I’ve heard several times before embarking on exchange that Singapore is like another Toronto, just an Asian version. After spending six weeks here I must say that the similarities are mostly superficial. Yes, there is heavy emphasis on multiculturalism in both places, the populations are quite diverse and both are economic centres. Yet, this level of analysis does not capture the embedded differences by each place created through the type of developmental policies pursued. The engineering of Singapore as we know it today has come about through collective adaptation of a series of goals for industrialization and order. This is still reflected today in the zero tolerance of petty crimes unlike; eating in the subway for one is carries a maximum charge of $500 in fines. This is enforced. I witnessed an unlucky women getting $80 for drinking in the station! Before I get sidetracked I want to share some thought on the curricula in NUS and then close of by giving you a snapshot of everyday experiences. My wonderful friend and NUS classmate, Michelle, helped me piece together some generalization, that might be helpful if not just plain entertaining to read if you are considering Singapore as an exchange destination.
Before embarking on the exchange I considered the location, cost and courses offered by different institutions, but there was one critical thing that I missed to account for – teaching styles. Do not assume that that every institution is the same! The philosophy of teaching at U of T is emphasized on feedback and constructive critique by instructors/TAs. However at NUS Professors/TAs are not required by policy to give you feedback on your assignments and papers. I did receive my final marks three weeks after the exam, and received As, but had absolutely no idea of my standing in the course as NO assignment was marked by the instructors let alone handed back until after the exam! Maybe for some science course based on memorization this teaching approach is adequate, but to spend a whole year in reasoning based courses and not receive feedback.. how is one supposed to know what to work on? Well, looking back knowing what I know now I would still have gone to Singapore for the summer. It’s been wonderfully enriching and eye-opening in many ways. Would I spend a whole year – no. For students going abroad this is a topic that I think is overlooked and yet is so crucial for the academic experience abroad.
It’s been a pleasure to write this blog as it provided a gateway to connect with others and reflect on my experiences. Thanks to everyone who have been reading along, and if you are a student looking to go on an exchange, I am excited for all there is in store for you.
To new beginnings!