Reflection: John

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It has been an eye-opening journey to complete my student exchange programme at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. I definitely would love to go on exchange again.

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At the mooncake festival
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Priests at a Hindu ceremony

It was joyful to experience the Singaporean culture. I always enjoyed my attendance at local celebrations and ceremonies. They feel different than the ones back in Auckland. For instance, at the mooncake festival, I was having fun with my lit-up lantern until my friend accidentally burned a big hole in it. Despite the unfortunate incident, I had an amazing experience because I was able to participate first hand.

Getting to know the locals is a benefit. I learned a lot from my local Singaporean friends. For example, it is polite to remove your shoes before entering a home, and it is respectful to address older people as ‘aunty’ or ‘uncle’ according to their gender.

I like the local food in Singapore which is a fusion of Chinese, Indian and Malay food. If you would like to know more about Singaporean food, I wrote a post about it: click here.

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My good friends Albin and Holger with me on a trip to Malaysia

I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people from all around the world. Other than meeting friendly locals, there are about a thousand exchange students from all over the world at NTU. In fact, I made good friends in Singapore who are from Europe who I have plans to visit in the future.

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The Singaporean evening skyline
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Inside the Cloud Forest which houses the tallest waterfall in the world at 50 meters high
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You can actually dine on top of the ‘Supertrees’ at Gardens by the Bay
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View from the tallest brewery in the world – LeVeL33
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After a fun day at Universal Studios Singapore

I had the chance to travel frequently as I only have classes four days per week and I had three days off every week. I took this opportunity to travel around Singapore often. While travelling, I am always astonished by Singapore’s architecture. For starters, Singapore has a beautiful busy skyline. Singapore also has an impressive 50 meters tall indoor waterfall which is the tallest in the world and a bright ‘Supertrees’ garden, both which are built on the same reclaimed land. On top of that, I visited the highest brewery in the world located on the top of a 33-level skyscraper and was able to do beer tasting. It had a fantastic view of Singapore’s city accompanied with delicious craft beers. I also visited the Universal Studios Singapore theme park which was a blast with adrenaline pumping rides. I actually made a vlog of my Singapore travel experience: click here.

There is one thing I wish I would have done more which is to travel more to the neighbouring countries. Many exchange students used the opportunity to visit Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and had a wonderful experience.

Lastly, going on exchange makes financial sense too. If you are a New Zealander, you might be able to qualify for the Prime Minister’s Scholarship which pays almost for your entire exchange experience including the expensive flight tickets. As an international student, I did not qualify for the Prime Minster scholarship, but I was able to obtain a University of Auckland’s Auckland Abroad Awards which was able to cover my flight costs to Singapore. However, the cost of living at Singapore is still less than Auckland.

If you are contemplating on going for an exchange programme, just go for it! It will be an eye-opening experience which you will not regret. I would do it all over again. I miss Singapore.

Questions?

I am always happy to help anyone interested in going exchange to Singapore. Make sure to comment on this blog post, and I will reply whenever possible. Alternatively, you can email me at jlee575@aucklanduni.ac.nz

If you want to check out more of my pictures, please follow my Instagram account: johnleekw.

As this will be my last post, I would like to thank the incredible 360 International team for making this opportunity possible!

Cheers!

Adobe Spark (2)

Campus Life: John

Hey!

Having spent the past three months at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), I think that NTU’s campus is an amazing place to live and study in. NTU’s campus feels like a town itself even though it’s just about 2km2 in size. It has everything from hairdressers to supermarkets.

Let me show you around!

1Welcome to The Hive! It’s one of NTU’s two iconic buildings, designed to look like stacked dim sum baskets! I have my business classes here.

2Let’s go inside. On the lowest floor, there is a student-managed restaurant where you get your favourite coffee, snacks and pasta.

3This is the Art, Design and Media (ADM) building, the NTU’s other iconic building. The coolest feature about this building is its accessible grass-covered roof.

4Feel free to walk up to the roof anytime. It is a great place to hang out during the evenings when the weather is cooling. One thing I noticed in Singapore, no one ever lies down on the grass to relax like in New Zealand.

