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.
Rachel_2a
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.

Rachel_2b
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.

Rachel_2c

Rachel_2d

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

Hamish: Final Thoughts, Reflections, and Advice

Looking back now – my exchange experience really did change my outlook on University and life in general. Being able to experience so much in so little time does make me sad that I couldn’t stay for longer. I went into the program as a sheltered and inexperienced Kiwi and came out as an internationalised and learned individual. After half a year of having an unimaginable experience, it’s a bitter sweet start to 2019 and back to reality.

Hamish_5a

I’ve made friends all across the world that are worth travelling to see and I still keep in touch with some of them up to this day. I’ve eaten a tonne of all sorts of food, travelled to countries that I’d never imagined I would go to, and made lifelong connections across the globe. If I could go back in time, I would have applied for my exchange earlier, so I would be able to stay for one year instead of half a semester!

My advice to anyone is that I would strongly encourage any student to take part in a student exchange. New Zealand is a pretty small and isolated country and attending another top University somewhere else in the world while travelling is a once in a life time experience. At first, I was quite reluctant to go because there was some difficulty getting my papers transferred over and resulted in me having to extend my degree by a semester. But one semester? Who cares, I’d extend my degree by a semester any day if I could experience the life of being an exchange student.

Hamish_5b
KR frands

The paperwork and admin to go on exchange is quite long and can be quite exhausting but overall, it’s definitely worth it. So, if you’re keen on taking part in one, give real deep thought to the place you want to go and dive into some research as to what papers you want to do and what they offer, and of course, what neighbouring countries are around your exchange University! Even if you’re not so keen or somewhat indifferent about it, I seriously challenge you to get out of your comfort zone and get out there and do it – you won’t regret it.

Overall my time at KR was nothing but pleasant and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I cherished every floor dinner, outing and even study sessions. I thank them very much for being so welcoming and nice to me and I wish them all the best. So if you’re keen to go study at NUS and you have the option to choose Kent Ridge Halls, DO IT!

Hamish_5c
KR D Block sends their love 🙂

Thank you for reading my story and all the best,

Hamish_Signature

Hamish: Travels around South East Asia

Travelling the world is a dream for some people, but when you’re on exchange, it becomes a reality.

Since Singapore is at the centre of South East Asia, flights to countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and even Taiwan are very cheap. Transportation and daily expenses are also super cheap, especially when you’re going in groups of friends.

When you’re on exchange you’ll probably be struck by the amount of people travelling and may even get some serious FOMO. Don’t be worried or saddened – travelling isn’t a competition. Take your time and travel at your own leisure.

I personally only travelled to 3 countries – Vietnam, Taiwan and Malaysia, during my exchange, which was pretty minimal. Compared to some other exchangers, they were literally out every 2 weeks.

I could go on for years about each place, but I’ll just generalise each place and add some photos to sum up each place because sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words!

Vietnam

Vietnam was a spontaneous 4-day trip for me when I decided to go with a friend from America and another from the Netherlands. Vietnam’s one of the countries that require a visa but costs a pretty cheap $30 NZD.

The living conditions some people experience, and the noise pollution can be quite surprising and shocking at first. Many Vietnamese people are quite poor, doing laborious jobs like cleaning or sell snacks in small road-side stands. You also see a lot of old people pushing garbage trolleys to take them into bins for money as well. That being said though, some of them are real welcoming of tourists and if you’re lucky, you can snap a photo with them!

Hamish_4a

Hamish_4b
Say cheeese

Food’s a big thing in Vietnam and it’s also super cheap. There are tonnes food stands and dessert places, and Vietnam is also known to be the home of phở and bánh mì.

Hamish_4c
Phoooo

Hamish_4d

Taiwan

Initially, I went to Taipei with a bunch of Australians for 4 days, then went on a solo trip to Kaohsiung in the south for 3 days. Taiwan is another country where everything’s pretty damn cheap and is also known for its street food and the country for bubble tea. I’d literally be like ‘I feel like some bubble tea’ and then I walk 2 minutes and I find one – there are bubble tea shops everywhere!

Despite being Chinese, my Mandarin is quite poor so communicating and ordering food was a bit difficult, but it was enough for me to practice and get around the country.

