Exchange report - Student at KI
Home university: National University of Singapore
Study programme: Biomedicine (Master's)
Exchange programme: INK
Semester: Autumn semester 2016/2017
Name: Hanna Winter
Email address:


Even though I am already studying abroad, I wanted to take it one level further and go on exchange. I like to discover new cultures, experience different learning environments and seize the opportunities to broaden my academic network. 
I chose National University of Singapore as my first choice due to its good reputation worldwide but also due to the location - escaping the Swedish winter seemed too tempting. Singapore is known to be "asia for beginners" - well developed but you can definitely experience some unique asian traditions. Further, it is very diverse in culture and ethnicities like Indian, Chinese and Malay influences. This also leads to limitless choices of freshly prepared and incredibly tasty food!
I have to say - the weather was a challenge. 30 degrees everyday in a room without aircon, but I managed - and so will you!

After I got selected as an exchange student, I got in contact with Malin Ahlén, the international coordinator for the biomedical programme. I have to admit, it wasn't easy but worth it. Since no Master students went to Singapore since 2012, it was a lot of work without any help of former exchange students. But don't worry, by now everything should be sorted out!
Since I went during my third term, I had to select 10 courses from the science faculty (major biological sciences) in the honours level (3000 and above). In the end, you will only be granted access to 3 courses - yes 3. Even though you will only do two, you need to pass the 12MC hurdle to be eligible to apply for a students pass. 
The research project is not available in their online platform but it can be easily swapped with one of the courses once you arrived!
Also, you need to find a lab to do your 16ECTS SRP in. I wrote emails to around 10 groups and finally got accepted - start in time to not get stressed out! Let them know about the requirements from KI and maybe attach your CV. Let them send you a letter that will grant your stay in their lab for the needed period of time and send it to the SRP coordinator. 

As I mentioned before, you need 12MC to be eligible to apply for the Students pass which is the visa in Singapore. As a European Citizen, you are allowed to stay 90days without any visa, so you can enter the country hassle free. However, some paperwork for the application of the students pass has to be done in advance. Make sure to follow everything as stated on their website (you will receive information from the singaporean coordinator in time) and print out all the documents and make sure to bring them to Singapore. Especially challenging are the photo requirements. 

The information you get beforehand from singaporean site are very valuable. Make sure you read them very carefully! 
I only got a typhus shot before going to Singapore. However, it is good to check your tetanus titer or other existing vaccines. Just ask your doc about needed vaccinations.

Time to pack your bags!

Arrival and registration

The flight from Munich to Singapore took me around 11:30 hours. I recommend red eye (hence overnight) flight. I arrived in Singapore on the 29th of July after stopping in Hong Kong for a couple of days. Uni started on August 8th after orientation was scheduled for August 1st. Before you book your flights, check the date of your registration. You have to come to the Uni for one day to register. Since my flight was delayed, I missed my registration and could get an appointment for late registration on August 1st I believe. 
This time was enough for me to settle down and get to know the country/city. During the orientation, a couple of activities are scheduled but you also have enough time to do your own thing and discover Singapore on your own. The activities were not mandatory, so you could choose to attend.
Make sure to pay your future lab colleagues a visit maybe. I had to go through a very tough lab safety programme beforehand (fill out 4 different tests which took each around 2 hours, attend a 3 hour seminar and take a test). I don't want to scare you - in the end it is self explanatory but takes a lot of time - but let you know to ask those things in advance. Sometimes you can do them online even before you get to Singapore! Before you do not have the safety certificate you are not allowed to enter the lab or work. Singaporeans are very strict with their safety laws.

Mentor programmes do exist but I discovered it too late. this page will keep you updated about the student events. also look on Facebook for them. Also for the OSA (office of student affairs).

How to get to NUS main campus: Take the green line from Changi Airport all the way to Buona Vista. From there, bus 96 is driving to the campus site. Depending on where you stay/have to go to, you can alight maybe at Kent Ridge MRT station and then switch to the free campus busses. I also used Uber a lot since it was quite cheap compared to Sweden. However, you can also get one of the shuttle busses to the city; just tell them any kind of hotel which is somewhat close to NUS. 