5Now, let’s head over to the Sports and Recreational Centre. If you like running, you can do it here at the outdoor running track.

6Also, take a dip in the pool whenever you like.

7We can play some outdoor sports here next time! We can choose to play basketball to archery outdoors. If it’s raining, we can head indoor and play sports such as netball, badminton and squash.

8Let’s go to the canteen. We will rent the e-scooter because it’s fun and convenient. You can also rent these scooters at one of their pods located around NTU using our smartphones. But if you do not feel like riding the scooters the next time, you can always rent a bicycle or take the free bus provided by NTU.

9.jpgOther than the canteen, there are many more places to eat from a variety of eateries from cafes, McDonald’s to hawker-style food. The prices of the food here at the campus are mostly lower than outside eateries.

10.jpgMoving on, let’s head to Giant, one of NTU’s two supermarkets – which you can see on the left. Next to it is 7-Eleven which is a 24-hour convenience store.

11.jpgLet’s take a visit to the Chinese Heritage Centre’s museum. Isn’t it cool to have a museum located right in NTU?

12.jpgIf you look towards the opposite of the Chinese Heritage Centre, you can see the Yunan Gardens which is a relaxing place to do your evening walks.

13.jpgThe Nanyang Lake is located close to it which is another good place to de-stress.

14.jpgNow, let’s make our way to the North Spine building. Inside here, there is always have a big screen that is always showing live performances of music artists. I love it. It sets the atmosphere.

15.jpgOver here is the Student Activities Centre at the North Spine building. Shall we play the PS4? Or would you prefer playing either foosball, table tennis or pool?

16.jpgWell, that was a fun game. I will show you the global lounge now. Over here, they always have 9 TV screens showing different channels. You can choose which channel to listen to with your headphones plugged into the controller next to the chair.

17.jpgI guess I shall end the tour with the library. This is one of NTU’s nine libraries. You can book a private pod for your group meetings or study with one of those dual-screen computers.

Hope you liked the tour!

Questions?
I am always happy to help anyone interested in going exchange to Singapore. Make sure to comment on this blog post, and I will reply whenever possible. Alternatively, you can email me at jlee575@aucklanduni.ac.nz

If you want to check out more of my pictures, please follow my Instagram account: johnleekw. https://www.instagram.com/johnleekw/

Cheers!
Adobe Spark (2)

Food, Glorious Food: John

Food, Glorious Food:
At NTU’s orientation, I was told that “Singaporeans are food lovers” and that is indeed true. The Singaporean cuisine is a beautiful mixture of the best recipes from its multicultural ethnicities. Most of the food has been adopted from the Malay, Chinese, Indian and Indonesian dishes. It is quite different from the dishes back in New Zealand. For instance, spicy food and rice are much more common here. Portions are also generally smaller.

Top 5 FOOD you MUST EAT in Singapore

5) Satay (BBQ meat)

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The satay is a charcoal barbequed meat served on skewer together with a special peanut sauce and fresh pineapple, onion and cucumber. You can either order chicken, beef or mutton satay.

The first bite of the charcoaled barbequed satay is a burst of pleasure from its flavourful juicy meat. The meat itself tastes a little sweet and salty. But, eat it will the peanut sauce, you will experience mix textures in your mouth that is nutty and meaty. It ends with a neutral flavour that somehow manages to make you desirably crave for more.

A satay costs around SGD0.80 (~NZD0.60) per stick including the side dishes with a minimum order of usually 10 sticks.

4) Economy rice

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The economy rice is not a specific dish itself, but it is a mixture of multiple home-cooked style dishes.

The economy rice stall will serve about 20 to 30 different dishes from meat, egg to vegetables which are priced differently. You are free to pick the dishes you like and thus it allows you to be ‘economical’ in your decision. Economy rice can cost as low as SGD1.50 (~NZD1.50).

The variety of dishes to choose from may sometimes offer some interesting options. For instance, I have tried the unique coffee chicken which has a distinct sweet coffee fried chicken flavour.

