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.

A Tropical Getaway

Friday, September 30th, 2011

By: Eve Churaisin, Foster Undergraduate

Sawasdee kaa! In the Thai language, “Sawasdee” is “hello” and “kaa” is what females say at the end of a sentence to denote politeness.

I just returned from my trip to Thailand a few days ago, and all I can say is that I already miss it. It was a nice tropical getaway, and it was nice to get my mind off of school and bond with the other exchange students. We took the ferry from Krabi to Goh Phi Phi where we stayed for two nights, then we took the ferry from Krabi to Railay where we stayed in a resort for one night, and then we took a boat from Railay back to Krabi where we stayed in a hostel for one night.

Goh Phi Phi was very touristy. Besides the locals who resided on that island, it was filled with a college students on exchange. As quoted by one of my friends, the guys looked like they were dressed as if they were from SoCal wearing their plaid shorts. The girls were walking around in short shorts. On the island, restaurants and beach wear shops were all over the place. The nice thing about Thailand, in general, is that you can bargain on an item you would like to purchase. I was able to negotiate with the salesperson on a sarong that I wanted.

Beach parties took place every night on this island and was basically “party central.” There was an awesome fire show where the performers would perform their tricks with fire on the beach or they would walk on a rope and perform their tricks while trying to maintain their balance. Besides the fire show, this was the place where many people danced the night away to good music.

While we were in Goh Phi Phi, we got to take the speedboat to Maya Bay where the movie, “The Beach,” was filmed. Ever since the movie was filmed, it has been a major tourist attraction when visiting Thailand. This was where I got to go snorkeling for the first time! It was great swimming with the fish, enjoying the nice view of the pretty blue water, and walking on the soft white sand along the water.

On the other hand, Railay was more of what we would imagine a tropical getaway to be. It was more peaceful, and it was full of resorts that overlooked the beautiful view of the beaches. We were able to sit in a fancy resort restaurant, enjoy the gorgeous view of the beach, and feel the breeze coming towards us. Also, we were able to get a Thai massage right by the beach. Railay, overall, was very relaxing.

It would be nice if I can go back in time! Unfortunately, now it’s time to face reality. I already had a quiz today for my Southeast Asian studies course, and I hope I did well on it. Now, it’s time to study up for my midterm that takes place this Saturday morning. Wish me luck!

Until next time!

Welcome to Singapore, My Friends!

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011


By: Eve Churaisin, Foster Undergraduate

It’s been a little over a month and a half since my arrival in Singapore, and it’s been a great once-in-a-lifetime experience. Just to introduce myself, my name is Eve Churaisin, and I am going into my final year at the UW studying Finance and Information Systems. I chose to go to Singapore on exchange because Singapore is an English-speaking country, and it is the fourth largest financial center in the world. I would like to use this as an opportunity to build a network base in Southeast Asia. I am currently studying at the National University of Singapore where I am taking Financial Markets, Macro and International Economics, and Old and New Music in Southeast Asia. It’s already halfway through the semester so midterms are coming up quickly!

The class structure here is quite similar to the UW. There are about 40 people in my Financial Markets class, and exams and group projects primarily make up the final grade. For my Economics and Southeast Asian course, there is a lecture and discussion section since they are both larger classes. Lectures take place only once a week for two hours and discussion section takes place once a week for an hour. Lessons may take place less often, but that just means that more material is covered each session. The material taught in the classes at NUS is more dense and faster paced. Classes here are definitely very competitive, because students here study their hearts off and aim to be at the very top of the competitive pool.

We all know that Singapore is a “fine” country. There is $1000 fine for smoking on the train and a $500 fine for eating and drinking on the train. Durian is not even allowed on the train. Period. Gum has also been forever banned from the country. Even though the government imposes a lot of fines, there is one thing that they haven’t banned yet and that is drinking publicly on the streets. There is a bridge in this one area of Singapore, Clarke Quay, where many locals and foreigners enjoy drinking and enjoying the view of the Singapore River at night. In case you didn’t know, the legal drinking age here is 18. Singapore is known for its exciting nightlife where people enjoy dancing the night off at the clubs until 4am. Not only that, people enjoy wandering the busy streets at night just to go out for a late night meal, or a second dinner, known as “supper.” The exciting nightlife is one major aspect of the Singaporean culture.

Since it’s halfway through the semester, we get a mid-semester week-long break known as Recess Week. This is the time students should spend studying for midterms that are coming up. On the other hand, this is the week that exchange students explore the surrounding countries. Traveling to other countries in Southeast Asia from Singapore is relatively cheap. I will be heading off to the southern part of Thailand with the other exchange students where we will get to relax and enjoy the view of the beautiful beaches.

