Published on: 28-Feb-2019
NG WEI XUAN EDDIE (Business and Computing, Year 3)
Studying and living alone in a foreign environment may sound daunting to many but it is an experience that one can never get within the four walls of a classroom. I was really glad that I was given the opportunity to go for an Exchange Program at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Waterloo being one of the top Universities for computer science, the courses that I took were no doubt much more challenging than the ones I had attended back in NTU.
Lectures in Waterloo are conducted in a classroom-style where students are encouraged to interrupt the professors to clarify any doubts on the spot. I was astonished by the passion and enthusiasm of both students and professors. Students were so eager to pose questions, even those outside of syllabus and professors were ever ready to answer everything.
Exchange has also taught me how to be independent and be thankful for things which we always take for granted back in Singapore. Living with others under the same roof was no easy feat but it taught me the importance of communication and compromising with one another.
I never once regretted being part of this Exchange Program as I had my first winter experience where I built my first snowman and experienced my first ever snow-ball fight. Many new friendships were forged, and many great memories were created
I urge anyone who is given the opportunity to attend an Exchange Program to not hesitate and go for it. It will definitely be the most memorable phase of your University life.
NTU GEM Explorer Programme
AMARTUR RAHIM BIN YAHYA (Computer Science, Year 4)
I went on an exchange with two other students to the United States of America (USA) from late March 2018 to early July 2018 via Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s GEM Explorer Programme. I studied at Oregon State University (OSU) for a total of three months and travelled to California and Wyoming before returning home to Singapore.
Despite arriving in end-Spring, the weather was staunchly colder as compared to Singapore, ranging from 2 to 15 degrees Celsius. Wearing a suitably thick jacket is highly recommended; I was ill-prepared, having thought the windbreaker I had worn would suffice. Once I left the confines of the airport, I was shivering until I reached the hotel and huddled by the radiator until I was warmed enough.
The weather did improve and by the time I left the US, it ranged to a comfortable 15 to 25 degrees Celsius.
Unlike Singapore, the buildings in the US are spaced further apart. Thus, commuting from one location to another can be time consuming and inconvenient.
Public transportation between and within town and cities can be trying. In the College town of Corvallis where OSU campus is situated, bus service is provided at no cost. However, the service is fairly infrequent with buses arriving at the intervals of between 15 to 25 minutes. Also, there are no bus services on Sundays and the routes also differ between weekdays and weekends.
In Seattle, the transportation network is expansive with multiple options such as the light rail or bus. However, it is expensive as compared to Singapore; a day pass can set me back easily by at least SGD10.00. Having said that, majority of my trips still required a substantial amount of walking.
Portland was similar to Seattle’s transport network in terms of price and coverage. Unlike Seattle, the downtown core area is surprisingly walkable. I was able to catch a movie at the east side of the city and have dinner at the other end within the same day.
While air transportation is convenient, it definitely costs more and smaller towns might not have airports. And in the US, certain airlines do not include checked baggage in their ticket price. All carry-on luggage have to conform to the standard size set by the US customs, which limits the composition of items that can be brought along.
Initially, my friends and I planned our trips around the public transportation network. However, this proved to be fairly inconvenient and still impacted our finances greatly.
With that, my friends and I decided to pool cash together and rented a car. However, it can be unnerving as Americans are left-hand drivers. But once you get used to it, the driving was as seamless as it can be.
With this more flexible mode of transportation, it expanded the possibilities of locations to visit as the American road network system is highly developed with established interstates.
Parking is generally free with some exceptions, especially within downtown or theme parks. Gas is cheaper than in Singapore, affordable by all means. My friends and I were able to rent from the choices of basic to luxurious cars. Though driving a larger and more luxurious car was amazing, the cost of gas outweighs the superficial benefits at the end of the day. A basic Sedan was the most cost-efficient rental.
In general, majority of Americans converse in English. There is practically no language barrier when travelling around. In my experience, the Americans that we met were generally impressed with our fluid command of the English language and surprised to learn that Singaporeans were taught the English language from a young age.
However, other languages of European-origin, especially Spanish, are also widely spoken.
In general, religious influences in the US are minimum. However, there is a strong Christian influence within the culture. There is also a signification proportion of Americans who are atheists.
Regardless, the places that I had visited do not discriminate based on differences in beliefs or skin colour.
The US has multiple locations of interest, ranging from concrete jungles to national parks.
Being a city-dweller all my life and is generally an indoor person, I had severely underestimated the fun the natural environment can provide. One of my classmates whom I went on the exchange, was more active and promised that the miles of hiking will be worth it. Turns out, he was right as we were being rewarded with picturesque view of the city and forest. I never expected that camping at Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park would be the highlights of my exchange.
I have also made a short trip to Disneyland, where the fireworks show at the end of the day was breathtakingly spectacular.
Being a Muslim, I initially thought that the food options would be limited in the US. However, as advised by a senior whom has completed an exchange in the US before, the food options here in US will not be severely limited as long as I stick to vegetarian and seafood menu, even in non-Halal certified places.
The exchange was an eye-opener. Prior to the exchange, I thought Singapore is enough for my requirements and growth. It was only after that I realized there is an even bigger world out there. And without a doubt, I will return to the US one day as there are still places to discover.
Overseas Language Immersion Programme
XAVIER TAN (Computer Science, Year 3)
Besides joining SCSE, attending the language immersion programme at Waseda University, Japan was one of the best choices of my university life.
The quality of teaching at Waseda University is really high. A real bonus was the amazing culinary adventure, an experience beyond words. I also got to make friends with a new bunch of Singaporean and International students. It was definitely a brand new experience where you are required to be more independent and adventurous.
My experience was truly like no other and absolutely worth it.
Internship @ Seagate, Singapore
Tan Xian Ren, Clement (Computer Science, Year 4)
In the summer of 2018, I did an internship at Seagate. I was tasked to develop a Chatbot for the senior management; that could provide immediate responses like company information, stock prices or even the weather forecast in Singapore. I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout the learning phases of developing this proof-of-concept Chatbot by leveraging on AWS (Amazon Web Services) Cloud Computing Platform, in which I had zero experience. Besides this, Seagate also sponsored and encouraged me to take up the AWS Solutions Architect Certification. I'm really proud to say that I successfully managed to attain it. Both tasks were daunting to me at first, but on the other hand I saw them as opportunities to further deepen my skills in the technological field.
There were difficult times where it seemed like I was not able to resolve the relevant issues pertaining to the development of the Chatbot, but I have learnt that being determined as well as disciplined helps. In addition, I got to work with two AWS Solution Architects that had Seagate as their client which helped me a lot in understanding the processes as well as the best practices for using the services provided by AWS.
With the knowledge that I have gained, I have used it to develop a rapid prototype Chatbot for NTU SCSE as my team’s project on the CZ3002 Course: Advanced Software Engineering. It aims to provide answers to SCSE-related questions that are frequently asked by incoming students as well as the current students in SCSE. I have also deployed Deep Learning models using the AWS cloud platform for my Final Year Project which I’m currently working on.
I look forward to further deepening my skills in the technological industry through lifelong learning as well as pursue my dream of becoming a Deep Learning Engineer.
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