Thursday, 31 July 2014

Complete Guide to Exchange at NUS

This is a complete guide to a study exchange at the National University of Singapore. I had an amazing time during my four months in Singapore and highly recommend it! I will try to be as comprehensive as possible for this post but please comment below if there is any more information regarding exchange at NUS that you would like to know.

Photo with the NUS mascot
This is a long post, click the links below to jump to specific sections.

Application

Pre-Departure

                                                                

Application

  • Apply at your home university
Find out if NUS is an exchange partner of your home university. If they are partners and you fulfill exchange requirements then you can apply to NUS! Most exchange programs require applying through your home university. Now you just have to wait for that acceptance letter!
  • Get a student visa
Congratulations! Once you have been accepted into NUS you will get an email from them. Throughout the whole exchange process I never had any physical letters from NUS and all communication was by email. They will send you a detailed email telling you the next steps which includes applying for a Singapore student visa called the Student Pass (official website here).
  • Get your student number and password
You will be getting a lot of emails from NUS so be sure to check them! One of them will contain your student number and password. Save this in your phone because you will need this information as soon as you hit campus housing.
  • Course planning
You will have a country-specific advisor from the International Relations Office (IRO) in charge of your exchange. They are helpful and reply emails quite quickly. I had lots of help getting the most updated versions of the course (NUS calls them modules) PDFs. Search modules here. A website called nusmods.com made it very easy for me to search for modules, see the final exam date, and create a timetable.
  • Student housing
There are many housing options on campus that have different meal plan options. You can look through their housing website.

View from my dorm room

Pre-Departure

  • Sign up for tours
Remember I said you will be getting many emails from NUS? You will get lots from the IRO and Peer Advising, too. Don't ignore them! They contain information about Orientation activities, Exchange student welcome activities, tours and much more. The spots fill up very quickly so sign up as soon as you get the email. I thoroughly enjoyed the campus and city tours I signed up for and it's a great opportunity to meet other exchange students right after you land in Singapore.
  • Pack light!
Singapore is obviously very hot. It reaches about 29 to 30 Celsius daily so pack light clothing. However do pack some warm clothing like hoodies or cardigans. Many exchange students fell ill in the first weeks because they weren't used to the strong air conditioning inside the classrooms. As well, you don't know where you will be traveling to!

Dorms do not provide pillows, bed sheets or blankets so you may wish to bring those to have something to sleep on the first night. Bring a universal charger, preferably one that you can interchange into many country standards, because it will be very useful for travel. 

I suggest you to bring some souvenirs from your home country! You don't realize how the things you're used to back home may be special to the friends you meet from other countries. For example, I brought some pins of my home city to Singapore and gave them to friends I met in Singapore.
  • Get the information you need
  • IRO office
Personally I find the IRO website not user friendly with the huge block of texts but it does contain the majority of information you will need. Everything from registration needs to Singlish is on the website. Also read through the Exchange Student Guide PDF that they will have sent you by email.
    • Find out about Orientation Day and attend!
Orientation Day for exchange students is usually a couple days before the first day of classes so be sure to fly in early. It's not mandatory and it may sound boring but I found it informative. They gave out a booklet with all the information you will need with screenshots of NUS websites you will be using.
  • Print out all documents for Registration Day
I cannot stress this enough but print all your documents while you're still in your home country. There will be an email sent to you (and it's also in the student guide PDF) about the exact documents you will need to bring with you to Registration Day. NUS and Singapore are very strict on documents so make it easy on yourself to have them all. Some of the things you will need are visa information, photocopies of your passport, passport photos that adhere to Singapore regulations, etc.

On Exchange!

  • Orientation Day
Hooray you made it to Singapore! Enjoy Orientation Day meeting faculty, staff and other exchange students :)
  • Registration Day
The exact date and time your Registration Day is depends your country and the information will be given to you at Orientation Day and also via email. I got my NUS Matriculation Card (aka access to the pool, gym, 24 hour computer labs, student discounts, etc.) on Registration Day which completes both your registration to the university and also registration to Singapore as the last step of the visa application.
  • Welcome Party
The IRO will be organizing a Welcome Party with free food, entertainment and support for exchange students.
  • Getting into courses
Prior to arriving in Singapore I sent a list of 10 preferred modules of which I was given 5. You may choose 10 preferred modules per semester. There are two rounds of Module Add/Drop Exercises via the NG Module Registration System.