Until I return from Thailand, bye for now!

Greetings from Singapore!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
Merlion at Night

Merlion at Night

Hello! This is Jason Ho writing from the National University of Singapore. I’m a fourth-year student concentrating in finance and information systems. Since this is my first time visiting Singapore and first time participating in a university level exchange program, I am and have been very excited and interested to discover and explore the unique Singapore, where diverse cultures, traditions and lifestyles are blended with unbridled energy and dynamism that never seem to dissipate.

Singapore is a country formed about 40 years ago on a relatively small island located south of the Malaysian state Johor and north of Indonesia’s Riau Islands with close to five million in population, mainly comprised of 75% Chinese, 14% Malays, 9% Indians, and 2% others. The diverse cultures traditions and lifestyles are what make this nation unique, where many Southeast Asia cultures come together in harmony. The crime rate in Singapore has always been low while citizens and visitors are constantly being reminded by the government on public places and transportations about the consequences of breaking the law. Hence, Singapore is considerably safe for tourists who have absolutely no experience of Asia to get acquainted with various Asian cultures in the visit of only one nation. It is like an introductory course to Asia, aka Asia 101.

Temple at Bugis

Temple at Bugis

Besides having assorted cultures and an almost crimeless environment, Singapore is also known for its strong economy. The nation gained its independence from the Malaysian government in the early 1960s when it was an undeveloped place, and in about 40 years later become one of the most important financial hubs of Southeast Asia. Many financial institutions from across the world now have offices and buildings in the central business district of Singapore. International cargos and ships are arriving at and departing from the enormous and world-class ports of Singapore. Last month Singapore announced that its second quarter GPD of 2009 increased 20.7% and is considered relatively better than many surrounding countries. One of the reasons behind the strong economic recovery is because Singapore is filled with talented people along with the support of a competitive (more…)

Cambodia & Thailand in 7 days

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

jing1.jpgDuring our recess week in late February (also called reading week because it is right before the midterms), we planned an exciting trip to Cambodia and Thailand. Our seven-day-trip was packed but enough to let us indulge ourselves in the local cultures and heritage.

I will give you a summary of what we did in Cambodia and Thailand. We spent our first day in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and we visited the Killing Fields, the Royal Palace, the most famous temple in Phnom Penh, and watched a traditional puppet show. On the second day we took a bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, where we watched the sunset and sunrise at the Angkor Wat, tasted more delicious Khmer food, and bargained at the market. On the fourth day, we took a bus to Cambodian border and crossed over to Bangkok, Thailand. We had read bad reviews on crossing the Cambodian-Thai border on bus but thought things would be better now; we were wrong. I recommend you travel by air if you can afford it. But maybe we and all other foreigners on the bus were just out of luck and had a jing2.jpgno A/C bus where one of my friends had to sit in a plastic chair in the aisle, suffer the burning sunlight, and breathe in the flying dust from the mud road. Nonetheless, we arrived safely in Bangkok, where everything is very very inexpensive. We visited the extravagant and beautiful Royal Palace, visited temples, shopped, and had a nice dinner overlooking the Bangkok city. On the sixth day, we flew from Bangkok to Phuket. Phuket is a very touristy place; there are pubs and clubs everywhere. And finally on the eighth day, we flew back to Singapore and started studying for the midterms.

We read an article dated a year ago that said you could watch the sunset and the sunrise at the Angkor Wat and have the beautiful scene all to yourself, your tour guide, and some mosquitoes. But when we were there, we had to watch it with 300 other tourists who came with tour groups. But the other tourists leave for breakfast after the sunrise so you can enjoy a peaceful morning walking around Angkor Wat with just a few others. These amazingly beautiful sites in South East Asia attract a lot of tourists every year, so just try to avoid the peak seasons and go early, you won’t regret it.

Truly Asia!

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

dscf2807.JPGThere is only about a month left in my exchange, and I am getting busier with projects and studying for finals. Sometimes I walk on the streets here in Singapore and I would go, “Hey, I seriously AM in Asia!” I have tried speaking Singlish, had two days Chinese New Year holidays when I normally wouldn’t, explored the beautiful Angkor Wat, walked through the extravagant Royal Palace in Bangkok, paid an entrance fee to a temple in Phnom Penh that applies ONLY to foreigners, rode in Tuk-Tuks, and bargained yet still paid premium for taxis. I am so glad I bothered with the application process and everything (though it wasn’t all that tedious anyway), ‘cause I seriously AM in Asia and enjoying every minute of it!

