A day in the life of a Singaporean student

If you’ve read my previous posts, there are two things you might have noticed.  The first is that the little things are what really make up the differences between life back home and life here in Singapore.  It’s those every day, habitual, often-forgettable minute details, which, together, remind you that you aren’t at home.The second is that I’m not a very exciting sort of person.  I attend my lectures, I go to my (ridiculously long, 6-hour) labs, I eat, I sleep (as much as the next university student, anyway), I study (or procrastinate while pretending to study—call it what you will), and I watch entirely too much TV.  In short, I live a life that isn’t very conducive to an interesting blog.

Fortunately for me, observation #1 means that observation #2 shouldn’t be the end of the world (or at least the end of my blogging days).  Theoretically, the mundane elements of my life here should be somewhat interesting to anyone who isn’t also in Singapore.  And so I present to you:  a day in the life of a Singaporean student (…or an exchange student in Singapore as the case may be).


  • Alarm goes off.
  • Curse the alarm for going off so early.  Proceed to hit the ‘Snooze’ button every 5 minutes for the next half hour.
  • Be eternally grateful for the millionth time since school started that Singaporeans are very nice, very polite people, so the girls on your floor don’t scream bloody murder when your alarm goes off every 5 minutes for half an hour…every day of the week.


  • Finally get out of bed.
  • Brush teeth, throw on clothes, grab knapsack, slip on shoes.  Proceed to rush downstairs to catch the shuttle bus to campus.


  • Stand at bus stop with about 100 other students, all waiting for the same bus, all sweating because it’s 30°C and really sunny.
  • When the bus finally decides to leave, join the sea of bodies boarding said bus, then stand squashed between people for the next 10-ish minutes as the bus makes the hilly, stop-and-go drive to campus.


  • Run up two flights of stairs, then try to inconspicuously sneak into the lecture theatre, five minutes late for class.
  • Frequently curse NUS for having 8:00am classes at all.
  • Sit through two hours of lecture, absolutely FREEZING and wishing you’d had the foresight to bring your thick hoodies with you when you left Canada.
Yup, this will probably be purchased sometime in the very near future. Regardless of daily tropical weather.
  • Wonder why the school feels the need to set the air conditioning at 15°C in all its buildings.  Yeah, it’s hot outside, but…seriously?!


  • Leave your bag and computer in the lecture theatre to save your seat (it’s Singapore, they’ll be fine).
  • Rush across the street to the Science food court to get your caffeine fix in order to stay awake through the next 2 hours of lecture.


  • Freeze your way through your second class of the day.
  • Actively make a conscious effort to type silently throughout the lecture so as not to disturb the other 200 students in the room, none of whom have a laptop out.


  • Walk outside and realize that it started to thunderstorm at some point during your lecture.
  • Thank the university for having the wisdom/kindness to install covered walkways all over campus so that you can make your way to the canteen without getting wet.
Covered walkways. Keeping you cool when the sun is scorching, and dry when the rain is coming down in sheets.
  • Order lunch (always delicious, no matter what you get) for a whopping $2.00.


  • Avoid walking through pouring rain, and proceed to your lab practical.
  • Sign in, put on lab coat, grab gloves, proceed to lab bench (one of 20).
  • Marvel at the fact that the lab is large enough to accommodate all 100 students.
  • Watch your lab bench’s flat screen TV (that’s right, the lab is equipped with 20 LCD monitors) that displays the PowerPoint slides that your professor is talking about at the front of the room, which is way too far to see.  Listen to your prof explain the experiment over the loud speakers.
Immunology lab. Why yes, those are the flat screen TV’s necessitated by the fact that the prof at the front of the room is indistinguishable from the back of the room.


  • Spend the next 3-ish hours working with your group on the experiment.
  • Be very grateful, as you are every week, that there are no lab reports, no questions to answer, and no quiz at the end of the lab to worry about.  Just enjoy the practical experience and the cool stuff you’re getting to do.


  • Take the shuttle bus to Yusof Ishak House (equivalent of the UCC).
  • Grab dinner (as yummy and cheap as ever).
Hello food. Yup, definitely the highlight of my day.
  • Go to the Study Room.  Wander the silent room until you can claim a coveted spot next to an electrical outlet.
  • Marvel again at how the room is always jam-packed with studiously studying students no matter the time of day, or the fact that exams are still ages away.
  • Study (or “study”) for the next 4 or so hours.
  • Appreciate that, at any given moment, you can look around the room and spot at least one student taking a nap.  Here, there’s no shame in being sleep-deprived and needing some shut-eye.


  • Take shuttle bus back to res.
  • Go to the late-night snack bar and grab some supper (seriously, we need this 4th meal of the day implemented back home).
Now this, my friends, is a supper of champions.
  • Spend the rest of the night watching TV, surfing the internet, Skyping people back home, answering e-mails, etc., etc.

Sometime between 1:00am and 4:00am

  • Go to sleep.

And there you have it!  A typical day here at NUS.

Until next week!



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