Travel report Singapore Management University Spring

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1 Travel report Singapore Management University Spring

2 1. Preparing for the exchange Singapore Management University sent the first with instructions in the end of August including guidelines about the online application and how to get officially accepted to the university. SMU also provided useful timetable how to proceed with all the paperwork during the fall. They reminded us many times about deadlines so you do not have to be worried about missing and failing the deadlines for paperwork. All in all, the instructions were very clear and detailed. After you get officially accepted to SMU you need to apply for the Student s Pass through Singapore s immigration authority. This process is pretty frustrating since both of us had a little bit problems when filling the online forms and applications. You need to choose the right browser and be careful that you fill all the boxes in a right way. I filled one application over five times before I got it right so you need to be patient with those online forms and follow carefully the guidelines. All the other exchange students seemed to have same problems and we discussed about the bugs in Facebook group and provided tips for each other. After completing all these registration forms you need to book a time for the ICA as soon as you know when you arrive in Singapore. SMU told us to go there right away when you arrive in Singapore but actually I did not manage to do it until the end of January. I realized that actually you do not even need the card for anything since you can tell for everybody that you are exchange student and have not received the card yet. So do not stress too much about getting that card. I recommend you also not to take your photo from Finland with you, and rather to take your photo at ICA since the office has very strict requirements for the photos. I would say most of the students had to take new photo at the immigration office in any case. Be also careful that you have all the needed documents with you at the office because you do not want to wait a long time for nothing. It took about four hours for most of the students to apply the pass at ICA. There were a small fee regarding the student pass and you have to pay a miscellaneous fee for about 200 SGD to university about using their facilities i.e. gym, pool and the clinic. 2. Arriving in Singapore Most of the exchange students arrived just after the Christmas and stayed at the Sleepy Kiwi s or the Pod. We discussed at the Facebook group with other exchange students

3 before arriving and we decided to choose a bit more expensive hostel the Pod. We truly recommend to stay at the Pod since it is a lot cleaner than Sleepy Kiwi s. Many people that stayed at the Sleepy Kiwi and complained their stay and wanted to change to the Pod. Sleepy Kiwi do not have toilets or showers inside, you need to use dirty outside facilities. These two hostels are pretty nearby each other so there is no problem to visit and meet people from both of them. We booked one week stay for us at the Pod and it was enough. We both had a chance to move our apartments already before the New Year's Eve. The university arranged a short orientation day including only information about formal issues regarding studying in Singapore. They also gave a short campus tour however it is pretty easy to navigate there. They did not arrange any special welcoming events where you can get to know better each other which was a bit disappointing. We both asked for local tutors also known as buddies and we met them few times. They were useful if we had some questions related anything about Singapore and studying. 3. Exchange studies A little bit surprisingly, exchange students had required to be in Singapore right after Christmas, on 26th of December. Applying visa takes a day and the application is better to be done before the school starts. The orientation day for spring semester was 29th of December, so a day before New Year's Eve. However, not all of the exchange students had arrived to Singapore. Even though, the orientation period is marked compulsory, skipping it is not very serious. Classes and studies started on the first week of January and lasted until the end of April. Total we had 13 weeks of classes and two weeks of exams. In the middle of semester we had recess week. The recess week was right after Chinese New Year. Western New Year is not a big celebration in Singapore but Chinese New Year is with many holidays. Thus, our recess week was total one and half week. Many students took advantage of this long holiday and travelled total more than two weeks. Our other holiday was a week between classes and exam weeks. It was a study break. Also during study break many exchange student travelled. Even though, the last exams was in the end of April, but we planned our exams well so our summer holiday started as early as 14th of April.

