Singapore: a well planned and phenomenally organised humid island of high-rises where Asian meets Western culture and the people sleep late. That’s probably the best way to sum up Singapore in one sentence.
Hello, I’m Tom. I’ve been spending a semester studying abroad at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. Instead of running you through from my day one until my final day in Singapore, I’m going to tell you about a few highlights from the first half my exchange in Singapore. Okay lah? Can. I’ll cut out my poor Singlish too.
Sport and exchange
As a sporting enthusiast, I knew that meeting people was made much easier while playing sport with them. I wanted to not just get involved at university, but also elsewhere in Singapore. Prior to arriving I had organised to play touch football with an external sports club in Singapore, Centaurs. Before long I had also joined a student club, the NTU Lifeguard Corps. Every Monday at 7:30pm, I trained with them at the NTU pool doing a mixture of swimming training and pool lifeguard competition practice.
Singapore – The travel centre of Asia
If you want to travel Asia, Singapore is the place to be. It is a travel hub to almost any place in Asia, it being central to many destinations. In addition, there are many cheap flights through budget airlines that arise through sales and ‘bargain bins’. I took advantage of this on a number of occasions, and later in this blog post (and in my follow up blog post) you can read of some of the places I travelled to.
NTU Interhall Championships
After settling into my room at Hall 13, my roommate mentioned that he had touch football training the following day for Interhall Championships. I told him that I play back in Australia, and so the next day I joined him at training. Touch football for men was very raw and quite new for interhall sports at NTU, so I helped coach the team for the session. That weekend I played for Hall 13 in the Interhall Championships. After going in as the underdogs and winning our first game, a technicality of clearance by NTU administration prevented me from participating in the championships further. My team unfortunately ended up losing the next two games with me helping coach and support from the sidelines. However, it was a fun day and it was great to meet and socialise with some local students early on in my exchange to Singapore.
The Hive, Nanyang Tech
When I turned up to my first week of classes, I instantly found my favourite building on campus, The Hive. It is shaped as it is named, like a hive. I had two classes in here, and every time I approached or entered the building I was always amazed. Singapore is known for its incredible architecture, and The Hive was proof of this. See my pictures, as an explanation does not do it justice.
Centaurs Touch Football Club
As I said earlier, I had organised to train and play with Centaurs before I arrived in Singapore. The organisers, Rob and Claire, were very welcoming and some of the loveliest people I have met. I trained every Wednesday and Sunday night from 7pm until 9pm. Most of the people I played with were expats (people from countries other than Singapore), dominated by the English but also included players from South Africa, USA and France. They were all living in Singapore or their parents were living in Singapore. I shared my knowledge with them and playing with the club helped develop my skills further. I also helped out coaching touch football on a Saturday morning to girls aged between six and eighteen.
If you want to eat cheaply in Singapore, these are the places to find. Hawker centres, as they are widely known as in Singapore, are scattered throughout the island and have a variety of food from different cultures. Depending what you order, a meal should be on average around $4-$5 (in SGD), however chicken rice can be as cheap as $2. These hawker centres, ‘canteens’, were also at NTU which made eating out easy, cheap and wide in selection. Everybody eats out on campus.
I attended the Auscham Ball at Swissotel The Stamford, aligning with Australia Day Celebrations in Singapore. It is large annual celebration of Australia in Singapore. My date, Avalon, is a fellow ANU student who was on exchange at Singapore Management University. We met lots of people, including diplomats and professionals working in Singapore, mostly Australians of course. All in all, it was a great night out!
Orchard Road, Singapore
Orchard Road is the iconic shopping street of Singapore. The street is filled with kilometres of shopping, including many high-end brands. I walked down this street several times and it is quite a sight. I had a Singapore favourite, ice cream in rainbow coloured bread – whether or not you are keen to try it, you must at least once. It is noteworthy that the street is very busy on a Sunday as the majority of domestic workers have their day off.
Universal Studios, Singapore
I had to do it. I had never been to a theme park as large as Universal Studios before, then again I had never really been to many theme parks, not even the ones in Queensland, Australia. I had great fun going on a virtual mission to save the planet with the Transformers, riding the Cyborg roller-coaster with my legs hanging, and catching up with the Madagascar penguins.
MacRitchie Nature Reserve, Singapore
Singapore is not known for its hilly and mountainous terrain. Though I do enjoy trekking and nature, so walking MacRitchie Nature Reserve sounded like a good day out. My Singaporean friend from ANU, Gabriel, returned to Singapore to visit his family for a week, so he came along and shared some more of his local knowledge with us. It’s a nice walking trail through the forest, including a suspension bridge which was really cool. There’s also monkeys along the way!
Early on into my exchange, at the end of January, I took advantage of cheap flights and travelled to Penang, Malaysia. Despite Malaysia being in close proximity to Singapore, the difference in culture was quite substantial. One of the best things about travelling to different countries is the food, and let me tell you that the street food tasted great whilst being extremely cheap. I’d also highly recommend visiting Armenian Street (Lebuh Armenian) for the amazing street art, paintings and old-style houses; this was my favourite part of Penang.
Nusa Lembongan, Bali
For mid-semester break I travelled to Nusa Lembongan, a completely Hindu island in Bali, with some Australians. This island was a combination of a tourist getaway intertwined with a small community. I intended to get back in touch with my coastal roots and surf for the majority of my trip, but unfortunately the waves dropped off for the first week I was there and I only surfed once. However in the last three days of my trip, the waves picked up and the surf was cranking. I ended up getting some of the best waves I’ve had in years at Shipwrecks. After coming down hard on the reef one day, I had the local Balinese find pleasure in rubbing lime juice into my cuts and scrapes (it kills the coral in your skin); this was one of the more painful experiences of my life. Please note, don’t get cut up on the reef. In addition to this, I met some awesome locals, learnt a bit about the culture, and explored the island on a scooter. I also enjoyed some spectacular snorkelling exploring the colourful reefs around the island and seeing the manta rays.
Stay tuned to find out about the second part of my exchange!