Time flies and all that. I think I mentioned before that it is very obvious to me how fast it goes when I can see how rarely I write here. Because it often feels I can’t really put into perspective what I did the last two weeks, or the two weeks before that.
Oh well. I thought I would go into some kind of ”series” of posts that is actually a bit more practical oriented. It’s easier now to look back at things rather when I’m right in the middle of it all.
So this first one will go out to what the title say. How is it actually to study here? At the 12th best university in the world as ranked about two months ago.
For comparison, back home we are about 50 people in our year, just above 200 in total if you take all Urban Planning students from year 1 to 5. In my first lecture, we were 150 people. The next one, about 130. There are 40-45 000 students in total at NUS, wheres the town I study (Karlskrona) has around 35000 in the central city. Why this matter is because it people tend to be either strolling around a lot by themselves, between courses, classrooms and project groups. Or they are a little bit locked in with a few classmates attending the same courses and doing projects together. I’ve met a lot of people falling under these two categories, which are both fair in their own way. Me and some other few exchangers stood out in the matter of being few among a huge majority of local students. I’ve talked to people on some lecture sitting next to me, and then never actually recognizing them again during the semester.
But all of this are more observations than issues, if you try to connect and not being afraid of asking around for help or people to work with. I had some problems with that, everything went so fast in the beginning and with only one lecture a week a lot happens when you’re not around trying to understand what’s going on.
So yes, It was a lot in the beginning. The size of the campus is huge, but it’s something I like in the matter that there are things happening all the time everywhere, it’s like a mini city with everything you can wish for. Cheap food, coffee and shakes (of course these three are first on my list), stores, different libraries along the main one which I enjoy studying at, a great environment which is very green and open. You can feel that there is a lot of quality and high performing people around, those people you see in the highest ranks of academic, technological, economical and other sectors in the future. It’s so competitive and that fuels me, making me want to step up.
There are social groups for everything. Do you want to pet cats on weekends, then there is definitely a group for that. Do you want to do social work, go into competitions in various fields, groups for politics, education, sustainability, arts, all sports you can imagine, there is something for every single thing you want to do. There are seminars, lectures, visits from the president of China, top leaders in the world. You name it.
Back to my own, maybe a more normal day. I have a lecture in the morning, for about one hour and forty minutes. Then I talk for a few minutes with some in the class before I go get lunch and they carry on with other lectures. After lunch I go to the library and study during the afternoon having conversations through Whatsapp with my various groups on what needs to be done. A sidenote. A had very few classes and lectures, but I also took the minimum modules needed, which was in a way a coincidence than an actual choice.
On my professors. The best ones I ever had. They gave me so many new insights through the lectures, tutorials and I also had good conversations with them after lectures and through email discussions. They were handpicked by NUS, and I understand why because they were just plain fantastic. Straight forward and firm but with a smile on their faces, open minded and critical, and not the least very experienced and filled with knowledge. They were good at giving direct feedback during discussions, no tittle-tattle snuffsy mushy toeing around. That’s what I ask for in teachers and professors.
About my projects, and working together with three different groups through three years (1st, 3d, 4th – they do their bachelor in four and few seem to look as far as doing masters). First of all, people’s work ethic. Oh wow. Sometimes their efficiency, or willingness to do more and more is just something I can’t get y head around. It is impressive to say the least. I had different experiences, and felt overall it was hard to ”get under their skin” and actually feel a part of the group. Not something uncommon as an exchange, though not as dramatic as I’ve heard about. Everyone is willing to help, lend a hand if needed in how the official and in-official systems of the studies work here. I met some really good people.
The tempo is high, yes but sometimes it all comes down to being efficient. I’m used to spending hours just trying to figure out where to start, but here I made the ”think first…” process way shorter and just jumping onto the ”doing, doing, doing” process. I found some kind of ”on” switch when needed. I don’t know if it is due to the study environment here or if it’s just me reflecting about it just now.
Finally. I don’t know if I covered all. Probably not even close. With my way of thinking, I could tell a novel about my way from the bus in the morning to the lecture hall and when I put on a pump-up song about three minutes away just to make me feel super cool and special because I’m walking to a lecture, 9 in the morning in Singapore while my friends are sleeping in ice-cold Europe. But I won’t. But I will say that it is VERY different here. From a lot I’m used to. But it is also laid back, easy, funny, open at the same time the climate is competitive. I don’t say that as a opposite as back home, just that one aspect doesn’t shoot the other one out the window.
I think that will be it for now. More to follow on how it is to live, city wise, in Singapore.