By the way, in my previous post I mentioned that it doesn’t rain that much in Singapore. Right after I sent off that blog, it started and still is raining thunderstorms. I am talking about actual thunder, lightning, and heavy pouring rain!

dscf2791.JPGThis is a blog on my travel experiences in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Thailand. My first formal tour of Singapore was when I just got to Singapore. I had a tour of the city with two other friends with the help of their local buddy. My second tour was back in late February, my friend Bob from Taiwan visited and we had the chance to tour around Singapore a little. Bob was an exchange student at UW and we met in Speech & Science class. We walked around Fort Canning Park and Clarke Quay, took pictures with the Merlion, and had Hai Nan Chicken Rice, a famous local dish. Singapore is really compact, it is a city state with everything inside neatly organized.

n122600077_38145074_6426267.jpgMy Malaysia trip, was really a short trip to Kuala Lumpur. One weekend back in February, my friends and I took a trip to KL. Flying around Asia can be really cheap with the budget airlines. They are strictly no-frills (meaning food, snack, and water are for sale only; yes, even water is not included in the ticket fare). We flew Tiger Airlines and stayed at, a budget hotel by another budget airline, Air Asia. Because we spend most of our times outside the hotel, staying budget is a great way to save money. It didn’t occur to us that Kuala Lumpur had much to see as we were not interested in spending time at museums. It is an urban city and the things to do are shopping, shopping, and more shopping.

I will stop here and continue my blog on traveling in Asia (Cambodia and Thailand trip that I took in March!) next time =)

Hello from Singapore!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

dscf2807.JPGIt has been a little over a month since my arrival here in Singapore. And I thought yeah why not let me write my blog on National University of Singapore. So here it goes!

My name is Jing Goh, and I am a sophomore at the Foster School of Business. I have chosen National University of Singapore because of its proximity to Malaysia, where I was born and where I will return to after graduating from UW. Since I will be returning to Malaysia, I thought it would really help me to build a network here in South East Asia and at the same time learn more about this region in general. And now I will tell you what I know about Singapore and NUS thus far.

Contrary to what little I knew about Singapore, it actually doesn’t rain much here. The weather is hot and humid in general. My dorm room, like most other dorm rooms on campus, offer only a ceiling fan, which only helps that much in cooling down the room. It is cooler in the hallways, so people usually leave their doors opened to let some air in. The individual floors are not co-eds but the buildings are. There are plenty of opportunities to meet other people in your dorm (or outside your dorm) as students here are very outgoing and friendly to newcomers, and there are a lot of student organized events.

dscf2791.JPGCourse load wise, most students here are taking 5 classes, even those on exchange. But I am taking only 3 classes because I figured if NUS really is harder than UW, I should not overload myself and instead try to do the best I can while taking the minimum required credits. I am currently taking BECON300, FIN350, and ACC225. My classes consist of a weekly 2 hour lecture and a quiz section, both meeting once a week. The professors and tutors (as they call the T.A.’s) here speak Singlish, even in lectures. Maybe some professors do have an American accents but the professors and tutors I have, don’t. Except for my Econ professor, who studied in America before and has an American accent. Sometimes the accent detracts me somewhat from paying attention in class, but it is bearable overall.

Food wise, breakfast and Dinner are included in the room & board fees at my dorm and lunch is usually settled at the faculty canteens (faculty here means schools. eg. Business Faculty = Business School). Food here is much cheaper than in the U.S. but they are mostly Chinese food. If you want a change of taste, it is not hard to find cheap & good food here at all because Singapore is best known for its food, as all other Asian countries are!

It seems to me that students here spend a lot of their time studying and doing extracurricular activities (they are very very active here). Of course, they party. The exchange students do, too. And there are always planned trips to Bali or other countries posted on the exchange student facebook group.

I myself have toured around Singapore and Malaysia a little. And I just came back from a week-long trip in Cambodia and Thailand! I shall write on a blog on travelling around SE Asia next time!

If you have any questions regarding exchange to NUS or Singapore in general, feel free to ask for my contact info from Ms. Andrea Gomes. I will be more than willing to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge =D !


Monday, November 17th, 2008

singapore.JPGSingapore is a small but vibrant city. Perhaps it’s because I’m on exchange but almost every day is filled with something to do, and by contrast Seattle is a very boring place. The national pastime of Singapore is eating. The city is littered with food courts (AKA hawker centers) inside malls and out in the open. Speaking of malls, Singapore has an abundance of them despite its small size, and most of them combine shopping with dining and other activities such as movies and karaoke.

