James - National University of Singapore

B. Engineering
Semester 2, 2018
The experience of living in a different culture with different values and ways of doing things is amazing.

Academic experience

I studied four courses in my software engineering major, two 3000-level modules, a 4000-level and a 2000-level module. I took two courses not offered as an equivalent at UQ and one of them I very strongly enjoyed. It was great to take a course not offered at UQ. Three of my courses had heavy groupwork aspects which was interesting and challenging working with people of different levels of background. A challenge I found was studying without a network of friends to study with. All subjects being bell curved makes people a bit less likely to help which makes finding study buddies a bit difficult. I studied with other exchange students and used my project groups for study as well which helped find peers to work with.

The enrolment process was a bit difficult with everything being undecided until the second week of classes. Everything was well communicated but most students do not get the subjects they want in the first round of preferences. In the second round of preferences I got more than enough courses that I required and was able to drop down to the four courses I most wanted to do.

Personal experience

An exchange student get together.

On exchange I spent a lot of time in Singapore involved in a bunch of activities and groups around the university with both exchange and local students. Some of the cool groups I was involved in were a games group, an international group (who did local food trips to hawker centres), a local tours group and a frisbee group. With these groups in Singapore I did a bunch of cool activities including dragon boating, kayaking, hawker centre (food centre and market) crawls, visiting the amazing gardens, night cycling and other local tours.

While in South-East Asia I only did a bit of traveling to Malaysia, but it is certainly possible to do a lot of traveling to surrounding countries. I did a couple trips to Malaysia one a day trip with a local guide taking the bus internationally to the slightly different food and environment. I also did a shorter trip to Kuala Lumpur exploring around a different part of Southeast Asia. Travel around Southeast Asia con be done very cheaply and is worth doing at least some.

Accommodation

I lived on campus at the Prince George Park Residences (PGPR). PGPR and U-Town Residences (UTR) are both low on student life but conveniently close to campus and very good public transport and both have big communities of exchange students.

UTR is closer to student life facilities and is slightly newer and cleaner in general. The halls are much higher on student life and some people I know really enjoyed it but were heavily involved in hall life to get the most out of it, so if you are planning on traveling lots it may not be great. The application process for any of the on campus accommodation was quite smooth but getting into the halls is quite competitive with UTR and PGPR being easier for exchange students to get into.

Budget

Total living spending costs around $3000, including activities food and shopping. I ate at hawker centres instead of cooking with meals on campus being $3-6 and $4-7 at hawker centres around the city. I spent about $10 a day on food.

Accommodation costs at prince George park where around $3,500. Flights from Australia varied but I got $700 flight there and $400 flight back depending on when you book. I spent $500 on a couple trips to Malaysia but you could easily spend more on travel. In total a budget of $8,000 would be easily doable but have more if you want to travel in the area.

Challenge

The workload at NUS are much harder to achieve the same percentage grades at UQ. The challenge is that all courses at NUS are bell curved so it is not possible to tell how you are going in a course without knowing how all of the other students are going and as an exchange student it is all but impossible to know enough people to have a good idea. The solution for me was not to worry about the grade of the courses as they are very hard to define on exchange and I instead focused on learning the content enough for me to take courses using my exchange subjects as pre-requisites. As such so you don’t have to stress too much on exchange.

Celebration of the Autumn Solstice

Professional development

On exchange I took part in a cool long-term hackathon (programming competition) with some local students. This helped me develop some teamwork skills with people who have a very different world view. It was also great as a team we were able to make the finals and work on refining our solution and then we went on to win which is always a nice bonus.

More generally on exchange I developed an understanding of a very different way of doing and approaching things from being involved in a bunch of groups with people who have very different world views.

A big skill set I improved while on exchange what the ability to be set up new networks and strategies for learning without any existing peer network. This also extended beyond academics giving me the confidence now to work with a foreign system like the university admin and the visa system and be able to navigate through it.

Highlight

My favourite exchange experience was night cycling along the Singaporean river and coast and through the botanic gardens. This was an amazing experience and part of a bunch of tours run by a few local graduate students. Beyond the cool environment this was exchange at its greatest spending time with cool local and exchange students from around the world. The night cycling was a great way to see some picturesque parts of Singapore in the (relative) cool of night.

Top tips

On my exchange I did a lot around Singapore and got to hang out with a bunch of people both local and international. To do this make sure you look out and take any of the awesome opportunities available to exchange students. Some great places to look are the NUS exchange student Facebook page, a great place to find travel buddies, the NUS activity app (OrgSync), any communication from your residence or hall (if on campus) about activities and any welcome to NUS events held at the start of semester.

James - National University of Singapore