Exchange report - Student at KI
View of the business district from Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Home university: National University of Singapore
Study programme: Biomedicine
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Spring semester 2016/2017
Name: Eveline Shevin
Email address:


I have always been extremely fascinated and curious about unique and exotic places in the world, and what better way to explore them by choosing to go on exchange to Singapore, a little island below Malaysia well known for its special laws and fantastic food. It was the best experience I have had in my life so far!

I started the application process for exchange studies by filling out a nomination form in February. The international coordinator notified us when this form opened. Preparations can be done even before this by deciding where you want to go, something I did because I was just too excited!
After I submitted the form, I tried to contain my excitement for the next 4-5 weeks. I was nominated to the National University of Singapore and I was just so happy.
After this I applied to the university. The NUS application deadline was in September the same year so there is no need to rush or worry about this. First things first is to look for a lab that can host you during your exchange period. Also, NUS doesn't have any specific requirements for admission, you just need to make sure that you have passed all your courses to be eligible for exchange at KI.

It is important that you start looking for a lab early for your research project. NUS has different labs that work on many projects, however I found it quite difficult to find what I was looking for. The best advice I can give you is to get in contact with previous exchange students from KI that specifically talk about a good lab they ended up in. I did this and got in contact with a Principal Investigator at the Translational Laboratory in Genetic Medicine, which collaborates with NUS and A*star (Agency for Science Technology and Research). Once I got a reply from the PI we set up a Skype interview and he started preparing my project. This was really nice because it gave me a chance to talk about what I was particularly interested in.
In order to be accepted by the department of Biological Science at NUS my PI had to write my project plan pretty early, this was because they needed proof that my project was within Life Science so that they could host me. My supervisor at KI also had to send in an official letter to NUS stating where I would be doing my project and the time period. The application to NUS was simple and smooth, all the instructions were sent out to me while I was applying. The letter of acceptance came sometime in November which was a bit late especially because the plane tickets were getting expensive. 

The next step was to apply for the student visa (also known as student pass). NUS was very efficient and helpful with this. The only thing you need to do is to fill in your personal data and answer a few questions, mainly to prove that you don't have any criminal history or plans on performing any criminal acts. They sent continuous information about the status of my application. I submitted my application via the ICA website (immigration and checkpoints authority) and it took me about 3 weeks to receive the papers. Remember to keep all your receipts of your payments because you will need to show them at the university. You will also receive a soft copy of some rules from the Singaporean government that you have to read and sign, also to prove that you will respect and follow the rules accordingly. But don't let this scare you, as long as you don't get into serious trouble, you will be fine!

The last thing to do before departure is to get your vaccinations and applying for CSN. CSN takes awhile, so apply as soon as you can. For the vaccination, you will need to get in contact with Cityakuten Vaccin och Resemedicin (or any other clinic which is convenient for you) and they will inform you about which ones to get.

Arrival and registration

On a cold and dark winter evening we left Stockholm to embark on our new adventure in hot and humid Singapore. We arrived at Changi Airport on January 3rd in the evening, tried our best to sleep off the jet lag and headed to orientation the following day on campus. If you can, I would recommend arriving in time for this because it was a great way to meet other exchange students already on the first day. Regardless, you must be present on the registration day, which was in my case on January 6th. In between these dates there will be a campus tour, which you should join too!

The semester starts one week earlier at NUS which meant that we had to write the final exam in Molecular Medicine at NUS. This was pretty inconvenient because a lot of things needed to be done during the first week there, such as registration, student pass collection and getting to the lab. However, worst case scenario there will be more opportunities to write the exam later, so it will be fine.

NUS offered a lot of activities and lectures for the incoming students. They threw a welcoming party for everyone, with food, drinks and performances. I also had time to attend a lecture on Singapore, organized by the Peer Advising group (like KI's Global Friends).
If you live on campus, you can also attend fun outings such as hiking and events such as welcoming parties, night markets and bowling, etc. This is a perfect way to meet your fellow hostel mates!

On January 9, I met my PI in the lab and he gave me a short introduction of my project and I also met with my supervisor, a PhD student from Romania. She was incredibly friendly, sweet and funny which made me feel really welcomed in the lab and comfortable doing my project with her.

