Han - National University of Singapore

B Advanced Finance/Economics
Exchange was so shiok - cannot wait to go back lah!

Academic experience

I studied Game Theory & Applications to Economics (EC3312), Economics and Psychology (EC3394), The Changing Economic Landscape of Southeast Asia (SE2218) and Public Speaking (GET1008). The style of classes were quite similar to UQ, in that there were lectures and tutorials. 

One of the biggest differences I realised was that NUS uses a bell-curve to grade their students. Only 10% of the class can receive the top mark, and most, if not all, of the local students study extremely hard to excel in their modules. Luckily, as an exchange student, it was a pass/fail system; however, I couldn't even begin to imagine the huge amounts of stress NUS students face when striving to do well in their subjects. 

You submit your subject preferences online, and NUS will allocate you your modules. I would recommend putting as many subjects as you can on the online ranking system. Initially, I put in 9 subjects, and I was only allocated 3 subjects (but I needed 4). Don't freak out if something similar happens to you - about 90% of exchange students don't get their subjects they want the first time around. You can add and drop modules during the add/drop period (which is during the first few weeks of the semester).

Personal experience

I've made incredible friendships with people all around the world through my exchange experience. I was able to visit some iconic landmarks in Singapore, including Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and Sentosa Island, to name a few. 

From living in Singapore, I was able to develop a deeper appreciation of Singapore's lifestyle and diverse culture. I was also able to pick up a bit of Singlish (which, to be honest, I'm yet to use properly).

Through the NCP Scholarship, I was able to undertake some part-time language training alongside my studies. I found this extremely helpful to hone in on the areas I was having trouble with. Since one of Singapore's four official languages is Mandarin, I was also lucky enough to practice it with the uncles and aunties at hawker centres and around Singapore in general.

Accommodation

I lived on campus at Raffles Hall, which is conveniently located in the middle of NUS. What I loved most about living on campus is how close I was to all of my classes (compared to living off campus). I could either walk for 10 minutes, or take one of NUS's (free) internal shuttle buses if I was feeling particularly lazy (which was quite often). All of the halls and colleges have a meal plan which meant that I didn't have to constantly worry about what I was going to eat for breakfast and dinner for most of the days of the week. Note that UTown Residence is the only accommodation option that does not have a meal plan. 

What I loved particularly about Raffles Hall was the wide array of extra-curricular activities they offered, ranging from sports, arts to volunteering. All of the local students were extremely lovely and friendly, and made it easier to make friends. 

On the housing application form, NUS warns that demand for on-campus accommodation is greater than the supply of accommodation so be prepared to find off-campus accommodation. I remember thinking that this probably wasn't true, but in fact I met many exchange students who weren't successful in securing on-campus accommodation. Most exchangers are able to get on-campus accommodation, but just be prepared to find off-campus accommodation in the case where you aren't successful.

Costs

I paid just under $2600 for my accommodation (17 weeks) and for my hall's meal plan. Generally, food is fairly cheap in Singapore. When I ate on campus, I paid on average about $4 per meal, and I never paid more than $6 for a meal. Public transportation is also relatively cheap compared to Brisbane, and how much you spend depends on how often you leave campus and explore the city. 

Entertainment and travel again are dependent upon what you want to do, but flights to other counties in Southeast Asia are fairly cheap since Singapore is geographically close to those countries.

Challenge

This wasn't necessarily a challenge, but something I had difficulty with was bonding with the local students. I wanted to make quite a few local friends, but I sometimes found it hard to interact with them, especially if already had their own friendship groups. I overcame this by participating in lots of university and hall events, and joined my hall's choir where I was able to socialise with lots of locals every week!

Professional Development

Some of the major skills I was able to further develop included my cultural intelligence, open-mindedness and my ability to connect with various people from different countries and backgrounds. You meet so many different people, each with different backgrounds and personalities, and you have to interact with everyone differently if you really want to get to know them on a more personal and deep level. This is extremely important in the professional workplace, where everyone will certainly be working with a diverse range of people.

Highlight

As cliched as it sounds, the highlight of my exchange experience was making lifelong friends not only from Singapore, but from all around the world. Even though everyone was strangers at the beginning, the bonds you form over the semester are incredibly strong. I still keep in touch with many of the friends I made in Singapore!

Top tips

Explore the NUS campus because there's lots to offer. Whether it's their comprehensive (and free) sporting facilities, to the various food courts scattered around campus, definitely take the time to explore NUS. 

For Singapore in general, take the time out every month to visit Gardens by the Bay at night. There's a different light show each month, which will certainly amaze you!