I miss NTU, because...

Going on a semester’s exchange is always exciting. There’s the chance to make international friends and study in a whole new environment. Chrystal Chan speaks to five NTU students who’ve done that to find out how different student life is abroad

Kang Jia Yi, Georgia Institute of Technology, United States

Daryl Teo, Imperial College London, United Kingdom

Lim Xin Yi, Linköping University, Sweden

Poh Shi Ya, Yonsei University, South Korea

Tan Yinying, Monash University, Australia
How does the NTU campus compare to that of your exchange university?
Jia Yi: The size of the Georgia Tech campus is similar to the NTU campus, but NTU’s centrally-located academic complexes make it easier for students who take modules from different schools to get from class to class. Over there, it takes 20 minutes to walk from the engineering school to the business school.

Yinying: The Monash campus (below) is smaller than NTU’s, but there are times it still takes 10 minutes to get to the next class. However, on a smaller campus, you can reach any part of it by foot.

Shi Ya: Yonsei is very big and its libraries are huge and connected. But unlike in NTU, you need to book your seat in the library using your student card. This is done at the service stations in the library. I love how every seat comes with a plug for your laptop.

Daryl: Imperial College has several campuses, but the main campus is quite small compared to the Yunnan Garden campus. It houses the science, engineering and business faculties, as well as some student halls. One good thing is that it’s situated in the middle of South Kensington, a convenient location within Greater London, which makes travelling around the city for sightseeing and entertainment quite easy.

The Monash campus. Photo: Tan Yinying
What did you miss the most about NTU while on exchange?
Jia Yi: How well-equipped NTU is. During laboratory sessions at Georgia Tech, there’s sometimes not enough computers to go around and it’s not uncommon for three or four students to share one PC.

Daryl: The food! At Imperial College, it’s harder to get good food, because most of the food places in the university close early and eating out is expensive. I miss how the eateries in and around NTU open till quite late.

Xin Yi: How easy it is to get from hall to class in NTU. In Linköping, it’s a 30-minute walk to your tutorial or lecture. I don’t mind it though, as it’s quite a pleasant and scenic stroll. Lots of amber trees and clear skies to enjoy!

The view on the way to Linköping University. Photo: Lim Xin Yi
Shi Ya: NTU’s well-planned shuttle bus service and the sheltered walkways. At Yonsei, there aren’t many sheltered walkways and when you move around the campus, it’s largely under the open sky. I have to walk quite a bit to get to class as the internal shuttle bus does not pass by my school.

How was studying at your exchange university different from studying in NTU?
Shi Ya: Attendance at each class is taken by the lecturer, who will call out the names of everyone in class, just like how it was done in secondary school. Also, you need to purchase all the required textbooks for each class as the homework and notes are derived from there.

Jia Yi: The quality of teaching at Georgia Tech is generally good, except there are no recorded lectures like in NTU, so if you don’t copy something down in time, there’s no way to replay what you missed. Compared to NTU, the classrooms look a bit old.

Yinying: At Monash, the way subjects are taught and assessed is similar to how it’s done in NTU. The biggest difference is that the students there are only allowed to take a maximum of four modules per semester. I think this is good, as it prevents some students from feeling overwhelmed when they take on more than they can chew.

Xin Yi: There is more focus on independent learning, which means students are expected to read up on their own and lecturers don’t upload slides ahead of each class. Most students take down everything the lecturer says in class. But there’s also less content for each module.

How different was your stay at your exchange university?
Daryl: My hall room was smaller than the ones you’ll find in NTU. But the hall I stayed in at Imperial College was conveniently located right across the main campus, which was great.

Yinying: My hall room and furniture seemed a bit worn, and from my room, I could hear people chatting in the corridor. However, I did not have to pay to use the dryer and washing machine.

Xin Yi: The hostels at Linköping are more spacious and there is a toilet in each room. Each corridor of rooms has its own kitchen and central living space (below). I love how there are two ovens in the kitchen, so I can bake cookies for my corridor mates and friends.

What were the food options like at your exchange university?
Shi Ya: The canteens are pretty unique. You pick and pay for your meal at the machines located at the entrance before going inside to collect your food. However, the canteens serve mostly rice dishes and Korean food, and there are no fast food outlets on campus.

Jia Yi: At Georgia Tech, students sign up for meal plans, where they decide how many meals they want to consume in a semester. They can then enjoy a buffet-style meal at one of the many dining halls on campus. I think that’s very interesting, and the variety of food is quite decent.

Xin Yi: I prefer the food options at NTU. Food in Linköping canteens is expensive and there’s limited choice. We usually pack our own lunch.

What’s your fondest memory of studying abroad?
Daryl: Making international friends. I miss hanging out with them. They gave me a broader perspective of things and some really interesting cultural experiences.

Yinying: I loved the atmosphere of Monash. You would often see students sitting on the lawn (below) to eat and chat. On some days, there’d be bean bags on the grass for us to sit on.

And your least favourite part?
Jia Yi: The high cost of living, especially when it comes to eating out and campus accommodation. Hostel fees per semester are around two to three times more expensive than staying off-campus, but this is a safer choice.

Xin Yi: I missed the city life. Linköping is located in the suburbs, so going anywhere is inconvenient unless you cycle, which I don’t. Even going to the airport takes three hours by bus. Also, the people there are quite laidback, so everything seems slower than I am used to. I once queued for 20 minutes at McDonald’s, even though there were only three people ahead of me.

Shi Ya: The weather. South Korea’s winter can be very harsh, and some days it got so cold that it was hard to travel around. We’d squeeze into packed trains and feel very warm and stuffy in our thick coats.
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