Taiwan in a Weekend

Singapore -> Taipei

One of the great things about living in Singapore is the travel opportunities, and getting to go away on weekends. Last term me and my friends went to watch the lantern festival in Pingxi and spent the weekend in Taiwan, here’s how we did it.

Day 1: Taipei

So the flight to Taiwan takes around 4 hours, depending on which flight you get, so after arriving we made our way to our hostel. To get to the hostel we took the MRT, in the airport you can buy both phone sims and travel cards. The Taiwan metro card is also a key chain, and they’re very cute, for example mine is a Snoopy key chain! The first thing we noticed was the change in temperature, as we visited in February the temperature was around 16 degrees Celsius, which is quite a change from the 33 degrees we had gotten used to. We spent the afternoon going around the old town in Taipei and visiting some of its beautiful temples. This was all free and the photos were beautiful! We made our way to the walking street for dinner and shopping. The main thing worth noting is looking up, most shops and restaurants are upstairs rather than at street level. There’s lots of cool and quirky bars and restaurants for example, ours was underwater themed and had swings!

Day 2: The Festival

The festival is held in Pingxi / Shifen which is not in Taipei. Instead we decided to first visit Jiufen and then go to Shifen. To get there we were able to take a bus direct from Taipei. Jiufen is an old town in the mountains, with great views of the coastline and lots of market stalls and things to buy. If you have time it’s definitely worth staying for lunch and watching the view. From here we went to The Lantern Festival. The transport to the festival is fairly organised, as you’re able to get a bus or a train. Once you get there you can buy dinner and drinks from the stalls and have a look around. It gets busy very quickly, and the transport back does end before midnight – so it’s worth checking times and giving yourself enough time to be there (for reference we spent just over two hours at the festival). You also have the option of buying a lantern with your friends, you can decorate it and set it off with the others. Whilst there we got very lucky as a local resident offered us tickets to set off a lantern inside the venue which is where the main lantern releases happen. This was just by pure chance what we were able to do this but if you get the chance I would really recommend it, as it was a very special experience.

Day 3: Taipei

On our final day we spent time going around Taipei some more. We visited the Chiang Kai – Shek memorial which was beautiful, there is also a changing of the guards ceremony which is very elaborate and cool to watch. Whilst it was the start of cherry blossom season we didn’t have time to get out of the city to find any, but the people who did really recommended it! Another recommended activity is Taipei 101, however because of the time of year we were not able to go outside to see the view. An alternative to paying for the view is to climb Elephant Mountain, which is beautiful for sunrise and sunset.

We only spent three days in Taiwan, but it’s definitely somewhere I would go back to! It’s a great mix of city life and culture.

Moving to Singapore: Helpful extra info that’s useful to know!

Ellie Thompson, NUS, Singapore

Let’s be honest, moving to the Singapore is stressful, from trying to get your bag to match cabin weight, to saying goodbye to all your home friends. It’s overwhelming and more than a little bit manic. So, to help with this stress, here’s a small break down of information that should make the transition a little bit easier!

Money

In Singapore card and cash are used frequently, so it is very rare to come across places that do not accept both. That being said I would really recommend bringing cash with you when you first arrive. Food for both UTown and PGP are in Hawker -Type Centres, and whilst you can pay on card some find it easier to pay in cash. Equally you’ll probably be getting a taxi from the airport, which again is made easier with cash. If you were to use card, I would really recommend Monzo. The useful thing about Monzo is that you can use it in airports, so if you have a stop over you can still buy water and snacks without worrying about having left over money. You can also pay with Grab. Grab is the Singapore version of Uber with an extra section called Grab Pay, here it works like a normal debit card but you pay through the app. Finally, there is also the EZ-Link card. This is a metro card that also works to pay for; printing, washing, transport, and other groceries. It is a widely accepted form of payment and can be bought across Singapore but specifically from convenience stores on campus or at 7/11.

Transport

The EZ -Link card works for the bus and MRT. The transport system itself is very extensive across Singapore and cheap, as you only pay for the number of stops rather than a flat rate. The closest MRT station to campus is Kent Ridge and you can get there for free by NUS bus. NUS have a free bus system to take you around campus, which is extremely useful as the campus is huge. To navigate this, I recommend you download the NUSNext Bus app which is the campus bus timetable and bus routes. The only negative to this is that the campus bus system stops running at 11pm and is reduced service on the weekend. As I mentioned Grab is the same as Uber and is very popular, particularly for the first few days Grab is a really useful way of getting around Singapore. Finally, I would recommend downloading the Citymapper app, not only does this work in the UK, but can also be used for the MRT system and buses.

