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Singapore

My First Day in Singapore

Who knew the first day could be so much fun


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From Monday morning at 8am to Wednesday Morning at about 2am I was traveling. It took 21 hours and 25 minutes of flight time just to arrive at my destination. And with my flights in both Chicago and Hong Kong delayed it took two days to finally make it here.

But after all the airplane food and sleeping leaning against the windows, I finally touched down in Singapore!

I am attending the National University of Singapore (NUS) in an exchange program that Clarkson University offers, and will be here until December. NUS set me up with a ‘buddy’ to meet me at the airport, help me find my dorm and get me checked in. Because my flights were delayed, my buddy had to come to Changi Airport in the middle of the night. His name is Tan Jing Da, but he goes by JD. By the time we drove through the city, arrived on campus and checked in, it was about 4am local time. I crashed immediately and slept through the night.

My first real morning in Singapore I awoke to an amazing thunderstorm. The humidity in this area is absurd, and the temperatures are almost unbearable. The thunder was the loudest I’ve ever heard, and sheets of rain poured down on my dorm. It only lasted about 20 minutes, and the rest of the day was hot and sunny!

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At international student registration, it took hours of lines to get through immigration matters because all international students have to apply for a Student Pass to stay in the country. This is where I met my first new friends. After standing in lines, and missing forms, and borrowing pens, and complaining about the heat, you get to know the people around you very quickly. I met several students from Canada, the UK and other European countries by the end of the 3 hours it took to finish.

My first night here, a group of about 20 international students went into the city for dinner and a night out. We went to Clementi Hawker Center for dinner, and sat around talking for hours just getting to know everyone and where they were from.

After dinner we took the MRT (Singapore Subway system, stands for Mass Rapid Transit) to Clarke Quay. Clarke Quay is a beautiful riverside located in Singapore, and is home to many restaurants and nightclubs. It is beautifully lit up at night, and offers an amazing range of places to hang out. My night ended back at NUS, and I was officially loving Singapore!

Posted by Cassi 19:46 Archived in Singapore

Eusoff Hall

Pictures of my dorm


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To give you all an idea of where I am staying, here are a few pictures of my dorm complex. It reminds me of a Florida resort with the trees and flowers. Also, there are no doors on any buildings or hallways, they are all open to the outside, which is nice because it lets a breeze inside the rooms.

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Posted by Cassi 08:45 Archived in Singapore

The City of Singapore

A tour through Bugis and Marina Bay


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My second day in Singapore I toured the city with a group of fellow exchange students. We took the city bus to the MRT all the way into Downtown Singapore. We started in Bugis Junction, an area with lots of shopping, temples, and a pedestrian street with little carts set up all over it selling flowers. We visited a Chinese Temple, a Buddhist Temple, and many small churches located in the area. Most are famous for surviving the Bombings that took place durring WWII, and are now national landmarks. We got dinner in a small market area nearby.

After dinner, we walked to the Marina Bay area. This is the waterfront of Singapore, with skyscrapers along the shore and the famous Merlion on the waterfront. We first stopped at the Esplanade, a beautiful area for talking pictures of the city. The Esplanade itself is a building which from the front side is covered in little spikes, but has an area on the back that overlooks the water. It is here one finds the perfect view of the new Marina Bay Sands Resort, a huge hotel with an infinity swimming pool connecting the top of the three towers. Also the Singapore flyer is located on the water, and lights up with many different colors at night.

From the Esplanade we walked to the Merlion, and by now the sun had set and the lights in the city had all turned on. A fantastic light show incorporates almost every building in the Bay area, with most of the lasers coming from the top of Marina Bay Sands Resort. We stayed on the water front until the light show had ended. Overall, it was an amazing tour of the city, and an amazing view of the Singapore waterfront area.

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Posted by Cassi 09:57 Archived in Singapore

Singapore vs. USA

Little things that make a huge difference


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As I have only been here a few days, there is alot to get used to in Singapore. Some of the things are obvious; the culture, the rules, the food, the time change and so on. But there are many things I never considered that differ from the US in small ways, but that really stand out.

The top ones I've noticed so far include:

Light switches are upside down Mostly my fan is on in my room and my lights are off, but when I'd like to turn the lights on I always pick the wrong switch.

