Second Time, First Impressions (+preceding procedures)

Background and procedure

When I came to Singapore about 2½ years ago I immediately fell in love with the country (I declared it my “favorite city state”). There were so many places to explore and I was impressed by how everything was so well planned and thought through. I knew that I had to come back and spend more time here if I wanted to get a better understanding of the place. So when I found out that my university in Ulm had an exchange agreement with the National University of Singapore (NUS), the decision was quickly made. This was about a year ago. That’s when the work began…

By October 2017 I had to apply at my university’s International Office to get nominated for the only exchange position to NUS for the fall term of 2018. A few months later I received the first good news – it then took a few months more for the International Office overseas to approve the nomination. What then followed was a long list of deadlines, registrations to different systems and applications for on-campus housing, a scholarship, student visa… I focused on one item at the time an by and by, as the departure date came closer, more good news and confirmations arrived in my mailbox. I am very grateful for how well everything worked out: the last weeks before my flight was still exam period for me and I felt like I had lost track of all the things that needed to be done. But apparently, I had not missed anything, so when I arrived everything was set, prepared and worked smoothly!


The City

Leaving the airconditioned airport I was hit by a wall of hot and humid thick air. And I remembered: the faster you get used to always sweating a little while outside the quicker you feel comfortable here?.

Already on the way to campus the fond memories of this place returned: The roadsides were lush and green, and the infrastructure was well organized: Although we had to cross more than half of the country to get there and also pass the city center the journey took no more than 30 minutes!

I just registered at my student hall, dropped my bag off in my comfortable but unspectacular dorm room and headed out to explore the city. I had noticed yellow, sturdy-looking bicycles in many locations; now I realized they were part of an app-based bike-sharing system which I tried out immediately. For the next hours I cycled and walked around, without a clear destination in mind, until I ended up Marina Bay – the declared city center. I stumbled across cute houses, beautiful parks, food courts full of customers as well as food choices from all around Asia, elegant high-rises, busy shopping malls and temples where time seemed to be standing still.

Singapore River

I knew I had come to the right place; there was so much to explore, so much I wanted to know, to understand…

Gabriel in Singapore

Eventually I decided to take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit, metro) back to the campus (it had been quite a long and eventful day after all). Although it was my first time taking public transport in Singapore I did not even have to stop and think about what I had to do – it was all very intuitive: I got the EZ-Link card to enter the system – a quick glance at the signs around me and at a map of the different lines was all I needed, and a short while later I was back!

Singapore is always said to be exceptionally clean (that comes at a price, which I might get into some other time), this is especially true for the MRT system, also thanks to a strict enforcement of certain rules:

Forbidden on the MRT

That night I went to a hawker center – an open food court, with fixed tables and chairs in the center and small food stalls around this eating area, all offering a variety of different types of food and drinks. The number of choices is incredible (especially for non-vegetarians) and that at very affordable prices (many dishes only cost around 2€)! A very Singaporean thing as I came to understand: A similar set-up can also be found at university, for instance…


West Coast Park with Shipping Containers

HDB Building

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