Host University

Nanyang Technological University

Host Country



SP5, 2017


Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting)

Why did you choose your host university?

I had chosen Nanyang Technological University as it was the only university available for a full semester exchange. I have also been interested in going to Singapore as I have heard it is a great country with an advanced train system compared to Australia. Another reason I had chosen to go to Singapore was that it was quite close to other Asian countries and I would be able to travel at a cheaper price.

Alison KhuuWhat was the university like?

The university was huge and had several buildings, as there were dormitories to house students who lived too far from the university. It took me a month before I knew remembered where my classes were because there were many levels in each building, had basements and many libraries. My classes were all 4 hours each, which is quite different from studying here in Australia. I had to be in class at 8:30am, something I was not used to since going to high school as the earliest classes I have been to at UniSA would be 9am.

There were free campus busses which drove around the campus and there were paid busses which stopped around the university and after class I was able to catch a bus to the closest mall to have lunch or dinner with friends. Unlike UniSA where we were given a student ID with printing credit on it, the student IDs in Singapore was also my transport card. The credit on the card was to print, buy things, acted like a debit card to most stores and catch public transport, meaning I had to top it up with around $50 a month to be able to go sightseeing, print out necessary assignments and to purchase food.

As classes were 4 hours long, there were no lectures or online material for the classes I had chosen, there wasn’t much I could do if I needed help when it came to homework. Although, the teachers in Singapore gave their students their mobile number so we could contact them if we were running late or if we needed help we could schedule a help session. I found this very interesting as teachers in Australia wouldn’t give out their phone numbers to their students.

What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

What I have gained from my exchange is that students in Singapore are much more hard working compared to the students in Australia. Therefore, the standards in Singapore were much higher than Australia. There was an instance where a member of my group had done ¼ of an assignment after the first week when we were assigned the group. The task that was given to the group was to interview a person within the age group of 20-30, and yet the group member had interviewed and created a power point for the whole assignment which wasn’t due until 10 weeks later. After experiencing the amount of hard work, she had put into the assignment, this motivated me to help in whatever way I could with the presentation and other group projects while in Singapore.

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

There were two accommodation options which were available to me, living on campus either alone or sharing a room with another international student or a local and using Airbnb. On campus accommodation was affordable to some extent, as it only cost around $3,000 for the semester not including a mattress which you would have to pay for and things like air conditioning. With air conditioning, students had to pay for this by the hour if they desired it. For locals who are used to the humidity of Singapore, the amount of air conditioning that they would use was less compared to people who were used to cooler or less humid environments.

Being able to have a roommate would mean that it was going to be easier to make friends with local and other international students. Even though I have lived in Australia for my whole life, I have not experienced much humidity and felt like I would need air conditioning the whole time I was in my dorm. A problem with opting to living on campus would be that there are around 4 dormitory buildings which did not have any air conditioning meaning that I could be unlucky and must live in a room without air conditioning in hot and humid weather. Another advantage of living on campus was that there are campus buses which are free to board meaning that public transport costs would be minimal, and the bus also stopped outside of campus near the MRT (train system Singapore has) meaning that I would be able to go out every day from campus for free. Although Airbnb was the costlier option, if I had factored in the air conditioning, Airbnb seemed more worth it. Airbnb would offer helpful advice on where to eat, visit and travel to in Singapore. There are apartments which are a 3-minute walk to the closest MRT and a 2-minute walk to the bus stop which stopped at NTU, same as the campus buses.

ALison KhuuDescribe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I had travelled to the main attractions of Singapore with friends that I had made during my stay in Singapore, visiting local festivals near the university and different attractions such as the Flower and Cloud Dome. As Singapore is very close to Malaysia, I had decided to visit there after my exams. After the 6 months of staying in Singapore, I feel like there were places that I still haven’t explored yet. In Malaysia I only went to Kuala Lumpur and if I had more money I would have loved to explore more. I had thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Malaysia as the food was more affordable compared to Singapore, due to the currency conversion rate, even though the food in Singapore was quite cheap already. During my 2-week study break in the middle of the semester, I had also decided to travel to Japan. It was such a great experience there as I had gone with other Australian friends which I had made in Singapore and a German friend who had gone to Japan as well.

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

It took me a few days to adjust living in a different country, I believe that this is as I was so excited to go overseas. I haven’t been overseas in a long time and it was a great experience to see how people in a different country do things on an everyday basis. In Australia I would mainly use the bus system to get around Adelaide, while in Singapore the most convenient way to travel would be the MRT train system. I had adapted to how there are many underground paths in Singapore to avoid the heat and sun outside and not to interrupt traffic. After a week or two I had grown to like living in Singapore and found it more comfortable to live there as it is safer to roam around at night as a girl walking around by herself compared to Australia. The MRT system is great as it goes around the country and they come regularly (every 5 to 10 minutes). I met new people mainly at university in class, as we were to form groups in each class to do group work and assignments. Many locals were really nice, when I was browsing different soy sauces and laundry detergent, there were a few locals who offered their advice on which brands were great for specific dishes and the pros and cons to the different laundry detergents based on price and what it was going to be used for.

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

I believe that there are benefits from doing this exchange, as I have made some connections with students and teachers. I have recently gotten a message from someone who wanted to offer me a job in Singapore, but I didn’t have the money to move to Singapore to accept the job. I have also learnt many things about the Singaporean health care, economy and I feel like it will benefit my future career as I will know a bit about Singapore.

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

As I was also hesitant to go on the exchange program, the amount of freedom I had in another country compared to being here in Australia where my parents would get worried if I stay out until 7pm and wouldn’t like it if I went out every day even though I am an adult.

Being independent in another country has given me the chance to experience living with a roommate, cooking dinner some nights while going out to eat when we were both tired of cooking, staying out until 11pm as shops closed at 10pm every day compared to shops in Australia. If you start saving up, just $100 a week from first year until when you decide to go on a semester exchange (most likely in 2nd year), you will have enough for your flight and accommodation. The university will also provide loans, if you have centrelink, they will increase the amount of money you receive. I believe that an exchange is a once in a life time opportunity as even though you do work in another country, it will be more fun than doing work in the country that you live in.

The freedom you have in another country and the new friends you make who can help you get free textbooks and help with assignments, it is worth going on an exchange program. Another advantage to joining an exchange program is that other universities in other countries offer different courses which might not be available in Australia. A subject I had taken in Singapore was called wealth management and the teacher I had was incredibly passionate to teach the next generation, his “future employees”, he called us. Having such a passionate teacher made the 4-hour class feel like a 2 hour class and there were classes where he had professionals working in the field come in to teach us what it was like to be in that specific profession and taught us material in the course. This provided us to make many connections, being able to connect with them on LinkedIn and ask questions if we were possibly considering the profession in the future.

Top tips

My top tip would choose to put your classes over 2-3 days one after another, so you would be able to have the other 4-5 days to go overseas. I made a friend who went to a different country every weekend he didn’t have assignments due. I had also gone overseas to Japan during my study break and went to Malaysia after my exams. To prevent homesickness, keep yourself busy with making new friends and going out to eat as food in Singapore is very affordable.