Restaurants don't have napkins I've eaten out every meal since I have arrived, and have yet to receive a napkin. I have seen some signs that you can buy napkins at the restaurant, and you get charged per number of napkins used. The best rate I have seen is 25 cents per napkin.

There are no knives You cut your food with a spoon or the side of your fork, which makes things very difficult to eat. When eating at Hawker stands they have every other utensil possible (forks, spoons, chopsticks) but they don't have knives.

No plastic bags When you go shopping here, at IKEA for example, they do not ask paper or plastic, but rather would you like to pay to use a bag or carry your items as are. It is a big movement to cut down on the waste. I believe the charge is 10 cents per bag.

There are no bugs Unlike the southern areas of the US, the warm air and humidity do not seam to produce the same number of bugs. I have yet to see a mosquito, or really any bugs for that matter. I expected there to be a billion everywhere, but there are about zero.

Cars will not stop for you In most major cities, if you are still on a cross walk when the light turns from red to green, the cars will not begin moving until you clear the way. Here they begin to go and honk at anyone left in the way. They just do not stop for people, and I will probably get hit by one before I leave. They also drive on the opposite side of the road and I always look the wrong way.

These are all very small differences that I never thought about, but have really stood out as I do day to day activities.

Posted by Cassi 01:08 Archived in Singapore

Sentosa Beach!

Where the water is warmer than the air


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The last few days have been very busy at NUS. Friday we had an international student orientation where over 600 exchange students gathered and listened to speakers talk about clubs and activities at NUS, some counselors told us about the services on campus, the registrars office talked about classes. Basically any questions we had about life at NUS were answered for us. Friday night we went to an area on the harbor front called St. James Power Station. There are 18 bars/clubs all in one building (for those of you who live in VT it resembles the Champlain Mill from the outside, and is all refurbished on the inside). They all connect through little walkways or on decks outside. It was really nice because once you got into one place and got a hand stamp, you could move about freely to other areas.

Yesterday we spent the entire day at Sentosa Island. It is an absolutely beautiful place, with picture perfect walkways and every type of entertainment you can imagine. There is indoor skydiving, segways, an alpine slide, a gondola etc. But the best part is the beaches. The beaches are BEAUTIFUL. There is music playing on loud speakers, and resorts with areas to sit and get food or have a few drinks. Palm trees are everywhere, and the sand is super soft. And the water must be about 85 degrees, as warm as the air. It is still very refreshing, and you could stay in the water for hours.

However, the only weird thing about the beach is the view. The island is beautiful, and the beach is nice... but out in the water there are dozens of huge freight ships. It reminded me of the lineup at the Panama Canal, giant tankers all sitting in the Harbor. You couldn't see the horizon because of the number of them. But even this could not take away from how amazing everything surround us was. We plan on going back to the beach again many many times in the next few months.

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Posted by Cassi 21:42 Archived in Singapore

Sentosa Beach Party

Foam Party!


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I know that last post was all about Sentosa Island, but it was so nice we decided to go back for a second day this weekend. The beach was still beautiful, the sand was still soft, but this time there was a huge beach party in the area we were at. Apparently the last Sunday of every month there is a 'Foam' party along the beach. None of the exchange students knew about it, but we decided to go check it out and ended up spending the rest of the day there. It was a lot of fun actually, a huge group of us went and we really enjoyed it.

Posted by Cassi 19:17 Archived in Singapore

Orientation Week

The Official Beginning to a New School Year

Monday marked the official start of Orientation campus wide. That means both freshman and returning students are now back on campus, as well as graduate, exchange, international and whatever other types of students exist. There are just over 36,000 at NUS, and things are really starting to fill up. Buses are jam packed, cafeterias have long lines and students are walking around in groups all over. Orientation here is a bit different than in the States. At Clarkson, our orientation focuses more around meeting the people who live it your dorm, meeting other students in the same grade and generally finding your way around campus. Here orientations are very 'Faculty' specific (a 'Faculty' is what we would call a 'School', for example I belong to the Faculty of Engineering). There have been tours of each faculty, speakers, and upperclassman who are able to answer questions for any underclassman students.

We also had an official welcome party for the exchange students last night. They had free food, some speakers and prizes to be given out. I would estimate 300 students were in attendance, from all over the world. I have made many friends, mostly from Europe. Of the students I hang out with, most are from Sweden, Germany, the UK, Canada and the US. When we get into talks about politics or economics it is very interesting to see how people react. In most cases we know too little about each others systems to truly argue, it is more of explaining our own systems to others, but once in a while a real debate will break out and people get genuinely upset. It is very entertaining, and I try to avoid those situations as much as possible.

