Greetings from Singapore!
It’s been almost 3 months since I first landed in Singapore in January and the time has simply just flown by! It’s sad to think that I only have about 2 months left in this wonderful country, but you’re not here to hear about my woeful tales, so I’m going to give you a crash course on coming to Singapore for exchange.
So why should you come to Singapore?
- Cheap food! – To be honest, anything compared to Sydney prices seems cheap, but in Singapore, hawker centres will get you a decent meal for only a few dollars!
- AUD is very close to SGD! – This makes currency conversions very easy, and I usually just say 1 AUD = 1 SGD (which means I don’t have to convert hahaha)
- Summer all the time! – Everyone loves a good Australian summer and now the heat never has to stop! (No joke, it is so hot and humid here I really miss the dryness of Australian heat)
- English! – One of the main reasons I came to Singapore was that many people speak English, though knowing Chinese here really helps too.
- Many countries close by if you want to travel! – I know many people who go to a new country every weekend and that’s quite a feat in itself.
There are other things you need to note about coming to Singapore that I’m going to go through now:
- The University
- On Campus Dorms
- SIM Cards
- Course Registration
1. The University
Nanyang Technological University is definitely quite a prestigious uni to attend, with it being ranked #13 in the world. The university itself is out all the way in the west of the island, near the border to Malaysia, but if you’re coming directly from the airport, it’s one line all the way, and then a bus ride to the university. If you’re searching for other accomodation before checking into on campus dorms, I’d recommend staying in one of the suburbs on the green line so that it’s one train to the uni.
The campus itself is quite big and I constantly get lost. Most classes are either at North Spine or South Spine, and has a few campus loop buses running around, depending on where you want to go.
2. On Campus Dorms
So before arriving to Singapore, all exchange students are given the chance to apply for on campus accomodation through their GEM Trailblazer website. You have the option of a single or double room, and air-con* or no aircon, but the results are all done by lottery so you really just apply and pray really hard to get a spot. (I have heard that in the very near future, the uni are trying to get 100% of all exchange students in campus accomodation though.)
*For a room with air-con, you’ll have to get an air-con card and top it up yourself to use the air-con.
The reason I wanted to stay on campus was purely because NTU is so far from the rest of Singapore, and it was just easier for me to be on campus. I was also lucky enough to get allocated a single room in North Hill Halls, which is the newest hall built.
One thing to note about the rooms is that there is no wifi in the rooms, so you’ll either need an ethernet LAN cable, or a router. Luckily, NTU offers a rental service called Dorm Buddy where you can rent various items, including routers, pillowcases/sheets etc from them. You can also put a fridge into your room for an extra $80 per semester.
My dorm also has a lounge (with wifi and aircon in it), a few pantries scattered on different floors (and some have a microwave and stove but for the stove, you’ll need your own pots and utensils), and laundry machines on various floors. The laundry and dryer machines also only take a certain type of $1 coin (the ones with the merlion) so it’s always helpful to have a stack of coins for when you want to do your laundry.
3. SIM Cards
Singapore has 3 major phone companies: Singtel, Starhub, and M1. However, you can only purchase the SIM cards from specific outlets, or from convenience stores. You can also top up (if getting prepaid, which is what most people do) at the convenience store so it’s quite handy, or from selected stores again.
To use the public transport in Singapore, you will need to get an MRT Card. Once you get your student card from the uni, you can also use that as your MRT Card too, but you pay adult fares either way so it’s totally up to you which one you use. Top ups are relatively easy too, and majority of the rides are quite cheap too (in comparison to Sydney).
Transport in Singapore is quite easy, with their train services running very smoothly, every few minutes. The bus takes a bit longer, sometimes having to wait 15-20 minutes for one if you just miss the previous one. However, the buses and trains only run until about midnight, and restart at around 5am, so if you’re going for a night out, you may want to get a taxi/uber/Grabcar.
To get to campus, most people either stop at Boon Lay station or Pioneer. Due to where my hall is situated, I normally stop at Boon Lay and then transfer to the 199 bus. Some other people stop at Boon Lay too and take the 179, while others go to Pioneer (which is the station after Boon Lay when coming from the airport) and either get the 179, or the campus loop.
Within the campus itself, there are a few campus loops. The blue and the red lines are the most common and they run in opposite directions. One important thing to note is that they don’t stop at every stop, so read the bus stop to see which buses stop there!
There is also a green line that runs between north and south spine, and a yellow line that has different stops again. On the weekend, there is also the weekend rider but it’s not very frequent.
5. Course Registration
So upon first glance, NTU’s registration system is very confusing. I’d recommend putting in the subjects you actually want when you apply for it first before arriving to Singapore because it was just a lot easier for me. Then the uni can allocate you the subjects and you’re all set for your exchange.
Courses are either 3 credit points (=6CP at UTS), or 4CP (=8CP at UTS), so I’m doing 3 4CP subjects. Once your subjects are allocated, you can see which times and tutorials you’ve been allocated. If you don’t like them, that’s okay! NTU has the first two weeks as Add/Drop Period, where you can add other subjects you want, or drop the ones that you don’t want. However, when you try to add subjects, it’s not instantaneous like at UTS. On STARS, you go onto a waiting list for the subject and if a spot frees up in any of the tutorials, you’re then allocated that subject. This may mean that you don’t get the time you want, and you’d have to drop that time, then go back to the waiting list to try and get the slot you want. To try and see what your ideal timetable would look like, you use the STARS Planner, which lets you add all the subjects you want and play around with your timetable.
While all this may seem daunting and confusing now, once you’re set, you’re all ready to go and enjoy your exchange in Singapore! I’ll leave you with a picture of my friends and I when we went out to Pulau Ubin and I hope my (super long) post was helpful!
See you in Singapore soon!
Guthriessa Tjiong (98045610) UTS Business
Partner University Nanyang Technological University