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6,302 KM FROM HOME

It’s been 79 days since I’ve left Sydney, 57 days since I’ve arrived in Singapore to start my exchange journey.

To say that the past 79 days have been anything short of life-changing would be a gross understatement. When preparing for my exchange back in Sydney, I was conflicted; I felt both excited to leave but also absolutely terrified of all the “firsts” I would experience. My first overseas trip alone. My first time living alone. My first time leaving my friends and family for an extended period. I won’t say that it’s been an easy 79 days, but now that I’m about 2 months into my exchange, I can confidently say that choosing to go on exchange and to Singapore has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Nanyang Technological University is situated on the west side of Singapore. Like a city so much in and of itself, local students have dubbed it “Pulau NTU”, which roughly translates into “NTU Island”. The university is self-sufficient, with its own supermarket, bookstore, electronics store, and a variety of canteens serving multicultural cuisines to satisfy whatever you’re craving. Free campus buses shuttle students between all major buildings and schools, and some paid buses also run between NTU and nearby MRT train stations, so getting to where you need to be is a breeze.

NTU is great in that accommodation for all exchange students is pretty much guaranteed – so long as you apply for housing by the given date. Housing is done by lottery system, and I was lucky enough to be placed in a single room in Banyan Hall, which is one of the newest halls on campus. It’s small, quaint, and though it doesn’t have air conditioning, I find it perfect. My favourite things about my dorm so far is how convenient it is to get to classes, and the amazing sunsets.

The culture here is incredibly different from that at UTS; here, a student’s role is simply to study and engage in co-curricular activities (CCAs), with part-time work being an absolute rarity over here. Because of this, you’ll often meet locals who are taking 6 or 7 subjects, which can be the equivalent of 38 to 46 UTS credit points. You can imagine a local’s surprise when I tell them that I’m only taking 3 subjects!

The three subjects I’m currently taking are Bayesian Data Analysis & Its Applications, Introduction to Network Analysis, and Computer Graphics and Visualisation. All three are completely different to what I was studying back in Sydney, but I’m absolutely loving it; my professors are engaging, the classes are relatively small (which allows for a more personalised study experience), and everyone is incredibly supportive. I have a mixture of lectures and tutorials, but for two of my subjects, the lecture and tutorial is combined into a single 3-hour long class that, while ridiculously draining, does allow for a more cohesive study experience because you’re able to directly apply the information you learn in the lecture to your tutorial work.

Because of my light workload, I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands. As a result (and in an effort to stay healthy after eating all the delicious food Singapore has to offer), I ended up joining two CCAs: aikido and jiu jitsu. I spend a total of 8 hours training for both sports per week, and while it has definitely been a change in pace as I’ve never done a martial art before, picking up these sports has been one of the most gratifying things that I have ever done. They’ve rewarded me with both physical and mental strength, as well as a group of amazing friends – both exchange and local – that I doubt I would have met otherwise.

However, given that Singapore is located in such a central location, the temptation to travel South-East Asia definitely hasn’t eluded me; about three weeks ago, I went to Johor Bahru in Malaysia for a weekend, and with recess break coming up soon, I’ve got plans to visit Bangkok, Phuket, and Kuala Lumpur. I’ve also got weekend trips to Indonesia and Taiwan in their planning stages, and maybe even a Europe trip in the works for after I finish up at NTU. Travel is incredibly affordable in and around Singapore, so if you’ve ever wanted to explore the region, studying at NTU is an awesome option because you’ll have the time, the freedom, and the friends to share the experience with.

And finally, some tips and advice if you’re thinking about going on exchange (to Singapore, or anywhere else):

  1. Be open to new experiences. Going on exchange is likely to be one of the scariest yet most exhilarating things that you have ever done, and though you may get homesick (I definitely have been), take comfort in the knowledge that this isn’t forever and you should make the most of it while you can.
  2. Consider the subjects you’re studying. I found it difficult to get all the subjects required for exchange as I was doing direct equivalents (big shout out to Raffaela from the Exchange team and Nicole from the Student Centre for helping me immensely with my subjects!), so make sure to thoroughly do your research before selecting any given country, and be adaptable. The Add/Drop period for subject selection at NTU is a nightmare, but once you get through those two weeks, you’ll be right as rain. I found that NTU let me match the most subjects from my Data Analytics major, which is a large reason why I chose it.
  3. People aren’t kidding when they say that Singapore is hot and humid, but I found that you adapt pretty quickly. So if you’re worried about the climate, I want to reassure you (as someone who is not a big fan of the heat) that you’ll definitely get used to it and that nearly everywhere on campus is air-conditioned. Maybe bring a cardigan to wear in especially cold lecture halls or tutorial rooms, but for the most part, you’ll probably be lounging around in shorts and a tee!
  4. Bring a travel-sized bag for the weekend trips you’re likely to do during your time here.

Bit of a subtle plug, but if you’re interested in reading / seeing more photos about my exchange experience and travels, I started a photography blog: https://ongtheroad.exposure.co/. And if you have any questions about NTU, Singapore, South-East Asia, or exchange in general, feel free to reach out to me via my blog or Instagram: @jxssicaong

Jessica Ong
Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Information Technology
Nanyang Technological University
Singapore

Australian Government New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient.

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au

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