Vincent - National University of Singapore

B. Civil Engineering
Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

While at NUS I completed the units CN2122, CE2112, CE3165 and CE2183.

Studying in Singapore was a unique learning experience. Not only did I learn valuable content in my courses, I was also able to observe how the university system works differently and how it compared to the system I was used to at UQ. Since the majority of courses at NUS are graded on a bell curve system, I was able to enjoy a sense of freedom within my exams, which did not contain any minimum cut off scores. While this may come as a relief to many, the bell curve system certainly provides its own unique obstacles which Australian students may struggle to come to terms with.

The bell curve means you are graded relative to your other classmates and in my courses, I was graded relative to the studious locals. This means that a passing grade could be higher than what you are used to back home, but it all depends on the cohort that semester. While this may seem daunting, the bell curve system means that in order to pass, you just need to perform as well as the majority of other students. This can be achieved by ensuring to complete all pieces of assessment, as well as communicating with others in your class to gauge what kind of scores you might expect to be the 'average' in exams.

Personal experience

During my exchange I had the freedom to travel and was able to see a great deal of Singapore and its surrounding islands, as well as a weekend trip to Hong Kong. I was able to experience living within a totally different culture, a culture which itself is comprised of many separate cultures. This really gave me a fresh perspective on life in Asia, and what it means to live in an Asian country.

Probably the most valuable thing I gained from my exchange were the host of fantastic friends from around the world, which really made my exchange the best it possibly could have been.

Accommodation

While at NUS I stayed on campus at Prince George's Park Residences (commonly known as PGP, or PGPR). Living on campus was incredibly convenient as NUS provides an efficient free campus bus service for which PGP is a stop. These buses run very frequently and I was able to commute from my room to my classes on the other side of campus in about 15 minutes. The location of my residence also allowed for a quick commute to the city with a major subway station only a 5 minute walk away. Aside from the location and convenience of PGP, the residence also has two canteens where you can pick up a cheap meal, and a grocery store.

My room itself was small, but comfortable with a communal bathroom. Each floor contains a communal kitchen with a fridge and cooking appliances, although the reliability of these depends on which floor you are located on.

Another major benefit of PGP is the sociability of the place, the majority of occupants are international students, with a large chunk of these being exchange students in a similar position as you. If you are going to be staying at PGP, I would recommend familiarising yourself with the layout and location of the PGP facilities and obtaining the obvious essentials such as towels and sheets, as well as any cooking materials you might require (which can be obtained at the PGP store).

Budget

Generally Singapore is a relatively expensive city to live in, but as a student your activities will really dictate how much your exchange costs. If you are staying on campus, you may be surprised at how cheap accommodation is (approximately 2300 SGD) and this is paid upfront before arriving.

Flights are reasonably cheap, if purchased early. Transport around Singapore is extremely easy on their public transport system, which is also relatively cheap. ​You can purchase a public transport card and top it up. I pent around $150 on transport in total, and I used the MRT system very frequently to travel around the city.

The costs of food really depend on what you want to eat. Grocery prices are comparable to Australia's and a cheap cooked meal (3-8sgd) can be obtained easily at any Hawker centre or canteen, and these generally offer a good variety, however meal portions are often small. Western food and food chains are often more pricey and you may expect to pay a bit more for this type of food. As you will probably find out when you arrive, Alcohol is taxed highly, so any social drinking activities will likely end up costing you (expect to pay 50+ SGD for a night out).

Singapore acts as a fantastic hub for further SE Asia travel and cheap tickets can be purchased in advance. After paying for your flights and accommodation, I would recommend budgeting for the month and trying to stick to it based on your own needs.

Professional development and employability

Living within an Asian country has really given me the perspective and experience needed to understand how interactions and professional practice vary based on the dominant culture. I think that my exchange will have made me more capable of acting as a professional overseas, especially within Asia.

Highlight

I would say that the highlight of my experience was being able to meet so many fantastic people and being able to study, travel and have fun with them in an exciting and thoroughly interesting country which was unique to all of us.

Top tips

I would really recommend researching your university and its respective city before arriving to find out what things you might want to participate in and experience. Look it clubs, groups and other kinds of opportunities offered by your exchange university, as this is a great way to make local connections. If you plan on doing extra travel, I would also recommend planning this in advance, as this is an excellent way to save money.