Plugs

My final piece of advice is to bring plug adaptors. Whilst Singapore has UK plug sockets, some items from IKEA are the European plug system! Also, if you plan to travel you will need some adaptors for the surrounding countries!

Hopefully this should provide some logistical help with moving to Singapore!

Semester Two as a Year long exchange student

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

Hellooo Manchester,

After having the time of my life travelling during 6 weeks over Christmas Break, it is time to go back to Uni!
The majority of exchangers stay only for one semester. Therefore, the National University of Singapore was expecting a whole new batch of fresh new exchange students. I was excited to meet some new people and be one of the “ancient” … basically a local Lah (singlish exclamation mark).
Additionally, the deeper bonds created during Christmas while travelling with my UK exchanger friends is going to be greatly valuable as they were almost all staying in NUS for a year as well.
Singapore never felt more like home than when you start off fresh a new semester in a familiar environment with your friend-family! What an awesome feeling to be back!!

Penang pic
Study break mid semester 2 in Penang; it’s all about the banter with friends in the tropical jungle, the arty streets and the deliiiicious food! Last trip … No more travelling money! You’ve gotta be jealous of the new exchangers with an untouched travel fortune to spend 

Continue reading “Semester Two as a Year long exchange student”

Christmas Holidays

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

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Stumbled upon a free art/music festival in Tokyo: We ❤ Japan

Hello Manchester,
I hope that you had a lovely Christmas holiday, I sure did!
Here is a formatted report of my adventures in chronological order.

Continue reading “Christmas Holidays”

Exams and Goodbyes

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

Pic Nic
End of Semester/GoodBye Pic Nic outside Vivo City, one of the humongous mall of Singapore. Enjoying the sea view… and the company 🙂

Hellooo Manchester,

First, a little retrospective on my adventure so far which I wrote on my Facebook wall in December 2015:

The first semester is coming to an end,
I’ve been through a great range of difference experiences, beginning by meeting awesome, intellectual, hilarious, enriching people which I went on some adventures with, at boxing classes, skateboarding, partying, laughing, dragon boating, chatting philosophically or politically until 3AM…
Continue reading “Exams and Goodbyes”

The Exchanger life: midterms, recess week, panic and Fun!

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

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Marina Bay Sand (MBS) The most famous hotel in Singapore due to its architectural prowess.

Hellooo Manchester,

In this post I’m going to talk about the mid terms examination, my recess week holiday and life on campus in general.

Midterms – Mid September

Where to begin…
Stressful for sure, especially that we do not have them in Manchester and therefore I didn’t know what to expect.
Challenging, because as they count for only 10% to 20% of our final grade, the teachers take them as an opportunity to really test our problem solving skills by giving us impossible exercises… literally.

Continue reading “The Exchanger life: midterms, recess week, panic and Fun!”

Year Abroad: 25% browsed – Half semester 1 update

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

After a calm week of adaptation to my new environment in a pretty much empty campus, orientation week finally starts!

Dragonboating
Splashing is as important as rowing in Dragon Boating! So much fun 😀 Pink Team (aka my team) won the race!! (photo credit: NUS Peer Advising)

Continue reading “Year Abroad: 25% browsed – Half semester 1 update”

Back to reality and off to Singapore!

By Chloe Coradetti, Mechanical Engineering, The National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore

Here I am, realizing that it is real, it is happening… I am going to study abroad for an entire year at the National University of Singapore!!  YEEEEESSS!
My excitement is hardly containable, I keep telling everyone, with a big smile on my face “I’m going on an adventuuuuuure!”

Continue reading “Back to reality and off to Singapore!”

A gentle reminder

By Callum Campbell (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

With all the travelling and the constant tropical climate it has been really easy to forget the real reason why I am in Singapore – to study. The upcoming exams, however, have acted as a gentle reminder of this aspect.

Managed to find time to watch David Beckham turn on the Christmas lights
Managed to find time to watch David Beckham turn on the Christmas lights

With only a couple of days now until I finish and travel back to England, it would be easy to lose track of revision, but it is important that I maintain my determination and motivation over this last stretch. What does not make this easier is the fact the majority of other exchange students have finished and left to travel around the region to relaxing beaches and beautiful countries while I am stuck revising.

