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Alex Adamson – Endeavour Australia Cheung Kong Awardee – National University of Singapore

Published in the Endeavour Australia Cheung Kong Awards 2016 Memoir Book.

Alexander AdamsonWhy go on exchange?

Why not?

That’s how it started for me. At some point it just clicked, and I decided that I was going on exchange. I realized that I couldn’t go to university and not go on exchange – that seemed like a wasted opportunity! So I applied for a year-long exchange to the National University of Singapore (NUS) in – you guessed it – Singapore.

Singapore in itself is a great place to study for a year: great location for travel, some excellent universities, and most importantly, fantastic food. An unexpected bonus was also how international the whole country is – one third of the island’s 5.5 million inhabitants are non-Singaporean: expats, students, tourists. NUS alone had over 1,000 exchange students in semester one, then about 600 in semester two. As a result, I now have friends scattered all around the world, from Sweden to South Africa. I think many Australians overlook Asia and Singapore in favour of Europe, but I would urge them to reconsider – I can’t think of a better location to do an exchange.

Whilst at NUS, I’ve broadcasted on campus radio, volunteered at a concert, completed an internship at a startup, travelled to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, made lifelong friends, and I’m ending my exchange with an overland journey from Singapore to Denmark. Oh yeah, I also occasionally did some uni work. Even as an exchange student, you feel a subconscious push to study more thanks to the collective study intensity of the locals; I’ll definitely be a better student back home! I was taught by some truly extraordinary professors in subjects ranging from ‘New Venture Creation’ to ‘Chinese 1’. Learning a local language, I might add, gives a valuable insight into the local mindset and culture. The quality of the NUS business school really can’t be overstated: best in Asia and top 10 globally, you meet hardworking, driven people from all around the world.

The NUS campus is enormous – at least 4 times Adelaide’s – and American-style in that there are shuttle buses to get around and most students stay on-campus. I got the full experience staying in a six-bedroom apartment – let’s just say the stories are many, and not appropriate to pen down here. Anyone coming to NUS should stay at UTown! As I was in Singapore for a full year, I was fortunate enough to witness each major ethnic celebration: Christmas, Deepavali, Eid Al Fitr, and Chinese New Year. The latter was the highlight for me: a few weeks filled with mandarins, red lanterns, cries of “gong xi fa cai!”, and ceaseless overeating.

It goes without saying that I am grateful to the Cheung Kong Group and the Australian Government for the Endeavour scholarship and the overall exchange experience. It has enabled an incredibly fulfilling year, one that I know will pay dividends throughout the rest of my life.

Truly, exchange is the experience of a lifetime. To anyone considering applying, I urge you to take the leap – you will not regret it.

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