Being an international city, Singapore has many big international banks (pretty much none in Seattle), corporations, and perhaps too many foreigners. This is probably one of the reasons Singapore offers great nightlife. There are many hangout places all over Singapore and it has a big club scene. Many students (mostly exchange) go clubbing every Wednesday as it is the ladies’ night, meaning no cover charge for ladies at clubs and bars. Aside from partying many people also go to late night movie showings and sing karaoke until three in the morning. Singapore is also a very safe city, going home alone at late hours is probably no problem – a stark contrast from the crime infested University District. Entertainment in general is very expensive, especially on weekends or holidays. Singapore also has very high taxes on alcohol and cigarettes.

Food on the other hand is very cheap comparing to the States: a meal at a hawker center will cost around five Singapore dollars (around 3.5 USD). However restaurants are very expensive, a meal would often cost around thirty Singapore dollars. Transportation is also relatively cheap and public transit is very convenient (except during rush hours when they are like sardine packers). The MRT (light rail/subway) system covers almost the entire city and buses come very often and go to just about anywhere. If that’s not enough there are also many taxis, there is no need to call for one, simple walk down to any main street and you can flag one down very easily; they are also cheap compared to the States.

ndp.JPGDue to its small size, Singapore has relatively few tourist attractions; it is mostly a hub for traveling around Southeast Asia. Singapore heavily promotes the few attractions it has, such as the Night Safari, Bird Park, or holiday events such as the National Day Parade (NDP). It’s probably better to see them but don’t get your hopes up too high. For instance, the 2008 NDP was heavily promoted with signs, t-shirts, and all sorts of hype everywhere to make it seem like the biggest event of the year. We sat by the Singapore River next to the symbolic Merlion for three hours on that day and all we saw was a few jets flying by and less than fifteen minutes of fireworks. Getting in and out of the crowd took more time than the event itself.

National University of Singapore

Friday, November 14th, 2008

After about three months in Singapore it’s about time I write about the university I’m studying at. From my experience the student body is comprised of three main groups, the local students, students from Mainland China, and a large number of exchange students. For the most part it appears that students from each group tend to hang out with themselves, although as with every generalization, there are many exceptions. This is evident even within the exchange student body. In the 2008-2009 school year, there are more than a thousand exchange students from all over the world, but as time goes on, they tend to split into smaller groups based on their background: the Swedes, the Germans, the Indians, the Canadians, and even the Californians. That is not surprising since they tend to have similar interests and often travel together outside of Singapore.

outside-central-lib.JPGThe classes are conducted in a similar manner as they were at the UW. Lectures for upper level classes are taught in small classrooms (not as nice as BAEEC but much better than Balmer, they blast the AC and a jacket is necessary) of about 40 people, lower level classes are taught in lecture theatres (LT). The structure of the courses (modules) also resembles those back home: a syllabus on the first day, the grades usually consist of two exams, one project, and participation. I’m not sure about other concentrations, but the upper finance courses meet once a week for three hours straight. It’s recommended to fit your courses into a few days in the middle of the week in order to get extended weekends. The professors are also a diverse bunch; I only had one Singaporean professor out of the four classes.

prince-georges-park-residences.JPGA lot of students live in halls on campus, but many also commute from outside. The morning commute is a nightmare, often you’ll see the bus driving by without stopping because there are people standing on the bottom step of the bus – it simply cannot pack another person in. The food on campus, however, is excellent. There are many cafeterias (called canteens) all around campus, packed with stalls offering a wide varieties of food, they are staffed with friendly (mostly) people who sometimes don’t speak English. The cost of food on campus is also cheap compared to outside, NUS subsidize (more…)


Monday, November 3rd, 2008

vietnam2.JPGAfter Cambodia I went to Vietnam. From Siem Reap it took about 12 hours by bus to get Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon. The first thing I did in Ho Chi Minh City was to get a taste of local cuisine. One person from our party had some relatives in Ho Chi Minh, and she took us to a popular local pho house. The pho was good, but I thought Pho Tran Brothers on the Ave back home is better.

vietnam1.JPGThe traffic is Ho Chi Minh is horrendous, once outside you are greeted by thousands of scooter bikes flowing down the street, which is impossible to cross. Good thing we didn’t stay long in Ho Chi Minh, the second morning I went to a charming little town about seven hours north of Ho Chi Minh called Dalat, capital of the Lam Dong province. After months in a tropical climate the coolness of this mountainous town was much appreciated. For the first time since I arrived in Singapore, I had to wear a sweater every time I went out.

Dalat is famous for its scenic waterfalls and beautiful French architecture from the colonial periods. This was a great contrast from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh, and I enjoyed my stay very much.