Daniel - National University of Singapore

B. Electrical and Computer Engineering
Semester 1, 2016

Academic experience

I took EE2021 (Devices and Circuits), EE2011 (Engineering Electromagnetics) and EE4415 (Integrated Digital Design) and got credit for ELEC3400 (Electronic Circuits), ELEC3100 (Fundamentals of Electromagnetic Fields & Waves) and CSSE4010 (Digital System Design) respectively. As an alternative to a fourth subject, I completed a research attachment. For which I did not gain any credit back at UQ but good experience on my resume and a lighter subject load to make exchange even more relaxing. I was attached to a medical research team working at the National University Hospital and wrote software to process MRI images for their research.
I found the academic system very similar to UQ in terms of course structure and assessment styles. However, the class sizes were significantly smaller. In courses where a large number of students were enrolled the cohort was divided up into the groups of 25-30 and split between multiple lecturers.
Not many of the classes I took were recorded so this made catching up at exam time difficult. The most significant challenge I encountered with the National University Of Singapore’s system was a challenge another exchange student from Canada went through. The university provides absolutely no sympathy and will not make an effort to accommodate you should extreme circumstances affect your exchange semester. For example, this Canadian student had to fly home because of a significant family emergency. Whilst under immense stress at home NUS forced the student to jump through numerous hoops, return to Singapore and undergo a psychiatric assessment before they would consider their situation being serious enough to justify them missing their exams. Supplementary exams do not exist at NUS and in the end, the student failed 2 of their subjects.

Personal experience

I feel as though I was very lucky with how the social aspect of my exchange worked out. From talking to other exchange students staying at different colleges (referred to as halls in Singapore) and a student on exchange at Nanyang Technical University, the social environment at my hall surpassed all others. The majority of my friendships from exchange stemmed from my hall.
I found the Singaporeans and the other exchange students very friendly and easy to get along with. There are many people who I will be catching up with when I return to Singapore one day.
Initially, I experienced a bit of a language barrier in Singapore. Despite the national language being English it is, very correctly, referred to as Singlish. A couple of days and you pick it up.
I travelled to Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia twice during my exchange, but most of my time was spent visiting different places within Singapore with different people. I recommend eating at lots of different hawker centres, cycling on Pulau Ubin and visiting the usual Singapore sights such as Gardens by the Bay. For me, this holiday was more focused on food than visiting different places.

Accommodation

I lived on campus at Temasek Hall. Most of the on campus accommodation does not have air-conditioning, while you get used to it, it is definitely something to consider when choosing accommodation. 
Temasek Hall was one of the older and more run down colleges but this was outweighed by the hall’s positives. It was, from what I was told and experienced, the most relaxed hall when it came to rules and curfews. 
My semester was the second semester the hall was trialling a group of students being in charge of organising outings for the exchange students. This formed a great social group and took me to places I wouldn’t have known to go to myself. It also gave me the opportunity to try many exotic Asian foods. 
The compulsory food plan provided fairly budget food, which to some may have been overwhelming. My semester was the last in the contract of the current catering company so this may change. Temasek also had free washing machines and a bit of a kitchen which most halls didn’t.
It was a great community to live in and would definitely recommend it.

Budget

For me, I knew the price of rent when I booked my on-campus accommodation. Compared to friends who went on exchange to other countries, my rent was very cheap. Most food in Singapore is also very cheap you can eat an Asian meal for less than $5AUD from any of the hawker centres or on campus. Western food and nicer restaurants were more similar to Australian prices but still cheap.
For transport, the MRT (subway) network is very good and the government is making it even better still. Pair it with the busses and you can pretty much get anywhere. To travel on public transport, it is best to get an MRT card or EZ-Link card. They are the same concept as Go Cards but with the EZ-Link card, you can also use it at some shops like PayWave. Unfortunately, exchange students have to pay adult prices.
The public transport network can be slow as it is very popular so at other times or when travelling in groups Uber and other methods are faster and most of the time cheaper. I used Uber, GrabCar (like Uber but mostly an app to book you taxis) and Taxis a fair bit in Singapore. 
Entertainment can cost as much as you want it to, there is a huge range of things to do.
Alcohol is very expensive, always buy as much as possible at duty-free when coming into the country.
I think exchange in Singapore could be done with as little as $5000AUD including flights (~500), staying at a college with meal plan (~2500). Of course, this depends on what you want to do and what other countries you want to visit.

Professional development and employability

There are plenty of strange things in Asia and most things in life you have to try at least once. I definitely became more outgoing while in Singapore. While working with the medical researchers I developed strong teamwork skills from the difficulties of working with different background and discipline people.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was Nakhon Kitchen.

Top tips

  • Can is can
  • Cannot is Cannot
  • Eat at Sheare’s Supper. Sheare’s Hall opens their kitchen weeknights (9:30pm to 1:00am) and sell delicious and cheap food.
  • Bring an Ethernet cable for internet in your room to save getting an overpriced one from the CoOp store.
  • Eat at Nakhon Kitchen (87 Pasir Panjang Rd, Singapore 118510). Best Thai food I have ever eaten.
  • Always buy bulk duty-free alcohol
  • UQ Semester 2 is Singapore’s Semester 1 so you can fit in with new students and maybe make more local friends.
  • UQ Semester 1 is Chinese New Year and inter-hall games (which you can compete in)
Daniel - National University of Singapore