National University of Singapore

Around Southeast Asia I Went!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

Although it is small, Singapore is a major hub to so many other cities in Southeast Asia. And to complete the exchange experience, I went to several other cities during school breaks, so many of which left me a lasting impression of amazement and gratitude.

From Singapore, I went to…

1. Siem Reap, Cambodia
I never thought that I would ever come to this city before, and coming there was one of the best travel decision I ever made. Although it’s famous for the Angkor Wat temple, everything here is amazing – the food, the people, the temples, even to the things sold at the souvenir shops. I felt so lucky to see the sunrise from Angkor Wat – if there’s a chance, please, please, please go there to witness the beauty. The picture won’t do the justice.
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2. Bangkok, Thailand
Every exchange student I know went to Bangkok at least once over their exchange period, and that says a lot. There are amazing architectures, tons of opportunities to shop, and scrumptious food, everything for cheap. There’s no reason not to go here.

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3.Krabi, Thailand
I went to Krabi hoping to go to the Phi Phi Islands from there, and boy, they have the most beautiful beaches with crystal clear water. And because it’s still in Thailand, they also have the yummiest food. Must go.

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4. Malacca, Malaysia
A small, charming city just 3 hours away from Singapore, Malacca is nice for a day trip – it offers a lot of food and shopping options, and most tourist attractions are within walking distance from one another. A nice break from the hustle and bustle of Singapore.

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5.Jakarta, Indonesia
This might be a bit subjective since it’s my hometown, but there’s always something to do at Jakarta. I flew home to go to a huge annual jazz festival in which I was lucky to see my favorite local musicians, along with Christina Perri (who coincidentally was on her Asia tour) play live. Before going back to Singapore, I also made sure to eat my favorite Indonesian foods: bakmie ayam noodles and podeng ice. Yum!

People say that travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer, and I wholeheartedly agree. I closed this chapter of my life being a lot richer in experiences, and a gazillion times more grateful to be able to experience everything in this short, but sweet and rewarding semester.

 

Daily Life, Singapore Style.

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

Being one of the most liveable countries in the world, I’ve always wanted to stay in Singapore for longer than just a few days. However, being just a tiny island country in Southeast Asia, one reservation I had prior to choosing this place is that I’ll run out of fun things to do. I mean, it takes less than two hours to get from one end of Singapore to the other. But this place proved me wrong. Not only did it become a loving home, but were always interesting things to experience. Here are my top five.

In Singapore, I…

1. Went clubbing on top of Marina Bay Sands, the most iconic building in Singapore…
Look at the view. Enough said.

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2. Went to the Universal Studios whenever I was bored…
Sentosa Island, a small island just south of Singapore, has a reputation of being Asia’s favorite playground. It hosts Universal Studios Singapore, a similar theme park to the one in California. Thankfully, it’s only half an hour away from campus so whenever I’m bored with studying, it’s nice to know that taking a break just to ride some attractions is doable.

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3. Drowned myself in food…
And the best way to do it, of course, is by appreciating all the amazing food Singapore is blessed with. From the national dishes, such as chicken rice and chili crab, to Peranakan cuisine like laksa, to yummy Indian butter chicken to yummy waffle brunch to burrito bowls similar to Chipotle, Singapore is a food heaven.

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4. Never felt unappreciative of amazing architectures…
Design-wise, this art school is my favorite building in the world. And it’s located in Singapore.

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5. Picked up some Singlish, the unofficial language of Singapore.
With vocabularies consisting of words originating from 6 other languages, learning Singlish and picking up some foreign words in the process is a fun everyday challenge.

“I’ll never regret my choice of going to Singapore – it’s truly an awesome place to spend your semester in.”

College Life, Singapore Style.

Monday, May 11th, 2015

Written by Clarissa Suharli, Foster undergraduate

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Have you ever achieved/seen/tried/tasted/been exposed to so many new things in such a short amount of time? Well, I did during the four wonderful months I was in Singapore for exchange. Granted, this is not my first time living abroad far away from home, but life hasn’t been this rewarding for me before. It’s difficult to sum up everything into just a few blog posts, so I figured that I’ll make short lists about my experiences. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about my school, the National University of Singapore.