3) Curry Fish Head

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This dish is a little spicy as you can observe from the red curry sauce pictured above. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Put this in your mouth and you will experience a perfect combination of its strong sour and spicy flavours. As you chew it, you will enjoy the soft and smooth fish head meat. To cool off the heat from the curry, eat one of the eggplant, tomato or ladies finger served with it.

Usually, the curry fish head is served with rice to dilute its strong flavours.

The curry fish head I tried above is from a Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded store – Zai Shun Curry Fish Head. The place is quite crowded but it is worth the wait because it is simply delicious.

2) BBQ Chicken Wing

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Although you can find BBQ chicken wings in New Zealand, the one in Singapore tastes special.

Your first bite will be greeted with the sweetness of its honey glazed skin. The honey melts away, leaving you with the gentle saltiness of its charcoal roasted skin. Chew in, and you will be lost in the tender meat that is infused with delicious spices.

If you add a squirt of green lime to it, it will wake you up, increasing your awareness of the joyful moment.

If you choose to enjoy it with its special sour chilli sauce, just imagine everything aforementioned but with a hot pop song that is playing in the background while you eat it.

This experience can be enjoyed for around SGD1.30 (~NZD1.30) per chicken wing.

 1) Hainanese Chicken Rice

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Singapore is also the first country to have one of its hawker centre stores accredited with the Michelin award. Guess what? It is the store that serves chicken rice shown above. I can assure you that it is delicious. Be prepared to line up if you want to try this store – Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. It was not pricey too as it was only SGD6 (~NZD6). Although you can get chicken rice from around SGD2.50 (~NZD2.50), this particular one it is worth the price.

The chicken rice is served with either roasted or steamed chicken – as shown above. The roasted chicken has a rewarding salty taste while the steamed chicken’s best feature is its soft tenderness.

The rice is cooked in soup made from garlic, ginger and chicken which gives it the most appetizing light-yellow colour.

It is also accompanied with a spicy and mildly sour chilli sauce that excites but does not punish you.

Sometimes, a gently sour ginger paste is also served with it. Adding the ginger paste to your bite is like eating another dish itself as the ginger taste is strong but rewarding at the same time.

Gallery

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How Satay is barbequed at Lau Pa Sat hawker centre
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Economy Rice store – a wide the variety of dishes to choose from

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Charcoal Roasted BBQ Chicken Wings

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Roasted vs Steamed chicken
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Maxwell Hawker Centre – to the left, is the line to the Michelin awarded Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice

Questions?

I am always happy to help anyone interested in going exchange to Singapore. Make sure to comment on this blog post, and I will reply whenever possible. Alternatively, you can email me at jlee575@aucklanduni.ac.nz

If you want to check out more of my pictures, please follow my Instagram account: johnleekw.

https://www.instagram.com/johnleekw/

Cheers!

Adobe Spark (2)

 

Accommodation Awards: John

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North Hill looks like the city!

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been appointed as your Accommodation Awards host for Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. I am proud to announce this year’s overall winner is the North Hill Halls, proving its excellence over other halls (…. and because I stay in this hall).

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North Hill at night.

Launched in 2016, the North Hill Halls consists six blocks of condominium styled residential halls built to accommodate 1,600 students with single and shared rooms! The six blocks are organised into three pairs named Banyan Hall, Binjai Hall and Tanjong Hall. They share communal facilities.

The selection process is not an easy task but North Hill triumphs overall:

Best Looks

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Each block has a sky deck like the one in the middle of this picture.
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Viewing platform @ North Hill

North Hill is a magnificent piece of modern architecture. Each block has a beautiful sky deck and multiple communal rooms equipped with air-conditioning and television.

Best Facilities

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Air-conditioned study room! It is usually crowded though.
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I’m running out of excuses to skip the gym since it’s in the building…
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The mini mart at North Hill opens all week long. Reminds me of Munchy Mart.
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Ping pong
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You can book one of these courts online for free @ North Hill Function Hall.

North Hill has a study area, a gym, and a huge function hall where you can play badminton and table tennis for free. North Hill also has a mini mart and several 24-7 vending machines. North Hill is also located next to the NTU’s Sports and Recreational Centre which has a swimming pool, running track, football field, basketball court and a lot more facilities. NTU’s Sports and Recreational Centre is open for access to all NTU students at no cost.

