber is not used here, instead Grab is which essentially is Uber and Uber Eats in one ( I really love Grab).

Tip: Don’t buy your SIM card at the airport, get it at 7-Eleven because it’s cheaper. I recommend Singtel as a phone provider because they have the best data deals (bring your passport with you).

Shops and stalls at Chinatown

WEEK 2: Moving into NUS, Meeting other Exchange Students

For this exchange, I will be staying at University Town (UTown) which is the main part of campus. UTown has food courts, Starbucks, convenience stores… etc, however, it is not the only accommodation which NUS offers. Personally, I chose UTown as my first option for accommodation as I had researched and found that it’s where most exchange students stay, it is very close to the amenities I mentioned earlier and you get to share an apartment with 3 other people.

Tip: Pack your own home-ware, bedding.. etc if you don’t want to buy them here. Also learn from my mistake and don’t buy your bedding stuff from IKEA, I recommend getting it from local markets or malls, for example, Clementi Mall.

The NUS sign at UTown

The check-in date for my dorm was on January 6th, it was a long process waiting but it was worth it in the end after I got my key and found out I was staying on the 25th floor which is the highest floor! The first thing I did after dropping off my luggage was head to IKEA to buy some essentials for my room. In short, the days after I moved into my dorm consisted of meeting my roommates (who are all Australian!!), attending NUS orientations, meeting other exchange students from New Zealand and all over the world through NUS events and more exploring of Singapore.

Tip: Put yourself out there and try to attend as much events as possible! That’s where you get to meet so many new people and create bonds that will last a lifetime~

Me and other exchange students at Gardens By The Bay for the Light Show

WEEK 3: First Week of Class!- Eeekk

Before the semester began, we were able to change courses (they call it modules here) on a specific day so I submitted a list of 5 modules in order of which I wanted the most. I ended up getting a film module along with my original modules; a design module and a digital storytelling module. Before coming on exchange, I was quite nervous about the difficulty of the courses and if I would find it hard to adjust to the academic side of things. After my first week of class, my worries went away immediately, and it reassured me on why I wanted to go on exchange. The courses I’m doing are up my alley, super interesting and practical, not to mention the great lecturers. I also liked that my classes weren’t in big lecture theatres, they were more intimate and felt like tutorials back at UoA which I prefer.

Tip: Most classes are really cold because of the air-con so bring a jacket also NUS is such a huge campus that they have their own free internal bus system, but they don’t come often and there is always competition to get onto the bus! So get to the bus stop early because NUS does not tolerate lateness.

Since I’m only doing 3 modules and tutorials didn’t start until week 3, my timetable was pretty chill so while I had class, I still had plenty time to explore more of Singapore and hangout with my new exchange friends. One of my favorite places we visited (other than all the amazing food we ate)was definitely the Jewel Changi Airport, when I arrived in Singapore like my other exchange friends, we didn’t get to see the pretty waterfall that everyone knows of when they think of Singapore so we went back and wow!!

Tip: Almost all food places, especially at NUS, don’t give you straws! Oh and they give you LOTS of ice! for drinks so be prepared.

WEEK 4: Chinese New Year + Trip to Malaysia!

At this time, on the news and basically everywhere, people are talking about the Coronavirus. Everyone is starting to wear masks and people are paranoid, the university is also taking a lot of administrative matters to keep students safe. It has been quite scary but with that said, it didn’t stop the Chinese New Year’s festivities. CNY is a big holiday here in Singapore and Asia, everything is shut down essentially. For Chinese New Years, me and a few of my exchange friends went to Tioman Island in Malaysia which marks my first trip to another country whilst on exchange! It was so serene and unreal, there’s something about being on an island away from city life, away from work, away from the humid weather that is so tranquil.

WEEK 5: First week of Tutorials

The start of this week marked the start of tutorials, although class had begun 2 weeks prior, the tutorials were the first time I was able to interact with other local students. As an exchange student I did have a fear of being ostracized but that was far from reality. As the semester rolls on, I’m looking forward to more fun times with all the beautiful people I have met here on exchange. It’s only been a month and I already know I have made lifelong bonds and I’m already dreading the day I will have to say goodbye…..Well that’s it from me now! Don’t worry, there will be more chapters, memories and more fun stories to come. This is just the start of what will be one of the best times of my lifeヽ(^◇^*)/

P.S Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for more exchange content coming soon I promise!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥  https://www.youtube.com/iventhepanda ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ 

Iven aka IvenThePanda Signing Out…..

Tom: Arrival in the Garden City!

Arrival

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.

Looking at Downtown Singapore from the Civic District

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!).

More of Downtown during Sunset

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!).

Me and fellow UoA Student (and blogger!) Maxwell

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.

It’s not all been study… Clubs in Singapore are a step above Bar101 back home

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.

Food

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.

$5 for all this!

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…

An American, Kiwi, Two French Canadians and an Aussie…
Singapore has been the perfect place to make a bunch of mates from all over the World!