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Feature

5 reasons why this exchange student loves NTU

Five months in NTU was all it took for Zach Johnson to fall for its sights, sounds, heart and flavours
PHOTOS: ZACH JOHNSON

After hearing about my college-mate’s great experience in NTU, my mind was made up. I packed my bags and arrived in January. I’ve since found out that NTU and Singapore are much more amazing than I imagined. From the new friends I’ve made and the classes I’ve enjoyed to the many novel experiences I’ve had, my time at NTU has been an extraordinary adventure. Here are my top five impressions!

1. It’s picture perfect

Singapore’s beautiful skyline and architecture were reasons why I chose to come here initially. I’m into photography and videography and fell in love with the city and its attractions at first sight. The buildings and structures in the NTU campus are so innovative too. I haven’t seen anything like The Hive in the USA. Walking into it for the first time was amazing. Photos just don’t do the “dim sum” building justice.

2. The folks are friendly

We can’t talk about Singapore and NTU without mentioning the people and the rich culture. I’m amazed at how kind and thoughtful everyone is. At the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, the camaraderie among the students, the creativity of my classmates, and the resources available make it one of my favourite places to be in. Seeing how hard everyone works is very humbling and encourages me to give my all.

3. I learnt on the spot

For one of my assignments, I had to do a live report in Chinatown on Chinese New Year celebrations. Talking for one minute straight without reading from a script was tough, but I managed it without tripping over myself. While I have many broadcasting courses in my home university, I really appreciate how hands-on the classes are here.

Another module I took was on the Korean wave. Our group was given the challenge of becoming an agency and debuting an artiste – our classmate, Felicia. We did photo shoots, music video recordings, and dance and vocal training sessions. It was awesome!

4. It gave me a step up

I wanted to get involved in dancing on campus, but was too late to join the hall dance competition, so I reached out to the MJ Hip Hop Dance Club with other exchange students. The club’s members were very welcoming and treated us like part of the MJ family. I’d never taken formal dance lessons back home, and I definitely stepped up in terms of focus, commitment and skill since joining the group. Everyone gives 100%, which may be intimidating at times, but it pushes me to do my best.

5. You never go hungry

The best meals can be had for a steal, at almost any time of the day. I had many tantalising firsts when it came to food. And I’m looking forward to many more mind-blowing seconds… second helpings, that is. Shiok, as the Singaporeans say! Here are some of my faves.

Bibimbap from Paik’s Bibim at the North Spine is my go-to dish on campus. It’s light, refreshing and healthy, and it fills me up.

The kimchi fried rice and ddukbokki (spicy rice cake) from the Korean stall at the new Nanyang Crescent halls are great too. It’s extremely satisfying for the low price you pay.

Before coming to Singapore, I’d never tried Indian food. Now, it’s one of my favourite cuisines. Whenever I crave a plate of chicken biryani, I visit Ananda Kitchen at the North Hill halls. I also discover something new every time I go back. Recently, I had the sweet prata bomb, roti prata made with butter and sugar, which blew my mind! The samosa is another must-try. It’s a triangular puff with potatoes and spices mixed with a savoury sauce and a touch of magic.

Mookata is a combination of grilled barbecue and steamboat. I discovered it when I went to The Smookata at West Coast. My favourite item to add into the soup is cheese tofu. Another great thing about having Mookata? You can laugh and joke with your friends while waiting for your food to be cooked.

If you have a sweet tooth like me, you’ll know that finding the best ice cream is a necessity. At home, I eat ice cream daily, so when I found Creamy Duck’s ice cream waffles at Canteen 2, I was in heaven. Best of all, it's as Instagram-worthy as it's delicious.

Man on campus

Zach Johnson is a 21-year-old broadcast and communications student from Central Michigan University, USA. He’s a fan of k-pop and has a YouTube channel with over 2,000 subscribers. His NTU exchange marks the first time he has been in Asia. Since arriving, he has also planted his flag in Tokyo.