I have been in Canada for two weeks now, in a small university town called Guelph. (Pronounced Gwelf: It sounds a bit like the feeling of making mud pies as a kid.) I’d like to think that I’m a pretty organized person. I spent hours upon hours researching when I first got accepted onto the study abroad program. Perhaps part of the fun however, and certainly the things you learn the most from, are the surprises you can’t predict. That’s why I’ve decided to discuss some of the not-so-obvious shocks I’ve had since arriving.
Immigration The crowd control barriers are endless at Toronto airport, and there was a confusing moment where I had to pick up a ticket and then turn around and go backwards before proceeding. I’m a pretty anxious person, and in my mind, I imagined being ushered into a small grey room with a desk, and then grilled about my return flights, my funds, the few countries I’ve visited in my life and my political swing. In reality, the process was much less scary, but took way longer. It’s worth reading up on the restrictions on what you can bring into the country before travelling. This way you can avoid panicking about being deported for bringing in an egg sandwich, like I did (Spoiler alert: they didn’t care about the sandwich).
Jet-lag The day I traveled to Canada, I woke up at 8 in the morning. My seven-hour flight left at 12.30. Immigration took ages, and then I had to wait four hours in the airport for one of the university organized buses. By the time I got out of the terminal it was dark, and by the time I got to bed that night I’d spent over 20 hours awake. It doesn’t sound that bad right? It wasn’t half as bad as I thought it was going to be. Until I woke up at three the next morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. And I’ve been told it’s worse travelling in the other direction. Ugh!
Sunburn I’m pretty pale, but I still didn’t expect to burn in my first week in Canada. While I haven’t needed my big fluffy coat yet, I’ve been surprised how many different temperatures I’ve had to deal with in the past week. The temperature the first few days was around 25 degrees outside. A decent British summer day, but nothing to get too excited about. You might be surprised to learn however, that Guelph is just slightly further south than Toulouse in the south of France, meaning that it receives the same amount of sun. It just doesn’t get as hot because of winds coming down from the arctic. This means the sun is much stronger you expect it to be. Locals even warned me that you can get burned from the sun reflecting off the snow in winter!
Toilets Why is the seat so low down?!? Why is there a gap between the door and the cubicle frame?!? Why is there a foot of space between the bottom of the cubicle and the floor?!? Why do they flush unexpectedly while you’re sitting on them?!?
Before embarking on my year away in Canada, I was met by a flurry of excitement, a touch of nervousness and an echo of the same question from family and friends, “Do you know it gets very cold out there?”. This led me to looking forward to my departure date even more as I would finally hear this familiar phrase for the final time.
Leaving the comfort of Oxford Road and jetting off to a faraway land, coated with mountains and maple syrup made me glad that I had elected to leave the bustling city of Manchester for a year and experience something completely new and different.
I arrived a
couple of days before move-in day which meant I had plenty of time to sort things
out before campus started to get busy. I am living in residence on campus in a
flat of 4 and I have already found a great group of global friends ranging from
Australia to Switzerland. One of the great perks of being on exchange is the variety
of different people you can meet and connect with, which was made easier by
living on campus.
week in Calgary started with an orientation day spearheaded by a ‘pep rally’.
This ceremony pits all the faculties against each other by making as much noise
as possible with their own chants. Being in the engineering faculty, which is
one of the biggest, made it more fun and already made me feel like I was part
of a community at the university. There was also a very heavy focus on how
important the indigenous communities were in Canada, especially in Calgary as
they were the first people to inhabit the city. This was an interesting side to
the culture that I had not experienced before and it was very interesting to
see the respect and care that the university held for these communities.
The next day I had my first skate session on the Olympic oval hosting some of the fastest ice in the world. Having never skated before, it made the experience more enjoyable for my friends who were in stitches of laughter watching me slip and slide around the ice. This was followed by a hike to the Bow river which runs all the way through Calgary, providing some lovely scenery. It is amazing to have clear water flowing such a short walk from campus and is surrounded by the peaceful Edworthy Park. After walking through the park, the setting and wildlife made me feel like I had truly arrived in Canada.
