Chilli (and the best trains in the world) in Singapore

 

The Singapore Spirit

The Singapore Spirit

The general

In no particular order: Chilli is the norm with almost every dish, and, most bread is processed with large amounts of sugar. Regarding road safety: motorists will almost run over your toes and your heels when you cross the road on a green pedestrian light -they don’t wait, so watch out. Cover up for mosquitos – I unfortunately contracted dengue fever when I was in Singapore. The tap water is safe to drink in Singapore. SMU students must complete compulsory community service as part of their degree, and also an internship (although these don’t apply to exchange students).

Transport

The train systems are probably up there as the best in the world. Very frequent and very cheap (by Brisbane standards) and can get you reasonably close to many places on the island. Taxis are also comparatively cheap at around $10-15 for a 15 minute trip (which will get you most places). The buses will get you really close to where you want to go, but it may take you 30 minutes longer to get there given waiting times.

‘Singlish’ – a different world at SMU

I enrolled into 3 units -Economics, Accounting, and Strategy, with lecturers from the United States of America, China and South Korea respectively (all units are challenging, therefore I don’t recommend completing your ‘weak units’ in Singapore -unfortunately I didn’t have any electives available). All ‘courses’, as they are known, are taught in English. On the subject of language, the Singaporean language of ‘Singlish’ (Singapore English) was considerably hard to understand at times during group meeting with peers.

All courses are comprised of a heavy weightage on participation ranging from 10-25% or more. This ensures everyone does their readings and homework or, you won’t be able to ‘contribute’ competently. In Strategy for example, after every class (which was twice a week) you had to vote online for the one student who ‘contributed the most meaningfully to the class discussion’. All SMU courses are conducted in what QUT would call ‘lectorial’ style -where a lecture is given, though you are encouraged to comment and ask questions to the lecturer when needed.

There is a maximum capacity for about 40 students per class, but class sizes usually averaged in the thirties with high attendance most days. Local SMU students may tend not to team-member with exchange students as “exchange students tend to travel on the weekends and during the mid-term break and so hinder regular group meetings and projects”. Group meetings occurring at least twice a week is the norm. Regarding SMU’s software programs: some were really up to date while others were considerably dated and in need of an overhaul! Be prepared to spend extra time in the opening weeks signing up for classes. Studying at SMU made me really appreciate the useability and importance that QUT places on its’ IT systems. Good systems save so much time and labour!

A semester at Singapore Management University

The School of Business at SMU

The School of Business at SMU

I spent one semester studying at Singapore Management University (SMU). I chose SMU because: English is the main language spoken in Singapore, I enjoy Asian cultures, there were limited competing applicants, and there was also an attractive scholarship on offer.  I enjoyed the experience and I learnt a lot -both academically and of the local society. The study culture is hypercompetitive and the heavily loaded -students and staff embrace this culture and are somewhat ‘proud’ of this fact. For example, many students wear T-shirts advertising they are a ‘Smugger’, that is, SMU combined with ‘mugger’ which means a person who studies very intensively.

I felt many students had little time outside of university to do anything but study, many local students agreed with me. I believe students are not entirely ‘self-driven’ but perhaps more-so externally influenced. I learnt employers inspect your academic grades very meticulously when choosing to employ you or your peers in jobs or internships. I also learnt that most blue collar jobs in Singapore are very low paid (in comparison to Australia) so, if you do not do well academically, you may not attain the socio-economic life style you desire. Although it felt at times like a relentless drive towards a limitless sky, I heard Singaporean employers are generally quite impressed by the heightened extraversion and skills of SMU graduates given the breadth of topics in each unit and the focus on active classroom participation.

SMU students and staff were usually easy to get along with and almost everyone is professional and polite. Singapore in general seems like a harmonious country to live. I would even go as far to say I felt safer in Singapore than in Australia. Further commenting on SMU students, it was not unusual for both male and female students to wear suit attire to class!

 

My Chile experience : Final words

Chile was an AMAZING student exchange location and I would recommend it to anyone. It is relatively safe, easy to travel, the university is extremely helpful and the area of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso is stimulating, without being too big and overwhelming. There ARE cultural differences, one being the street dogs!

They are everywhere (and so is their dog poo). It is also hard to get used to the language but rewarding once you get the hang of it. I made some of my closest friends on student exchange, friends that I have already gone to visit in the USA and know would welcome me all over the world. I was in Chile for their national holiday, September 18th, and enjoyed huge fiestas and asados (BBQs), experienced Valpo NYE (THE best in South America), enjoyed many a “terremoto” (a local drink of wine, grenadine and pineapple ice cream), went camping on volcanic lakes and saw some of the most beautiful sites in the world (truly, Chile is a world class destination for natural beauty). I can’t recommend it enough.

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Valle de la Luna, Atacama Desert

On finishing semester 1 in Dublin, European summer holidays and a lot of photos

 

Similarly to when I wrote this last post, procrastination is once again lending itself well to ensure that I’m somewhat productive in all areas of life except for that of studying. Here in Ireland, we’re about to enter week 5 here of the new academic year and while I feel like it’s still the start of the semester, things are once again moving at an alarming pace. Last time I wrote an entry, I was sitting in the sunshine in Copenhagen looking at the spring flowers wondering how time manages to move so quickly. Five months later and it’s a pretty similar story, except this time I’m looking out into the garden watching the leaves turn red.

Between studying (read: procrastinating) for six exams and trying to fit as much in before everyone moved back home/went away for the summer, unsurprisingly the final three weeks of last semester passed in somewhat of a blur. Truly embracing the pass/fail nature of being on exchange, a highlight was definitely when a bunch of us booked flights to Germany and ended up at Frühlingsfest, the smaller, more localised version of Oktoberfest in Munich. With beer in litre steins and lederhosen and dirndls everywhere, ‘smaller and more localised’ definitely didn’t equate to less fun.