In case it will be too hot to watch any events in can always watch them from the pool like the "Rag and Flag" in the beginning of the year where the faculties perform for the audience.


The main issue (hence factors that are expensive) in terms of finance is accommodation. As a Masters (or graduate) student from abroad, you are not eligible for on-campus housing. 
I still applied - and got rejected. Sent an appeal - and got rejected. But then, around 3 days before I flew to Hong Kong and already have booked a hostel for 14 days in Singapore to go on apartment hunt, I received a letter of acceptance from one of the hostels. 
Otherwise, a room in a decent condo-apartment starts at 10.000kr per month. Cheaper options are to stay with a family in a so-called HDB flat which starts from 7000kr. 
Public transport is comparably cheap I would say. Per month i roughly spent 250kr on transportation. Of course, that is highly dependent on how much and where to you are traveling within the city. Sometimes you stay on campus (or the golden cage how I called it) longer than you might want to - everything is available there: gym, food, supermarket, health centre, accommodation. 
One factor that is luckily very cheap is food. During this term I cooked probably once ("cooked" = made a soup). A lunch set is around 5SGD (25-30kr) and includes a main dish, a drink and a soup most of the time. Of course, you are free to choose what to eat - the food stalls in the food courts offer a incredible variety. However, buying things in the supermarket and cooking is more expensive than going out for food. Especially prices for dairy products are quite high. Also, all the hawker centres (food courts in Singapore) have to obey the regulations and law from the government - hence the food is always of good quality and you do not have to be afraid of getting sick or anything; same goes for the tap water by the way! Most of the facilities in uni have water dispensers where the water tastes a bit better than from the tap. However, both is drinkable!
I did not had to pay money for a student union if I remember correctly but for the students pass application you have to pay throughout the process for different fees (30$ processing fee, 60$ issuance fee). Also, for the application for the housing options on campus you have to pay a fee (26$ application fee, 200$ if housing is offered to you).

I highly recommend applying for a scholarship just so that you feel a bit more "financially secure". And if you don't need it since you will live on-campus; the better! 
Working over the summer is also a possibility of course. 
Food prices are definitely not a thing to worry about - you can get a meal for 30kr! Make sure to try as much as possible!


As mentioned before, master students were not eligible for on-campus housing. However, you should consider applying anyways since you might be lucky. I received an email from my hostel 4 days before my departure and I was very happy and accepted. The rent was around 3500kr per month and was paid for the whole semester at once. So in the beginning of the term you get a bill of around 2200SGD.

Depending on if you get accepted in a hall/student residence or a college, you have to choose a meal plan as well which will cost another approx 500SGD but includes breakfast and dinner on weekdays and on weekends too I believe.
check out the link to see the different hostel options and costs. In general, all hostels have a good location/ you can reach everything with the shuttle bus.
I stayed in Ridge View Residential College (RVRC) but without a meal plan since the dining hall was under construction for a whole year. I enjoyed not having to eat at the college since you are more free to choose what to eat and also where. The location of RVRC was brilliant: I had to walk 5min to my lecture hall and 10-15min to my lab. Campus bus stop was right in front of the building just like the university health centre, sports facilities, a food court, a subway, a 7/11 and study places/library.
My room was facing the forest and was big enough for me to live in; around 15sqm? I shared bathroom with my floor and the kitchen with my block. But everything (maybe except the kitchen) was always clean; especially the bathrooms! There are janitors around during the day that clean. During the night, I have seen security patrolling around as well. 
You might have some "visitors" in your room such as small lizards. But they just eat all the mosquitos for you since in RVRC there are no real windows so to say but top-hung windows (as seen in the picture).
Girls and Guys are strictly separated on different floors. 
Also, I did not have aircon but a ceiling fan. To be honest, this was one point where I really thought about accepting the offer or not but in the end it turned out to be okay! I bought a bed linen set at IKEA and a pillow but no duvet which was just enough to sleep with. (and yes, there is an IKEA close to NUS where you can also buy some swedish food in case you miss it). You will end up sweating anyways and all you have to do is to learn to live with it which takes a while.