4 The course selection in SMU is very broad but the courses offered to exchange students are limited. However, there are still countless amount of courses in every program. The course selection is broader than in Aalto University. Because we studied in undergraduate program, so also the courses we took, were undergraduate courses. It is possible but not compulsory to follow certain program. We selected communication and management courses. Before the beginning of semester, in early December, the course selection started as a bidding rounds via BOSS system. First, the selection felt messy and difficult. Every student gets electronic S100$ which is not usable in real life. This amount is used for bidding courses so in general the courses are bought by the money. Between four courses you have to choose how much money you put on every course. The minimum amount is S10$. Both of us got all our four courses on the first bidding round. Luckily, there is total four rounds where you can still try to get all of your four courses or even change already got ones. The last two rounds are in January when the classes has already started and during these rounds exchange students can try to get courses which are not originally offered them. All the courses, except language courses, are offered in English. All the professors spoke very good English and there was no difficulties for understanding. However, local students sometimes spoke so strong Singlish, combination of English and couple Asian language. It made difficult to follow conversation in class. 4. Our courses ACM203: Introduction to Museum Management (undergraduate, 1 ECTS) This course was not originally offered to exchange students. However, during the last two bidding rounds also exchange students were allowed to select the course. The course was part of arts and culture management program. It introduced us how to manage a museum and other non-profit organizations. The essential part of lectures were discussion. During the lectures we spoke a lot about museums, arts and cultures. Even though, the professor was very funny and interesting person, the lectures were not easy to follow because she spoke partly Chinese. During the classes we also visited in many museums around Singapore. It was interesting to travel around Singapore and see museums. We also

5 visited in the National Museum Of Singapore. The course was ranked the easiest course in SMU and also the easiest course I have took. Thus, there was no exam. Our grades became of class participation and attendance and individual and team projects. The individual project was a review of some exhibition held in one museum in Singapore. In the team project we created a magazine and a pilot cover. Because the course was not demanding at all, it allowed us to travel and focus on other things during the exchange. However, it wasn t very interesting and we learned nothing. So, if you want to really learn something, this is not a course to select. COMM360: Investor Relations (undergraduate, 1 ECTS) Investor relations course focused on essentials of the effective investor relations department. The course introduced communication between investor relations department and stakeholders, but also between IR department and other departments inside a company. Because big part of investor relations are finance and accounting, the course also focused on, for example, IPO and financial statement. The course also introduced us Singaporean financial regulation which was sometimes difficult to follow because we didn t have earlier information about those regulations. However, most of the topics were familiar from Finland and the courses we had done in Aalto before. The course wasn t very demanding because there was no final exam. In the middle of the course, we had a quizzes which was based on lecture slides and lectures. In addition, we had an individual project and a team project. An individual project was an evaluation of an investor relations strategy of a financial company. The project was the most demanding individual project we had since it was a 10 page long report and was an essential part of our grading. The team project was a financial analysis of a company. The course wasn t very demanding, even though the project were little bit time-consuming. The professor was a Singaporean investor relations specialists and he taught the topics well. COMM101: Management Communication (undergraduate, 1 ECTS) This course was one of my favourite ones since it is very different compared to courses back home. The professor told at the first lecture that his aim is to get every student to laugh and cry during the semester, and yes it happened. The course was very interactive and we made many communication rehearsals during the lectures. At the beginning I was a bit scared when I had to stand by myself in front of class and do communication practises when all the others are following and grading you. At the end it was a very good

6 way to learn about your mistakes and become a great speaker. We had also a lot of fun at the lectures when doing those rehearsal.the course included few individual and few group papers but no any exams. In those papers you had to analyze the audience and make your business message as clear as possible. Those assignments were pretty easy. Also we had to make elevator speech which was really good way to learn to convince other people. MGMT003: Business, Government and Society (undergraduate, 1 ECTS) Business, government and society course was part of SMU students bachelor year studies. Fortunately, the inexperience of the students could sometimes be noticed. The course covered the relationship between business, government and society, mostly, in Singapore but also worldwide. It also introduced the responsibilities of a company in a view of stakeholders. The meaning of the course was to introduce, how a company can be both financially successful and valuable to society at the same time. The lectures were based on discussion. As there were only two exchange students, so the professor encourage us to be part of a discussion by asking our opinions and how things are in our home countries. The grading was based on individual and team project and final exam. The individual project was only a three page long evaluation of corporate social responsibility in two industries. The team project was a evaluation of some social topic, for example corruption or social enterprise. The final exam was the most difficult exam since the it covered both lecture slides and 500 pages long course book. However, the course was very interesting and it thought the most of Singapore and its culture. MGMT102: Strategy (undergraduate, 1 ECTS) This course was very popular among exchange students and almost everybody took the course. Since it was extremely popular, there were many professors. Fortunately, there were a lot of variation between the professors: some groups were more demanding and difficult than the others. The course taught us the importance of strategy and how to analyse, formulate and implement a strategy to a company. The topics focused on external and internal analysis, business and corporate level strategies and competitive forces and dynamics. The most important part of the teaching was lectures and thus, the professors were very strict that students were participating and listening. Depending of the professor, there might or might not be an individual project. However, all of the groups had a team project. It was a strategy analysis of some company. Also all of the classes had midterm

