By Harry Forster, National University of Singapore
I touchdown in Singapore sleep deprived and baggage-less after taking 2 connections, 3 planes and visiting 4 airports all within the space of 20 hours… not the most ideal way to be starting your year abroad!
After a lengthy queue at immigration and a long exchange with the lost luggage services, I slowly start to question Changi airport’s reputation for being the best airport in the world…
Then, as I start making my way out of the airport I get a glimpse of what I thought might be the famous Jewel Changi… then I realised I’ve come to the right place!
All in all, I probably spent over 2 hours in this airport! (and could have spent even longer in there)
Step 2: Find Utown
The next obstacle was locating my student accommodation and I had two choices from Changi:
The first option was to grab a taxi that costs about S$30 ≈ £18, and the other alternative was to get the MRT (train) across Singapore that costs less than S$2.
Despite the MRT’s efficiency and affordability (just like in the UK… ha) a 30 minute taxi drive takes nearly 1h 30 by MRT. And because of my hectic arrival experience I decided to opt for a taxi for ease and comfort – this turned out to be a smart decision as the nearest MRT station is a 15 minute bus ride from the accommodation.
*my advice would be to get a Grab (Asian Uber) as it’s much cheaper than your standard airport taxi plus you’ll get your first proper feel of the Singaporean cityscape
Meeting Flatmates & the ‘Welcome Party’
The first people I met and the first friends I made were my flatmates Jaehan and Seung su who are both from Seoul in South Korea (later I met Dongwon who I’m also sharing with and is also from South Korea)… as you can probably guess there’s a lot of Korean students at NUS!
FYI: In Utown everyone shares a 4-bed apartment within one of the two tower blocks. I would highly recommend choosing Utown and a room with air con if you don’t like waking up soaking wet everyday (I’m speaking from personal experience).
Then pretty much straight away everyone went to the Utown residence welcome party. Rather than the typical freshers events in the UK, in Singapore I’ve come to realise that there is clearly some cultural difference over the phrase ‘welcome party’. Here we had a series of talks about the residence including a lot on health and safety – which is important don’t get me wrong, but just wasn’t what I first had in mind.
However, it was a great party in terms of meeting other exchangers and we all bonded over what ‘welcome parties’ we have back at home! From the intel I gathered the UK’s welcome events seem to involve the most alcohol which wasn’t much of a shock to anyone…
Top tip before arriving
I highly recommend getting any medical check-ups and vaccinations back in the UK as a lot of the free services back at home definitely aren’t free over here…
Singapore’s healthcare is super expensive as you’d probably expect. However, speaking from experience it takes you to the point where you actually consider keeping your money rather than your health.
Till next time…