My Master’s degree at the National University of Singapore
My Master’s degree at the National University of Singapore
In this article about arrival in Singapore, first impressions. How the classes were held, what we studied, how we passed exams and rested.
After graduating from the law faculty at a Russian university, I decided to continue my studies abroad. I’ve been in many Western countries, but my heart demanded adventures, so I wanted to spend my next few years in a more unique and unexplored place. I wanted something exotic, but at the same time I saw a lot of inconveniences in living in Asia. However, after going through a bunch of information about Singapore, it seemed that I found exactly what I was looking for.
My attention was drawn to the Faculty of Law at the National University of Singapore, which ranked high in the world rankings and was first in Asia.
Preparation of documents for submission to NUS
It seemed to me that I was dealing with something that I did not fully understand, because to me Singapore remained a mysterious place. Probably everyone has heard about it, but few seriously consider it as the place for study, in contrast, for example, to the USA or Canada (if we are talking about students, of course). The education system and the admission process also seemed not entirely clear.
Collecting information bit by bit, I was still afraid to miss something important, so to stay out of harm's way I submitted all documents through an educational agency.
After presenting my bachelor of law degree, TOEFL iBT(99) certificate and uploading other formal documents to the site, I mentally prepared for a long wait.
Getting an invitation from the University of Singapore
So far, everything seemed simple. And later on I did not encounter much trouble. It seems to me that due to the low level of bureaucracy in Singapore, the response from the university didn’t take that long. I was offered an interview via Skype. This was good news for me, because, firstly, the commission noticed me, and secondly, there was no need to fly to Singapore just to pass the interview.
It is interesting that the entire admission process took me about 3 months, which is not long compared to other universities where the application deadline is one year prior to the start of the studies. I submitted my documents in mid-January, and I received a positive response in early April. When I had the invitation from the university, applying for a student visa was quite straightforward.
Summing up what is considered to be the most challenging stage — the admission to a foreign university, I can say that everything went smoothly. As it turned out, it was not as difficult as people on the Internet had claimed (or I was incredibly lucky). Still the preparation stage was a little nerve-racking, although in my case, I should say — exciting.
Although I am an experienced traveler, every time it is time to get ready for departure my head gets clouded with fog, and the thought that I would go to study abroad seemed somehow unreal, even after I received a letter of admission.
Arrival in Singapore
At the end of July, I flew to Singapore. I can’t but share my impressions of Changi Airport. It's kind of a small town with its own gardens, luxury shops, cafes and restaurants.
When I had breakfast at Starbucks, I noticed that more than half of the clients were students, who, it turned out, sometimes came to the airport for a lively and inviting atmosphere to study. If necessary, you can study here around 24/7, prepare for exams, exchange tips with friends and at the same time enjoy a hot caramel macchiato. Later I found out that some students rode the night train to Changi and back when they needed to urgently learn something. The method, of course, is strange, but I agree that there is some charm in it.
From the first moments of my stay in Singapore, I realized that I had made the right choice. Everything just made me happy: people, weather, transport, food. And here I had to live for several years. Awesome!
After receiving instructions from the company, I prepared myself to register my In-Principal Approval Letter of Student Pass, which is proof of a student visa, and I also needed to check-in at the university.
A student medical examination is mandatory and is taken at the educational institution. Next was obtaining a visa card from the Singapore immigration department. By the way, I must give credit where credit is due, the university helped me immensely in the process of registration and other procedures.
Being a student in Singapore means studying, studying again and then even more studying. As it turned out, the learning process in Singapore is built on a completely different principle than in Western countries. The semester is divided into two parts — somewhere in the middle of the semester there are midterms, and, as a rule, they have the same significance as the final exams. I was very surprised when I learned that the first exam was already a month after the start of training. For each exam, it was necessary to read at least 300 pages per week, as well as complete assignments online.
The process of studying at the university is notable for its considerable complexity and mental stress. Similarly to high-class educational institutions in the world, classes were held in the format of "lecture + heated discussion", so there was little point for students who didn’t read the material to even come.
I would say that the course program was more adapted to the Asian region — a large number of cases are taken from Asia. Lectures were given to us by the best legal experts in the region, as well as professors from leading Western universities: LSE, Harvard, Columbia University and others. International scientists and politicians were frequent guests.