The college itself consistent of 5 blocks (houses) with each 3 floors. Each block also had a common room with aircon and things like TV screen, pingpong table or billiard table. In the beginning of the semester, there will be an introduction to the different interest groups. I highly recommend to join one or two of them since it is easier to get to know new people. I joined the Tennis team and Baking group which was a lot of fun! here you can see room examples of some of the different options. Most of the exchangers are living in Prince George's Park Residences (PGPR), U-Town Residence or RVRC
Ridge View Residential College consist of 5 blocks spread around a lush green garden area.

Studies in general

I took two courses at NUS and in parallel the UROPS research module which is somewhat equivalent to the 16ECTS research project. I will talk about the content in the next section in detail.

We were around 30-40 students in each class. Mostly, we had lectures/seminar sessions. We had one main organiser who also gave most of the lectures. However, Some other lecturers were also invited to talk. I had to prepare group and single presentations, final exams, one essay and two continual assignments (CA, basically tests). The presentations were due during the semester however for the rest I had the whole month of November which is the exam period and no more lectures are running. So you have one month to prepare for two exams and one essay. The CAs were held in the beginning of the exam period and after the so called "mid term" preparation week which is in September. I felt this was enough time to prepare sufficiently for the exams. Also, the content and quantity was manageable. 
I was the only "western" exchange student in both classes, so it was a bit hard to establish contacts outside of class. But since we also had to prepare some group assignments, the student-student contact was definitely encouraged. 
The teachers were very friendly, helpful and responded quite quick to emails. Also, there is a online portal called IVLE which is the NUS equivalent to Pingpong. So you will be able to access all the lecture slides from there and that's also where you upload your essay for instance. Those classes that I took however did not include any lab work. 
Differences here were clearly the allocated "exam prep" time during November where you could focus on your tests and assignments. Also, I never had to write an essay before (apart from the ethics essay we have to write for ACB1). I experienced it as something good since your final grade is split up into different grades of the CA, presentation, essay and exam. 

Research Project
This is of course a very "subjective" issue now since you will most likely do your internship in a different department. One advice that counts for every department though is: Do the safety instruction ASAP you arrive in Singapore. Maybe it is even possible to do some parts of it online before you arrive. Lab safety is considered to be very important in Singapore and you are strictly forbidden to enter the lab if you have not done your lab safety instruction which includes a safety test online in 4 modules which each take from 20-120 minutes to take. Then, you have to attend a class session and write two tests. However, those tests are normally self explanatory. 

The Science Faculty

Courses during the exchange period

Courses corresponding to semester 3 at KI
PhD courses - LSM4242 - Protein Engineering & LSM 4245 - Epigenetics and Chromatin Biology

First of all, I can recommend both courses to you! Some things were repetitive for me however I learnt a lot of new things as well. Something else worth mentioning here is that I took those courses during my research project. So maybe check if the courses are in the morning and/or evening so it won't interrupt your lab schedule too much. Those courses were always held from 10-12 and 16-18. I only had one "full day" in the lab since the classes were held on Monday + Thursday as well as Tuesday + Friday. But the lab members should be familiar with this since also other students were doing their "final year project" in my lab and were also allowed to leave for their classes.

 I chose the Protein Engineering class because my research project dealt with a lot of cloning, mutations and so on which were all covered in theory during this course so I could refresh my memory on those methods. Issues touched were Cloning, Genome editing, different expression systems (pro- and eukaryotic), the different components of those systems, in vitro transcription and - translation, mutagenesis, phage display DNA shuffling, molecular evolution, monoclonal antibodies and siRNA. Basically, a lot of techniques used in molecular biology. 
As an assignment, we had to choose an interesting paper which involves one of the above mentioned techniques and present it to the class. 
In the very end, we had to write an essay about a "fictional" research project that we had to solve with the techniques. So we had to come up with a common problem we see in society and had to solve it with the methods we were given during the class.
This approach of presenting methods to having to (theoretically) apply them was really great and a lot of fun! 

The other course I took was the Epigenetics and Chromatin Biology course, simply because I find this field very interesting and wanted to know more about it. The contents were DNA methylation, histone modifications, chromatin remodelling, non-coding RNAs, stem cell epigenetics, epigenetic reprogramming and cancer epigenetics. Before each CA test, a Tutorial session was held to clear up questions and repeat some topics that were a bit troublesome. The CAs were multiple choice tests. 
Here, for each topic a new guest professor held their lectures. Especially our histone modifications prof was very enthusiastic and really had fun teaching. We had to do group presentations and were given one epigenetic method such as ChIP and had to explain it in the research context and also its theory behind it. Then, each team was graded by the rest of the class and the winner received a small prize. The presentations were only 5 or 10 minutes so nothing big!

