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David Lowe

Applied Sciences › Computing Science | Beedie School of Business › Management Information Systems

Program:
Location:
Experience Faculty
My exchange to Singapore was one of the highlights of my university career. From indulging in amazing foods to exploring the city-state's vibrant cultural tapestry, it was a transformative learning experience I'm sure never to forget.
Experience Details
Semester
Spring
Year
2024
Introduction + Preparation
Location Research

Choosing Singapore for my exchange was driven by both practical considerations and cultural intrigue. Being monolingual, I was looking for an exchange destination with minimal language barriers, making Singapore ideal as English is an official language. Furthermore, Singapore's strategic location in Southeast Asia provided opportunities for easy exploration of neighboring countries during my time abroad. Coupled with its renowned transit system, Singapore appeared effortlessly navigable, offering ample opportunities to immerse myself in its rich cultural offerings, culinary delights, and natural attractions. The city-state's diverse cultural landscape, shaped by Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Western influences, heightened my intrigue and rendered it an appealing destination for both academic and personal growth. 

Financial Preparation

The first thing I did to prepare for my exchange was budget, focusing on essential expenses such as housing, transportation, and food. This was informed primarily by a comprehensive breakdown provided on the NUS website, tailored specifically for incoming exchangers. Next, I looked for ways to support my exchange financially and was fortunate enough to secure assistance from SFU's Suite of Study Abroad awards, the Global Learning Award, and One World Scholarships. These invaluable resources provided the peace of mind necessary to fully immerse myself in my study abroad experience, free from the burden of financial strain. Additionally, I took the initiative to familiarize myself with payment methods in Singapore, discovering that cash was seldom required due to the widespread acceptance of credit cards like Visa and digital platforms such as Grab Pay or WeChat Pay.

Packing

Packing for my exchange to Singapore involved gathering essential travel documents, including my passport, student visa, and travel insurance. I made sure to pack medications, power adapters, my laptop, an umbrella, and comfortable walking shoes suitable for the tropical climate. For dorm living, I brought along my own bed sheets and pillows since they weren't provided by the university. Additionally, while I didn't personally take advantage of it, NUS provided a variety of items for sale that exchangers might need, offering a convenient solution in case any essentials were forgotten or unavailable. Starting well in advance, I made a packing list to ensure I didn't forget anything important.

Travel and Transportation

I flew to Singapore from Vancouver via San Francisco. Prior to my departure, I made sure to obtain the necessary Student’s Pass, guided by the clear instructions provided by NUS, which helped alleviate any potential stress or confusion. Throughout my stay in Singapore, I relied primarily on the city's efficient Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and bus system to traverse its bustling streets. With seamless connections to various destinations, commuting became a breeze, allowing me to explore the city with ease. Additionally, the complimentary campus shuttle service at Kent Ridge Campus proved invaluable in facilitating my navigation within the university premises, ensuring my daily routines remained hassle-free.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

For future students gearing up for exchange, preparation is the key to ensuring a smooth and stress-free journey. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Prioritize securing accommodation and registering for desired classes as early as possible.

  2. Keep track of important deadlines and dates, considering any time zone differences between your home country and the host university. Missing deadlines can lead to unnecessary stress and complications.

  3. Take the time to research and carefully select your classes. Ensure they fit into your academic plan and don't conflict with each other or with any exchange credit requirements.

  4. Take the initiative to meet new people, join clubs or organizations, and participate in social activities. Making friends not only enhances your experience but also provides valuable support and companionship throughout your exchange journey.
During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

During my initial weeks at NUS, I was immersed in many orientation activities aimed at integrating exchange students into campus life. From vibrant social gatherings to enlightening cultural workshops, each event offered unique insights and opportunities for connection. An exchanger social provided a platform to forge friendships with fellow global explorers, while a campus tour familiarized me with NUS's expansive facilities. Additionally, a Singlish workshop offered a playful immersion into local language and culture, enhancing my understanding and appreciation of Singaporean identity. These orientation experiences not only eased my transition into university life but also set the stage for a fulfilling and enriching journey ahead, characterized by new friendships, cultural exploration, and personal growth.