7 and final exam and, probably, quizzes. The final exam in some groups was only based on lecture slides but some groups had to also read a course book. Even though, the course was the most demanding, it was the most interesting. Every business students should study strategy once. The course taught us a lot of the importance of a strategy. MGMT104: Entrepreneurial Management (undergraduate, 1 ECTS) In my opinion this course was the most boring one and I do not think I learnt anything new. Thus, it was also the easiest one. The topics were related how you can think and act entrepreneurially in a big corporation and make innovations. Since in Asia family business is very familiar form of business we discussed a lot about innovative family companies. We went through few cases which I found the most interesting. You have to buy a course material where you can find all those cases. You need to write few individual papers related to those cases and discuss at the class about them. We also made a long report with our four member group based on interview with entrepreneurial leader. We had few presentations about the topic and got easily good grades. The course did not include any final exam. 5. Accommodation SMU offers housing for exchange at place called Evans Hostel. However, we have heard that it is not a good option for accommodation. It is located pretty far away from the University and is not the most modern one. If you are looking for budget housing I think this might be the best option since all the other apartments are very expensive. Both of us and also all the other exchange students from Aalto decided to stay at brand new apartment called Sophia Residence. We visited many apartments but found this apartment the best one because most of the exchange students stayed there, it was located just two minutes from the University and the facilities were the best. All the exchange students shared apartment either with 5 or 7 other people and the price is similar depending with how many people you live with. We paid everyone 1000 SGD per month and all of us shared a room. If you would like to have own room you need to pay double price which is then 2000 SGD. Because the apartment was brand new and located just in the central, the price was a bit more expensive compared if you choose to live further away from the central. We can truly recommend Sophia residence for everyone. It was also a good opportunity to get to know other exchange students when living in the same residence.

8 Because the university did not arrange too much activities for us we found out that living in the same residence with others was very important to get to know new people. We had BBQ- nights with other exchange students at our rooftop where also two nice jacuzzis were located. Both of us found our roommates for Facebook group and we recommend you to be active in Facebook so the others can find you. People posted a lot of pictures about apartments and what kind of roommates they are looking for so there are a lot of opportunities for different kind of accommodation. We did not have to contact any agents since our roommates done it before us. 6. Good to know We did not get many local friends because we did not take part in any local clubs. If you have enough time it would be a good idea to join for example local sport club to get local friends as well. We spent the most of our free time only with other exchange students. The weather in Singapore is pretty hot, as everyone knows, so there is no need for warm clothes. For boys it is good to know that you can t enter some clubs if you do not have long sleeve trousers and nice shoes. For girls it is not allowed to enter some clubs and fine restaurants with sandals so take some ballerinas or other shoes with you where they cannot see your toes. In Singapore we normally walked everywhere or took a taxi if we were many people together. Taxis are pretty cheap compared to Finland. Uber is also working pretty well in Singapore. Interesting thing is that eating out is less expensive than doing groceries. This is why we ended up to eat out pretty often and you can get a good meal from food court with less than 4 dollars. Alcohol is very expensive for example in a bar you can have a beer with 13 dollars. We bought alcohol from tax frees when we were travelling around Asia. Overall, be prepared that you are going to spend a huge amount of money in Singapore. 7. Final Comments Singapore is a great place to go to exchange for everybody who wants to enjoy a hot weather, great university and travelling around in Southeast Asia. Those were the reasons, why we chose Singapore as our exchange country. Even though, SMU in not the best university in Singapore, it is still highly evaluated and very appreciated university. The campus is also located in the very central which made it easy to go there. However, there

9 was one big minus in SMU. The student activity is focused on different clubs. There is not a student organization like KY. Thus, there was no big student union parties like kuntis or sitsit. All the events were mostly organized by exchange students in our common residences. This is why, we only got to know to the exchange students who lived in the same residence as us and the students who lived in other placed stayed quite unfamiliar. All the exchange students in our residence lived in apartments with many other people and even shared their room. Sharing a room with a people you didn t know before and who came from different country was an experience. It taught us how to get along with different people and handle demanding situation by making compromises. Because we didn t live with other Finns so we only spoke English with our roommates. We encourage everybody to take a risk and living with people you didn t know before. It will teach so much from different cultures and you can wider your knowing of the world. It will also ensure that you will get friends from other countries as well.

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