Hello! Greetings from Singapore! My name is Brandon Chan, and I’m a third-year marine biology and journalism major studying at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Singapore starts school a bit earlier than UT so I’ve been in the country now for a little over a week. With the start of my school year less than a week away and most of my things settled, I thought I’d write a little bit about the small things that either I wasn’t prepared for or didn’t give much thought.
Read, Read, Read
Being in a different country means meeting different people, experiencing different cultures, and seeing new and exciting things. But for university students, it also means getting used to a completely different registration system. What that means is that everything that you knew about UT’s system may be completely different, for better or worse. While registration processes vary from university to university, for NUS, the registration process started way back in March for someone exchanging in the fall. While at this point I had just been accepted, I didn’t quite think it was very important what classes I submitted to be processed by the overseas department. This wasn’t the smartest thing to do as the classes that you pick might just be the ones that you end up stuck with so make sure to plan. Reading the registration packet may help alleviate this stressful time as you’re able to somewhat understand the process in which your host university registers their students for classes. In fact, reading as much as you can about your host university and the materials they provide can help to relieve the stress before leaving.
Singapore is a FINE city
Singapore, one of the three remaining city-states in the world, has a reputation of being a city of fines. No chewing gum, no eating or drinking on the subway, no littering, no durian on public transportation, etc. While seeming outrageous at times, the rules very much have to be followed. A first-time infraction usually comes with a fine of $500 SD, or around USD 360. While these laws are something you actively have to break, the same fine mentality is carried into the rest of the city. Often at hawker centers, the popular eating areas Singapore is known for, you’ll have to buy napkins to wipe your hands and mouth. If you’re thirsty too, make sure you bring your water, otherwise you’ll have to pay again. While not entirely surprising, it still is important to know what to expect out of your host country and to be prepared to follow the rules that both your institution and the country have.
Roll with the Punches
There are always things that even with preparation and thought, you can’t expect. When first arriving in Singapore, my housing at NUS did not come through properly and I had to stay at the Changi International Airport. While ranked the #1 airport in the world, it doesn’t feel like it sleeping on chairs in the middle of the night. There are expectations that you might have that don’t go your way, or things you want to happen that won’t. But that’s okay. Part of being abroad is to adapt to challenging situations and to learn from mistakes. It’s important to take your challenges in stride and don’t let it sway your dreams of making your study abroad trip great!
While those are just some things to think about before you leave for your trip, make sure you prepare yourself for your host country. The best way to do that would be to reach out to both your fellow exchangers leaving with you, if you have any, and previous exchangers who have already returned from their trips. While being abroad there’s always a desire to make new friends, don’t be afraid to make friends with your fellow Longhorns who are with you. Don’t be afraid to reach out! Best of luck and talk to you all soon!
This post was contributed by Brandon Chan, a 2019 Global Ambassador.
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