Now coming to the exams: Both exams were not multiple choice but we had to answer some methodological questions. Some questions of the epigenetics final already appeared in a multiple-choice fashion in the CAs if I remember correctly. One teacher even handed us some "trial questions" for the exam which we could use to practice and even talk to him if we come up with an answer. During my bachelors and my masters I probably wrote 3 "whole answer" exams so I was a bit nervous however if you study everything in detail, it will be fine! Also, the final exams do not make up your whole grade but are only a part of it (40-60% of the final grade I believe?) so no need to worry!

UROPS - Undergraduate Research project (16ECTS Senior Research Project)

Language and Culture

Singapore has four official languages: Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English. Therefore, I did not experience any difficulties language wise. Elderly sometimes only speak Chinese, but people are very helpful when it comes to translating. I did not take a language course in advance.
However, something I had to get used to was the so called "Singlish" - a mixture of English, Mandarin, Tamil, Hokkien, Malay and many more languages. Also when Singaporeans speak English, they have their own accent which takes time to get used to. After some time, I discovered that Singlish is actually a very efficient language after all. Once I asked my lab supervisor if I can leave the lab a bit earlier. Instead of answering something like "Oh, no problem at all!" or "That's fine!" she simply said "Can!" which took me a while to understand. Over the time i got to learn a lot of Singlish which was quite fun and turned into a "tandem" with one of my friends - I taught her German and in turn she taught me Singlish. So do not be afraid to ask if you did not understand something!

Culture wise, I did not expect to spot such a difference to be honest. But I realised very quick that I suddenly did not belong to the majority anymore in terms of looks - people with pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes are nothing too special in Sweden. However, in Singapore people might stare at you - especially if you suddenly happen to appear in a very "rural" area (the so called "heartlands") far away from any tourist attractions and "expat" quarters and if you hand out with locals. However, I would encourage you to get in touch with your classmates. 
Fortunately, I got in contact with a german teacher at NUS who wanted to introduce me to her class that was currently preparing for their exchange to Germany.
I was able to experience some great moments with my singaporean friends in Singapore but also in Stockholm and Germany! 
Another thing which I experienced is that Singaporeans study A LOT! This however has different reasons: First of all, they have to pay fees each semester. Second, people take up scholarships (to cover for the fees) but the companies normally have requirements like a certain average each semester. Third: The bellcurve. Meaning, if you score 80points on an exam but your classmates all scored 100, you'll fail. But don't worry since the Bachelor of Honours courses normally do not have the bellcurve system. So do not judge but maybe try it yourself.

Culture Clash
If you want to go out with some exchange buddies, a night normally looks like this: You meet up after dinner to go for some beers and you eventually end up in a club and drink some more. However, Singaporeans are different: You meet up for dinner or lunch or supper (yes, there is a fourth meal in Singapore normally eaten around 10-11pm) but normally you do not drink. (Another advice at this point: Practice your chopstick skills a bit before you go!) Also, when I wanted to hug some of my friends for goodbye, I realised they don't do that usually so mostly it ended up in a very awkward hug in a way!
I really enjoyed spotting all those cultural differences during my time in Singapore and also embraced them! 
Also a part of the Singaporean culture is food. The food is so cheap (but of a good quality!) that most of the families go out to eat instead of cooking at home which is (how I felt it) sometimes even more expensive.
You have to be brave and curious sometimes and just order things. I happened to try a lot of things - from the famous stinky fruit Durian to thousand year old eggs, chicken feet, BBQ stingray... (definitely recommend the last one!) But if you are more a fried rice kind of person, that's also no problem. However, after some time I started to miss things like bread or a fresh salad. 

Taoist Thian Hock Keng temple with the Central Business District of Singapore in the background. Not the only place in Singapore where you can find tradition and modernity in one picture.