The opening week also presented an event called Kick Off, which is the first varsity football game for the uni. This is a large event where everyone gathered to support the Dinos, which is the name of the university team and was a great opportunity to raid the bookstore for some supporting merchandise. The stadium was a short walk from campus and has a capacity of around 35,000 which makes it the fifth largest in Canada. The game had a great atmosphere and presented a great spectacle as the Dinos won the game 24-10.
After orientation was finished, we decided to head off campus into downtown. It takes around 25 minutes on the C-train which is a tram style train that takes you straight into central Calgary and is free for students. The first thing to notice was the huge skyscrapers that towered over the streets in the centre. The roads were also in a block style structure which makes them easy to navigate and leads to an absence of roundabouts. We headed towards Chinatown where we had a tasty dinner followed by a lesson in how to tip in Canada. A common tip would be around 15-20% of the bill as if no tip is given the staff will be paying this portion out of their own pocket. This was an important to learn as it seems to be taken as a given rather than a choice in the UK.
The weather was a surprising aspect of my opening week as I was unprepared for a warm wave of temperatures in the high 20’s. This was time to appreciate the city without a blanket of snow before the cold temperatures arrive.
By Harry Forster, National University of Singapore
In this article, I’m going to let you in on my ‘top tips’ for speeding up the unavoidable Singaporean student admin
1. Sorting Out Your Student Pass
All exchange students require a ‘student pass’ visa that grants them their stay in Singapore – even though it’s not a permanent visa, that notion doesn’t make it any easier to apply for one…
Completing this is probably the MOST important thing you’ll do in your time in Singapore! It’s required for almost everything from purchasing a sim contract to authorising your studies in NUS…
First things first, you have a lot of things to sort out before your ICA appointment such as an array of documents including: physical copies of online payment receipts to passport-size photos.
Also make sure you hold on tight to your landing documentation as you’ll need this for your visa!
** note that if you’re a student who’s staying for a year you’ll also need a medical examination which involves a blood test and a chest x-ray. (All of this can be done at the University Health Centre which is only one bus stop away from Utown).
During my medical, I experienced my first instance of the infamous Singaporean brutal honesty– after repeating my blood pressure for the third time (as all the previous readings had indicated that my blood pressure was too high) rather than the doctor saying ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine’, the Singaporean doctor said “ I hope nothing bad happens to you whilst you’re in Singapore!”… then we parted ways. Not quite the reassuring words you want to hear from your doctor!
2. Singaporean Sim
When you first land, I’d advise getting a Starhub sim card (as a temporary pre-sim card). I recommend the Starhub sim because pretty much every exchanger I’ve met has had issues with the Singtel pre-paid sim…
For example, there has been multiple instances where I’ve topped up my sim card with over £10 in credit and it’s been eaten up within 30mins for no legitimate reason!!
Once you’ve got your student pass, then I’d suggest getting a rolling contract with Circles – this was the best offer available that has 20GB, 100mins of calls plus 25 texts per month all for S$18 ≈£10.50
Also, I added unlimited incoming calls for an extra S$2 per month so you can have those long phone calls with your mum at the cost of next to nothing (except they’ll probably have to foot the international fee)!
3. Banking With FRANK
The most hassle free way of getting a Singaporean bank account (and access to a tax haven) is by opening a FRANK bank account with OCBC – opening a local bank is useful if you want to use local services such as Singtel Dash or NETS; these payment services as require a local bank account!
The closest OCBC office is located across from the uni accommodation and still resides within the Utown campus (so it’s only a 2 minute walk).
All you have to take is your student pass, your passport and your proof of address (which can be obtained at the Utown management office).
Talk to FRANK and they’ll sort you out within the hour – no delivery or pick up required!
**Bring your headphones or a friend to help pass the time and you’ll be set up with a local bank account and debit card all within the same hour!
4. Post (Purchase Problems)
When ordering your procrastination purchases online, just note that you need to be at your accommodation to collect ALL your post because (for some bizarre reason) the management office rejects ALL parcels…
**Top tip: state on your order that you need to be contacted for collection, in order to save yourself the stress and hassle of paying the postage fee more times than you need to!