Hamish_4f
The train station for Shifen

Some popular places in Taipei are Shifen and Jiufen – both places take quite long to get to if you live in the city but it’s well worth the travel. Shifen’s one long popular street in the mountains, where a lot of people write wishes on lanterns and then set them off into the sky. The movie ‘Spirited Away’ setting was based off Jiufen as well, so it does feel quite surreal to be there if you’ve watched the movie before!

Hamish_1g
Tonnes of food, people and lanterns
Hamish_4i
Exteriors of Jiufen

Instead of going up the famous Taipei101, we decided to head up Elephant Mountain for the view. It’s a pretty big mountain and it takes around half an hour to go up and at times it gets really steep. You even see some people resting on the side or even giving up sometimes but the view is super worth it!

Hamish_4j

One downside of going up the mountain for the view is that there’s quite a bit of trees that block some good views but overall, it’s still real nice place to be up.

Hamish_4k
Preeeetty good

I happened to be in Taiwan during the Mid-Autumn Spring festival where everyone goes to temples to pray and celebrate while eating delicious mooncake.

Hamish_4l

Hamish_4m

There are quite a lot of night markets around Taipei but the main ones I went to were Shilin and Raohe. Some popular foods are dumplings, ‘big intestines wrapped around small intestines’, stinky tofu, fried chicken and various seafoods.

Hamish_4n
Thankful that they speak Mandarin well 🙂

After Taipei, I took a 5-hour bus ride from Taipei to Kaohsiung to see more of the country. Kaohsiung is quite different to Taipei as it’s more of a residential and traditional area than Taipei. I visited about 10 different temples as I backpacked around the city and since a lot of the tourist spots were quite close by, I ended up walking 35 kilometres in one day when it was 30 degrees. Travelling by yourself can be a bit lonely at times but it’s good in terms of being able to travel at your own speed and stopping wherever you want!

Hamish_4o
Dragon Tiger Pagodas

Hamish_4p

Hamish_4qMalaysia

Lastly, I went on a 4-day trip to Malaysia with two friends from China that I met from halls. Since Malaysia is a one-hour flight from Singapore, some people like to take the weekend off and go on a quick getaway to Malaysia.

Hamish_4r
View from the hotel

People in Malaysia speak mainly Malay but there are also Chinese speakers and a lot of them also speak English. There’s not a lot to say about Malaysia that I haven’t said about other countries – food’s nice and cheap, transports convenient, and the tourist attractions are awesome. But, some places can be a bit dangerous with a bit more robberies than others so make sure you’re looking after yourself and your belongings!

Hamish_4s
The Petronas Towers
Hamish_4t
Who doesn’t?
Hamish_4u
Is it really a trip to KL if you haven’t been to the Batu Caves?

That wraps up the end of my blog for travelling. 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!!

Hamish_Signature

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.

Rachel_1a
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.

Rachel_1b
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

Hamish: Life on Campus

I’ve already talked a bit about life on campus already in my previous blogs but in this one I’d like to shed a bit more light on what really goes on campus in terms of study, food and living.

Study

From what I’ve seen, boy oh boy do the locals study hard. Since everyone has super busy schedules with their 5+ papers, the students don’t get a lot of time to chill around like they do at IC0, Science Centre or OGGB. That being said, the majority of students are also heavily involved in extra curriculars like sports/clubs/groups, giving rise to this super hardworking, efficient and productive culture.

Hamish_3a
Dance performances at the UTown Green

I personally feel that there are a lot of opportunities, such as various clubs and groups, available at NUS that can really expand your skillset. Because students have joined so many activities, literally everyone I’ve come across has had some sort of internship which is actually pretty surprising because internships at UoA are more of an optional thing – the majority of people don’t have an internship at some top firm.

Another thing is that it’s super easy to meet new people in your courses because in most papers, especially, there’s a lot of group work. Most people dread this at UoA because there’s always people in your group that don’t really do anything, and everyone usually leaves everything to the last minute – that’s the complete opposite here. In 2 of the 3 papers that I was taking at NUS, there were group assignments/projects and my teammates literally started it on the first day. I’m not sure if that’s the same across most groups but I was pretty baffled – because I’m one of the students that start on the last few days hahaha.

