We talk to two students who have recently returned from their exchange programmes
By Jolin Tan
What modules did you take?
Kenzo: I took seven modules during my exchange. Steel design structure, reinforced concrete, foundation of structure, transportation engineering, environmental engineering, building technology and management, as well as basis of bridge design.
Hemant: The University of Rochester offers a wide variety of interesting and unique history modules that take a very interdisciplinary approach to the subject, and not just the conventional take on history. The modules included the likes of History of Film and The History of corruption.
How did you pick the destination country of your exchange?
Kenzo: I chose Prague because it’s a beautiful place and it’s relatively cheaper to stay there. Besides, the school o ers the courses that I wanted to sign up for.
Hemant: New York has always been one of my favourite places to go to so it was an obvious choice to make. This, plus the opportunity to explore the East Coast that has some of the most historic and famous cities in America, was an opportunity of a lifetime.
Tell us about the culture/people of the place you visited.
Kenzo: The people in Czech Republic are quite friendly, despite the communication barrier (the people do not speak English). Unlike Singaporeans, people in Czech Republic do not spend their free time whipping out smartphones to play games or surf the Internet. The people there enjoy drinking beer, and it is common to see customers ordering beers even during breakfast and lunch.
Hemant: American culture would be one that is pretty familiar to everyone. From TV shows such as “Friends” and “How I met Your Mother”, we get a pretty good idea of how open and friendly people in that part of the world are. Small talk is very important there. People usually prefer small talk over awkward silence and so it’s easy to strike up a conversation with almost anyone.
Share an interesting place/tourist spot.
Kenzo: I visited the Astronomical Clock in Prague, the only oldest astronomical clock in the world that is still working.
Hemant: One of the most interesting spots I visited would be the High Line in New York City. It is a 2.4km-long stretch of park that was converted from old train tracks that run through the city. It was interesting to see a park perched above the roads of New York that wounded through the city and even through some buildings. Although it isn’t as famous as the other notable green attraction in the city, it stands out for how it shows the importance of conservation in a city that progresses so quickly.
Is their education system similar/ different to Singapore? How so?
Kenzo: The education system in Prague is different compared to Singapore. Most of the teachers there use blackboard and chalks during lessons.
Hemant: A notable difference in their education system would be how they give much focus to discussion and class participation. Most lectures and lessons are heavily focused on discussions with almost everyone in the class actively participating. Even though assignments and exams are present, it is obvious the system there focuses more on learning than studying.
Any advice for people considering to go for exchange or embarking on their exchange journey?
Kenzo: Learn the language and embrace the culture.
Hemant: Don’t treat it like a vacation! Even though it is kinda like one. What I mean by that is, exchange gives you a chance to really stay and immerse yourself in cities and its culture. If you treat it just like a holiday, you might lose out on the chance to fully experience. So when you spend time to visit the tourist sites, also take time to go o the track and visit places that tourists wouldn’t normally go to and get to know the locals. You will be fascinated at the stories you can hear from the di erent people you meet. The beautiful thing about this is, all these stories will add to your own exchange story!
Also, always be mindful that wherever you are, it isn’t Singapore. Things that you take for granted like safety, isn’t a given in most other places in the world. So wherever you travel to, always take necessary precautions.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt from your trip?
Kenzo: I have learnt to appreciate Singapore better after my exchange trip. Singapore is safe and clean. Remember to be alert and always look out for your belongings when travelling. I was almost pickpocketed during my stay in Prague.
Hemant: One of the biggest lessons would be to appreciate the things I have in Singapore more. Being away really teaches you to appreciate everyone and everything you so easily take for granted. Exchange really makes you realise how there’s so much you should be thankful for, that people elsewhere might never get the chance to have.