Here goes. At NUS, I…

  1. Met the smartest, most dedicated, and super passionate bunch of people: my classmates and professors.
    Being ranked no 1 in Asia, classes are filled with the smartest and brightest. Makes it really hard to be on top of the curve, but the quality of education is top notch.
  2. Lived one building away from an ice cream parlor, a really nice infinity pool, and a 24/7 computer lab and study space.
    Let me introduce you to University Town in the National University of Singapore, also known as the best place to live for college students.Singapore_2
  3. Had access to tons of activities that cater to all sorts of interests…Like going on a midnight biking trip to grab supper, dragon boating in the Singapore River, seeing a poetry reading by Jane Hirshfield (who came all the way from the States, no less), staying up late to discuss beauty from the philosophical point of view, exercising to bollywood zumba, to learning how to sail, these are just a few activities among all that’s offered to students.Singapore_3
  4. Tried archery for the first time
    Singaporeans are keen on exercising and keeping themselves fit, and thankfully there are a lot of options on campus. Now I can proudly say that I can assemble a bow and shoot arrows, like Katniss Everdeen :)
  5. Took an elective class on social media
    NUS is the best in offering fun elective classes – another friend of mine took a class about Popular Culture in Southeast Asia, while another took one about Food in Japan. I mean, I love studying in general, but this is just FUN.

In short, NUS is a wonderful choice to consider for your exchange semester. Not only the school, but Singapore as a city is also a great place to live in. But more on that later!

Fun in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Written by Jeremy Santos, Foster undergraduate

After two days in Phuket, it was time to go “Phi Phi!” We almost didn’t make it – we woke up late for our taxi ride to the ferry terminal! In the end, we still got there early, and we soon found out that ferries don’t leave on time here. At least we got to enjoy the view, wind in our faces, and the sunshine during the ferry ride. Even though Ko Phi Phi is supposed to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, daytime at the beach is amazing and unreal. For the rest of the day, my friends and I relaxed on the beach and enjoyed the ultra-clear water. I had to take two midterms in about one week, so I unfortunately had to (try to) read my finance textbook. But hey – at least I got a nice view, along with a nice tan!

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When the sun goes down, Ko Phi Phi becomes a whole new beast. A big, fiery beast. Many Thai beaches, especially those on Phi Phi, are known for their nightly fire shows. During such shows, performers twirl batons, pois, and other objects set on fire. Performers even work together to pull off a variety of stunts, like human pyramids and walking on tightropes. It’s a crazy sight and it’s even crazier knowing that this happens every. single. night.

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What also happens every night is the opportunity for spectators to become participants. We didn’t get to toss around fire batons, but we did get to participate in fire jumprope, fire limbo, and jump through a hoop of fire. Yes, this is real, and yes, countless people actually do it. I even saw a child jump through the hoop of fire! I tried the fire limbo and hoop because they involved stationary objects. I didn’t try the jumprope, as I was afraid of seriously burning myself. It all actually seemed fairly safe – in any case, the ocean is a short run away! At one point, a woman tried to jump out of the spinning jumprope and the rope ended up hitting her head and then pretty much wrapped around her stomach. My friends and I feared that she would catch on fire, but she seemed surprisingly unscathed after finally escaping! (The same couldn’t be said about her pride.)

On our last day, we hiked to Pee Pee Viewpoint to watch the sunrise. No more than a 30-minute hike up stairs and a hill, the view was much better than the area’s name may suggest. We had to get on a ferry back to Phuket in less than two hours, so this was a great way to end our trip to Ko Phi Phi.

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Motorbiking in Taiwan

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Written by Jeremy Santos, Foster undergraduate

On March 27th, a friend and I took a red-eye flight to Taipei, Taiwan. Arriving before 6 am, I quickly realized that we hadn’t done our research regarding the need for a visa. Being the (sometimes) worrywart that I am, I worried that we would end up on the next flight back to Singapore. It turns out that as American citizens, a visa isn’t needed! I liked Taiwan already!

