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Study Abroad

International Services for Students

Archive for February, 2012

Exchange Testimonial – Singapore part 2

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

By Kyle Krystalowich, Exchange to National University of Singapore

Welcome back to my exchange blog! After a week full of midterms and a quick trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the 2011 SIFE World Cup and a tour of the Microsoft Office in the Petronas Towers; I am back to write a blog post about one of my favourite things in Singapore: the rapid transit system!

Singapore’s land area is just less than 700km2, a tiny country. To travel from one side of the island to the other by car, it takes about 45 minutes, approximately the distance from Surrey to downtown Vancouver to put things into perspective. If everyone in the country drove cars, there would be endless traffic jams. This leads to one of my favourite parts about Singapore: no matter where you are on the island, there will be a bus or train to take you where you need to go!

The first component of the transit system is the buses. There is countless number of routes that buses take around the island, and where ever you walk, you are usually within five minutes of a bus stop. The buses are also very frequent during the day, so you never have to wait too long for the next bus. The key is to know which buses go where, so you don’t end up going somewhere that you didn’t want to. I find the easiest way to get around on the buses is to take them to an MRT station, where you can hop on a train.

This leads to the second component, which is the “Mass Rapid Transit” (MRT) train system that has four different lines and 89 different stations. You can take the MRT pretty much anywhere in Singapore, from Changi Airport to City Hall and even to within 10 minutes of the Singapore-Malaysia border. With the latest addition of the new Circle Line, there is now also a station that is right inside the NUS campus! The best thing about the train system is it is extremely efficient. There are signs throughout each station that direct you where to go, even estimates of how long it will take you to talk from point A to point B. While boarding a train, there are also arrows on the floor telling you how to board most efficiently. Since arriving in Singapore, I have never missed a train due overcrowding, even at peak hours; this just shows how efficiently it is set up. The first thing you will notice is the cleanliness of the stations and trains; they actually do not let you eat or drink on buses, trains, or in the stations! In the future, there will be three additional lines and over 60 more stations by 2020.

Speaking of efficiency, you can ride both the MRT and the buses with one easy pass called the “EZ-Link Card”. Essentially you purchase a card for $5 then you top it up with cash when its value gets low. Before you enter a train platform or when you board a bus you simply scan your card. When it is time to get off, you scan your card again and you are charged for your travels. In Singapore, the charge is based on the number of kilometres you travel, which makes the average trip on a bus or MRT cost around $1 SGD. You can also use the EZ Link Card for several other purposes, including paying for food, laundry, and printing at NUS.

To get from your residence to your classes or the MRT station, it is definitely too hot to walk outside with 30 degree temperatures or heavy rain. To make it easier for students to get around campus, NUS provides free shuttle bus service all over campus.

Overall, the rapid transit system in Singapore is very important to the functioning of the country and it is an easy and cheap way to get around for a student! The coolest thing is that I can travel from campus to the airport for under $3 in less than an hour, making it easy to go to class, and then hop on a plane to a travel destination within a few hours! In fact, the MRT is so important that they have a rap for the MRT that was performed at the National Day Parade this year, check it out in the Youtube video below:

MRT Song at National Day Parade 2011


That’s all for now!

Exchange Testimonial: Sweden Part 2

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
Enjoying homemade German apple strudel, cheesecake, and mocha cake at a friend’s home. A little messy but very delicious.

By Kathy Tse, Exchange to Lund  University, Sweden

I just love food.  Especially good food.  So when I came over to Sweden, I had all kinds of expectation about food.  I knew that Sweden was famous for their meatballs (köttbullar in Swedish), bread and desserts, but what I didn’t know was that in Lund, I would be able to taste all kinds of international dishes, as well as be able to network and establish connections with peers through these food events.  And believe me, food plus talk is one good thing you can enjoy in life.

In one of my Swedish cultural studies classes (SASH 42-Swedish everyday life), we learnt that food serves as a social institution.  It’s a way of bonding people together through the sharing of food, and it’s a way of establishing each others identity through the conversations that we partake in.  Obviously, we learnt this because in Sweden, relationships are quite important to people.  That’s why one of the most common everyday life activities a Swede or anyone living here could participate in is Fika.

Fika, in English, means, “to have a cup of coffee” but can also mean “having a coffee break with someone”.  So to fika someone might mean that you are having a cup of coffee, enjoying some sweets, and having a conversation with a friend.  These three components often come hand in hand, and having been here for almost two months now, all I can say is that I’ve been drinking more coffee than I have in ages.  Cinnamon rolls too, for that matter (Did you know that cinnamon buns originated from Sweden?  That’s why there is a Cinnamon Bun Day here, which just past last week on October 4th).

But most importantly, aside from the food and drinks, I’ve been bumping into a lot of interesting people this way.  Since Lund University and the school nations (they are equivalent to school clubs) hold a number of events, such as International Dinner Nights, lunches, parties, sittnings (this is a Swedish student tradition where students sit together to enjoy a three course meal but sing drinking songs in between), and crayfish parties (this one just ended but it’s also a Swedish tradition during the end of summer where cold crayfish is served), there were numerous opportunities to learn about the culture and economy of other countries, improve my own networking skills, and just have plain fun eating, drinking, talking, and dancing. I also had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner just last week and it made me feel right at home.

So if you ever plan to travel abroad or go on exchange, and you would like to meet new people, just be sure to join their food events.  It’s bound to be a conversation starter and you’re bound to have fun trying new food.

Oh so did I tell you how much I love cinnamon buns now?

The BIG IQ Contest – International Week, February 6th – 10th

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

To celebrate International Week at SFU next week (February 6th to 10th) SFU International Services for Students will be hosting The Big International Quiz (Big IQ).

We will be posting a trivia question a day next week, on four of our social media pages:

SFU Study Abroad

International Services for Students

SFU Study Abroad

Intercultural Community Program

Questions will be posted on each page at 9:00am. Participants will have until 4:00pm on the day the question is posted, to post an answer to the trivia question. At the end of the day, ALL correct answers from all four pages will be entered in a draw, and two winners will be picked and announced, each day. Each winner will take home a $10 SFSS Gift Card to be used at Higher Grounds Coffee Shop, the Highland Pub, and the Ladle!


- On Facebook, your answer must be posted in response to the question. Answers posted in a new thread will not be considered.

- On Twitter, your answer must be in reply and include the indicated hashtag.

- You may post your answer once on each of the four pages, to increase your chances of winning! However, please note we will only accept your first answer for each page…Don’t post two answers on the same page!

- Winners will need to bring their SFU student ID with them to claim their prize.

- All SFU students are eligible to win. You may only win once.

Good luck everyone!