Singapore – first impressions

Finally arrived in Singapore! This will be my home for the coming 4 months as I study here to work on my masters.

* Fastest immigration checkpoint ever. The officer even said thank you in Swedish. Never happened before.

* Changi airport, which has been voted worlds best airport multiple times even had a luxury Hello Kitty bakery & cafe!

* Classy smooth relaxing jazz background music in the airport and lots of plants, waterfalls and almost parks. Like it!

Felt so good to check into a hotel when I arrived. It was too late to go to the university to pick up the keys to my dorm room, so an airport hotel was the best option. The 8 hour flight from Doha to Singapore took an unpleasant turn when a family with the olympic gold medal in bad parenting was assigned to the seats next to mine. They gladly put their kids on auto-scream for the entire trip (and did noting about it) – to the dismay of several other passengers. Fortunately I was allowed to move to a seat farther away, but even earplugs + headphones couldn’t save my ears completely.

 

The first thing I noticed about Singapore was the temperature and weather. I arrived in the first half of January and this time of the year normally has a lot of rain. It’s not the kind of rain I’m used to though. In Sweden, if it rains, you get WET. There is no escaping it. The Singaporean rain is more like a fine mist – you see that it’s raining, the puddles are showing rings from rain drops, but you kind of don’t feel the rain drops on your skin or get wet. Maybe it’s because the air is more humid here and it makes your skin slightly wet all the time. Dunno. During February and forward, I’m told that the weather will become increasingly warm and sunny. Looking forward to that! I didn’t change -25 and snow for some humid misty rain..

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I woke up at 05.00 am and was determined to get to the university by using the allegedly very good public transportation system. It turned out to be very easy, although it did require about an hour on the MRT, as NTU is on the opposite side of country when coming from the airport.

Nanyang-Technological-University

Singapore has indeed a very good public transportation system. The MRT takes you to almost every part of the city and there are several lines. It’s frequent, very cheap, and easy to understand how to use. The green line took me almost all way there. I did have to take a bus the last 5 minutes to actually get into the campus area, but I ran into some trouble. A lot of other students and staff were also waiting for the bus and it was a huge queue. With my two heavy bags, misty rain in in the air and time ticking until my first briefing, I figured it would be better to grab a quick cab so I went to the taxi area outside the MRT station. I was quickly approached by a pair of friendly Asian students who saw that I was new to the country. They offered to give me a ride in their car, even though they themselves were late! That’s really kind. Thanks to them I got to my briefing on time.

My dorm room lies on the 5th floor of one of the Pioneer hall buildings. The complex has an auditorium, food court, recreational rooms, study rooms, basketball courts, vending machines and lots of other exciting stuff. The complex is built around a river and has lots of green plants, trees, bridges and cozy hexagon shaped seating areas with roof. It even has a small gym that’s open 07:00-24:00! That’s definitely something I’ll check out. If I can get by for 4 months with the basic necessities without having to purchase a gym membership here, it’s a big plus and I’ll be able to travel more on my spare time.

This is what my room looks like:

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It’s smaller than I expected but has the necessities and it’s clean. I have the option of paying for air conditioning, but the ceiling fan has done a good job so far. Maybe when it get’s warmer, I’ll use the AC.

The drawbacks to my room are a few.

  1. It’s located right next to a bigger trafficked road and the sound of traffic 24/7 is loud.
  2. Shared shower and WC with the other people in my corridor
  3. No access to kitchen. My meal planning went up in smoke 😦

I brought food containers to store home cooked meals, as I was planning on staying in good shape and saving some $ by making my own meals. I was told Singapore was expensive when it comes to living costs. But now it looks like I’ll be eating out for all of my meals. That obviously makes dieting so much harder since you don’t really know how many calories you are taking in per day. I’m a bit bummed over not having the access of a kitchen, but on the other hand, I’m also very excited to be “forced” to eat out and try so many restaurants and foods! After all, NTU campus has about TWENTY different food courts. Crazy! Or, Siao, as it’s called in Singlish.

ourwayoflife-infographics-thethingswesay-desktop02

There is a work around for the meal planning though, and that entails eating at chain restaurants, like subway. Most chain restaurants have all their meals nutritionally calculated in some PDF that you can download from their website. It’s less fun than trying local alternatives but if I wanted to be really anal about my food intake, that’s how I could do it. I checked out subways nutritional charts and by choosing any 12 foot sandwich sub, the caloric total would still be less than 1000 kcal. That means that I could have a 12 footer for both lunch and dinner and still be on a large deficit ant loose body fat. Subway also has a venue at the NTU campus so that’s a possible go-to place for days where I just want to get lunch done easily and continue studying.

subway

After quickly dropping my bags of in the room, I headed to one of many bus stops of the campus, where shuttle buses take students around to the different parts of NTU. The campus has a system of buses going clockwise and anti-clockwise to take students for free around the huge campus area.

campus bus

I made it just in time for 11:00 briefing for exchange students at one of the faculties where I plan to take a few courses. We were given a guided tour, and served a free delicious lunch buffet with a mix of Asian dishes. After that, we headed to the North Spine plaza to attend the big official briefing for all 900+ exchange students. NTU gave us lots information about various aspects of the country and school. A few fun facts were presented:

  • Certain crimes are punishable by CANE!
  • Narcotics crimes are punishable by DEATH!
  • It’s illegal to engage in any “nuclear activities”…

Damn, I was hoping to split a few atoms in my dorm. NTU had guest speakers from insurance companies, police force, hospitals, etc. They made sure we were taken care of and have a good basic understanding of the culture and country. I found it interesting to learn that the Singapore police have a very vigilant anti-terror system going. Citizens are trained to learn CPR and first aid and there is an app called SG Secure that you can download to report suspicious stuff and receive government info in case of emergencies. They showed us a short film about uncovering a plot that 4 Indonesian terrorists had to blow up Marina bay sands with rocket launcher.

Marina_Bay_Sands

Marina bay sands

One thing I found about Singapore is that they like to come up with short “slogans” for stuff so that it’s easy to remember, for example STARS, GEM, OGEM, etc. The info material from NTU is full of these shorthand block letters for various aspects of school programs and government stuff. This is very USA-inspired, from my experience.

My first experience of the Singaporean people was very good. Everybody is polite, well mannered and very helpful. The country is clean and I still haven’t seen any graffiti at all what so ever.

Well, there you have it. My first impressions!

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