Exchange to the National University of Singapore

Edem Kwesi Dei describes his experience of study at NUS.

In as much as studying at Birmingham will have been educational and fun, the opportunity to live in Singapore and travel across South East Asia was very different and I believe I developed a range of useful skills and invaluable experiences over the year. I never really fully understood what I was signing up for, however, that in itself is probably the reason I learnt a lot and had so much fun. Turn up, be open and friendly, work hard and you will be taken on an adventure of a lifetime.

I love basketball and what was simply supposed to have been a game of 3-on-3 with fellow exchangers led to a trip to Phuket, Thailand within 5 days of arriving in Singapore. A random trip which involved chartering a boat, doing 100kmph on a moped on the highways, swimming in waterfalls, and eating good food in the street markets was most definitely a great way to break the ice and build friendships.

Returning to Singapore for classes, the hard work began – design an offshore wind turbine support structure: 3 presentations, 1 report and a module is complete in 5 weeks. A very challenging but rewarding experience and here I was introduced the work ethic of the Singaporeans (they work extremely hard so if you are off to NUS on exchange, better bring your A game). You have the support you need to excel though, in my case industry professionals from Shell and J Ray McDermott available for consultations every morning, so if you do work hard and push yourself, the excellent results are sure to follow. The NUS grade point average (GPA) system allows an individual to essentially build their own degree programme, studying the minimum or as many modules as you please and this flexibility does make it relatively easy for a student to align their personal objectives with meeting the requirements of their chosen degree programme.

Singapore is a very diverse city with 3 main races (Chinese, Malays & Indian) and as such, it is a very good location to learn about the various cultures. From enjoying a nice curry dish in little India to a good old shawarma at Arab street, you will most definitely not get stuck for choice of a nice meal. In as much as Singapore may be relatively modern and ‘young’ in terms of history and culture, you can still get a buzz of life around the city when the various festivals are being celebrated so I will most definitely recommend getting involved as much as possible.

Studying abroad afforded me the opportunity to visit Vietnam and see first hand, the impact of the Vietnam War from 1955 to 1975 but it also allowed me to try kite surfing. 

In Cambodia I was brought face to face with harrowing tales of the Pol Pot regime but I also had the chance to visit one of the most beautiful and peaceful locations I have ever visited in Ankor Wat.

In Macau, I jumped off a 233m building and the view was simply breath-taking. I also had the chance to eat some of the best food I have ever had. A quick ferry ride from Macau brought me to Hong Kong, an amazing city if you are interested in Civil Engineering or Architecture. Seeing the range of completed civil engineering projects in iconic bridges and integrated infrastructure projects reminded of why I wanted to be a civil engineer.

My exchange experience was characterised by a wide range of contrasts all of which I believe have helped with my personal and professional development and I do feel very blessed by the experience. I guess, if you are considering a year abroad and reading this profile, you are looking for a reason why you should or shouldn’t. I honestly believe the biggest challenge associated with studying abroad is organisation and time management. There will always be something worth getting involved in and it will be down to you as an individual to prioritise and get your work done but also to have some fun and try new things.

Money may also be an issue, however, if you do your research properly, there is a wide range of financial aid packages available to students and it may even work out being cheaper to study abroad than to study in the UK if you are lucky. A Universitas 21 scholarship and TDH Andrews scholarship helped reduce the financial burden in my case, however, the Singapore government does also offer scholarships to international students looking to study on exchange at NUS.

The list of reasons to go abroad is endless, but in my case, I met some of the most amazing and fun loving people I know, I am glad I can call them friends and I am glad they live all over the world. They taught me a lot about myself and the experiences I have shared with them will forever remain with me. I also had the chance to experience new cultures and improve my understanding of the world, so go, do work hard during the semester but also make good use of breaks. Step out, learn and have fun because university is not simply about a degree, but getting an education.