Singapore: Summary and leaving thoughts..

Just had my final exam in a freezing gym court here in Singapore. It’s soon time for me to leave this country which has been my home for the past four months. I thought I’d write a little bit about my experience here – highlights of what I’ve done, haven’t done, what I’ll miss, and not miss. Let’s jump right into it!

What I’ll miss

There is a lot to love about SG. Here are the small everyday things I’ll miss the most.

  • NTU. I’ll miss my university. I have many good memories just walking around the beautiful campus in the sun, feeling happy, care free and with a smile on my face
  • Daily interactions with “uncle’s & aunties” in coffee shops and food stalls. I love to practice speaking mandarin with them.
  • Getting rudely chewed out by one auntie in koufu canteen when not pronouncing my order correctly 🙂
  • Listening to the smooth jazz & blues on 98.3 Money FM after hours
  • Taking the elevator down to my apartment complex gym
  • The idea of most other south east Asian countries are only a short plane trip away
  • Escalator etiquette. For the most part, people behave very civilized and know the proper way to stand in an escalator: To the side, so that there is room for non-lazy people like me to walk past them.
  • Taking walks in the Sunday sun to Boon Lay mall for some ice cream and movie after morning workout
  • The clean streets. I’ve seen only ONE single piece of trash on the street in 4 months
  • The HUGE amount of choices when it comes to everything. Food, shopping, entertainment, cool things to see and do, etc. It’s impossible to be bored in SG.
  • Transportation. It’s so easy and convenient to get anywhere. SG’s MRT and bus system is well developed.

What I won’t miss

No place is perfect. These are the very few things that bug me about Singapore.

  • The rampant phone addiction
  • People walk EXTREMELY slow, and have almost no situational awareness. Goes hand in hand with the phone addiction.
  • The singlish dialect. I’ve gotta be honest here, I don’t find it very flattering. The way they just crop the pronunciation of words really short. I think it sounds like a strange mix of Caribbean and South African English accent.
  • Sticky humid heat. I know, I know. How dare I complain about the sunny warm weather, right? I do love the sun, but like any well dressed man knows – it makes dressing well much more arduous.
  • My dorm room. It’s right next to 10 lanes of 24/7 trafficked highway. Not exactly perfect conditions to get a stress-free night of relaxed sleep.
  • The over-use of AC. Come on guys, do we really need to be freezing and shuttering indoors?

What I haven’t done

Believe it or not, there is stuff that I haven’t done that normal people do often. Here is a list of three average Joe activities that I haven’t done a single time in Singapore

  • Visited the beach
  • Gone out to a club
  • Drunk alcohol (except for Singapore sling and a small bottle of chameleon-infused wine)

What I’ve done

I haven’t been a sloth here, that’s for sure! During these four months I’ve been active and managed to do a ton of stuff on the side of studying full time. Here are the highlights!

Finished an online diploma as a certified men’s style consultant
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Did a DJ performance at a local music festival

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Finished an online certificate in Adobe Audition
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Been on Inglesia Ni Cristo Philippine church global TV show

 

Started an online course in voice recording
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Participated in a kimchi making workshop
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Visited the super trees
Definitely one of the top 10 coolest jaw dropping visual experiences of my life
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Stayed at the iconic hotel Marina Bay Sands

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Learned to tie a half-Windsor tie knot
I only knew 1 knot before, so now I at least have two to choose from.
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Been interviewed by a popular YouTube channel (smart local)
– Coming as soon as they put it up on their channel

 

Lost over 15 kg (33 lbs) while having close to 20 pints of Ben & Jerry’s (mission to try all the flavors I’ve never seen)
When I arrived in SG I weighed in at 92.4 kg and was in terrible shape. I managed to lose slightly over 15 kg (33 lbs) over the course of my four months here, which I’m very proud of. It’s the first time I’ve attempted to diet without any kind of way to track my calories or make my own food. I think the feat is even more impressive in the light of me having so much ice cream, several bags of chips, lots of krispy kreme donuts and cookies from twelve cupcakes. Not to mention, exploring the delicious SG food variety!
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Gettting a Korean haircut
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Tried Chinese pineapple tart

 

Had made an Asian style business suit at a tailor
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Visited a Hello Kitty restaurant
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Tested Singapore’s best cheesecake
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Tried the cheapest one Michelin star meal in the world
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Visited a two Michelin star restaurant for the first time
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Tried Japanese Cheesecake
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Tried the original Singapore Sling

 

Tried Youtiao, Doujiang and sesame ball
Youtiao is a fried bread stick which many Chinese like to have for breakfast, along side some doujiang (sweet soy milk drink). The sesame balls come with various fillings, and the one I tried had lotus seed paste. It tasted like a sweet mix of mashed potato and marzipan.