As exchange students you have to register for tutorials in person. Approximately a week or two after classes begin you will be given a specific date (again will be provided at Orientation) where you have to go to the offices of each of your courses and submit a tutorial application form. These tutorial spots are first come first serve, so go early! Some professors help coordinate tutorials and you just have to email your choices.
  • Setting up NUS accounts:
  • NUS Email
Important information from NUS, your residence, your faculty and your professors will be sent to your NUS email account. Login = nusstu\ [your student ID]. Password = [a provided password]. Your email address will be [student ID]@nus.edu.sg. Go to exchange.nus.edu.sg to sign in!
    • MyISIS
MyISIS stands for Integrated Student Information System found at myisis.nus.edu.sg. This is where you go to check your finances, your exam schedule and your exam results.
    • IVLE
IVLE stands for Integrated Virtual Learning Environment found at ivle.nus.edu.sg. You will likely be using IVLE heavily as it is where all your professors will be uploading lecture slides, encouraging the use of forums, giving class announcements and getting assignment submissions. The IVLE mobile app is available on iTunes and Google Play so you can get notifications via your smartphone if you don't want to bother with checking the website for announcements.
  • Shuttle buses
Before I came to NUS I did not know that they had an internal shuttle bus. Coming from a university that does not have one, I thought it was awesome! You can get from your residence to class in an air conditioned bus and minimal walking. There are buses A1, A2, B, C, D1, D2 and BTC. Most loop around campus and differ by routes and clockwise/counter clockwise. Find detailed information about the shuttle buses here. You can download a mobile app called NUS Next Bus on iTunes and Google Play to find out when the bus arrives.
  • Study resources at NUS
NUS has a lot of study space such as an entire Education Resource Centre at Utown. It boasts two 24 hour computer labs (Mac and PC) which means 24 hour printing! You can conveniently pay for printing with an EZ-Link (transit) card.

Studying at the 24 hour Starbucks
  • Explore the city
Highly recommend downloading a mobile app called MyTransport.SG to check the time of the next arriving bus. Once you're more familiar with bus stop names you can find out the time for the next bus so you don't have to wait in the humidity for so long! The nearest MRT stops are: Kent Ridge MRT from campus plus Buona Vista MRT, Dover MRT and Clementi MRT from Utown. Dover is walkable but all the other options are just a short bus ride away. They will take you to all the tourist attractions of Singapore!
  • Travel abroad
Sign up for the email newsletters of airlines like Jetstar and AirAsia to learn flight deals early! With the Student Pass you enter and leave Singapore like a local citizen. That means that you can cross the automated gates by scanning your passport (not your Student Pass card). You don't have to wait in line to get questioned by immigration like other foreigners!

Major Singapore landmarks in one photo: Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Flyer

Departure

  • Exams at NUS
Studying for exams at NUS is pretty intensive. Students stay overnight at study facilities (eg. sleep at the 24 hour computer labs) to keep their study spots and prolong studying. The normally abundant study spaces will be completely filled, especially the air conditioned ones. I suppose it may be normal to some but compared to my home university, I've never seen our library so crowded before. Go to MyISIS to find your exam locations. However, exam difficulty was approximately the same as my home university given that you do some studying.
  • Farewell party
IRO will organize a Farewell Party for exchange students. For ours there was a photobooth, talent performances by students and free food.


  • Exchange withdrawal
You've made it to the end of the post! Just a short note on exchange withdrawal. It wasn't something that I thought about when I embarked for Singapore but it's worth taking note of. You may not be used to living back in your home country after months here. You will be excited to share about your experiences while abroad but others may not share the same level of excitement because they were not the ones with the first hand experience. For me, this blog is the perfect outlet to share all things regarding this exchange (especially all the travels) and hopefully this will help some of you!
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