Click or copy and paste the link above to access the map. Make sure to zoom in on both cities and click on the icons for descriptions of each pinned location.
This map demonstrates my experience studying at the University of Western Australia, compared to the University of Manchester.
Locations such as my home, the library, and my study spaces have been pinned. These show the spatial difference between Manchester and Perth as well as showing my movement in the cities.
By clicking on the different pins and reading the descriptions, you can view how locations in the separate cities differ.
Furthermore, comments on the assessment style difference can be found under ‘Main Library’.
The main finding when completing this map has been seeing how little space I occupy in Perth. Compared to Manchester, where I cover 10km more.
This shows the difference between a campus university and a city university. As well as how they influence your learning experience, sense of place and movement.
It has been two and a bit weeks now since I moved into my studio apartment in Nieuw West Amsterdam in a building called Maassluisstraat which is part of the DeKey housing company. Prior to moving in I was very concerned about living by myself in a studio after having got used to living in an 8 bed house in Fallowfield and always having someone around for company. I am actually surprised at how much I am enjoying living in my studio here and having my own space, I also think it has probably pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit as you don’t have the comfort of ‘flat mates’ to fall back on and has probably contributed to me meeting more people than I initially thought I would. I was also worried that living in a studio would be quite isolating and lonely but I’ve had neighbours knock on my door to say hello etc when they moved in and my accommodation also had a social event early on which helped create a really warm and welcoming atmosphere straight away.
To begin, a few photos of the place I can now call home: Cholula. It is truly a beautiful place to live. On every turn there is street-art, brightly coloured buildings and taquerias. However; don’t be fooled by the weather in the photos. It’ll be cool when you wake up, boiling by midday, ominously cloudy late afternoon, stormy in the evening and then the skies may clear by the time you go to bed. What to wear: everything.
Casa Roja: My new home
I am living in a 15- person student house about a half hour walk from uni, and I am so lucky to have such a big ‘mexican’ family here. Although we are actually very international: French, German, Mexican, English and Spanish, so communication can sometimes be a challenge. But it’s nothing that a bit of translating, googling or if it comes to it, mime, can’t solve. We’ve already been on a trip away together to Oaxaca, as we’d had a whole 3 days of uni so we definitely needed a holiday…
A few bumps in the road:
As expected, I experienced some anxiety and homesickness coming up to and during the first few days of living here. Although you could feel very overwhelmed in the first couple of days, it helps to remind yourself that you will settle in, in time, and that everyone feels the same way.
Despite now feeling very settled and content with my life here, I have had other small hurdles to overcome also. Firstly, it takes a few days to not jump out of your skin every time cannons are fired from the churches on the hilltops the multiple times at any hour day or night. But soon that just becomes part of the soundscape of life here, along with the barking of stray dogs and the ‘do you want the gas’ song. Moreover, the fixtures in my bathroom have had to be repaired 4 times. Luckily my landlord has been really prompt, responding instantly and getting my fixtures fixed the same day on every occasion: we love Luis. Also, on our trip to Oaxaca, the bottled water provided in our AirBnB turned out to be contaminated with mosquito larvae, meaning we then had to take medication. But at least I’m trying new things…
There are also some cultural differences to be aware of, for instance tipping in restaurants and toilets seems to be the norm here, student or not. Moreover, I would advise any Spain-Spanish speakers coming to Mexico to look up some of the words and phrases that aren’t the same here, for instance if you ask someone if you could have intimate relations with the bus it might raise a few eyebrows (‘coger’ does not mean ‘to take’ here..).
Overall, I’ve loved my time here so far and am really excited
for the year ahead.
Thulase Sivapooranan The University of Maryland, USA
Tuesday 20th of August 18:30
I was standing in front of numerous tall, looming crimson-bricked
and white-pillared buildings, both my small hands occupied: one holding onto a
suitcase the size of me and the other clutching my phone with a mere 5% charge.
No one was around; I did not know where to go; I was hours late to check-in at
my accommodation! Did it get worse? Yes. Booming claps of thunder echoed from
above and a heavy downpour of rain followed. There were booming bursts of thunder and it
suddenly started to rain heavily. I never felt so isolated; I just wanted to
cry with the clouds.