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Frühlingsfest – Munich, Germany

Five days later and back on Irish soil, things a lot less happy and merry as May kicked off along with the start of exams. Group mentality was fairly prevalent, given that here for some reason that completely escapes me, you take your exams with 3000 other students in the room. Except you’re not in a room, you’re in a freezing cold, barren hangar, off campus somewhere that requires taxis home if you’re unlucky enough to have an exam finishing at 8pm. A truly bizarre way of doing it if you ask me, especially when 600 people up and leave because they’ve only had a 1 hour exam. Seldom fun in the eyes of anyone, I’m going to skip over the rest of exam details and fast-forward to end of them and the beginning of summer.

If I’m honest, finishing exams was a bit of a weird and melancholic experience. While I, along with every other student, was absolutely stoked to be finished the semester, there was a sad feeling in the air as we packed up our things and moved out of where we considered “home” to be for the last four months. On our final night in student accommodation, we all assembled for a last hurrah among the exchange students. Rules were put in place – shed a tear, finish your beer. A lot of beer was consumed. And a lot of tears were shed – myself included when I waved off my beautiful housemates as they left for the airport to fly back to the US the next day. As I’m sure most exchange students can attest to, you tend to bond the quickest with other exchange students. Maybe it’s because you’re in the same boat and fast friendships are necessary to feel some sort of grounding when you’re in a new place, or maybe because you hold what’s familiar close. Or it could just be because you literally always see each other. Regardless, the group of students last semester were a truly weird and wonderful crowd who made the end of the semester exceptionally hard, despite knowing we were free of assignments, exams and, best of all, group work for a whole 16 glorious weeks.

Like most students that have found themselves on exchange in Europe, travelling has slowly etched its way more and more into my exchange as the time ticks by. Whether it be over weekends, mid-semester break, swotvac, during exams (yes, embrace the pass/fail nature of exchange! Any spare time is time to travel), before/after the semester or between semesters, travelling is a massive part of being on exchange. Domestically or internationally, I feel like that’s what constitutes an extremely large part of the whole experience: seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. Coming on exchange for our academic year (i.e. backwards to here) meant that I had four months holidays in between semesters where I was fortunate enough to backpack around Europe – ohh my, what a treat it was having summer holidays mid-year!

The summer kicked off to an incredibly wet start. There’s no other way to put it. My parents came to Ireland to visit and it was possibly the worst 10 consecutive days of weather I’ve seen here to date.

We went to the beautiful Cliffs of Moher that usually look like this if you’re lucky enough with a sunny day – as my housemates were when they went.

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

And we, on the other hand, were instead gifted with this: a much more adequate representation of Ireland’s temperamental weather patterns.

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Needless to say, we didn’t see much. Or anything at all really.

While wet for the most part, the weather does change in the drop of a hat here (so they say), so we did manage to get a few scarce hours without rain over the course of two weeks.

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Killary Fjord, Ireland

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Three Castle Head – Schull, Ireland

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Crookhaven, Ireland

And of course it was still beautiful even when it wasn’t sunny!

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Kylemore Abbey, Ireland

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Coumeenoole, Ireland

 

Leaving Ireland behind for the summer, I spent a few weeks travelling through Wales and Scotland…

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Isle of Skye, Scotland

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Glencoe, Scotland

Before venturing to Norway to go hiking for 3 weeks. I’m extremely lucky in that I’ve travelled a fair bit and seen some pretty amazing places over the years but Norway absolutely blew my mind. There really are few words that I can write to describe how incredible it was, so I’ll let photos do the trick instead.

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Lysefjord, Norway

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Trolltunga, Norway

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Kjeragbolten, Norway

After delaying leaving Norway for a week longer than I had initially planned, I finally got to Sweden and Finland before flying to Greece.

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Ios, Greece

Wet weather well and truly behind me, I hopped around the islands before heading up into the mountains in Northern Greece.

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Vikos Gorge, Greece

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Zagorohoria, Greece

I realise how picture heavy/long this is getting, so I’ll race through the next little bit – there were just so many amazing spots along the way. From there I spent three weeks travelling through Albania, Macedonia and Serbia before heading to the largest music festival in Eastern Europe, Sziget Festival, in Budapest, Hungary.

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Lake Ohrid, Macedonia

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Sziget Festival – Budapest, Hungary

(If you get the opportunity to ever go to Sziget, do it. And go for the 8 days – it’s incredible)

After 8 nights of camping with perfectly clear skies, on the final night the sky opened up and it poured down on the 80 000 tents on the island, ours included. Overnight the temperature dropped from 32 to 13 degrees and the rain marked the start of a cold front that hit majority of Eastern Europe, even though it was only August. Firmly deciding I wasn’t ready for 13 degree weather just quite yet, I hopped on a plane to Spain to check out the world’s biggest food fight…

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La Tomatina – Buñol, Spain

La Tomatina – I really don’t know where to start. For one, I certainly didn’t know where I, or the tomatoes, started or ended. I remember looking at my watch thinking at least half an hour had passed and we’d only been at it for 12 minutes – after an hour and I was wading in a sea of squished tomatoes up to my shins. It was mental. Seriously, I washed my hair 8 times in 2 days and still found chunks of tomatoes days (weeks?) later. I haven’t eaten bruschetta since.

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San Sebastián, Spain

After a few weeks travelling around Spain after la Tom, reality set in and it was time to head back to Dublin for the start of college – something that feels like it was a few days ago, not over a month ago. I guess what’s happened between then and now probably warrants a new post because this is well and truly long enough (and I have class in 3 minutes), so I’ll leave it there for now.

Until next time!

Tabhair aire 🙂