Moving away for exchange can be a daunting experience, but something that is sure to make you feel more comfortable is having friendly and convenient accommodation lined up for when you arrive. The National University of Singapore has a range of on-campus accommodation options for students and there is sure to be one that suits your needs. Privately renting in Singapore is expensive, so students generally opt for the cheaper and more conveniently located student accommodation provided by NUS.

When enrolling at NUS, some students were able to list preferences for which accommodation they wanted, whilst some were allocated to certain accommodation and only got to select their room type. All the accommodation options seem decent however, so do not stress about this! 

Your accommodation options at NUS are Residential Colleges, Student Residences, or Halls of Residence, with different room types.

Residential Colleges include Cinnamon, Tembusu, Alice and Peter Tan, Residential College 4, and Ridge View. Think of these as being like on-campus catered colleges at ANU. They have a majority of local students, although exchange students definitely live here too. Each college has its own focus and modules/courses. For example, Cinnamon houses the University Scholars Program while Alice and Peter Tan focuses on community engagement and active citizenship. 

Colleges have dining halls and students must purchase a meal plan which allows them to eat breakfast and dinner from one of the numerous multi-cultural food stalls in the dining hall. 

Breakfast at Cinnamon College

Your room will have a bed, desk, and closet; some rooms have air-conditioning and some do not. Note that the 6 bed ‘apartments’ that colleges offer are basically just single rooms off a corridor with a small shared seating area and shared bathroom. There are no cooking facilities and the living area is minimal. Each floor has shared bathrooms and a common room, and some floors have a small kitchenette. Given that colleges have meal plans, the state of the single overflowing fridge in the kitchenette, and how cheap other food options are on campus, I would not suggest going in with grand plans of using the kitchenette to cook yourself meals. 

Cinnamon College Bedroom
Cinnamon College Bedroom
Cinnamon College Common Area

The best thing about colleges seems to be the wide array of clubs and societies to join and events to participate in. You’ll find sports groups, dance groups, and even clubs such as the Coffee Interest Group. 

Rent is generally SGD2000-3000 per semester, although the meal plan will be around SGD900 on top of this.

Another option, more common for exchange students, are Student Residences, such as Utown Residence. This is similar to Unilodge at ANU. Four students share an apartment each with their own bedroom, a shared bathroom, living area, and kitchen – although the kitchen only has a fridge and microwave, no stove or oven. It seems common to put exchange students together in an apartment. If you get an apartment without aircon, don’t worry, the ceiling fans do a surprisingly good job of dispelling the Singaporean heat and humidity. Students cook or buy their own meals (there are supermarkets and a large number of canteens and shops on campus with food options for only a few dollars, so you won’t starve). While there are less events and societies than at the residential colleges, the students I have met at Utown Residence have become close to their roommates and appreciate having the shared living area to have other friends over. Rent is between SGD2000-3000 per semester.

The third option is Halls of Residence, although this article doesn’t address them as I have little personal experience with this type of accommodation at NUS.

A few general tips, for whichever type of accommodation you end up with:

  • if your clothes are staying damp in your closet due to the humidity consider buying a dehumidifier for your closet.
  • there are lots of food options on campus and most are so cheap you feel like you’re just using spare change to buy your lunch.
  • NUS is a little out of the main area of Singapore so be prepared to spend some time on public transport to get into the city, although the MRT is so quick it won’t be too much of a hassle.
  • NUS has a massive campus, so although there is a shuttle bus to get you from place to place consider choosing accommodation close to whichever faculty you will be studying with.

Finally, make the most of your time living at NUS, and enjoy whichever accommodation you end up with!