Callum Campbell (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Finally, after all these months of preparation, packing and anticipation I am in Singapore starting my semester abroad! Although at first it was an emotional departure and a draining beginning, I now feel very settled in a country completely different to my own. The time is literally flying by and I can see these next four months disappearing before I catch my breath.
It seems a distant memory when I was leaving my family at Heathrow Airport. I was feeling so nervous and lonely in a way which I had never experienced before knowing that, unlike any other trip I had made before, nobody was waiting for me at the other end. Although previous exchange students who had been to the National University of Singapore (NUS) gave me advice and information about the city and university before I left, I still genuinely had no idea what to expect.
After a good fourteen-hour flight, including a transfer in Doha, I had made it to Singapore and I felt drained beyond belief. This, however, was the least of my worries at first as I still needed to travel to the other side of the city, with no guarantee that I would be able to check into my accommodation this early. I decided to get the MRT, Singapore’s equivalent to London’s tube, which was ten times cheaper than a taxi, but much less practical and was not a fun experience during the evening rush hour. Once I arrived at Kent Ridge, the nearest MRT station to the university campus, I hauled my large suitcase up and down hills before arriving at Prince George’s Park Residences, my accommodation at NUS. I quickly checked in, went up to my room and crashed on the bed. I felt like a defeated man.
That first evening may have been hard but since then I have never looked back. With a large number of international students from around the world in the same situation there has been plenty of opportunity to meet a wide range of different people who have completely different cultures, values and ways of life.
Although registration for courses at the university and immigration into the country has been tedious at times, overall the NUS staff and students have made settling in easier, with a number of events and tours to exciting locations across Singapore taking place daily during Orientation Week.
The university campus itself, located to the west of the city centre, is made up of old buildings and lecture theatres as well as state of the art modern facilities. Although the campus is relatively close together, there is a shuttle bus service that operates around the campus, preventing the need to walk in the sometimes-extreme heat experienced. In terms of accommodation, having previously been told I would not have university accommodation, I am delighted to be on campus after an appeal. However, I was not fortunate enough to be staying at a part of the campus called UTown, located to the north of the university. This site is effectively a student resort, including food courts, shops, a gym, a “town green” and even an infinity pool! Although I may not be staying there I still have access to the facilities, so often spend a lot of my time in this part of the campus.
Overall, it has been an amazing first week and a half that has already flown by. With less than half a week before lectures begin, it really does make me think just how quickly is the whole semester going to be? But if it is anything like what I am currently experiencing then I know I will continue to have the time of my life!