Best Eco

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Trees surround North Hill Halls.

North Hill is designed with environmentally friendly and energy saving features, utilising solar power and wind cooling to minimise power consumption (Source: The Newspaper). Every single unit is equipped with louvered ventilation panels allowing fresh air to cool the room. Lights in communal areas are sensor activated, automatically turning on only whenever you need it.

Best Culture

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Getting my food at hall orientation!
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Jash party at Sentosa Island organised by NTU’s accommodation team.
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Kitchen at North Hill which cooking classes are held.

North Hill halls hold events several times each month which are all subsidised and sometimes even free attendance. These events are great places to get to know your neighbours. Also, there are events hosted in collaboration with other halls as well such as Jash party which is a huge party organised by NTU’s accommodation team at Sentosa Island. The named pairs -Banyan Hall, Binjai Hall and Tanjong Hall also has its own events such as cream puff cooking class! There are also hall sports events open to all residences.

Nominated Best location

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North Hill and its bus stop.
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There is parking for your bike and underground parking for your car.

There is a bus stop conveniently located outside of North Hill which is operatings on the route of both the NTU’s university shuttle and public bus. Since North Hill is located in campus, the distance to most of the faculties is relatively near if you take NTU’s complimentary shuttle bus. However, there are other halls located much closer to the faculties.

Nominated Best Comfort

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Home sweet home! Mine’s a single room with air-conditioning.

The ceiling fan coupled with the huge ventilation panel and windows in every room does its job well to cool the room efficiently. Still, if you are like me and cannot stand Singapore’s warm weather sometimes, it is recommended to opt for the air-conditioned room.

In terms of room size, the rooms at North Hill are a little on the smaller than other halls, but it is still more than sufficient.

Although Wi-Fi is available in common areas, it is not a feature in the rooms. It is also not a feature in other halls at NTU. However, it’s not an issue because you are allowed to use cable internet and your router.

The toilets are communal, and there is a kind cleaner who always keeps it clean.

As this is not a self-catered hall, cooking facilities are limited to one electric stove and microwave on every other floor. There is also a hot and cold water dispenser for each floor. There is no fridge but you are allowed to buy one to put in your room and operate it at additional cost.

Nominated Best Food

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The ceiling fans @ North Hill Food Court are huge!
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The chicken rice shop @ North Hill Food Court. One chicken rice costs $3.
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At the bottom is the Hot Pot and BBQ restaurant which is delicious.

None of the undergraduate halls at NTU is self-catered but all of them have a food court.

North Hill Food Court has a variety of food stalls ranging from mixed rice (where you pick your meats and vegetables) to Indonesian food. There is also a fruit store at the Food Court. The prices are reasonable and the food tastes okay. You can have a meal for SGD3 which is super cheap by New Zealand standards (1 SGD = ~1 NZD).

Unlike other halls, North Hill has three stand-alone restaurants: hot pot & BBQ, Western and Indian restaurant. Although, these are priced higher than the food court but is still reasonable for stand-alone restaurants.

Despite the amount of variety, on average, North Hill’s food is not as delicious as some other halls.

Nominated Best Cost

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Afternoon view!

As North Hill is relatively new, it is among the most expensive in rent. I am currently staying in the most expensive undergraduate room available at campus – single room with air-conditioning at SGD435 per month (1 SGD = ~1 NZD). That is about SGD218 every fort night which is almost half as cheap compared to a similar room in Auckland!

In terms of rooms at NTU’s residences, a single room without air-conditioning is about SGD200 for every fortnight and the air-conditioned equivalent is about 7% more expensive at SGD213. A double room without air-conditioning is cheaper at SGD135 per fortnight and the air-conditioned equivalent is 15% more expensive at SGD155.

Questions?
I am always happy to help anyone interested in going exchange to Singapore. Make sure to comment on this blog post, and I will reply whenever possible. Alternatively, you can email me at jlee575@aucklanduni.ac.nz

If you want to check out more of my pictures, please follow my Instagram account: johnleekw.

https://www.instagram.com/johnleekw/

Cheers!
Adobe Spark (2)