Accommodation and Living

Finding accommodation in Singapore can be both expensive and challenging, making university housing a highly recommended option. During my time, I resided at Tembusu College, which offered a vibrant community atmosphere with diverse interest groups ranging from nature and hiking enthusiasts to film aficionados. The option included a meal plan, though alternatives without this feature were also available on campus. It's crucial to apply as soon as applications open, as spaces are limited and competition is fierce. Overall, university housing provides not only a convenient living arrangement but also opportunities for engaging with a diverse community of peers.

Learning and Adaptation

At NUS, I discovered that lectures and tutorials were conducted similarly to those at SFU. Much like the post-COVID norm, recordings were accessible, enabling flexible learning. Additionally, professors remained approachable via email, and TAs fostered interactive learning environments by creating tutorial group chats, facilitating seamless communication and the exchange of ideas. This accessibility and support system further enriched my academic experience, ensuring that I could navigate the coursework with confidence and clarity.

Accomplishments and Challenges

During my exchange in Singapore, I embraced the opportunity to broaden my academic horizons by taking classes that exposed me to the field of data science, an area with which I wasn't as familiar from my studies at SFU. Engaging in these courses opened new doors for personal and academic growth, providing me with valuable insights and skills relevant to the increasingly data-driven world. While navigating the vibrant culture and community of Singapore, I encountered challenges such as language barriers and cultural differences, which tested my resilience and adaptability. Overcoming these obstacles became proud moments of personal triumph, strengthening my confidence and shaping me into a more well-rounded individual.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Outside of my classes at NUS, I became an active member of "tWild," an outdoors and nature club based at my Tembusu College residence. Throughout the semester, we embarked on exhilarating nature walks, including a memorable night walk with the herpetological society of Singapore at Bukit Batok and a thrilling crocodile-spotting expedition at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. In addition to these outdoor adventures, I attended various university talks and lectures that sparked my curiosity, such as an insightful interfaith event exploring Islam and Christianity in Southeast Asia and a captivating panel discussion featuring George Yeo, Singapore's former Minister of Foreign Affairs. Being an NUS student also granted me free access to many of Singapore's museums, allowing me to explore and appreciate the rich cultural heritage of the city-state, including visits to the National University of Singapore and Asian Civilizations Museum.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

My exchange experience in Singapore was a transformative journey filled with valuable lessons and enriching encounters. From navigating cultural differences to immersing myself in new academic disciplines, every challenge presented an opportunity for growth and learning. I learned the importance of resilience and adaptability in unfamiliar environments, and I deepened my understanding of global interconnectedness through interactions with diverse communities. Embracing the unfamiliar allowed me to expand my horizons and develop invaluable skills that will serve me well in the future. While the journey was not without its challenges, the support of peers and the vibrant atmosphere of Singapore enabled me to overcome obstacles and thrive in an environment that was both dynamic and enriching. Overall, my exchange experience was a testament to the power of stepping outside of one's comfort zone and embracing the opportunities that come with exploration and discovery.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

One of the most valuable aspects of my exchange experience in Singapore was the opportunity to meet people from across the globe. Interacting with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of global interconnectedness. From sharing stories to learning about different customs and traditions, these interactions enriched my cultural competence and fostered lasting friendships. The exchange program not only facilitated academic growth but also provided a platform for meaningful cross-cultural exchanges, highlighting the transformative power of international connections.

Advice for Future Students
  1. Approach your exchange experience with an open mind and a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone.

  2. Take initiative in seeking out opportunities for cultural immersion and academic exploration.

  3. Maintain a balance between academic, social, and personal responsibilities by prioritizing self-care; make time for rest and relaxation, and don't hesitate to reach out for support if needed.

  4. Keep track of important deadlines and commitments to alleviate stress and ensure a smooth and successful exchange experience.

  5. Take advantage of opportunities to build connections and forge friendships with fellow students, both local and international.

Author

David Lowe

Applied Sciences › Computing Science | Beedie School of Business › Management Information Systems
visibility  166
May 8, 2024

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