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What I haven’t done, but would have liked

I have a very good friend that was planning to visit me while here, and I saved a lot of great activities that I planned to do with him. Unfortunately, he bailed out of the trip even though we had planned it a long time. I was very disappointed in him, since he prioritized a lot of financial purchases instead of coming (which he could have done after the trip instead, and still afford). These are the things that I had planned to show him.

  • Super tree dining. They have a restaurant on top of the biggest super tree!  I though I’d take him there. How cool isn’t that!?
  • Nautical museum. SG has a famous nautical museum at a place called Sentosa. It’s like a huge resort for resorts.
  • Casino. I thought we could go to the Sentosa casino dressed up like high rollers and have some fun.
  • Universal studios. Yup, SG has that too. And I missed it! Thanks, Vlado..
  • Botanical gardens
  • Army museum

 

Singapore: A nation of slow walkers

I love Singapore. The country has a lot of good things going for it, and I have no regrets of coming here to study for 4 months and learn about the Singaporean culture. I could move here to live and work, for sure.

But in this post I’ll address what I personally find is a less than pleasant aspect of Singaporean behavior: people here walk EXCRUCIATINGLY slow.

For a fast walker like myself, it can be very frustrating to move around in public places like malls. You never get anywhere, because the paths are blocked by slow walkers, dragging their feet while completely lost in their phones with no situational awareness what so ever. It literally feels like being surrounded by zombies.

That’s another thing I think is or will become a problem for the country: the severe phone addiction.

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I’ve never understood people who walk slow. Just think about it, it makes no sense at all to walk slow. You are making a choice to waste your most valuable resource (time) and reach your destination slower.

I walk at about 6 km per hour, and the normal walking speed is perhaps around 4. Singapore probably averages around 2. Consider the consequences stretched out over a lifetime. Let’s do a simple calculation and see.

If a person walks 2 km per day, and lives 28 000 days, it will total a traveled distance of 56 000 km during the persons life. A person with the walking speed of 3 km per hour will spend 777 days of his life walking (a bit over 2 years). If a person instead walks with the speed of 6 km per hour, the time spent walking the same distance will 388 days (slightly more than 1 year). HALF the amount of time wasted compared to the slow walker, for the same distance walked!

Speaking of walking, here is a nice tune by Akshin Alizadeh that I like. It’s called walking down the street 🙂

Another very peculiar walking phenomenon I’ve noticed here has to do with Singaporean women. I can be walking down the street, and a woman might be walking toward me. Then, for no apparent reason, she changes to my side of lane so that I have to change to her previous side in order to avoid a collision.. It’s not some random one time occurrence – this happens more or less daily and often several times per day. I can’t find an explanation to it. Is it a subtle hint that I should initiate a conversation? That’s what I guessed first, but after paying close attention to if she tries to make or maintain eye contact, it clearly isn’t the case. I asked my Singaporean friend Sarah if she know what’s up with this? She said it never happened to her and she didn’t know.

If you know any possible explanation to this, please let me know because I’m very curious ha ha!

Singapore: first 2 weeks updated summary

After being here in this cool country for about two and a half weeks, I figured it would be cool to write a shorter summary of what it’s been like, what I’ve done and update my impressions.

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My first impressions with Singapore are very good! It’s apparent that they’ve successfully built a well functioning country and society. It’s clean, people have good manners, and I think there is a tangible feel of community, even though the nation consists of a very diverse collection of ethnicity and languages. The official language is English but every day I hear Mandarin, Bahasa (Indonesian), and a few others. The Singapore English (Singlish), sounds like a surprising mix of south African English and Jamaican English. I’m not making it up – it’s just how they pronounce certain words that give the dialect this cool sounding blend. Being a well experienced traveler and having lived in over 7 countries, I find that Singapore has built it’s country around cherry picking good traits and best practices from other successful, leading countries.