As for the university, you will need to pick up your student card, which you will receive information about before you arrive. I had to take a course besides my bachelor thesis that started the same week.
At the tree top walk, MacRitchie Reservoir


It is well known that Singapore is a very expensive country to live in, yes, there is no denying it! However, you CAN survive on the CSN loan which is about 12000 SEK per month (including "merkostnadslån"), especially if you live on campus. I payed about 14 000 SEK for the whole semester for my student room and it was perfect for me. The food is very cheap in and around the campus area (15-25 SEK/meal), however, as you go towards the city it gets more expensive. The local food in the hawker centers was extremely cheap and very delicious! Cheap water can be found everywhere if you don't fancy the warm tap water on campus. They also had water tanks with hot, cold and warm water everywhere around campus and in the hostels, where I filled my bottle several times a day. I know I sound like a mother, but it is extremely important to stay hydrated in Singapore because of the hot weather all year around.

There are a few housing fees you will have to pay during the semester in addition to this, but it is nothing to worry about. Living on campus was great for me since I saved a lot of money and time for traveling and doing things in Singapore. I received one scholarship in addition to the KI grant that you can apply for. If you get a room on campus, remember to double check that you get access to your room when you arrive. In my case this was very convenient since I could go straight to my dorm after we landed.

Transportation is pretty cheap in Singapore, the subway (MRT) card costs around 12 SGD (~70 SEK) and it works exactly like the Swedish "reskassa". However, it withdraws money according to the distance you travel. Unfortunately exchange students were not eligible to buy a concession card (equivalent of a Swedish "periodbiljett"). 
You can also get around by bus with the same card. Taxis are not too expensive but it depends on the companies and the time of day. I would recommend using the "Uber" app in Singapore and when you are out traveling. 
Stay away from the taxis in Malaysia because they are known for driving around for hours before taking their passengers to their destinations, just to make them pay more than necessary. There it is more convenient to use Uber.
Keep in mind that even though Singapore is a very small country, it can take long to travel and walk between places, thus I suggest you to plan your time and consider your options, to save both money and time. You can download the app "Citymapper" on your smartphone to plan your trip wisely. It is an excellent app that shows you alternatives for fast, cheap and heat safe routes.

My biggest expenses were the vaccinations and the flights. I payed a little over 3 000 SEK in total at Cityakuten, though KI covered some of the costs. I booked my flights with Finnair (which I can highly recommend, incredibly comfortable journeys!) and the cost came down to a total of about 10 500 SEK for a round trip. You can get cheap flights through Emirates and Qatar airlines, however Finnair was the best option for me since they have the shortest flight time.

In Singapore they always pay by cash, unless you are in a fancy restaurant or shopping center. Always, always carry some cash with you, especially if you are going out for a day trip. There are ATMs in every MRT station, however make sure that they don't charge you for withdrawals. I got an ICA banken student card which I highly recommend, since it is free for students and they don't charge when you withdraw money abroad.

Finally, it is very tempting to travel a lot while in Asia, since it is close to many exotic cultural places. I went to Bali, Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur and Lankawi in Malaysia. It was amazing and I decided to spend some more money on those trips rather than traveling more constantly. Getting to Malaysia is cheaper by bus rather than plane and I strongly suggest booking any flights with AirAsia (a great budget airline) and Garuda Indonesia (which is a bit pricey but still very good)
It is advisable to be careful in Southeast Asia since there are a lot of thieves. My handbag got snatched by a guy on a scooter in Kuala Lumpur, where I had my student pass, my bank cards and ID cards. Fortunately nothing happened to me and I was with someone, but it is important to keep your belongings safe and maybe carry your backpack in front of you. Leave all your precious belongings in the safe in the hotel room instead of taking them with you.

Also, remember to get your insurance before leaving. The KI insurance from Kammarkollegiet covers you throughout your whole exchange period. I got an eye infection and had to visit several doctors, thus having an insurance was comforting. It is very expensive to visit the hospital in Singapore.
Chili crab, a traditional Singaporean dish, is a must try (spoiler alert, it's delicious!)


NUS arranged for the students to apply for accomodation on campus in the application form. I didn't really think of living off campus since we were only two students going there and I wanted the experience. I can tell you it was the best choice I made. You will enter your first, second and third choice for housing. My advice is to go for residences and not halls, because you get more privacy and comfort having your own room. Toilets, showers and kitchens were shared.

