Guest Post By: Business Administration Senior, Steven Hsieh. He is a Global Business Center Study Abroad Scholarship recipient who participated on Foster Exchange at the National University of Singapore for Fall Semester 2018.
As my term comes to an end, I’ve had a bit of time to reflect on what facilities NUS has to offer. There is a universal feeling that all exchange students feel when embarking on a new term in a different school in a different country. As you check in, briskly unpack your belongings, and stroll outside to explore the area around, a feeling sets in – one of confusion, yet a positive and exciting confusion. The more you travel, the more your mind screams out, “Wow, I’m really here. What’s in store for me during next few months?”
Don’t worry. You’ll find those answers during the last few days of your exchange program, as you say your farewells to your friends, some you’ll see once more, and some sadly never again. At the end, that sense of confusion will be lifted, and eventually things will make sense. However, in those crucial first moments where lifelong friends are made, those that you will spend time traveling with on wild adventures, it is always better to come equipped with knowledge, and hopefully this post can help guide you through that initial confusion.
The facilities at the National University of Singapore are certainly different than those you’re going to expect at the University of Washington. To be transparent, I stayed in Prince Georges Park Residences in room Type C. This room is the most basic, with no air-conditioning, no in-unit bathroom, and no in-unit sink. However, you do get a kitchen allowing for some basic cooking. With that aside, let’s begin with a few things you might find interesting about the facilities at NUS.
First, to those gym buffs, you’ll sadly find that your options are quite limited. For the lucky few staying in UTown, that extra price tag comes with arguably the best gym in NUS, beating out the gym at Prince George’s Park, and interestingly also the gym at the schools designated “Sports Centre.” Honestly, when compared to the beast known as the IMA, NUS falls short. However, that isn’t to say you can’t get your workout in. In my experience, Singaporeans love to work out late in the evening, so for those wanting some peace and quiet, aim for early mornings, lunch time, and early afternoon. Past 4pm, the gyms will pick up in activity. The gym at Prince George’s Park, while small, has its own charm and sufficient equipment for whatever you’re interested in. After a few workouts, you’ll feel right at home.
To the foodies out there, NUS has UW beat. The flak that HFS gets is pretty much eliminated at NUS due to its culture of having hawker centres, and therefore school canteens. Canteens are basically food courts with a wide variety of options to choose from, and the food is quite tasty and inexpensive. If you live in PGPR, I recommend the Taiwanese stall and the Chinese Delights stall in the open air canteen. For those at UTown, food is slightly more expensive, but both canteens have delicious options at your disposal. There’s going to be one restaurant you’ll soon find adjacent to the Central Library. Nestled in the engineering campus, is the lovely restaurant of McDonald’s. While I certainly don’t advocate eating McDonald’s on the daily and instead recommend you try the local cuisine, McDonald’s in Singapore offers a unique burger known as the McSpicy. Try it once and get some curry sauce on the side. The McDonald’s on campus, keeping in the best interests of the students, is also quite a bit cheaper than other McDonald’s.
In terms of getting to places, the campus at NUS is pretty much only accessible via bus, unless you want to walk 15-30 minutes through hilly terrain in humid and hot weather. Learn the bus routes well and use them often.
For those who live in PGPR, you’ll be situated close to the National University Hospital, or NUH for short. There’s a lovely shopping area there known as One@Kent Ridge, and I recommend you visit it often. You’ll find a supermarket, hair salons, restaurants, fast food, clothing (Uniqlo), and pretty much anything you might need. I recommend getting breakfast there at Kaffe and Toast – their kaya toast is some of the best I’ve had in the country (refer to my previous blog post about kaya toast for more information).
Meanwhile, UTown has access to the Clementi area and as a result, Clementi mall. This is a decent place to get food and get your shopping done. Do take advantage of the “infinity pool” located at the roof of the Stephen Riady Centre. While it’s not so infinite in terms of the water meeting the sea, it’s still quite a nice pool that overlooks the UTown green. I recommend going for a swim as a break from mugging (Singaporean term for studying).
The libraries at NUS are similar to Odegaard and Suzallo-Allen. You’ll find a bunch of books, but also the empty table spaces for studying. Since this is a Foster blog, I’ll advertise the Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library. You’ll be able to check out your textbooks there and take advantage of the empty tables. Most of your friends are going to be on pass/fail, but don’t let that deter you from studying. Do your job as a student, and you’ll be rewarded.
These are the crucial bits of information that might be helpful as you settle in, and hopefully you’ll find this informative during your first few days/weeks. You’ll learn plenty, change in ways you never expected to, and make some excellent friends when you’re there. Take it slow embrace that confusion, and on that flight back, your mind will scream not “Wow, I’m really here. What’s in store for me during next few months?” but rather just “Wow.”