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