Here I met the most interesting and talented people, and since I am going to devote my life to jurisprudence, good connections will always come in handy.
Campus and university Infrastructure
When I first entered the campus, I was a little confused: this place could hardly be called an educational institution. I would call it a small town in which a newcomer can easily get lost. Nevertheless, after a couple of weeks, you can get used to it: you can move around the campus on special buses that run exactly on schedule.
On the territory of the National University of Singapore, there are special areas for leisure. For example, for several years when I had time to spare I went to the pool. In addition, there are amazing tennis courts.
The Faculty of Law (I am sure, as well as other faculties) has everything for continuous knowledge acquisition. I regularly visited the huge library, where you can find many interesting manuals on legal topics, as well as fiction. It is noteworthy that the university decided to completely abandon the traditional paper books — most of the literary sources are digital (at first, I had to get used to this).
After the exams, NUS has a break. In the first semester, their duration is about a month, and in the second — just over two months. During this time, you have the opportunity to go home and show off your successes to your friends, or get to know the peculiarities, traditions and culture of Singapore as much as possible.
During all three years of study I have never regretted my choice to study here. The Faculty of Law at the National University of Singapore is distinguished by the highest level of education. Here I learned all the nuances of the law of this state, as well as the foundations of the legal systems of other countries. The knowledge that I received in this university is more than enough to become a first-class lawyer and legal scholar.
Of course, with such a baggage of knowledge, and even being in one of the most developed countries in the world, I plan to do my best to stay here to work and gain professional experience in this law-abiding state.
Life in Singapore
My story would be incomplete if I had not told about my life and everyday routine. I hope I will be able to describe life in the heart of Asia, in an interesting way, although Singapore can hardly be called typical Asia. Yes, in many ways you are surrounded by people that look Asian, and many speak Chinese and Malay, but I would not call the city itself Asian — it looks more like an international city of the future. This is evident in everything from electronic passes in buildings to autonomous trains. I was especially surprised by Gardens by the Bay, which, as it seems to me, has no analogues in the world.
The city’s business center, despite its dense population, may look empty on weekdays: sometimes it even seems that all the people have disappeared somewhere, and only occasional tourists with huge cameras pass by trying to capture the beauty of local skyscrapers.
Things to watch out for in Singapore
During my stay here for me the word Singapore has become synonymous with security. In my free time, I loved to walk around the city, I visited all sorts of places, even the most remote ones. I was pleasantly surprised by the high level of security: there are surveillance cameras at almost every step.
And very few people want to break the law in this truly legal state. Even a minor offense can result in a very serious fine, especially for a visiting foreigner. It is forbidden to jaywalk, drink or eat in public transport. The latter is constantly reminded by a voice message in the subway. You can't even spit out the gum, although, to be honest, I have never seen one on sale anywhere.
Perhaps, as a future lawyer, it was a little easier for me to settle in Singapore than for students of other faculties: I knew the current legislation very well.
Additionally, I want to talk about the prices of Singapore. Transportation and food costs are reasonable. For example, dining in a restaurant will cost you 18 USD and more on average, but as a rule, you can find very liberal options almost everywhere at local food courts, where a standard portion costs from 3 USD to 7 USD. Interestingly, the cost of travel on public transport may vary — it is influenced by what time of day you decide to travel. So, in the early morning you can ride the subway absolutely free.
If you decide to walk along the street, you will be pleasantly surprised by the large number of green spaces and well-groomed paths. Therefore, even in the hot season, I did not feel any discomfort walking around the city.
There are many clubs for nightlife lovers in Singapore. For a more cultural pastime, there are interesting museums and excursions. In this way, I was able to write my scientific paper and get a master's degree, combining a rather strenuous study with walks and entertainment.
Residents of Singapore
Peculiarities of the mindset of local residents deserve a separate mention. The impression is that all Singaporeans are counting on your independence and awareness. Therefore, at first it is really difficult here for those who are not communicative and resourceful enough. However, if you are not shy and willingly ask questions, then no one will leave you hanging and, of course, will be happy to help.
I felt confident and comfortable communicating with other people (not just students). Despite the multinational composition of the city, the atmosphere of tolerance and mutual courtesy reigns everywhere.
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