Eventually, I saw a figure in the distance, so I ran towards
them, quite slowly (because I had to drag this heavy suitcase with me too).
“Hi ! I’m Tee, could you help me, please? I am an exchange
student! I just landed! I don’t know where to get my keys from! Do you know
where I can get them from?” I panted.
“Yes, sure! Don’t worry, I got you “said Josh calmly ( a
junior home student at The University of
Maryland ), and took hold of my
oversized suitcase kindly.
He helped me move in, and then we went to the closest sushi
restaurant to have dinner. We probably spent an hour at least, talking about
Maryland, America, Manchester, our hobbies, ourselves. In that moment, I was
overjoyed- I had an enigmatic smile painted on my face. I just made my first
friend abroad, and I got a gut feeling that I was going to love it here.
Wednesday 21st of August 09:00
First day of Orientation
“Welcome to the University of Maryland! We are very happy to
see you here. Our first session will start shortly, for the time being feel
free to interact–“
I turned my head to see who was next to me and I smiled at
them and introduced myself. It finally
got to me that I was not in Manchester anymore; I realised that I was back at
square one. New campus. New people. New everything. But as the day went by, I
felt more welcomed and less overwhelmed. The orientation sessions were very
informative; the staff were very welcoming, and all the exchange students were
just as excited and nervous as I was.
Thursday 22nd of August
Most of the orientation sessions were as expected, including:
how the US healthcare system works, Academic integrity and a Washington DC trip
with all the exchange students. But, the safety and security session …oh boy,
it gave me the heebie jeebies! UMD’s police department came in to give us the
talk, and half an hour in they gave us a short “active shooting training”
session. RUN. HIDE. FIGHT was the motto. It became very clear to me that I was going
to be living in a high gun to people ratio country for the next four months. I
need to be vigilant.
Friday 22nd of August
Last day of Orientation and I learnt a lot about the
American Culture and History of Maryland. It’s good to see how far Maryland has
come from the very severe racial segregation which was not too long ago, to now
one of the most diverse states. (UMD is one of the most multicultural universities
in the US too!)
We ended the day with a massive BBQ dinner outside the basketball courts! The atmosphere was amazing- full on High School Musical vibes. Just as I thought I would have time in the weekend to catch up with my family and friends back at home… one of my new friends popped the question “should we go to New York this weekend, seeing as we don’t have class homework to worry about yet?” And the next thing I knew, at 11pm Friday evening, the four of us were on a coach to New York!! As born and raised in London and Manchester, it is safe to say that New York is something else! I will be sharing my experience via my vlog and Instagram posts!
It’s only been a week since I have moved to the States, and I have to say that I am loving it so far! If you’re planning on coming to America, here’s two things that I’ve learnt so far:
Take advantage of your British accent, the Americans
Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow –make the most
of your time here.
Studying abroad in America has taught me many things. It has taught me that no matter how many American TV shows you watch on Netflix; you will still get an insane shock at the difference between our two cultures. It has taught me that having an English accent can get you very many privileges in the US (even if you’re from Birmingham). And it has taught me that Britain is a very, very tiny country.
The thing that I will most take away from my time abroad is the friendships that I have made from people all across the globe; friendships which will hopefully last a lifetime. I now have plans to visit friends from Australia, somewhere I have always wanted to visit and am excited to embark on a new travelling adventure.
I am not sure that studying abroad has changed me in the dramatic and cliché way that I thought it would. Upon my return to England it felt as If I had never left, I slipped back into British life with extreme ease, picked up my friendships where they had left off and started drinking tea again. America began to feel like a strange dream or a past life. However, I would say that my six months across the Atlantic has definitely noticeably improved my confidence. Being thrown into the deep end, completely alone has forced me to speak up more and to try not to hide behind other people– especially in classes were my participation counted towards 30% of my grade. I think it has also helped me to become better at dealing with stress – dislocating your elbow on the other side of the world with no mother to provide you with comfort and thousands of pounds worth of medical bills being thrown at you is very, very stressful. And, after 20 years of evading exercise, the fear of American food making me obese, finally forced me to join the gym. Aside from that though, I would say that I am still the same old Liv.
