Musings of an Exchange Student
Kia Ora, or Hello! My name is Andrew Lim and I’m an exchange student from Otago University in Aotearoa, the Māori name for New Zealand. For many students, going on an exchange not only provides a new educational experience but also immerses you in a different cultural setting. Singapore’s important geographic location as an international sea and airport allows one to encounter people of all races, nationalities and religions. Besides Asians and Europeans, I have met Africans, Arabs and Latin Americans. Amidst this melting pot of races, Singapore is a shopper’s paradise and travel hub. In addition, for those of us coming from colder climates, most days feel like summer, and hence the frequent shorts-and-sandals outfit. So far, my first month on exchange has been an exciting and stimulating experience! Here are my thoughts on the following factors that form the core experiences of an exchange student.
Life on Exchange
Counting my and blessings!
Weekly 1.5 hour lecture slots seem to be the norm at NUS, while one-hour lectures held twice a week predominate back in my university. The downside is that students and staff have less time to interact. Most NUS students also take at least five modules per semester. However, three to four modules is the norm for students at my university since most of them balance part-time jobs to help pay for living expenses.
On the positive side, NUS modules emphasize more class participation and produce a stronger turn-out for lectures and tutorials. There is also a wider range of coursework assessments including group projects, films and class presentations. Many modules are cross-listed, which means you are free to take subjects outside your department while still scoring module credits. What’s not as ideal? Less flexibility. If modules’ exam dates clash, you have to drop one even though the lecture schedules and tutorials do not clash. Some universities would make special arrangements for students to sit for one of their affected exams on a different date.
Frankly, technology features prominently in Singapore’s everyday life. There are cash debit cards which can be used for a wide range of services including public transportation, school printing, washing machines and dryers in halls, and even shopping. However, cash is still commonly used for most basic transactions like food and groceries (anything under $20). Cool air conditioning is also a ubiquitous feature of public life here. There is a strong presence of efficient public transportation like the mass rapid transport systems and buses, which are clean and fully air-conditioned. Despite setbacks like the MRT breakdown last December, the MRTs here are at least much cleaner and better maintained than those in London and New York.
for the efficiency and convenience!
In terms of conservation, there is now more environmental awareness among students. There is an active movement to stop the consumption of shark fins. Within NUS, adoption of several progressive green policies includes setting printers to print double-sided by default and limiting air conditioning to 25°C. Another is the ten cents tax on the purchase of plastic bags.
Going on overseas exchange indeed highlights both the similarities and differences between different places and people. For me, it has bred an appreciation for each and every one of these aspects.