We took a bus to Taipei (the airport is actually an hour away), ending up at the train station. After two hours on the train (playing “2048”), we were picked up from the Toroko station. We checked into Toroko Lodge, which I highly recommend! Relaxing for some time, we then went to rent scooters (gas-powered, not Razor scooters). This is when the adventure really started to take off…

Having never ridden a scooter before, I seriously thought my butt would scoot right off the scooter and onto the road. I almost ran over the guy who let us rent scooters in the first place… Equating riding a scooter with riding a bike, I zoomed onto the road hoping that it would become easier to balance. Well, what do you know… it worked! My friend and I quickly got the hang of our scooters and were well on our way to Toroko National Park.

There is NOTHING like driving through the park’s windy roads, with the wind in my face and a vast gorge as the backdrop. We sped through countless tunnels carved out of the mountainside, stopping every now and then to take some photos. At one point, we found an abandoned tunnel that reminded me of the one found in the film, “Spirited Away.” I sure was blown away, or should I say “spirited away,” by the experience! If there is one thing you take away from reading this blog post, it’s this: if you ever go to Taiwan, you HAVE to ride scooters in Toroko!

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What I’ve Learned After 1 Week in Singapore

Friday, February 21st, 2014

written by Jeremy Santos, Foster school undergraduate student

#1) I can drink, but I can’t watch “The Hangover.” Crazy, right?! Some friends and I planned to go to the movie theater today to see “The Wolf of Wall Street.” Back in the US, this movie is rated R, so anyone at least 17 years old can buy a ticket. But here, viewers have to be at least 21! Movie restrictions vary (some to 16, some to 18), so it was interesting to see that TWofWS is currently the only movie with this restriction. I’m speculating that the record number of swear words, along with a few controversial scenes, had something to do with it.

We just ate food instead.

We just ate food instead.

#2) I need a map. The spring semester began this week, and it has felt like freshman year all over again. There are people rushing in every direction; then there’s me, wandering around trying to find the stairwell. I’ve known that I have no idea where my classes are, but I just figured that I’ll eventually find the right classroom! Luckily, I’ve found fellow lost exchange students and helpful locals, so this week has still been fun. I’ll definitely find my own way around campus next week. I have an app on my always-on-airplane-mode smartphone (i.e. essentially a wifi device) that gives directions around the NUS campus, so I should probably start using it!

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#3) Class dynamics at NUS aren’t much different from UW. As I prepared for my 5-month study abroad experience, I heard that class dynamics in Asia as a whole are much different from in the US. I can’t speak for other countries, but courses at NUS could easily be mistaken for courses back home. In class, especially in smaller sections and tutorials (aka quiz sections), students are encouraged to ask questions and engage in class discussions. Grade breakdowns usually consist of multiple exams, projects, and class participation. And classrooms themselves are set up colosseum-style, with curved desks forming a half-circle facing the front of the room. With all of this in mind, it sounds like I’m back at Paccar Hall at UW. It also doesn’t help that courses here focus on American financial markets and Wal-Mart, just like at home.

On the other hand, the diverse student population creates a truly unique learning environment. I’ve met people from all over the world, along with students born and raised in the small but dense melting pot called Singapore. In my short time here, I’ve learned the Singlish word “kiasu,” which refers to the fear of missing out. This fear is a major aspect of Singaporean culture, and it can be seen everyday. People queue up to try popular foods (myself included), and in an academic context, students generally don’t want to miss out on class readings. Many courses require readings obtained from the library, which may have only a few copies. Because of the fear of missing out on testable readings, I saw students rush to the library to start studying on the very first day of the semester. While others begin poring through textbooks, I’m still trying to figure out where the bookstore is! Despite the competitive environment here at NUS, I’m not too worried about my classes. Most students are taking classes only in their major, but I’m also taking two non-business modules that don’t seem too difficult. I’m here to have fun, make friends, eat good food, and avoid any dips in my GPA!

Singapore: Looking Back

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Looking back on my time in Singapore, while my favorite thing may have been the traveling, I’m really happy I got to experience such a unique city and country. Singapore is growing and changing; skyscrapers were built and finished just while I was there. It’s modern feel, stylish restaurants and clubs, and fast-paced nature is very appealing, especially for global business.

