The basics
Singapore: Before you leave

International student survival guide to Singapore

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Sunny Singapore is a country that is located on the southern tip of the Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia. With a unique history that has led Singapore to become what it is today, the city is full mouth-watering food and will certainly be an eye-opening experience for international students. Here, people of all races and religions co-exist harmoniously and even some of the traditions, cultures and slang have gone through so much blending and melding that they are particular to just Singapore.

We asked resident Singaporean, Khai, to share all you need to know about surviving your study abroad experience in this fascinating city-state

 

Student accommodation in Singapore

If you’re studying in a local university, chances are you’ll be provided a dorm room to stay in for your first year. Thereafter, typically students are expected to ballot for rooms with priority always given to the first year students. Most second year students source their own accommodation either through their universities or through a local housing agent. It’s common practice for students to pool their resources and rent a flat and split their cost evenly. As with any city, choosing accommodation that is close to either a train station or your school, would mean higher rental charges. It might be worth considering a place that is slightly further away from the train station and/or your school, since transport is quite affordable. This will help you cut costs in the long run.

 

Transportation

For such a small country, it is very well-connected. You can get virtually anywhere without a car. There are at least five different train lines that link different areas in the city and, with two more in the works, no place is inaccessible.  The longest running train lines are the east-west (green) and north-south (red) lines. Aside from trains, there also buses that take you from one end of Singapore to the other. Feeder buses serve the neighbourhood areas are normally loop services.  You can purchase the EZ-link card at any bus interchange or train known as MRT (mass rapid transit) stations. A deposit of ten dollars is required and will be returned to you once you return the card to the counter. If you’re a student, you can purchase a student card that will grant you discounted fares. The EZ link card is used on both buses and trains.

Read more about travelling around Singapore here: Getting around Singapore

 

Safety

Named the second safest city in the world by TripAdvisor in 2012, you don’t have to worry about getting robbed in the middle of the night or any unsavoury characters waiting around the corner to prey on unsuspecting victims. Boasting historically low crime rates, it’s no wonder this city sees thousands flocking each year.

 

Food

Singapore is arguably one of the more expensive countries in Southeast Asia, however there are still ways for you to enjoy the scrumptious local cuisine without breaking your bank. Singaporeans love their food and any time you’d like to try a particular dish, just ask any local who will undoubtedly list off at least three different places off the top of their heads for you to get it!  The country is chock-full of restaurants, eateries, coffeeshops cafes and kopitiams (local slang for neighbourhood coffeeshops). We highly recommend heading to the kopitiams for lunch or even dinner, or any time you’re hit with an attack of the munchies. Due to their location, rental costs are cheaper, and thus food from these shops are more affordable their restaurant counterparts. Furthermore, you can truly see how us locals live and interact with the shopkeepers and other Singaporeans. Due to our highly diverse community, Singaporeans won’t bat a single eyelash seeing a foreigner sitting next to them. A warm and welcoming bunch, whenever you’re lost, need directions or just help in general, don’t hesitate to stop any one of us. We’re more than happy to help you, and if we can’t, we’ll point you in the right direction.

While studying in Singapore, when money is tight, if the place that you’ve rented allows you to cook, bringing a packed lunch to school can help you cut costs. Purchase in bulk from the grocery store and share it with your roommate.

 

English is our lingua franca

English is spoken by practically everyone here, from the really young to the very old. Even those who can’t speak well, have enough knowledge for basic communication. Road signs, traffic signs and maps are in English. If you’re not a native English speaker and aren’t very confident of your English language skills, it would be prudent to get some practice at home before you depart.

 

Entertainment

Watching a movie has gotten pricier in the recent years, from just 4-5 SGD per ticket, it has more than doubled today, costing an average of 11-13 SGD. Meals at fast-food restaurants can cost anywhere from 5-12 SGD. Watching movies and eating out is nice, but doing it on a weekly basis can quickly deplete your savings. Don’t worry, there are many alternative activities that you can do that are wallet-friendly. Go cycling at the one of the beaches in the city. Bike rentals usually cost about 5 SGD for an hour and every subsequent hour is charged at a discounted rate. Similarly, you can rent roller skates from the shops at the beaches. Aside from beach activities, you walk the Southern Ridges; a 9km stretch of green and outdoor spaces that will bring you through Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park, Kent Ridge Park and West Coast Park. It’s a great way to explore the lush sceneries that Singapore has to offer.

 

We hope that this guide has been able to shed some light on what it’s like to be an international student in Singapore. If you’re interested in studying in Singapore, check out the courses available here or download a university’s prospectus now.  

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About Author

A fan of anime and all things Japanese, Khai has been writing professionally since 2010 and “unofficially” for much longer. In her free time, you will often find her baking, reading, travelling and doing everything else in between.