My name is Anja Mandic and I am an international student from Serbia. I’m a junior, studying economics and finance at the University of Richmond. However, this semester I decided to go abroad and spend 4 months living and studying at Singapore Management University. One of the most common questions I get here is ‘How did you decide to come so far to Singapore?’ And the answer is pretty simple: I saw this program as a unique opportunity to live in Asia, learn more about different cultures and travel to other Asian countries. In this blog, I’m going to talk about my first couple weeks in Singapore and provide you some information about SMU Campus, courses, and the registration process.
Singapore is a very small nation located in Southeast Asia between the countries of Malaysia and Indonesia. In Singapore you will find an array of cultures. Singaporeans do speak English and often times other languages such as Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. The weather in Singapore is both hot and humid and this is the case all year round. The temperatures and humidity levels are quite consistent throughout the day so it does not get cooler in the evening. The public transportation is fantastic! Trains and buses operate very efficiently and follow scheduled times.
Singapore has a well-known reputation of being very safe, extremely clean, sustainable and a technological hub. Singapore is an ideal location to travel from as it is close to other nations and flights tend to be cheaper than residing in other countries! Therefore, you can expect a lot of blogs from other countries I’m planning to travel to during this semester.
SINGAPORE MANAGEMENT UNIVERSITY (SMU)
SMU is conveniently located in downtown Singapore. It is surrounded by museums, restaurants, cafes and malls. It is a relatively new university, having only been established in the year 2000. It is known for being very interactive, collaborative, and project-based in a seminar-style setting with small class sizes. The student life at SMU is lively, having over 160 student groups ranging from sports activities, to the arts and cultural groups. They are very informative with what goes on within the school in terms of extracurricular activities via school email and in-person tabling. The campus itself is very different from UR, starting from the fact that it’s located in the city center and it doesn’t have living residences. Still, the buildings are very beautiful and you’ll enjoy them even on the short walks between classes.
One thing I was very concerned about before applying for SMU was housing. SMU does not offer residences or housing arrangements to exchange students so you will have to figure out your living situation on your own. Thankfully, SMU forms a Facebook group with all incoming exchange students by October. Here, people typically post in search of finding more roommates to share a flat with and potential living spaces. Most people work with an agent (that being said, you’ll have to pay a one-time agent fee that isn’t expensive) that can be found online.
Usually your living situation will include sharing a space with roommates as accommodations can be pricey for one person. The majority of people live in an apartment with a total of 6 people, like I do too. Most apartments also offer weekly cleaning services, a pool, gym, Internet, BBQ, and air conditioning. Apartment situations like this can range anywhere from S$700-1300.
COURSES AND REGISTRATION PROCESS
SMU follows a ‘pedagogical learning style’ with small classroom sizes, and an emphasis on class discussions and participation. Two of my courses are 3-hour blocks once a week and the other two are 1.5-hour blocks twice a week. I would say the coursework is similar to what is expected at the University of Richmond, except they may have a more Asian-centric focus, which I think is beneficial. All my classes have a participation component and all students are expected to have their name tags up. The school structure in terms of classes, midterms, and finals are spread out similarly to UR, so it’s easy to plan travel around that especially because you know when your finals are already.
Food in Singapore is relatively cheap as there are food courts called hawker centers with a huge variety of cuisines where you can get a meal as cheap as S$3. Additionally, grocery shopping in Singapore is much more expensive than in the US as most perishable goods such as fruits and vegetables are imported from other countries as Singapore doesn’t have a lot of land to grow crops.
So far I can say that living in Singapore is one of the greatest experiences of all time! Being exposed to new people from all over the world gives me a chance to expand my horizons, learn more about cultures and traditions, and make new friends who are coming from many different countries.