The country itself is borderline utopian and highly regulated. No gum, no food or drink on public transportation, and no disturbing the peace. While it can sound intimidating from the outside, it isn’t on the inside. These regulations and strict policies have resulted in an extremely clean and safe country all around. My favorite thing to describe this is a quote I found on another student’s travel blog: “A 21 year old girl could find every dark alley in Singapore at 4 in the morning, and she would only be approached by a registered cab driver asking if she needed a ride home.” Not to say crime is nonexistent, but my friend left her iPad in the public library during finals week for 4 hours, came back, and it was exactly where she left it.

It can run high stress, and the culture can be seen as a little uptight at times, which is really the only large downside. However, being a foreigner in Singapore is great. The exchange program at NUS is fantastic and you’ll be able to make plenty of friends from around the world and alleviate the stress with a little world traveling and clubbing on the tops of skyscrapers. (1-Altitude is my favorite) The most important part of any study abroad trip is the experience, and you would be hard-pressed to find another country where you can experience this much of the world in one city.

School in Singapore

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

While traveling is a big part of experiencing Singapore and Southeast Asia, you do have to go to school too. I actually learned a lot, and I’m not just talking about course material. Being that Singapore is an English-speaking nation in Asia (one of the few, if not the only), you have a very interesting look into the culture of Asia. Singapore brings in people from all over Asia and the world to study and do business, and so you see a lot of world beliefs, ideals, and societal facets mix. It was a unique experience to learn and test in a different culture’s ideals. I learned a lot about Eastern culture and how they look at education and the world and it has changed how I view a lot of the world and my own work.
The bottom line is, for a Westerner, this is going to be a little hard. It’s not that the material is over-the-top difficult; it’s just a different way of learning and a different way of thinking. (I wrote a paper on it, you can see it at my travel blog: cmsingapore.blogspot.com)

In order to take advantage of the traveling and in order to really experience the country and the region, I recommend you take 3 classes and do pass/fail if you can. If you’re a marketing student, Game Theory is an interesting class that really captures the formulaic thinking that I found common in the culture. Also if you have room, take a class specific to Asia, like Asian Markets.

 

The Singapore Experience

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

By: Chris Morgan, Foster Undergraduate

Singapore is sometimes referred to as the West’s gateway to Southeast Asia, and that has definitely held true with my experience of the small country. While being a fast growing utopian-style metropolis, Singapore is also a hub and launch pad for exploring the entire region, Myanmar to Indonesia. Traveling is fairly straight forward, and if you want to see a lot of this region I definitely recommend the program to study abroad at the National University of Singapore. They take in a decent number of exchange students from around the world, and it’s very easy to grab a group and travel to Thailand for the weekend (or the week, it’s a great place). I recommend that you make a group with some other exchange students that you meet at the first mixers or beach parties, they will all want to travel too and having a travel group is very important for going into a foreign country. Plus, having a group of people from all over the world is an amazing opportunity and leads to some great conversations and friendships through your travels.

That being said about groups, Singapore is safe to traverse and explore on your own, and solo travel adventures aren’t unheard of. I went to Bali on my own (fairly safe place to go by yourself in the region) and it was amazing. I can’t say enough about traveling with this exchange opportunity. From climbing a volcano in Indonesia to kayaking through island caves in Southern Thailand, I got to see and experience so much more than I had anticipated. The possibilities to have a trip of a lifetime are endless here, so take a few!

Forever Lasting Memories

Monday, December 12th, 2011

By: Eve Churaisin, Foster Undergraduate

Today marks the last day of my exchange program in Singapore! I just took my last final and I’ve honestly never been this happy to be done. Words just aren’t enough to express my happiness at the moment. I’ll admit that this was my toughest quarter, or in this case, semester, ever.  I would not say that the classes were incredibly difficult, but the material we were tested on the exam were much more dense and we were not allotted a lot of time to think through each problem.  This was the case for the business classes I chose to take, but my final for my Southeast Asian studies class did not to appear to be very difficult. The exam environment is different at NUS than at the UW. At the UW, most exams took place where lectures took place. However, at NUS, we took our exams somewhere other than where lectures took place. Most of our exams took place in a giant multi-purpose room where there was assigned seating and we were required to place our student ID on our desk so the proctors can walk by and verify that it was actually us taking the exam.