I have been asked so many times over the months since my return, ‘How was America?’ and I always struggle to answer. The question is so weighted. How can I reduce six months of my life down to a single sentence answer. How was America? I usually pause for a long moment and then just say ‘Weird’. I then normally follow this by stating that it was ‘an interesting life experience’ and then waffle on for about five minutes about how cool Texas was or how insane it is that the drinking age is 21, whilst the person who asked – and probably expected me to say something like ‘ it was good’ becomes increasingly bewildered by my random response. I don’t think that I have fully been able to process my time studying abroad yet. It would take me a month to properly answer that question. Maybe in a few years’ time when I have had the time to reflect properly on my experience, I will be able to categorise my feelings in a way that allows me to give a response to that question that doesn’t end up in a ten minute rant about the fact that their cheese tastes like plastic. However, until then, in order to evade me going into meltdown, I would advise people to ask me a more specific question than, ‘ How was America?’
I was particularly nervous on the night before my flight, thinking about every possible scenario for my journey.
Could flights be cancelled? Would Hong Kong airport be closed? Would Hong Kong be plagued by endless protesting? Would I lose all my things at baggage claim? Would I enjoy my time in Hong Kong? Would I want to return to the UK straight away?
Lund is a beautiful small city in the South of Sweden. I think the ability to appreciate the landscape of Lund was helped through the equally beautiful weather that was received during my first week in Lund, not going below 23°C and getting as high as 31°C. This was certainly not expected nor packed for, but nevertheless greatly appreciated. The city is made up of many greenspaces and old buildings, with many having their own unique personality to them.
The population of Lund is less than 100,000 people, with, on
average, there being 40,000 students also in the mix. The people of Lund are
very helpful and welcoming, all of whom (or at least thus far) have impeccable
English skills, which has made the daunting task of moving to a new country so much
An interesting point about Swedes that I have been told
repeatedly since my arrival is that they love to sing, this has been proven to
me as within 8 of my welcome activities I have been told to sing and/or sung
A useful thing to know about Sweden also is that you get charged
an extra 1 SEK if you buy a plastic bottle for the environmental cost, so it is
always useful to carry a bottle around as all water is drinkable too. Also good
to know, is that any cans or bottles you accumulate can be taken to certain recycling
points where you can get 1 SEK per item recycled.
#2 Lund University
The university, just like Lund itself, is very pretty. The buildings
are beautiful, some of which are hundreds of years old and covered in vines and
Lund University has put on many welcoming events for international
students in order to help them feel settled and meet people. Personally, I have
over 3 weeks of orientation events. The events and activities are inclusive, diverse
and plentiful. They range from Swedish classes, sports days, boardgames, club
nights, pub nights, mentor groups, IKEA trips, a pub-crawl to Copenhagen and
more. Lund has many international students, inclusive of bachelor, master and exchange
students there are over 2000, I believe. However, many exchange students here
are only studying in Lund for one semester. In fact, so far, I haven’t met any
exchange student who was not British and who is studying for the year.
Despite Lund being a small city, it still has a very good and
reliable public transport system. Buses and trains run regularly until about 1am
and begin again around 5am with multiple routes that can get you to where you
want to go. Additionally, the buses and trains use the same ticket which is useful if you have to catch a bus and a train to get somewhere for
example. The tickets are purchased via
a newly introduced app, ‘Skånetrafiken’,
which works throughout the region of Sweden, Skåne. The ticket prices are fairly
average, costing 18,75 SEK (~£1.59) for a single, 52,50 SEK (~£4.50) for a 24-hour
ticket and about £30 for a 30-day ticket. However, this is not the best way to
get around Lund by any means. The best, most time-efficient and popular is by
bike. The ease and cost of getting a second-hand bike, in addition to the many
cycle lanes makes the bike the superior mode of transport even for an unexperienced
cyclist like myself. The population of Lund, and the students of Lund
University in particular, use bikes to get anywhere and everywhere in the city,
whether that be to class in the morning or getting home after the club. It’s
what is done.
