By Steven Chan
Note: This only talks about the main campus of NUS at Kent Ridge, as I never travelled to the other campuses.
The National University of Singapore (NUS) is a top-ranking university in Singapore located in the South-West of Singapore with an area of 150 hectares (4 times the size of UNSW). If you thought UNSW is a maze or Basser Steps was challenging, you’ll be in for a surprise at NUS. Given it’s built on a ridge (hence the closest MRT is called Kent Ridge), you’ll find yourself catching the bus most of the time to go to/from classes. But don’t worry, buses are free and very frequent. However, it’ll most likely be packed like sardines (think Japan Trains during rush hour).
Housing in Singapore is expensive, with many of the locals living in government housing (HDBs). Accommodation is available on-campus however it is usually not guaranteed. There are two options available for on-campus accommodation:
- Student Residences
Halls are typically where most of the locals live as they have more social life compared to residences. However, the overall quality and facilities available in halls are often older and more rundown. Furthermore, the halls offered to exchange students at UNSW do not have air-conditioning (imagine a humid environment with 30 degree temperatures all day and night throughout the year!).
Student Residences, on the other hand, do have air-conditioned rooms available to exchange students from UNSW. Facilities are newer and there are a lot more study rooms, music rooms, discussion rooms etc.
The cost of accommodation varies, with air-conditioned accommodation having a higher value.
Campus & Student Life
The campus will take a while to get used to, it’s massive! A google search of “NUS Campus Map” will show you this. There are food courts all over campus, literally every faculty has its own food court (or two) and you’ll even find franchises such as Subway, McDonalds and Sarpino’s Pizza scattered all over campus. There are even vending machine serving “cook to order” food available too for the late night snacks.
What you’ll notice is that Singaporeans will also predominately live on campus as well so you’ll bump into many of them all the time. You may have heard that Singaporeans study all the time, and how studying is embedded into them. However, you’ll be surprised that this isn’t always true. Most of them are actively always involved in clubs/societies and other extracurricular activities.
A vast array of clubs/societies are available, majority being sports related. The locals are really into sports, so you’ll find sports that you may never have heard of or considered trying. Give them a go!
You’ll notice upon acceptance and approval of subjects from NUS that you’ll be enrolled in about 5 courses. This amount is normal for local students. Some even overload and do 6 but rarely do they do 4. As an exchange student, you need to take at least 3 courses to be considered a student in Singapore, so you’re free to drop down to 4 or even 3 but you’ll need to consider the transfer of credits back to UNSW.
You may not get the courses you want straight away but NUS has an appeal process where you can usually get into the courses after appealing. Approval of courses at NUS is one of the hardest and most painful parts, where you may not even have any courses approved until end of week 1 of the semester after you appeal. For example, during semester 2 I had no course approvals from NUS until the start of week 2 after I appealed.
I found the courses at NUS to be a lot easier than those at UNSW, you tend to have to memorise more than think as questions usually are more straight forward. I took 5 courses in my first semester and ended up getting high marks without much studying needed.
Majority of the professors you get are Singaporean so you may have a hard time understanding them as they tend to speak what is known as “Singlish”. Learn it before you go! Typically they use “-lah” a lot at ends of words and “can can” when agreeing to things (instead of “yes”). This applies to most locals really.
However, you may notice some professors you get are not locals, rather they are from the UK, USA or even Australia so you do get a taste of trying to understand different accents.
You’ll notice that Singapore is the hub for many international flights, so if you’re interested in travelling you’ve come to the right spot! Budget airlines are available such as Jetstar, TigerAir and Scoot which always have deals every week (Tuesday and Fridays). You’re able to get fares as low as $50 return to Kuala Lumpur!
Given Singapore is a city-country, even the locals travel overseas very often. One can easily travel across the border by bus to Malaysia (e.g. Johor Bahru) or take a flight to another Asian country in just a few hours.
During my year exchange I took close to 50 flights all up and visited most of SEA and East Asia. Never did I think I will travel this much, I’d highly recommend making most of your time in Asia.