The Longest Week of My Life

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Written by Lander Lee, Foster School undergraduate student, studying at the National University of Singapore.


Landing in a foreign country. Moving into my new dorm room. Registering for my university. Registering for classes. Meeting new people. Making plans to travel to neighboring countries. Attending orientations. Exploring the country. And some sleep here and there.

Your first week abroad will definitely be one to remember. It’s jam packed with events, which can be overwhelming and satisfying at the same time. I have just finished my first week of school and have been in the country for almost 10 days now. Since I have only been in the country for a short amount of time, I figured I would share a lot of the experiences I’ve faced that I’ve had to adjust to here at the National University of Singapore (both the good and the bad).


Move In: Transportation in Singapore is extremely easy and pretty cheap relative to the US. At the time of this blog post (January 15, 2016), 1 U.S. Dollar is worth 1.4 Singaporean Dollars, which makes everything here even cheaper. Transportation is usually by the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), the Singaporean train/subway system, or by taxi. A taxi ride from the airpot is about half an hour by taxi and will cost you less than $30 Singaporean dollars (rates fluctuate for time of day), but it will never be more than $40. You can also take the MRT from the airport to campus, but this will take about an hour. Before my flight, my dorm sent me directions on how to get my particular dorm from the airport by MRT and taxi, which helped. Although Singapore is a tiny country, taxi drivers may not how to get to your exact dorm, but they will know how to get to the NUS campus.

At NUS, you can either live in Residential Colleges in UTown, Prince George Park (PGP), or residence halls  as an exchange student. Dorms in Singapore are referred to as hostels. Most exchange students live in UTown, which consists of multiple dorms (Residence College 4, College of Alice and Peter Tan, Cinnamon College, and NUS Residences: North & South Tower). If you are familiar with the dorms at UW, UTown is the NUS version of West Campus and PGP & residence halls are the equivalent of a dorm in North campus. The UTown residences are newer than that of PGP & residence halls and are more likely to be equipped with air conditioning. If you want to meet mostly locals, residence halls are the place to be. A student living in the residence halls told me there were only 15 people living in the entire residence hall. In comparison, my hostel in Cinnamon College houses probably houses closer to 100 exchange students.

In the hostels, you will either be placed in a Single Room (Air conditioning or no air-conditioning), a 6 person suite with shared living space (Air conditioning


or no air conditioning), or a 4 person suite with shared living space (Air conditioning or no air conditioning). I live in a 6 person suite with a shared living room and bathroom (2 showers & 2 toilets). In my suite, there are both exchange students and locals. All rooms will include ceiling plans, including those with air conditioning. If you want to use air conditioning, it costs about S$0.20/hr (20 Singaporean cents per hour). In January, the temperature is usually about 80-95 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day. This is supposed to be the coldest time of the year, so I’ve been told. I’ve been told it only gets warmer, but hopefully not too much. If you have never been to an area in the tropics, be prepared for the heat and humidity!! After ten days, I’m definitely starting to get a lot more used to it compared to when I first arrived. The weather is aided by the campus infinite pool (located in UTown) for all students. NUS will send you lots of emails before arriving in knowing what you should bring for your dorm room. For example, bed sheets are not included, so you will either need to buy or bring single-size bed sheets. Singapore is a very developed country, so you can buy many of your necessities when you arrive.

There is an Ikea very close to campus, and there are local supermarkets where you can buy everything you’ll need for your dorm room. Although Singapore will have all your necessities, they most likely will not have the brands you’re used to seeing in the United States. For example, this is the laundry detergent I bought that I’ve never heard of before coming here. Therefore, if you have special necessities (toothpaste, deodorant, etc), you may want to consider bringing a couple with you to Singapore as they will most likely not have it here. Many Singaporeans hang their clothes to dry due to the weather and do not use the dryer machines for their clothes. Therefore, you will not find dryer sheets anywhere in Singapore (something I didn’t really think about before arriving).

Overall, I have immediately fallen in love with the country of Singapore. Singapore has so many different areas to explore for people that are interested both in the outdoors and the city life. The different mix of peoples in the country make up for an interesting culture (especially in terms of food). Although the country is small, it’s also a great hub for traveling across all of Southeast Asia, Oceania, and even Australia (if you want to make the 7 hour flight). You’re able to get around the country fairly easily by using only English. However, the people and culture is very similar to that of other Asian nations. More of why I have fallen in love with Singapore will come in future blogs. 

Finding the time to Explore Indonesia

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Written by Katelin Kobuke, Foster undergraduate


Watching the Sun Rise

Despite being super busy here in studying in Singapore I managed to find time to take a 10 day trip to Indonesia. A few of the other exchange students and I flew down to after finishing our midterm exams to reward ourselves and explore Bali. On this trip we ended up traveling all over Bali and the Gili Islands, staying in 7 different hostels. Our first stop was Uluwatu, which is famous for its cliffs and huge waves, which draw in the pro surfers. There is a big backpacker vibe here and lots of travelers so it was fun to meet people from all over the world. Next we visited Ubud, and the volcano in the north of the island. There we biked through the beautiful rice fields and villages, and got to see many of the Hindu temples in this area. We also had a tour of the spice plantations and drank Kopi Luwak coffee, the most expensive coffee in the world (made from the poop of a special cat that eats the coffee cherries).

After Ubud we went to Canggu where we tried out surfing ourselves with the assistance of some local guys. Although not anywhere close to what the pro surfers we saw in Uluwatu we managed to ride the waves on our first tries!  From there we took a fast boat ferry to Gili Trawangan, which is an Island east of Bali. Gili has no cars or motorbikes, so everyone rides horses or bicycles around. The water was so clear and beautiful! Now that I have my scuba certification I was excited to put it to use! We did two dives one at Gili T and one at Gili Meno the island next-door. We saw turtles, sharks, eels, Nemo, and a whole bunch of sea life, although the current was pretty strong the visibility of the water was unbeatable.

Our last stop was Seminyak, where we were able to relax on the beach, shop at the little boutiques local markets, and eat wonderful food! This trip was so amazing, full of yoga in the mornings, exploring during the days and improving our surfing and diving skills while we were at it. Too bad the vacation couldn’t last forever, now back to my studies in Singapore.


Uluwatu Cliffs


Scuba Diving in Gili


Learning to surf in Bali


The Beach at Gili Island


Dinner parties on the beach in Seminyak



Exploring Singapore

Monday, September 21st, 2015

Written by Katelin Kobuke, Foster undergraduate


I have been in Singapore for over a month now, and what an experience it has been! I am the only student from UW student studying here at NUS so it has given me the chance to branch out and meet new people from all over the world; there are over 1000 international exchange students studying at NUS this semester. The first few weeks we spent our time exploring Singapore, seeing all the major sites, finding great places to eat, going to the beach, finding hiking trails, and visiting some of the close by islands.  The food definitely takes some getting used to, lots of rice, meat, and fish, so good luck trying to find a nice fresh salad or a traditional breakfast around here!


Now that school is full swing we spend the weekdays studying so we can enjoy the weekends traveling! Classes are challenging and engaging, but it is definitely an adjustment getting used to the different teaching styles. I am taking an investments class, bank management, and organizational/leadership management class.  I have my midterms this week, so I really need to buckle down and study hard. So far I have had the chance to travel to Malaysia and Indonesia with some of the friends I have met here, and even got my PADI open water scuba license last weekend.

Singapore’s garden by the bay:



Coral at Tioman Island:


Snorkeling in Malaysia:


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Sing_6 Sing_8

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.


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


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!


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.


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.


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!



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!


#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.