Prior to coming to Lund, I didn’t expect there to be quite so many different rules surrounding alcohol. Sweden, as a whole, is relatively strict with alcohol. Any alcoholic drink that is stronger than 3.5% is only sold in monopolised government shops called Systembolaget which are far fancier than your classic off-licence. The employees are dressed smartly in waistcoats, shirts and bow-ties. Lund has 3 of these shops in total. They shut no later than 7pm, normally earlier and particularly so on Saturdays where they are closed by 3pm. Price-wise, I would say alcohol from Systembolaget is generally not that much more expensive than at home, however if you are buying a drink from a bar, which is not one of the nations’ bars/clubs, it is pricey. Low-percentage alcohol and alcohol-free drinks can be bought from normal supermarkets across Lund though.
There are other interesting laws regarding alcohol here, for
example you are not allowed to cross a road with alcohol in hand and if you are
caught doing so it is punishable by a fine. Also, despite the legal drinking
age being 18, you are unable to purchase alcohol from stores until you are 20. But
you are able to purchase drinks from bars and clubs etc. from 18. Lund perhaps
is more lenient with alcohol relatively to the rest of the Sweden as it is one
of the only places that you are able to drink outside as this is illegal
elsewhere. As a result of this, it is not uncommon to see people sat in the
park having a social drink during the warm weather.
I think all of these laws demonstrate the drinking culture
that Sweden has, where alcohol is there to be enjoyed and appreciated rather
than anything else.
The classic takeaway food here, whatever time of day it may be,
is falafel, usually with garlic, chilli and yoghurt sauce on it. There are many
places across Lund, and nearby Malmö, which have been recommended to me as
great for falafel which I plan on making my way through during the course of my
year here. Fika is another part of Swedish food culture which I fully plan on
throwing myself into. This is a coffee and cake (or something of the variety) break.
It occurs twice per day in work schedules and is taken as a granted thing to do
by colleagues. Fika has had its part in many welcome events here.
I would say that food from supermarkets has been the notably
more expensive category than home. The big shock came to me when I expected Lidl
to be much cheaper than other shops, but it is just a bit cheaper really. I
have ranked what I believe is the best value for money (starting from least expensive):
1)Netto 2)Wallys 3)Lidl 4)ICA 5)Coop.
It’s taken a few months to readjust to life since returning home, partly due to the time difference but mainly due to the lack of independence since moving back with my parents. Although the grass is always greener on the other side, with home cooked meals and a clean house being two things that are greatly missed as a student, I’ve always greatly enjoyed the freedoms of student life particularly after living 5000 miles from home.
London life is so vastly different from Vancouver’s slow-paced and outdoorsy lifestyle which I found suited me well. It’s taken a while to remember the things I love about suburban life in West London and not wince at the cost of transport every time I hop on a train. However, after catching up with close friends and heading up to Manchester to hear all the stories I’d missed while away, I’ve noticed how the year abroad has benefitted me in terms of my motivation and positive outlook on life. After living somewhere where mountaineering sports and coastal walks were a regular part of my free time, I’ve found myself prioritising daytime activities over nights out (potentially a sign of old-age) which has helped me to cope better with work-related stress and anxiety.
As the summer flies by I’m having mixed emotions about returning to uni. While the prospect of the final year work-load is daunting, I can’t wait to be properly reunited with my uni family and also with those Manchester students I’ve become close with in Vancouver. Given the regular assessment at UBC, I feel I’ve developed a stronger work ethic and an ability to manage multiple deadlines which has equipped me well for fourth year. Furthermore, the ethos at UBC to become an active member of the community has inspired me to get involved with student volunteering groups and, in turn, utilise student resources to build my CV and career prospects.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my year abroad and can safely say it has benefitted me in ways I cannot begin to list. I’ve found writing these blogs a helpful way to summarise the highlights of the year and am sure I’ll take pleasure reading back on them in years to come. I hope that after speaking to UBC students about UoM more positions become available to go on exchange to Vancouver as it’s such an inspiring city that provides an ideal environment for student life.
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.