Submitted by Alexandra Markus, Abrod101’s Global Ambassador in Singapore
I love Singapore so much that I created a list of 5 top things about Singapore:
- The weather! It’s a tropical paradise all year round, so I don’t have to bundle up in a winter coat and wait for or chase the bus in 2 feet of snow during a -30ºC (without windchill!) blizzard. In fact, NUS takes advantage of its awesome weather by offering students study spaces that look like this. No, this isn’t a tropical vacation resort. This is a designated study carrel at NUS.
- The food! Singapore is a cosmopolitan city with so much global influence! You could find a good pizza (yes, you can – seriously – Sapore Italiano is a good example of authentic Italian food), delicious American food (I go to Jerry’s BBQ and Grill when I’m feeling homesick), and of course Asian. Japanese, Malay, Indonesian, Indian, and of course Chinese cuisine is present in abundance. And Singaporeans care a lot about their food so they have high standards – so the food can be delicious… that is, if it isn’t caf or dorm food! (It’s best to steer clear of caf food – although apparently most cafs have one really popular station. For example in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences the Yong Tau Foo stall is the only place that’s even decent).
- The People! One of the most amazing things about being in an exchange student is that you’re thrown full throttle into a global village. In a few hours, I, a Canadian – am having a bunch of friends over; an American, a Dutch, an Indonesian, and a Singaporean! My project partner for Journalism was an exchange student from Vietnam. It’s really wonderful to get to know people all of the world, with a huge diversity of religions, nationalities, cultures, and backgrounds. You begin to learn that we’re really not that different after all. College students share a common experience of papers, exams, all-nighters, And since, as I mentioned, Singapore is so cosmopolitan, it attracts people from all over! Singaporeans are also very warm and fun to be around. The younger Singaporeans are very helpful and caring. However, Singaporeans are difficult to penetrate in terms of friendship. Sometimes you can say that making friends with Singaporeans is like opening a durian (to people who like durians) – sometimes a bit prickly at first but if you make enough of an effort, loads of wonderful goodness comes out and it’s a lot of fun!
- The classes! One of the best things about going on exchange is that I can take classes that aren’t offered at McGill. I got to take Adolescent Psychology, Life Course Sociology, and Journalism subjects I’m really interested in but are not offered at all at McGill. But beware – make sure you get all your courses approved first! I decided to drop one of the courses I was approved for because I felt I lacked the prerequisite background. At the last minute, I figured I’d take advantage of a journalism course that was offered as there is no journalism department at McGIll and it is something I am considering pursuing as a career. Unfortunately, I only found out halfway through the semester, long after the add-drop period, that my credits would not be transferred and they would not accept the course towards my degree, not even as an elective! Fortunately I have enough credits to graduate due to advanced placement courses but it’s still a bummer since I will not be considered as having a full courseload, which means my scholarship may be revoked!
- Reading Week! Unlike at my home university, we have an entire week off between classes and exams to study for finals. This is definitely needed, as the mess of work can get so hectic it’s extremely easy to fall behind in readings, especially if you want to have even a little bit of fun. NUS is a very competitive university. Not exactly hard. The workload and difficulty is reasonable. However, grading is on a bell curve, so there is a huge race to the top that is nerve-wracking to even the most zen people. Beware of easy classes and classes with low standard deviations. Your grade then literally becomes a crapshoot. In easy classes, a 93 could be a B. In classes with teensy standard deviations, like my psych class, Had I got 4 more questions wrong I would have gone from an A to a C. So to make a long story short, it’s really nice to be able to sort of unwind but also feel confident that you have enough time to dedicate yourself to your studies. This reading week, I was given a wonderful opportunity to shadow a surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital! I can’t wait!