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Casual Singlish – First Impressions

When another country starts becoming a home away from home, then just maybe, you’ve made the right choice. Starting early January and finishing mid April, there are no breaks on this education train. This will be a mini-guide to NTU (2k17).

Applying for a Singapore exchange was just a “in the moment” feeling – and lo and behold, I’m actually enjoying it, considering I didn’t even know where it was on a map prior. And I have to say, I’m not regretting the choice… though I am feeling homesick 2 months in.

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Unlike UTS starting at the beginning of the year, South East Asian (SEA) schools start halfway through the year in August. Meaning that Sem 1 = August to November/December, Sem 2 = January to April/May. And students are forced to go through polytechnic (college/TAFE) and for male students ontop of it, the military; so you’ll generally find male students being 23-26 while female students being 19-21. So if you wish to do exchange in Singapore – try to find courses that are available during Sem 2 (that’s our autumn Sem 1). I’m currently doing direct equivalents (18cp = 9au) and as a DAB student, I have no exams so I finish mid April.


Upon talking with locals, it’s said that this little city has one of the highest ratings of standard living, alongside The Economist listing it as the most expensive city in the world (with Zurich and Hong Kong being an equal second in 2016).

But surprise, surprise. The dorms are a different story. When I first came in, it was like from a horror house movie – spiderwebs and spiders all over the walls, mould covering half the room and ceiling, and it would smell musty. The curtains would smell like it’s been soaked in sewer water, and the humidity in the room would attract a swarm of termites from time to time, breaking through the window braces, gnawing at the metal just to get in. [Hall 11, Block 56, Floor 1]

Housing was nice enough to comply and “fix” my room 1.5 months after complaining initially (you need to be rough to get things done, push them or they won’t do anything!). I hope they removed the mould, but they re-painted half the room, added a door draft (mines the only room that has one *wink wink*), but they don’t wash curtains. So I removed those smelly things, placed them in the drying yard and used stickytape and plastic bags as makeshift curtains and window seals. Now my room is as good as new.


My new beautiful makeshift curtains. Works as good as new. Trust me. :)

You will meet some interesting neighbours if you’re open enough and if you’re lucky, paired with a local or another exchange student. On my floor, both locals and exchange students are pretty swell coming from Germany, Taiwan, UK, Scotland, Turkey and South Korea. Sadly, I never received a room mate in my shared room.


My hall being located on the edge of the campus, it takes a while getting to the best parts. If you get allocated within Halls 12, 16, 3, and 2, then you’ll live the good exchange student life (just note Hall 2 doesn’t have any air conditioning unless you rent one).

With social hubs mainly being at North Spine and Canteen 2 on Wednesday nights, living at the borders makes it difficult to traverse considering how big the campus actually is (even locals call it “pulau NTU” [translation: NTU Island]). There are campus buses that take you down and around the main parts (blue, green, red line – with green that takes you to Pioneer MRT station) and buses that go outside to Boon Lay MRT (199, 179). If you plan to use Grab/Uber/Taxi – it’ll take around 30 mins on average with taxis having a base price of $3-4. Peak hours range between 7-11am and 5-8pm (all transport charge extra during peak hours and cheaper during off-peak).

ntu downtown map

Traveling from NTU to Downtown MRT Station takes an average of 40-65 minutes.

SEA Travel Hub

Singapore is basically a travel hub for all of SEA. Everywhere you go within the oceanic region is fairly cheap compared to Australia with flight tickets start as cheap as $40 and the closest countries to visit would be either Malaysia or Indonesia being a 1.5 hour flight away. Save up your money, so then you can travel all over SEA from China, Korea, Vietnam to Myanmar and more!

Or if you prefer to stay around for the local life, I highly recommend the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, amongst other areas such as Marina Bay Sans, Sentosa Island, Batam, Orchard, Botanical Gardens and the multiple museums/galleries. Singapore is pretty small so take your time, otherwise you’ll be finished exploring it within the first few weeks.

Money & Food

If you’re feeling adventurous, open a local bank account (which would require your residence address, $1000SG in cash and your IC/student pass) – otherwise, do what I did and stick with Commonwealth 😉 Reason being is they gave me a VISA travel card (ask for the mastercard one for easier purchases online) with multiple currencies including Singaporean (it would also auto convert with current exchange rates). And the Sing dollar is just as strong as Australian being 1:1.03.

Food and meals are cheap ranging from $2-$6 on average in canteens and hawker centers. And the canteens near certain halls are quite nice and cheap too; with can 1 & 2 having the most options and special booths scattered throughout other canteens. Ask friendly locals for the best places to eat down and around or go explore the more pricey options near harbour front and the city.

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Mikhael Wijaya 99125369

UTS DAB, B Design in Vis Com

Nanyang Technological University

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