Hamish_3b
Last Financial Economics photoshoot with my group hah

Last but not least, NUS is very competitive. Their marking system is different to UoA where they mark you according to the bell-shaped curve. You may have heard of this from high school Statistics but basically, your grade is calculated according to how well you do relative to your peers. So, if the mean is 80%, then to get a B, you need around 80%! Which is actually pretty scary, especially considering how hard the locals study here. But it shouldn’t be so important for most exchange students because their papers are pass/fails instead of transferring the actual grade over.

Food

Study aside, students love to chill and banter with friends while having a makan. All the locals call meals a makan so it’d be pretty common to hear something like ‘what time makan?’. At UoA, I feel that it’s pretty common to see people eat by themselves, but here, a good 90% of people find others to eat with. Since everybody has to eat, when people have spare time, they like to walk/bus down to a nearby canteen and have a nice catch up over food.

Hamish_3c

One tip on when you’re feeling indecisive on what to get – there’s a custom in Singapore where you just get food where the line’s the longest because it’s almost guaranteed that it’s the best food in the canteen.

Living

Personally, I’ve never lived on campus before, so this was a new experience for me. It’s actually so good. You live so close to classes, so when I have an 8am, (I only had one phew) I literally wake up at 7:45am, grab breakfast and make it to class on time. You also live so close to cheap food and even if you live far, you just take the free University bus and you’re there instantly. And once you’re done with classes for the day, you just take a short ride on the bus and then home sweet home. Totalling up your daily expenses, given that you eat out for all 3 meals a day, comes to about $10 – $12, which is the price of a typical lunch in Auckland!

Hamish_3d
KR D Block 3rd Floor S1 2k18

That wraps up the end of my blog for life on campus. 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!!

Hamish_Signature

Licheng: Final Reflections

Five months have passed and so ends my semester here at NUS.

I felt that studying at NUS was particularly challenging as my class seemed to be full of bright and outspoken people. I felt that the courses here had a stronger classroom involvement than our courses back home as there were always volunteers to share their ideas and solutions. However, despite having a very strong education system, there were still many apparent flaws. The typical semester workload at UoA is 60 points, or around 4 courses. At NUS, the typical semester workload was an equivalent of 75 points; around 5 courses, however, due to the competitive nature of University it wasn’t uncommon for students to be taking 6 courses a semester. I once met a scholarship student taking 8 courses one semester, a notion I couldn’t even fathom happening back home in Auckland! I noticed that this overloading of courses didn’t always achieve the intended results; students always seemed stressed out, pushing against deadlines, sacrificing sleep and social life to grind for a better grade. Studying strategy became a matter of retaining enough knowledge to get a good grade, before clearing mind space for the next onslaught of courses.

One of the more important lessons I learnt this semester was that grades didn’t mean everything. As an exchange student your credits will be transferred back on a pass/fail basis, alleviating a lot of the pressure to study and time commitment towards your courses. I find that the people who are eligible for exchange, especially to a top university such as NUS tend to be quite studious, so it may be challenging at first to place studying as a lower priority but people gradually loosened up! I found that spending a lot of time with different people and placing myself out of my comfort zone was an invaluable experience. There’s so much I learnt outside of the classroom, from having better relationships to seeing different ways of life. I feel like these experiences have definitely gone a long way towards shaping my identity and made me an overall more wholesome person. I’ll never forget Singapore!

Licheng_5a

Licheng_5b

Licheng_5c

Licheng_Signature

Licheng: Choosing the National University of Singapore

When I first browsed through the prospective universities open to exchange, I couldn’t make my mind up on where I should go. I watched a lot of American television growing up, so I felt like I could transition well into a US school, or alternatively if I chose a school in China I could become more connected to my ethnic roots. After doing research on my shortlist of universities, I discovered that Singapore lay at the intersection of eastern and western culture. As an ethnic Chinese person growing up in New Zealand I always felt stuck between the dichotomy of my Chinese identity and my Kiwi way of life, so I truly felt that I could learn a lot if I were to go to Singapore. With Singapore appearing to be the best of both worlds, I set my first choice university to be the National University of Singapore, and my second choice to be Nanyang Technological University.

Singaporeans were known to have a diligent and disciplined work culture. The start-up scene in Singapore was always fairly notable which gave me the impression that Singapore was a technologically advanced, innovative and forward thinking nation. Taking into consideration the warm climate and low crime rates, Singapore was beginning to look like a firm contender for me to devote my career towards. With 95% of Singaporeans travelling abroad for leisure, alongside world leading ranks in math, reading, and science education, I really looked forward to surrounding myself with these well-educated and well travelled people.