Just a few more days...
Just a few more days…

With four exams I am doing the same workload as I would have been doing in Manchester, however, each of my modules range from different subject backgrounds to academic years. This means that the studying has been very diverse and at times more complex.

The largest and most notable difference with exams in Singapore compared to those in England is that the marking is done on a bell curve, meaning that a small proportion of the class can achieve the top grade and the largest amount will achieve middle marks, while a small number will obtain the lowest. This system comes with its positives and negatives as although some members of the class will fail, the bell curve makes it hard to do so. However, this also means that it is actually harder to achieve the highest grade and therefore has the potential to make fellow classmates slightly more competitive with one another, but thankfully this is not something I have experienced.

 

An illustration as to how the bell curve system works
An illustration as to how the bell curve system works

As an exchange student though, my grades from NUS will be taken and converted into Manchester results based on a number of factors, meaning when I am told my results in the first instance, I am likely to have little idea of what they mean in terms of English grades.

Just as unpredictable as my results for the first semester is the current dramatic and drastic change of weather, ranging between beaming sunlight and monsoon storms within a matter of hours. One of the strangest things to comprehend out here is the fact that the weather is still above 20oC, yet it’s December… Christmas is less than a month away and I’m still wearing shorts and flip-flops?

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Speaking of Christmas, I recently found out the news that I will be notified by NUS regarding my grades a couple of days before Christmas, meaning there is the potential to either make or break the festive period. Thankfully, I am feeling confident of what I have achieved during my time in Singapore and feel assured it will be a time to celebrate on all fronts.

 

A second home

Living on the doorstep of South East Asia

By Callum Campbell (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

It’s been four months since I arrived in Singapore, and life here has become the norm. However, a quick glance at the calendar and I realised that, not only is Christmas next month, but I will be heading home in less than five weeks. Time has literally flown by and it still feels like yesterday when I was even considering applying for this opportunity, a decision I will never regret.

A second home?

Since my last blog there has been SO much going on. I’ve met countless amazing people from all over the world, travelled the beautiful region of Southeast Asia, seen some amazing events and sights in Singapore and (the real reason I’m here) knuckled down with university work. With so much going on, I thought I would attempt to highlight just a few stand-out moments of my adventure so far.

Although registration for the student visa and the enrolment of classes was a tedious process, I was soon able to settle into a routine and adapt to my new lifestyle in Singapore. The city is a very safe and clean place, which means travelling around late a night on the metro doesn’t involve constantly worrying about who’s around. The NUS campus itself is also really good ,with a number of high quality facilities and study areas, including a 24-hour Starbucks.

Being located in the centre of Southeast Asia, I have been able to travel to some of the most beautiful countries in the world ‘on the cheap’. My very first trip was to the island of Bintan in Indonesia, which is only a ferry ride away from Singapore. A group of us, made up of English, Irish, American and French students, stayed in wooden huts on stilts above the sea, which typified the relaxing experience of a place that is relatively untouched by tourism. The accommodation became even more bizarre when we realised that the owner had a fully grown shark as a pet…

Our accommodation, Bintan Style
Our accommodation in Bintan

A few weeks later, back in Singapore, the world renowned Formula 1 arrived and literally took over the city, with the racetrack built on the streets used by everyday traffic. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the race, and being within metres of the track and seeing some of the world’s best racing drivers provided an exciting adrenaline rush.

This was after many attempts
This was after many attempts

Reading week soon came around, and this meant it was time for another trip. A collection of us travelled to Bali and the Gili Islands in Indonesia. Bali, a popular tourist destination, was beautiful especially with its dominating volcanos; however, the sight of hotels and the impact of globalisation was obvious as I travelled around the island. In comparison, the Gili Islands was a place that was literally paradise. Out of the three islands I visited Gili Trawangan, which has a population of around 500 people, and horse and carts are used as transport because no cars are allowed. The golden beaches and crystal clear water also presented us with a perfect opportunity snorkel and dive.

A volcano in Bali
A volcano in Bali

Para, Para, Paradi
Para-, Para-, Paradise!

