I went on exchange to Singapore for one year, at the National University of Singapore. Initially I wondered whether I should go on exchange, as I’ve lived in China teaching English, and as a mature-aged student felt that maybe the experience would be different from those younger to me who had never lived abroad. However, I decided to go because my faculty were encouraging students in my program to study abroad, and because I was studying Asian Studies. I’d already visited the island nation previously, and decided to apply there as I felt Singapore would be a comfortable place to live for the duration of my exchange. I applied for the National Uni there as it has a very good reputation and excellent programs in Asian Studies which was one of my majors. As I’d been to Singapore before, and have previously done a lot of travelling around Southeast Asia, I wasn’t very apprehensive about arriving there and getting to the university. I stayed on campus at very large hostel which provides accommodation to roughly three thousand students!
As my majors at the University of Adelaide were Anthropology and Asian Studies, I chose to take up modules (courses) in Southeast Asian Studies, South Asian Studies, and Sociology. I found the workload to be manageable, however, at NUS most students study five modules a semester, which is equivalent to five courses back in Adelaide. Learning about Southeast Asia while living in the region was very fascinating, and it was interesting to know that many students did not know that much about the region they lived in. I took introductory courses to Southeast Asia and South Asia, which comprehensively covered the regions. Some other courses I took included ones about religion and society in SE Asia; popular culture in SE Asia; economic change in South Asia; Island South East Asia; foundation of social theory; introduction to social work, amongst others. NUS has a huge range of courses to choose from, and students are really spoiled for choice.
There were many foreign exchange students studying there, from all over the world, and many who were undertaking an entire degree. At my hostel I shared accommodation with several foreigners. There were also foreigners in my lectures and tutorials. The university has different programs to welcome foreigners to the university and help them feel comfortable settling in. The facilities at NUS are world-class, and it is always ranked highly in world rankings. There are excellent cultural events organised by the university, and also throughout the country. The university has internal shuttle buses which are free and they run frequently throughout the days. The Kent Ridge campus is very large and it would get tiring walking to classes (especially in the heat). The university has many different clubs you can join, as a Non-Graduating (NG) student.
English is one of the official languages, and all Singaporeans speak it fluently, so it is easy for foreigners to adjust to life there. Other official languages include Mandarin, Tamil and Malay, however, many Singaporeans and foreign residents speak other Chinese and Indian dialects. Singapore is a very cosmopolitan country, and foreigners make up a large percent of the population. The country celebrates multiculturalism, as the three major ethnicities of Singapore are Chinese, Malays and Indians. If you are considering going on exchange in Asia, I would highly recommend NUS for its excellent academics and facilities; and because Singapore is a modern, clean, green, and efficient country and a convenient hub to travel to nearby destinations.