I stayed in Prince George's Park residences (PGPR) right next to the university hospital, Kent Ridge MRT station, and five minutes away from class. They had two food courts, a gym and a basketball court. They also had 24 hours campus security. This was extremely convenient and practical for me, it was also two stations away from my lab. Spot on! 
They had three room types: type A (with AC, private bathroom and sink), B (without AC and bathroom but with a sink) and type C (no AC, bathroom or sink). I was lucky to get type B. The size of the room was perfect with lots of storage options; one big closet, a bed and a desk with shelves. I had several windows too. The bed was hard and it was quite difficult to sleep in it in the beginning. However, I did get used to it but when I traveled and stayed in hotels it was very rewarding to have a soft and comfortable bed! Regarding the AC, I did prefer not to have an AC in my room since it is unhealthy and bad for the environment, so this wasn't a problem for me. Although I did have to get used to the humidity.

There is also University Town and Ridge View residential colleges, which were also convenient, however PGPR was quiet and relaxing with a nice garden so that was good for me. I went to University Town every now and then to study or just hang out. The best part about living on campus is that you will meet a lot of locals and they are all extremely kind and helpful. As I mentioned, they also host many activities throughout the semester so you will never be bored! You can download the app "Residential Life" or go on their website NUSync ( to sign up for the activities and events that they post there.

One last important thing to remember before leaving for your new home is that, wherever you are staying, to make sure to bring your own pillows and perhaps a blanket (I only used my sheet as a blanket since it was too hot for a real blanket) because the hostels don't provide you with this.

Studies in general

Besides my 22.5 ECTS bachelor thesis I took the module Food and Health at the Faculty of Science, which was level 1000 (first year). The reason why I chose a simple module was because I had to combine my degree project with this module to make up for all the credits, in order to obtain my student visa. We had a couple of problems sorting this out and actually getting accepted to the exchange program. It is a very long and complicated story but basically we had to do our thesis as a final year project (which is a one year project they have in Singapore) but we had to do the project in 4.5 months. Which is crazy! And in addition to that, the deadline for the NUS submission was 1 month before the KI submission which meant that I had to send in an unfinished version of my written report and present it to 3 examiners, that my PI picked out. The downside was that I didn't get much time in the lab to analyze my results further and learn more techniques. However, do remember that NUS will not grade you or affect your final grade in any way. It is just for their own record. Thus, I would advice you to not stress too much about this. I haven't had much experience of working in a lab at KI but I don't think it's very different. Every week we had lab meetings for project updates and and journal club, where one of us would present an article. I presented my project at one of the meetings in the end of my internship, to prepare for my examination.

I was in the lab Monday through Friday and attended one lecture every Thursday morning. In the beginning it was doable but I realized as I got closer to my thesis deadline and with the final exam coming up, I was quite stressed.Thus, if you have to take a module on the side, make sure it is an easy one with as few assignments as possible. I had one project and an essay to write apart from the exam, which was enough for me.

Working in the lab was a fantastic experience, I got the chance to learn some new techniques with the help of my wonderful supervisor. She was amazing and always there for me whenever I was in doubt. The lab was run by a Canadian PI who was great, he had interesting projects going on and he was incredibly friendly. He was always available if I needed help, which is how a PI should be! I believe that the combination of people from all over the world who worked in the lab and the good environment made my experience unforgettable. We had a lot of fun together and even if the researchers were older than me and had more experience, I still felt welcomed and part of the family. I had heard a lot of good things about the lab and the people there from a previous intern, which helped me calm my nerves before arriving! on the last day of my internship my lab colleagues took me out for lunch and it was pretty emotional to leave them since I had such a great time with them.
Attending a lecture in Biopolis, A*star, where my awesome lab was

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 6 at KI
I took the NUS module Food and Health, 4 MCs, which corresponded to the 7.5 ECTS elective course at KI. I did not take any other modules. This module suited me since the class was only scheduled on Thursdays and lasted at most 1.5 hours, thus it allowed me to go straight to the lab in the afternoon. The module consisted of lectures, online surveys, a project and a nutrition essay. It was a very basic module and easy to follow, however if you are looking for a challenge I would not suggest it. 

The professors were okay, we had three different lecturers, one was excellent and the rest did not seem interested in their topic which was a pity. However, the lectures were uploaded on IVLE (like PingPong) and I could also access recorded lectures from some of the topics. After all, it was at level 1000 and actually far too basic for a biomedical student. Although, as I mentioned, it can be quite relaxing to take an easy module since the bachelor thesis requires a lot of work and attention.