Even though it was clearly a tough semester, it was truly a rewarding one. Having the opportunity to go to Singapore on exchange was an amazing and unforgettable experience. I got to put myself in the shoes of these locals and engage myself in an Asian culture that I was never exposed to growing up in the states. I got to observe the work ethics of these locals through the long, dreadful group meetings for my business projects that lasted about 7 hours each time. For one of the meetings, we spent all that time just to edit a group paper that had already been compiled. These locals really strive to be on the top and competition has been defined as a large part of their culture. I thought that taking classes at Foster was competitive enough, but it’s even more intense here!

Apart from getting a taste of the Asian education system, I got to experience the true “Singaporean” culture that makes Singapore a truly unique nation of its own. Even though English is the official language here, Singlish, an English based creole with its vocabulary originating from Chinese, Malay and Hokkien, is still widely used. Even though the use of Singlish is discouraged by the government, I think it’s a very unique part of their culture.  Also, even when Singaporeans speak standard British English, they end a lot of their phrases with “lah.” They even use it in text messaging and in e-mails.  I even started using it whenever I text my Singaporean friends.  Lastly, Singapore is a nation that blends different cultures from Southeast Asia into one. Besides celebrating Chinese holidays, a lot of Malay and Indian holidays are recognized as national holidays in Singapore as well.

Studying in Singapore as an exchange student did not just allow me to get a grasp of the Singaporean culture, but I also got to learn about the cultural differences from the different parts of the world. A majority of the exchange students are from European countries so they introduced me to bits and pieces of their culture. One of my European friends introduced me to the different types of cheese they eat back home and real bread that is hardly found here or back in the states.  I’ve also learned that in Germany, telling someone “happy birthday” before that person’s actual birthday means bad luck and that was something I actually never knew before.

Since Singapore is the gateway to Asia, all the traveling that I got to do enhanced my exchange experience.  Roughly a month ago, my friends and I went on a weekend trip to Tioman Island that is located off the coast of Malaysia. Getting to Malaysia from Singapore was just one bus ride away and getting to the ferry terminal was another bus ride away.  While we were in Tioman, we relaxed at the beach and went snorkeling. The snorkeling was amazing and I got to swim through a school of bright colored fish. The water was so clear that we did not even need to be in the water to see everything!

Reading Week took place two weeks ago and that was the week when locals would spend time studying for their final exams. Instead of “studying,” my friends and I had planned a trip to go to Macau and Hong Kong for five days. Macau was an interesting place, supposedly known as the Vegas of Asia, full of people walking down the streets dressed in their suits ready to enter a casino. At night, the buildings came to life with the bright, neon lights. Instead of spending our time gambling, we decided to explore the city on foot and visit the historical sites. We visited the St. Paul Ruins, the A-Ma Temple and the Monte Fort. Macau still had its Portuguese influence where the street signs and names of buildings were written in Portuguese, but I got the impression that people only spoke Cantonese.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, made me feel like I was really in Asia. I had expected Asia in general, to be full of crowded cities, traffic, street markets, and worn out buildings. This was actually Hong Kong. The city was full of excitement and full of people no matter what time of day. We got to explore Ladies’ Market and the Temple Night Market and while we were there, I got to work on my bargaining skills. On one of the days, we took the cable car to visit the Big Buddha. Another thing that made me feel like I was really in Asia was that a lot of people were not proficient in English and a lot of people would start talking to me in Cantonese whenever I entered a restaurant.

With the amount of traveling I’ve done outside of Singapore, I have been greatly exposed to the different Asian cultures and got to observe the major cultural differences between Singapore and the neighboring Asian countries. Now that I am officially on winter break, my friends and I will be leaving for the Philippines this weekend and going island hopping. The Philippines will be my last stop before returning to the states. Some of my friends already left Singapore and some others are leaving this week. Saying goodbye is probably one of the hardest things I have to do before I leave. I have met so many amazing people here and they have been here to keep me laughing and smiling and without their presence, my time in Singapore would not have been the same. As much as I enjoy being in Southeast Asia and eating the food that cannot be found back home, I’ve had enough of rice and noodles and I am more than ready to come home to eat a good sandwich for cheap and reunite with family and friends for the holidays.