Leisure time and social activities

NUS does have some groups and the OSA (mentioned earlier) that mostly organises events for exchange students. In the beginning of the semester, a big exhibition of all clubs and groups of the university takes place (Freshman Fair) where you can explore all opportunities you can take at NUS such as fencing, debating club, climbing, diving, chess, different languages, design etc. 
Also, check the possibilities in your college (if you live in one). 
If you however do not want to participate in scheduled trainings for certain sport disciplines, you can always go to the gym which is opened everyday until 9pm or the pool which is opened until 8pm I believe? There is also a big green lawn where people play soccer or ultimate frisbee so just ask if you can join!

NUS i.CARE (A project for International Students) here can you find the page of a student group that organises some events in the beginning and during the semester such as tours, language exchange, parties etc. 

For me, it was bit hard to get into contact with students from my class and to participate in the events for exchange students since I was mostly busy with lab work in-between the lectures. However, I was very glad that the representative of my scholarship organisation was also teaching a german class at NUS. She asked me to join the class and make appointments with them to talk German. In return, they showed me the city and their favourite spots to hang out, shop, eat and drink. 

The semester normally starts very early, beginning of August, which also means that it ends quite early compared to KI schedule. So you will have some time in the end of the semester to travel. The semester ends in beginning of December and you do not have to return to KI before mid of January. So do plan some journeys there! 
Singapore is geographically seen the centre of South East Asia which makes travelling very cheap and convenient. Since I have been to some of the countries already, I decided to go to Malaysia during the Recess week in September for 6 days. It is definitely cheaper than Singapore! Also, in the end of the semester, i traveled to and through Bali and the Gili islands before returning to Singapore for one more night before departure. 
Also during the weekends, you can go to closer destinations such as Malacca or Johor Bahru in Malaysia or one of the islands south of Singapore which belong to Indonesia like Bintan or Batam. Please keep in mind that Malaysia and Indonesia are mostly Muslim countries so make sure to wear some longer shorts or a longer dress or prepare yourself for a bit of an awkward staring session at the beach. However, everyone was very friendly and curious so that a lot of people came up to us and wanted to know where we come from etc. 

Singapore itself is obviously a big city with 5.5 Million inhabitants. But it is also an extremely small country. Therefore, at one point it feels like you've seen it all. Even though, you have been to most of the touristic areas, make sure to also pay a visit to the more rural part of Singapore or parts like Tiong Bahru or Pulau Ubin where it is a bit more calm than in the CBD. Nightlife is also a big topic obviously, Ladies night for instance on Wednesdays! Beers and drinks are expensive in Singapore (more expensive than in Stockholm). Still, the pubs and bars around Boat Quay and Holland Village are packed in the evenings with young Singaporeans but also plenty of expats.

A timeout on top of the 47th floor of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel - affordable for students during their "social hour" every Tuesday - 50% off their signature cocktails! Or just come up for the spectacular view.


After spending my exchange in Singapore, I can say that I would definitely do it again. Singapore is a very diverse country which develops so incredibly quick! 
I did have a different view on certain aspects when I returned back home, I took a lot of things for granted which are actually not. Singaporeans are very hard working which also inspired me to do my best in university. 
One thing I want to recommend to you is to be open and judgemental-free and just take up the experience! In the end, it is a different country and things there work differently than they do here - different laws, rules, social do's and don'ts. I've met some exchange students that constantly tried to compare Singapore with their home country and were whinging a lot. 
I tried to embrace every new experience - cultural, culinary, professional - and take it without judging or at least trying it out.

I definitely profited from the exchange in a professional role - I learnt to work and study in an asian-international environment which was fun overall. I realised that KI already equipped me with a lot of useful tools and theory so that I am able to survive abroad as well!
But also personally, I can say I developed over the time. I had to deal with loneliness at times but not the loneliness in terms of being alone and not having people around you like when you are isolated. But it was a strange feeling to suddenly belong to a minority hence european background. This was probably the most intense cultural encounter I faced.
I still encourage you to try it out yourself. Singapore is such a great city which I really miss now that I am back in Scandinavia. But I will definitely go back soon!

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me via email or social media like Facebook or LinkedIn in case!
I hope you'll have a great time and will enjoy Singapore.
Bali sundown after my exchange semester in December - the first time I spent my birthday at the beach with 30degrees!