Language and Culture

Singapore used to be a British colony, thus the official language spoken there is English. However, their English is influenced by Malay, Chinese and Singlish (Singaporean English) which contains a lot of slang. This makes it a bit harder to understand them, especially in the beginning when you're not used to it. I found it difficult to follow fast speaking people, but the Singaporeans themselves understand that Western people aren't used to their dialect. They also make fun of their language. So don't worry! After a few weeks or even days, you will start picking up their language. Sometimes when I ordered food at the Chinese stall they wouldn't understand English so then I had to point and use my body language. I didn't have a problem speaking English at all.

During my stay I met a lot of international students and professionals, and since I knew a few people in Singapore before I even went there, it made life there a lot easier. Singapore is very international, which makes it easy to talk to people because they are from all corners of the world. I even picked up some Singlish slang words such as "siao", "lah" and "shiok" which are all pretty funny when you learn their meanings. You will often hear Singaporeans use certain words and expressions which is so confusing!

With any new country, you will experience a culture shock. In Singapore I had to adjust to the fast pace, both in their talking and how they live. The first thing that happened to me and my friends was that the bus just passed the stop we were at, little did we know you had to give the driver a sign for them to stop. And I had to learn that in Singapore you say "hand phone" instead of "cell phone" and "can lah" instead of "yes". These were just simple changes but they do make a difference when you have to adjust to them.


Leisure time and social activities

As previously mentioned, the university and campus hosted many activities throughout the semester. They invited us to many events and activities where I got the chance to meet many people from different parts of the world. When I arrived in Singapore I remember being very stressed that I wouldn't have time to see the city and travel, but it turned out to be the opposite. I got to meet many locals who showed me around and had me try local foods and drinks. This was amazing! I also met some people who were adventurous and active like me, we went out for runs, badminton and hikes. The residences had their own apps you could download to join activities such as yoga, photography, painting and day trips. I even went for a Chinese tea appreciation workshop where I learned how to drink tea like the Chinese! 

On campus, there is a gym and a little infinity pool (much like the one on top of Marina Bay Sands hotel) which is free for all NUS students. All you need to do is bring your towel (well, and your bathing suit, obviously) and your student card, to get in to the gym and access the pool. You can also access computer rooms, there is one for the PC lovers and Mac lovers respectively (here is where you make your ultimate choice!) In addition to this, you will find printers and scanners as well as the student shops. I did all my grocery shopping at Fairprice and Cold Storage, which are both really good stores. If you are opting for the more healthy stuff, I would recommend doing some extra research because they do exist too.

The city itself is quite different from the student life. I got the feeling that it was very busy and sometimes quite artificial. In between all the tall skyscrapers and behind the business people in fancy suits, there are hard working locals who do not really "fit in" anymore. This was my first time traveling to Asia and the life there is just very different from what I am used to. Singapore has a lot to offer and their culture is very rich. If you manage to find it. I like to see the "real country" so I looked up some of the hidden gems of Singapore and took my friends to see them. I would recommend the website I used for this,, where local Singaporeans post all kinds of things to do and see. For instance, we managed to find the last kampong (village) in Singapore where they still had electrical wires along the roads! Another place we visited was the Tuas TV world (today known as Mediacorp) which looks like Singapore in the 1950's. 

For day trips, I would recommend going to the Southern islands and Pulau Ubin. The Southern islands include Sentosa (an artificial island with a lot of tourists but with interesting military history), St John's (used to be a quarantine station for cholera cases in the late 19th century) and Lazarus island. These islands can be accessed by boat and Sentosa is very close so you can take the train, cable car or even walk there. Pulau Ubin is an island off Eastern Singapore also known as the last village with beautiful nature for the photography lovers. We rented bikes and cycled around the island and it was amazing.
Pulau Ubin day trip with new friends


Going to Singapore was the best decision I have ever made. I got to experience so many new things that I will carry with me in my future career. I have improved my skills in the lab and learned how to professionally analyze research data. Being in the lab, working and studying full time, in a new country that I never thought I would visit, has taught me lessons I can never learn in school. 

I have made new friends from places I never thought of visiting until now. My knowledge about the world, struggles and successes in life, has grown and the best way for us humans to become better people is to try to connect and understand each other on a deeper level. There is so much out there for us to see, and the fact that I got this amazing opportunity to go, makes me want to see even more of what the world has to offer. I think that if we all believe in ourselves and find what we are capable of doing, we can pretty much accomplish anything. Singapore helped me prove that any goal or dream you set up today, can become reality tomorrow. 

I hope you are as excited now as I was to go and study abroad. I also hope this report helped you get a better insight of what it's like to study in Asia and Singapore. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any thoughts or questions, I would be happy to help you out. Take care :)

With Uzair in Singapore