And I’ll definitely take back what I said in my previous post about the rain here only being a fine mist.. Since then, we have been “blessed” with a few monsoon-like rain and lightning attacks that have been pretty awesome (if you’re indoors).

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Interesting stuff I’ve noticed, and facts:

  • Singapore was awarded nr 1 in the category Best travel destination in Lonely planet 2015.
  • So far I’ve seen only ONE piece of trash on the ground (a lonely can)
  • Singapore started the worlds first formula 1 night race
  • So far I’ve seen only ONE mosquito
  • Stated to have worlds 2nd most efficient healthcare, according to Bloomberg
  • The government here seems to care a lot about health and well being. It’s the first place I’ve ever visited to have FREE PUBLIC GYMS spread out over the country.
  • So far I’ve only seen ONE fly
  • Stated to be 2nd safest city in the World (Economist 2015)
  • Was worlds largest indoor tunnel for skydiving
  • The public transportation system here is very good, and cheap. You can reach almost any place of the country conveniently by using the MRT and buses.

The skyline here is totally incredible. I’ve been to both Dubai and New York, and to be honest, the skyline in SG blows both those places out of the water. There are just too many freakishly cool architectural buildings here that other places can’t compare. I’m talking about Marina Bay Sands, the helix bridge, the museum, merlion, on an on. If you like architecture and buildings, this is a very good place to snap pics and marvel at innovative construction.

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Shopping here is excellent. I’d state it as better than Dubai, as SG has a wider range of pricing options to cater for everybody’s wallet – and more malls. This has to be the place on earth that has the most malls per area of land. It’s like every stop on the MRT has it’s own mall, and it’s not uncommon for 2-3-4 malls to join together by sky walks over the trafficked streets below. If you are looking for shopping – this is a GOOD destination. SG has everything from highly luxurious uber expensive malls with marble floors and walls, down to the “luggage market” – a kind of flea market set up close to the parliament building where immigrant workers such as house maids sell used clothes at very cheap prices out of their suitcases.

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Entrance to a mall

Food choices are good here too. There are restaurants from all over the world, at all price levels. All malls have food courts as well as restaurants, where you can find anything you want. I’m planning on trying a few top end exclusive Asian food restaurants here. The interior design of those places is absolutely stunning. Places like Imperial Treasure Super Beijing Duck Restaurant, Japanese Gourmet Town, Black Society Seafood Chinese DimSum, Chrystal Jade Golden Palace, to name a few. Gordon Ramsay also has an establishment here, and other top name chefs. If you prefer cheap but delicious street food, SG has PLENTY of options. Just visit any of the hawker stalls or food courts where you can find food from most Asian countries (and western options) for very low prices. Amazingly enough, there are even two hawker stalls here that have a michelin star each! How cool isn’t that.. The cheapest michelin meal in the world; 2$. I’m definitely gonna check that out.

The university courses started last week, and NTU has a system called the “add & drop” period where students panic frantically for about two weeks to try to get their optimal schedule and register the courses they want. Luckily enough, I got all my courses on day 1. I had been very strategic in planning my courses, and opting for those that had a lot of vacancies, no final exam, and no classes on Fridays. At the same time, all of the courses I got are about stuff I’m genuinely interested in, and will find useful in both my private life and future career. I managed to get a very good schedule, with class on Mondays to Wednesdays, which means that I have four days off per week! That gives me a lot of opportunity to take shorter trips to other Asian countries. And only one of my courses has a final exam!  The courses I got were:

  • Digital Marketing: Connecting with customers in today’s world
  • Creative Strategies
  • Advertising Creativity and Copywriting
  • Introduction to entrepreneurship

So as you see, I’ll be learning a lot of good skills that are highly applicable to almost any ambitious persons repertoire. In creative strategies and Advertising, the teacher is a really good German gentleman with 25+ years of running his own advertising boutique, with prestigious clients from the auto industry and more. The first day we had to cut the lesson a bit shorter, because he said that he had to attend a “f*ck-youlty meeting”. That immediately reminded me of a funny scene in Hellboy, where one of the actors says ‘focused’ with a German accent – and it sounds like he says ‘f*uck-used’ 🙂

So what have I actually been up to these last two and a half weeks? I’ve done a tone of stuff already. Time has really flown and it feels like I’ve been here for 6 months. Here a few thing I’ve been up to:

  • Visited most of the bigger malls
  • Visited Chinatown
  • Had measurements taken for an Asian style business suit by one of Singapore’s best tailors (post about that is coming)
  • Bought a cat mask and a panda mask
  • Participated in NTU’s Chinese new year event and concert
  • Secured two coming DJ performances. One at a culture night, and the other for student farewell party.
  • Tried lots of new exotic fruits and foods
  • Met my internet friend from 6 years for the first time
  • Took pictures of the gorgeous skyline
  • Tried three new Ben & Jerry’s flavours
  • Lost 4 kg’s
  • Tried two of the free gyms on campus
  • Continued making my weekly radio show
  • Made my first elevator pitch
  • Signed up for a hike
  • Signed up for a course on how to pickle veggies
  • Got myself a Korean haircut
  • Signed up for introduction to latin dance
  • Signed up for the NTU buddy system

The best thing though is that I still haven’t visited any local neighborhoods or any of the main city attractions, except for an evening walk to see the skyline. I’ve saved all the best stuff to explore during the spring! Singapore has a TON of cool stuff to do, like plant-animal-wildlife related, Sentosa island, universal studios, and on..

So far I haven’t had a single drop of alcohol or gone to a party. Don’t worry mom, I’m not becoming straight edge or muslim, it’s just not very high on my priority list at the moment. One of my absolutely favorite things to do is go to exclusive hotels and just look at the lobbies, restaurants, lounges and bars there for design inspiration. So that’s on my to do list as well. I’ve been quite busy just having fun, studying, getting involved in activities etc. Have so much stuff to write about! So keep your eyes open because material is coming.

Cheers!

Ben & Jerry’s bonanza

One of the best things about traveling to a new place is checking out the food in supermarkets and grocery stores. Discovering local brands and flavors you’ve never heard of or even considered! For a westerner coming to Singapore, the food scene delivers big time on this point.

This post is about a specific area of discovery, namely my mission to taste and review all the flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that Singapore has but that I can’t find at home. This is one thing I love about Ben & Jerry’s – their ability to experiment with delicious and unexpected combos. In my opinion, they blow all of the competitors completely out of the water.

Here in Singapore, Ben & Jerry’s even have an online delivery service! Just go online and choose your flavor. I don’t know what delivery costs though, but I’m guessing you’ve probably have to be pretty loaded, since one pint of B&J here in Singapore costs about 16$! Yes, I’m not joking. It’s insane..

So what are the candidates that I’ll hunt down during my 4 month stay here? Let’s line em’ up! Which one would you like to try?

Oat of This Swirled™

Buttery brown sugar ice cream with fudge flakes and oatmeal cinnamon cookie swirls

Click here for my review!

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Truffle Kerfuffle™

Vanilla Ice Cream with Roasted Pecans, Fudge Flakes & a Salted Chocolate Ganache Swirl

Click here for my review!

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Urban Bourbon™

Burnt Caramel Ice Cream with Almonds, Fudge Flakes & Bourbon Caramel Swirls

Click here for my review!

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Vanilla Caramel Fudge

Vanilla Ice Cream with Swirls of Caramel & Fudge

Click here for my review!

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Boom Chocolatta ™

Mocha & Caramel Ice Creams with Chocolate Cookies, Fudge Flakes & a Chocolate Cookie Core

Click here for my review!

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Brownie Batter Core

Chocolate & Vanilla Ice Creams with Fudge Brownies & a Brownie Batter Core

Click here for my review!

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Chocolate Therapy®

Chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookies & swirls of chocolate pudding ice cream

Click here for my review!

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Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core

Chocolate & Cheesecake Ice Creams with Chocolate Cookies & a Cheesecake Core

Click here for my review!

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Red Velvet Cake

Click here for my review!

Red Velvet Cake Batter Ice Cream with Red Velvet Cake Pieces & a Cream Cheese Frosting Swirl

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Everything But The…

A Collision of Chocolate & Vanilla Ice Creams mixed with Peanut Butter Cups, HEATH® Bar Chunks, White Chocolatey Chunks, & Fudge-Covered Almonds

Click here for my review!

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Caramel Cheesecake

Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolatey Covered Waffle Cone Pieces and a Caramel Swirl

Click here for my review!

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Cotton  Candy

Click here for my review!

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Keep caramel and cookie on

Caramel Malt Ice Cream with Shortbread Cookies, Fudge Flakes & Caramel Swirls

click here for my review!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!