Besides the orientations, there have also been several celebrations on campus this week because a new section called University Town opened up. It consists of 6 high rise buildings that now serve as dorms (mostly for graduate and international students) a new cafeteria and the worlds largest Starbucks! Music has been playing everywhere and many celebrations have taken place. Right now, NUS is a very exciting place to be.

Posted by Cassi 10:48 Archived in Singapore

Rain in Singapore

I'm convinced they just hit 'copy and paste' for the weather forecast

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Today is the third day since my arrival that it has been raining when I woke up. Singapore weather is very odd in that the weather forecast is the same everyday: Thunderstorms. The difference between here and home though is it will only thunder for about 20 minutes and then be done. The entire rest of the day will be hot and humid and sticky and make you wish it was still raining. And, half the time it never even rains!

When you see the weather forecast, you expect the next 10 days to be miserable, but everyday here is actually quite hot and sunny and ends up being beach weather. I have never seen it rain in the afternoon or at night, only in the morning, which means every afternoon is perfect for Sentosa!

Posted by Cassi 13:28 Archived in Singapore

Food

What exactly is a Fishball?

The the big question is food: What is there to eat in Singapore? Well I'm going to give you an idea by showing some pictures of our brand new cafeteria! This place just opened at the new Utown campus, and it is not exactly the same cafeteria as you would find back at home...

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I've been sticking to the Mixed Veggie Rice myself, but I hope this gives an idea of what kinds of food are most easily found on the Island of Singapore.

Posted by Cassi 11:19 Archived in Singapore

Student Pass

Now I am able to leave Singapore

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I picked up my visa today, which means I am officially able to travel to other countries now! The plan is to leave at 5am tomorrow, get a bus to the town of Mersing, Malaysia and then a ferry over to Tioman Island. There are about 50 exchange students going to Tioman Island this weekend, and there is going to be a BBQ party for us on Saturday night. I highly doubt the BBQ will have hamburgers or hotdogs.. so me and my friend Bailey (from Vancouver) are going shopping today for some food we can bring with us. Being in the city in Singapore and eating new foods is very different than being on a tiny Island in Malaysia and eating whatever food is given to you, so we want to be prepared. I will let you know how it all turns out for us.

Here is my new Student Pass!

Posted by Cassi 20:28 Archived in Singapore

Rag and Flag

Giving back to Singapore

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NUS has an annual community service project that gives back to local groups in need. The event is actually a 2 day-2 part celebration called Rag and Flag. It was such a cool experience to witness, and it is so widely accepted across campus that over S$509,944.80 (~$421,000 USD) was raised last year, numbers have not been announced for this year yet.

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Flag Day was on August 3rd this year, and students and faculty from all across campus took to the streets of Singapore and asked for donations for different charities. Each of the dorms compete against the others in hopes of raising the most money. Also, individuals who collect the highest get really cool prizes like iPads. The students really care about giving back to Singapore, so almost everyone participates in Flag day.

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Rag Day is the day students show thanks for all the donations from the public. They do this by putting on performances for the public to come watch. Each of the faculties and halls build a float, choreograph dances and design their own costumes to get ready for this. Hundreds of hours of work goes into each float, and once again it is a competition between the halls and faculties to see who has the best. The floats are all made of 100% recycled material/trash. For example, the Faculty of Engineering made a float using old soda cans. The choreographed dances are each about 8 minuets long, and involve a ton of different people, costume changes and they even do stunts. It was unbelievable to watch.

Overall it was a very fun day. I honestly can't imagine schools in the States doing something like this and having it be as successful as NUS's was.

Posted by Cassi 16:52 Archived in Singapore

Majulah! The Singapore Spirit

National Day Parade

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This year Rag and Flag was on the same day at the National Day Parade, Singapore's Independence Day. Tuesday was the 46th anniversary of their independence from Malaysia, and they had a huge celebration in the Mariana Bay area. For both Rag and Flag and the National Day Parade, NUS set up a huge area just for students with bleachers, loud speakers and a big screen to watch the Parade on. Local's must enter a lottery to try and receive tickets for the celebration, otherwise you cannot watch it. A local student told me it is lucky to see it even once in your lifetime, but they broadcast it on national TV for everyone else.

