KResidents' Exchange Stories

Editors' note: In light of COVID-19, we’d like to reiterate to the hall that everyone’s safety is of everyone’s concern. Community and personal health is your responsibility as much as it is the other’s around you. If you are not feeling well, you know what to do. Drink water, take your temperature, et cetera, et cetera. This article is not trying to promote travel in trying times, but more of serving as a reminder of the little things that keep us going and the little things to look forward to, perhaps once things have settled down globally. To those who are currently abroad on exchange, please stay safe. Peace.

Some might say that the Student Exchange Programme (SEP) is the highlight of most NUS students’ school life. It is not only a once in a lifetime experience but can also leave you memories you will never forget. Want to know what it is like to go for exchange? We asked three current and former KResidents to share their exchange stories.

Corvinus University of Budapest

After a trip to Portugal with my friends, I decided to forgo my ticket back to the city I was living in and went on a solo trip to Italy! I chose to go to Rome and Naples because I wanted to visit the historical sites that I have read and heard so much about (cues Pompeii by Bastille).

In Naples, I visited Pompeii which was so beautiful (and eerily quiet). Though some of the structures were restored, it still felt as though I went back in time and was walking on the streets of Pompeii before the city got engulfed by volcanic ashes. When I was commuting from the city centre of Naples to Pompeii, something memorable happened. I took the wrong train and ended up in an extremely ulu (deserted) station with no signages. There were no notices of when the next train would arrive. I plucked up my courage and approached a young lady for help, which ended up with both sides using google translate to communicate.

The colosseum in Rome.

Rome is one of my favourite cities in the whole world. The best part about the city is the Colosseum. I always think about how amazing it is for the Italians to lead their daily lives with the Colosseum right smack in the middle of the city. The Colosseum was huge and I paid for a guided tour that took me underground, where the gladiators used to rest. Fun fact, it is not normal for a gladiator to fight another gladiator, even though it is often depicted as so in movies. Gladiators normally fight animals that were transported from all parts of the world to the Colosseum.

One incident that stuck with me till today is how I almost got robbed. Even though it is an experience of the past, I am still fascinated by how the robbers developed such a well thought through plan. I was having dinner alone in McDonalds with my bag beside me on the floor. Next to me was the staircase to the second floor and a man who was walking down the stairs dropped his key, which landed under my table. He told me to help him retrieve the key while he was still on the staircase. I did as told and when I looked up, another man had his hand in my bag but immediately walked away as soon as I looked up. I returned the key to the man on the stairs despite witnessing the whole situation, as I was still in shock. Shortly after, both men walked out of McDonalds. Luckily, nothing was lost as I buried all my belongings deep down in my bag.

A word of advice for those going on exchange: please take care of your belongings while overseas and don't ever keep them unattended!

Dorothy Kheng, A Block

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

I went to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) for exchange and if you ask any UC student, they will tell you that UCSB is known for one thing: the parties. My college town’s ‘party street’ known as Del Playa is always buzzing with white girls drunk on Whiteclaws and guys crowding around beer pong tables. This happens EVERY NIGHT. But one of the standout parties was the Mountain Party.

A party during my exchange.

UCSB is situated on the coastline of California. Picturesque views of the ocean on one side, and mountains on the other. The Mountain Party, as the name suggests, is an annual party held in the mountains behind UCSB, and it’s usually an ‘iykyk’ kind of party. Our fellow exchange friends at UCLA and Fir were visiting us the weekend of the Mountain Party, so we seized the opportunity and went for the party. When we asked for the location of the party, we were sent coordinates -- actual coordinates that directed us to the middle of the mountains. It was so sus and the drive up took two hours! But we did it anyway. We bought wine and drove up the mountain, which had roads that were so windy and pitch black. There were no road barriers on the side and when I looked out the window of the passenger seat, I was literally looking down the cliffs. Thinking back, it was so insane how we actually drove up there.

When we finally arrived, there were lines of cars parked and we heard music in the distance. It was freezing cold up in the mountains but we had to hike a bit to get to where the music was coming from. After a while, we finally got to an open area with a huge tentage. There were disco lights and people were yelling and jumping to some weird trance-like music. People were also squatting down in the open area, huddling around some light. When we got a closer look, we saw that they were huddled around a weighing scale with some crystals on it. Partygoers occasionally came up to us asking if we had tranquilisers, which I politely declined. We saw a couple of our international exchange friends there so it wasn't completely an Americans-only party. We left the party early because honestly, it got boring. But we had fun! It really was an eye-opening experience seeing how different the partying and drinking culture was in the US as compared to Singapore. The difference? People mainly attend the Mountain Party to get high.

Ryan Cheok, B Block

New York University (NYU)

The best part about living in New York, apart from the American dream and bagels, was that I managed to catch celebrities almost everywhere. My best celebrity-chase experience was definitely the day I saw Justin Bieber. My friends and I initially planned to visit one of the many museums in the city, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was the perfect weather for the museum as it was raining and gloomy. While we were making our way there, we realised Justin Bieber was in town and was going to the MTV Studio in Times Square. We braved the rain and quickly rushed down. After waiting for about 10 minutes amongst other screaming fangirls, we saw him in person with his wife, Hailey Bieber. He was literally an arm’s length away from us. It was an amazing experience but the best part was when my friends and I were approached by the MTV producers who asked us if we wanted to be on TV. Of course we agreed! We went to the front of the Times Square billboards and when Bieber’s video played, we had to be excited, happy and screaming as they took a video of us which was on aired on MTV. The video is still available on Youtube if you want to catch my five seconds of fame. On a completely different day, I was on the way home from school when I passed by a recording studio and managed to sit in for a live interview for free and meet Greyson Chance!

Me with Greyson Chance (JB 2.0)

Reena Primalani, A Block

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Kent Ridge Hall Reporters 2019