By Ellen Morrissey
Singapore is an incredible city to live in; super modern, clean, safe, lots of greenery right in the city, good (and cheap) food, great nightlife, friendly locals, great weather and countless travel opportunities. I arrived here a month ago on New Year’s Eve and have definitely fallen in love with the city.
With a population of over 6 million in an area about a 6th of the size of Tipperary, my home county, you would expect the city to be chaos. However, there is barely any traffic congestion, countless parks around the place and a relatively laid back atmosphere. The locals are smiley, agreeable people, made up on a mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and minority ethnicities, and the government here emphasises equality among all these people. This multi ethnic population means that there are four official languages in Singapore too, including English, so you need not worry about language barriers.
SMU as a university is only 18 years old, and everything from the campus to the assessment structures is designed for a modern world. Class participation and presentations are a huge part of this, with up to 50% of the grade allocated to it for many modules. The idea behind this is to build confidence in public speaking, leadership skills and teamwork. The 3 hour classes and 8.15am starts took a little getting used to, but the standard of teaching and methods used by lecturers to engage students with examples and class discussions has made me look forward to some classes. I was amused in the first week to see people bringing entire meals to class but I soon realised that it is necessary if you have a 3 hour class around lunchtime! Luckily, the lecturers give you plenty breaks to go grab food and coffee if your attention is lagging.
One of the main selling points of an exchange in Singapore is no doubt the travel opportunities. In my first few weeks, I have already visited Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Phuket in Thailand and Hanoi in Vietnam. I also have trips to Cambodia and Myanmar planned for the upcoming recess week. I thought travelling around Europe was cheap with Ryanair, but was pleasantly surprised to find it even cheaper to travel South East Asia, with €100 going a long way towards covering travel and accommodation for a weekend away in many cities.
Finally, the amount of exchange students from countries all over the world here is amazing. There are over 300 exchange students from over 40 countries, and I have made friends from every continent. There are also a fair few Irish students! The nightlife here is amazing and we have had plenty of opportunities to all meet up and have fun together.
One possible downside to all these amazing positives in Singapore is that the city itself can be expensive. I pay more here for accommodation than I do in Dublin, and I have to share a room for that price. However, I live right beside the campus and I have a swimming pool in the apartment block, so in retrospect I could definitely have found somewhere cheaper. For this reason I would advise anyone looking at coming to Singapore to do their research about where to stay, or contact me! There are some exchange students paying more reasonable prices. Apart from accommodation, you could live very cheaply in the city, as food is good value if you know where to find it, and going out is free (just for ladies though!) on Wednesdays for Ladies’ Night. There are also plenty free and cheap things to do and see around the city, so you’d never be bored even if you didn’t travel.
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