"Parade" is a very lose term for the celebration. It was more of a show for the people of Singapore about their nation. They have a few divisions of the military march across the stage at the beginning, which is why they call it a parade, but it was mostly singing and dancing and the story of Singapore's history. I actually learned quite a bit about the country, and there was even a rap about the new subway system.

After the show, which was about an hour and a half long, there were amazing fireworks all around the Marina Bay area, with lazers and music and everything. Fireworks were mostly set off from a barge in the middle of the bay, but were also lit from the tops of all the skyscrapers. This was really cool because they literally surrounded you with fireworks.

Posted by Cassi 17:58 Archived in Singapore

First Day of School

Classes have to start sometime...

Thursday and Friday were the first days of Class for the semester. Granted I wish this was just a 5 month long vacation, I do have a reason to be here.

My first class was MA2334, Probability and Statistics for Engineers. While I am used to being one of the few girls in my classes even at home, this was the first time I was the only non-Asian person, and the fact I have blonde hair really made me stand out. My second class made this even more apparent. ME3112, or Mechanics of Machines, has about 400 students in one big lecture hall. Once again I was one of the few girls and most definitely the only blonde. When I took my seat, about 5 of the people in my row turned and looked at me like I was completely lost and that just made me laugh. Luckily in ME3122, or Heat Transfer, there are about 5 other exchange students that I was able to sit with.

So far the classes seem on par with classes from home. My statistics teacher studied at Berkeley, so his English is very good. On the other hand, my Heat Transfer teacher grew up and studied in Malaysia, so he is shaky at times. The nice thing here is all lecture notes are posted online before the class, so it makes following the teachers much easier. I'm not sure I would be able to take good notes if this were not the case.

The only class I have not started is GE2226, or Geography and Societies of Southeast Asia. I looked at the first lecture notes and I can already tell this is going to be a very difficult class. I know nothing going into it, but I hope to learn a lot before I leave Singapore.

Posted by Cassi 20:06 Archived in Singapore

GE2226

One whole week of school done

Now I've offically had one week of school and I went to my first class of GE2226, which is a class on the culture, geography, politics, religions and everything else in Southeast Asia. The difference between this class and my engineering classes is it is full of exchange students. We have a field trip scheduled for the 27th, through the historical parts of Singapore.

I have to do group projects, write papers and the final exam isn't worth my entire grade! Basically this class has everything that my engineering classes are missing, and is much different from the classes I am used to. But I think it will be interesting and I hope to learn a lot about the region before I leave.

In my first class I already learned much about the countries in the area. ASEAN, or Association of Southeast Asian Nations is made up of 11 countries, including Singapore. Indonesia is by far the biggest, in terms of land and population, and as a result anytime a new president/prime minister gets elected in the neighboring countries, they will visit Indonesia before anywhere else. We talked about the differences in flora and fauna due to the land bridges and waterways in the ice age, and where the sea levels had dropped to.

Overall, it seams like it will be a very interesting class.

Posted by Cassi 18:31 Archived in Singapore

Singapore Turf Club

Singapore's Horse Racing Track

Friday night we decided to go to the Singapore Horse Racing Track. Most of my friends from the UK, or various other parts of Europe, go to horse races all the time at home and wanted to check it out. Bailey and I met up with them straight from class, wearing our usual shorts and tanktops for the Singapore weather. However, all the girls and guys from Europe were dressed up, like you would see people at the Kentucky Derby (minus the crazy hats). Luckily for us, upon arrival the Singapore Turf Club we found it was not exactly what the Europeans are used to, and most people were in old T-shirts and shorts. It seemed they only cared about the gambling and not the actual horses in the race.

Most of my friends were betting on the races, but it took us a few rounds to really understand how the betting works. Unlike most horse races, you do not get the odds that were true when you placed the bet. Instead, everyone gets the same odds as determined right before the race begins. Therefore, it is better to hold out on betting until the last possible minute. After we figured this out, we also realized there were several different types of bets that could be placed. It was really funny to watch my friends trying to figure out the Singapore system, as apparently horse races in the UK are a much bigger deal and the betting system is entirely different. For those of us who hadn't been to horse races, it was a fun experience for a night.

Posted by Cassi 14:10 Archived in Singapore

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