After a refreshing week away, it was soon time to get back into study mode and attempt to forget about the lush beaches. Thankfully, the warm climate of Singapore made this transition much easier. While remaining on top of my studies at NUS, I was also able to explore more of the city that I now call home, with visits to the Botanical gardens, Little India and Marina Bay Sands, to name a few. A group of us also visited the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo, where we were able to see a number of unique animals in a completely different setting.

Little India
Little India

There are actually two elephants there
There are actually two elephants there.

However, once a few deadlines were met, it was time for my next adventure. This time I travelled through Malaysia with a Danish and an American student. We first flew to Penang, an old British colonial town, where we rode Asia’s steepest train, captured some of the most breathtaking views and got lost in the jungle. In the latter part of the trip we travelled by bus through the Malaysian countryside before arriving in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. It was nice to experience a city that was raw and vibrant compared to the well planned, orderly Singapore.

The steepest train in Asia, Penang
Penang

The iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
The iconic Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

And it was not long after arriving back from Malaysia that I was already off on my final trip (for now) to Bangkok, Thailand. Having previously visited the city last year, it was nice to go back and experience it with a different group of friends and explore the city in greater depth. The welcoming Thai people and the amazingly rich culture really makes Bangkok such a fantastic place.

The Grand Palace in Bangkok
The Grand Palace in Bangkok

It may be hard to believe, but amongst all the travelling I have in fact been studying too. Having started lectures in August while friends were still enjoying the lengthy summer holiday, I have taken the opportunity to test my academic ability in a completely different country and culture. Just a few highlights of studying at NUS so far have included working in groups with Singaporean and international students while also learning about Singapore and Asia in greater depth. As the last few deadlines come to an end and with the exams fast approaching, the feeling that the semester abroad is coming to an end is beginning to kick in.

Of course it is going to be so nice to get back to the UK and see friends and family, but there are so many aspects of this adventure that I don’t want to end. It’s also going to be interesting arriving back in England in the peak of winter having adapted to the tropical climate of Singapore.

Time really does fly when you're having fun
Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

I look forward to updating you again soon, which will be my final blog entry while in Singapore.

My First Week in Singapore

Kyran Clarke (National University of Singapore, Singapore)

I’m all settled in now after my first week in Singapore. It has been a very hectic but enjoyable week. When I arrived I was met by my National University of Singapore (NUS) buddy. They stayed with me for half a day and were incredibly helpful. Not only did they help me get to my accommodation but they showed me around campus, pointing out all the major places which saved me a lot of time and made getting around a lot easier. They also helped me get an EZ-link card (allows you to get on public transport) and a Singaporean phone card which really helped.

On the second day I went on a tour of the city for exchange students which helped with getting to grips with the MRT (trains). There is an MRT station only 5 minutes’ walk away which has made exploring the city quick and easy. The tour started at 9am and finished at 5pm at the Marina bay so we were all pretty tired, but when we got to the bay they were setting up for a rehearsal of the Singapore Day Show so we stayed to see the jets, boat and fireworks which were all very impressive. On the next day, I went to Senatosa Beach which is at the end of the same MRT line that the university is on. The Beach was wonderful but slightly unnatural with lots of buildings and boats around.

The next few days were spent registering for the university, applying for my student pass (like a visa) and applying for modules. This was a bit of a long process for everyone involved but it was done all in one go so was relatively painless. The positive to this though is that your student card you get allows you free entry into all the gyms and sport facilities around campus, which is a welcome change.

One interesting place was Bukit Timah Nature Reserve where you can see the monkeys. Once you get of the city in Singapore there is lots of rich wildlife and rainforest. One of the more interesting sights was watching monkeys trying to get into someone’s house through a window!

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Monkeys climbing into a house

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A flying lemur!

 

Everyone here is very helpful and friendly and it seems such a safe city. An example of this is a bridge in Clarke Quay where people sit and chat to each other.

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Night time at Clarke Quay

There have been loads of other trips that I’ve done and am planning to do, but with lectures fast approaching it may be time to get my head down (whilst still having fun!).

The journey begins; Arrival in Singapore

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.

My new home for 5 months
My new home for 5 months

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.

A rehearsal for Singapore National Day
A rehearsal for Singapore National Day, which takes place on the 9th of August

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.

One university trip was to Sentosa Beach, a man made beach in Singapore
One university trip was to Sentosa Beach, a man made beach in Singapore

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.

The infinity pool on campus...
The infinity pool on 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!