SBE abroad - Singapore November 19th, 2016

By Lennard Groenendijk.

What made you choose Singapore?
I chose to go to Singapore for a few different reasons. First of all, I had never been to Asia and although Singapore is usually described as the Dubai of Asia (which is true in my opinion) it is a great gateway to discover the region. Flights within Asia from Changi airport are very cheap, making it a perfect location if you want to travel during and after the semester. A return flight to Kuala Lumpur is around 30 euros and takes less than an hour and Bangkok and Bali are around 2,5 hours away. Secondly, because Singapore is considered the Dubai of Asia you are able to live like a king or queen though it certainly isn’t cheap.

If you are willing to spend money the living standards are very high. I currently live in a condominium including a pool and gym right in the centre a mere 10 minutes by foot to university. Lastly, Singapore is a melting pot of many different cultures in Asia so it has many different faces and the weather is always great!

What made you choose the first Semester?
Going on exchange in the first semester enables me to travel for 1,5 months because the first semester ends the first week of December. Though you may have even more time because it depends on the courses you take and their respective exam dates. Furthermore, the second Asian leg of the Formula 1 season with Grand Prix in Singapore, Malaysia and Japan is during the first semester and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to attend one or multiple races. Also, I find the second semester courses of the majors I’m interested more interesting. Lastly, I wanted to have time in Europe during the second semester so that I can attend recruitment events and master degree information events of different universities because I am not sure what I want to do after my bachelor in Maastricht. And of course you get some days off during the second semester!

Similarities and differences between SBE and your university?
The main difference between SBE and Singapore Management University is the teaching style. At SMU each course has one 3-hour class a week and classes are held as a lecture with around 40 to 50 students. The professors try to get a discussion going but in my opinion this not always works out and really depends on the professor and the course. It does not feel useful to attend the sessions most of the time even though attendance is mandatory. Furthermore, some courses don’t have books so you are just expected to study the slides and the lectures.

Most courses also have a group projects but the amount of work varies per course. Courses usually have a group project with a high workload and no exam, a group project with a medium workload and a lower workload exam or no group project and a high workload exam. This varies a lot per course so be sure to read all of the course descriptions and experiences from past exchange students on the IRO section should you choose to go to SMU. Secondly, SMU doesn’t have a semester made up of 2 periods of 8 weeks and an exam week but one whole semester of 16 weeks including mid-term exams, a recess week and final exams. This means you have the same courses throughout the semester and the courses progress very slowly. The semester starts in the beginning of August and ends during the first week of December. Furthermore, the courses are more focused on a single topic and not as broad compared to the courses at SBE. Moreover, because the curriculum structure is different some courses have classes with students from year 2, 3 and 4 meaning that some students may not have the same knowledge as you will once you start your exchange. This means some classes can become uninteresting and unchallenging because the professor changes the difficulty. All in all, I prefer the teaching at SBE over that at SMU and I am glad that I chose to do my bachelor at SBE.

How did you find the culture and adapting in a new environment?
The first thing you’ll notice once you exit the airport is the heat and humidity. You will sweat a lot until you adapt to the climate but this happens sooner or later. Luckily, all indoor and even some outdoor locations are air conditioned/cooled including the MRT (metro) and the university. Do bring something warm because the air-conditioning is usually put on high. I did not find it hard to adjust to the culture and it is interesting to get a look into the mentality and opinions of the locals. Food plays a big part in daily life in Singapore and 1 semester simply isn’t enough time to taste all the different dishes from all over Asia. Eating out is generally cheaper than cooking yourself thanks to the many hawker centres, these are permanent food festivals scattered around Singapore.

However, I did start to miss cooking, something I love doing, and western food after a month of rice so now I cook more often than before. At SMU I wasn’t welcomed as much by local students as I hoped and as usually happens in Maastricht. This is probably because SMU is less international than SBE and because classes take place with 40 to 50 people instead of small tutorial groups which makes it less personal. Though, once you get talking to the local students they are very nice and welcoming. The Office of Global Learning (OGL), the International Relations Office (IRO) of SMU, is very helpful and ensures a smooth start and integration with other exchange students and is always willing to help you out!

Would you recommend your destination to others? Why?
I would recommend Singapore to everyone! Although it might be too expensive for some, the ability to travel around Asia and food is amazing and the city and weather are great. Also, the view of Marina Bay at night never ceases to amaze me!