University of Leeds & University of Durham, United Kingdom
Exchange @ NUS
I would say that coming to Singapore is all so fascinating that it's exhausting, meaning this in a totally positive way. Coming away, and coming somewhere so different and far away from your home, means you are learning so much on so many
different levels, all the time. There is so much that you learn without even realizing.
From living in Singapore as opposed to being the tourist or person traveling through a country, everything which you can never even begin to scratch the surface of normally, with a year to live and study here you learn about it with total
absorption and the day-to-day ness of your life in Singapore. You learn about the not very obvious differences between places and people, but even more striking perhaps are the similarities.
Lord of the Rings, burqas and Man U fans
What becomes so normal and just life, still sounds so strange in context. "Might go to Thailand for a few days during reading week" and "you were with them in Hanoi last weekend hey, where did you stay?" are the casual conversation over
yesterday's lunch, of noodles and dragon fruit juice.
The ordinariness of conversations with Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and Pakistani friends about women wearing the burqa in Saudi Arabia. There are the saying hello in Vietnamese 'Xin Chao' every morning so that you can say 'morning' to your
neighbour and four others in your cluster (corridor) in halls in their first language. Being given a Chinese tea that another neighbour has brought here from home in China, which is specifically to drink when you need cooling down.
Then you talk about the new Lord of the Rings coming out soon and how much everybody fancies Aragorn.
Watching Man U vs. Pompey football match, in November, outside a restaurant with a hundred youngish Singaporeans you're sitting there in your flip flops, feeling quite sweaty, having not ever thought that you have put your flip flops on
every morning for months now, and there is a friendly silence as the entire courtyard is quietly and happily watching the football in such a polite, restrained and such an endearing manner as would make a born and bred Arsenal fan
actually think quite fondly of these Man U fans.
A sight you can maybe only experience living somewhere like Singapore - you're living in such a uniform city yet with such an eclectic mix of people and cultures to meet within it, with just so much to begin to absorb and learn, so many
people to talk to and so many different friends to make, people to meet. Then out of Singapore, it's so close to villages, cities, beaches and rainforests, all this and in so many other countries, just a bus ride away. And the longer
you are away from everything you love, the more you appreciate it.
Kate on student life in Singapore
What is just as important to friends and other international students here, is that you learn and discover so much about yourself. It is the only time in your life where you have this opportunity. To live, study and immerse in this way,
on your own in a young crowd at a university with so many international students like NUS. Going out with groups of friends and you don't notice the difference between a night out with them, and being out drinking with mates in The
Yet their homes and lives are as far apart as Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Pakistan, Canada, China, Sweden, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia and Leeds! And you wouldn't even notice this unless you are thinking it and in awe of it like me now when I
think about it!
So much to learn, handed out on a plate, it changes everything you look at home, and as tough as it can be at times, as negative as some things can be, as sick or bored as you can get with the methodical and uninspired work ethic and mind
set, such is life. This mind set is interesting in itself, and it is not important compared to the fairly unexplainable, totally personal and individual experience of living in the middle of Southeast Asia, in Singapore, as a student
for a year, with so much time to learn, and so much to do. I never have had regret about coming, or about coming here instead of the other places you can go from Leeds! The best thing is that on one hand, your mind will be in an international
whirlwind, whilst on another, it is just your everyday life.
My academic life in NUS
The choice and range of courses in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are impressively huge, yet they are very specialized within each department. There is an overwhelming different attitude regarding schoolwork, but essentially,
no basic structural differences in studying a module here to doing one at Leeds. You are given a similar workload of reading and of lecture time. The normal assessment 3000 word essay and exam with two hours lecture a week and tutorial
fortnightly is how Arts/Politics stuff does it mainly.
I do modules in politics culture and society in South Asia, socio-economic development in South Asia and migration and diaspora in Southeast Asia. The lecturers and tutors are all fascinating and excellent. I recommend the South Asian
Dept and Southeast Asian Dept highly to anybody interested in these areas and their politics, and in development studies as well. Political Science Department is more for the theory, and I hear mixed reports on some of the different
modules. A huge choice within the Faculty though.
Things that make NUS and Singapore (in my view)
- Views of pink skies over the docks and the open sea
- Food - the variety, the amount and the obsession
- Impressive rapidly improving chili tolerance
- The fresh juice
- The stunning lights of the city and of the river at night
- Forms, security, rules and the system (not so much negative, as just another part which you get to learn about, investigate and know more)
- The ordinariness of conversations and friendship with people from countries all over Asia and Europe
- Vast varieties of tea
- Getting to know the acronyms (PIE, CTE, etc)
- Cheap tickets to concerts in the Esplanade
- Endless streams of film festivals
- Being in the middle of Southeast Asia - a cheap bus ride to Malaysia, a short ferry to Indonesia, a train if you want up to Thailand or cheap flights off-season to Vietnam or anywhere