Licheng_4a

Now that I’ve spent 5 months in Singapore, I realise that some of my initial expectations were a tad naive. Singaporeans are indeed very hard-working, so much that it wouldn’t be uncommon to see students still up and studying until 2 in the morning. In fact, at one point I even felt a bit self-conscious that I was the only one sleeping 8 hours a day. However, Singapore also has one of the highest digital consumption rates in the world, so all those hours staying up aren’t necessary spent productively. The infrastructure and public services are indeed very impressive, however it comes with a hefty price; rated world’s most expensive city for the 5th year straight, Singapore doesn’t pull its punches when it comes to making you spend money. A perfect example is the notorious $88 per litre alcohol excise tax!

Licheng_4b

Licheng_Signature

Licheng: Travelling Southeast Asia

One of the things I was really excited about in this exchange was how easy it was to travel around Southeast Asia. Singapore is located in southern Malaysia and offers affordable flights to any of the neighbouring countries. If you’re into big cities try Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Hong Kong, or Kuala Lumpur. If you want to have an enriching cultural experience visit Myanmar, Chiang Mai, Taipei, or Siem Reap. If you love the beach be sure to visit Batam/Bintan, Bali, Phi Phi Islands, Cebu, or Brunei.

As you are all well aware, New Zealand is notoriously expensive to fly out from so really take advantage of where you are! Return flights from Singapore to Phuket can get as low as $150 SGD while the lowest Auckland to Phuket return will cost you $800 NZD. I really pushed myself to travel as much as I could in this exchange. In doing so I met people who inspired me as well as made countless invaluable memories. It’s up to you to create your own highlight reel, and here’s just a sneak peak into mine!

I met these bunch of American and European exchange students and we set out for an adventure in Taipei! One of my favourite moments was when we personalised our own sky lantern at Shifen Old Street. You can choose different colours that represent different values for each side of the lantern and write your personal wishes for each side. After this experience I feel like we all got to know each other just a little bit better.

Licheng_3a

Licheng_3b

The Comp Sci cuties explore Phuket! These Boston CS students and I had a great long weekend getaway that included island hopping, walking down the infamous Bangla Road, experiencing the Vegetarian festival, as well praying at the Buddhist temple! (No tigers were harmed in the taking of this photo)

Licheng_3c

Licheng_3d

What happens when New Zealand meets Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan? A big group with bigger mischief in the streets of Saigon! I travelled with a lovable group to Southern and then Central Vietnam, where we got into all different kinds of trouble. What happens in Ho Chi Minh stays in Ho Chi Minh. I don’t think I could ever forget my diet rotation of Banh Mi and Pho for 7 days straight.

Licheng_3f

Licheng_3e
Find this place and prepare yourself for Saigon’s finest!!
Licheng_3g
Go for a peaceful boat ride at Hoi An!

Throw a birthday party in Batam! A two hour ferry away from Singapore, with really high price value resorts. As part of celebrations we tried paddleboarding, tubing, jet skiing, and other fun activities!

Licheng_3h

Licheng_3i

Licheng_3j

To make the most of your adventures, don’t forget that it’s journey before destination! Keep an open mind and be patient with one another. There will be several occasions where you let your fuzzy side show, but don’t let that stop you from having a good time!

Licheng_Signature

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!

Hamish_2a.jpg
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).

Hamish_2b

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.

Hamish_2c
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.

Hamish_2d
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.

Hamish_2e

Hamish_2f
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.

Hamish_2g
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!!

Hamish_Signature

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.

Licheng_2a.jpg

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.

Within Singapore there are these open-air areas with a large variety of food stalls called hawker centres. These centres contribute significantly to the food culture in asia, and can also be found in Malaysia, Indonesia, or Hong Kong. There are many uncles/aunties at the hawkers who specialise in a signature dish, passing their recipe from generation to generation to finetune and perfect the taste. Be sure to try iconic dishes such as chilli crab, satay, hainanese chicken rice, hokkien mee, char kway teow, and popiah!

My local friend took the liberty to label some of the dishes he brought us out to try, so take a cheeky gander and prepare your bellies! (hint hint: invite people to go hawker hopping!)

licheng_2b.pnglicheng_2c.png

Licheng_Signature