What You Need to Know if You Are An Exchange Student in Singapore

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Singapore is known as the Lion City and is located at the end of the Malay Peninsula. It's composed of one main island and a few smaller islets. Despite its small size, it is an energetic and thriving city with a vibrant nightlife, rich art and culture, and an internationally acclaimed culinary landscape.

If you are an exchange student in Singapore, you have picked an incredible place to study. It is a multi-cultural country with an excellent education system. You will improve your English and Chinese and maybe even pick up some Malay. Here's what you need to know if you are an exchange student to take advantage of your time in Singapore.

exchange student singapore

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Visa and Immigration

All foreigners with an offer of admissions are required to hold a valid Student's Pass. In most cases, a tourist visa is not sufficient to be an exchange student in Singapore. The Singapore Immigration and Checkpoints Authority or ICA issues Student's Passes.

You can apply online through Singapore's SOLAR system or the Student's Pass On-Line Application and Registration system. You will need to submit the relevant documentation to receive an in-principle approval or IPA letter.

Part-Time Work

Some part-time work is allowed under specific conditions. However, it is subject to approval by your University. They will like need to issue you a letter or authorization before you can pursue any employment. Contact the appropriate department in your school to find out more information and the terms for employment.

Cost of Living

According to the Singapore Management University, the monthly cost of living for an international student is approximately S$750 to S$2,000. These numbers do not include tuition fees nor travel expenses from your home country to Singapore.

Accommodation

Most students will pay S$200 to S$700 per month. This cost will vary depending on the location of your room. However, most international students will opt to rent a room as opposed to an apartment.

On-campus graduate housing is generally available, but because of its limited supply, most halls of residence are reserved for new full-time postgraduates in research programmes. As a result, your remaining options are a privately owned but shared apartment or house, a private hostel, rent a room in an HDB flat, or renting a unit of your own.

Utilities

Aside from halls or residence and hostels, you will need to pay for water and electricity. In general, this will cost you about S$40 to S$100.

Food

Food in Singapore is relatively inexpensive if you are eating at University food outlets, cooking yourself, or eating at a food court. If you are opting to be budget friendly, you will likely spend between S$10 to S$15 per day for three meals.

Transportation

Singapore has one of the best and extensive public transportation systems in the world. A local public transport pass will cost around S$90. Full-time students enjoy concessionary travel rates. In general, the cost of the MRT and bus rides depend on the distance.

Please note that it is against the law to drink and eat on public transportation. Additionally, public transport stops around 1 AM each night. You may want to download the Explore Singapore MRT app and SG Buses app to help you get around the city.

Alternatively, you may consider downloading the Grab app or the ride-sharing Ryde for a convenient ride. There are also local taxi options too. Be aware of the surcharges during peak times and late nights.

Telecommunications

If you are just relying on your cellphone, your bill will range between S$35 to S$100 per month. Of course, this depends on your plan features. However, if you opt for broadband Internet service at home, this is around S$50 per month.

Banking

dbs singapore

dbs singapore

You are not required to open a bank account. However, if you receive a stipend, you may want to consider one. There are numerous banking options in Singapore. Most banks will require your passport, proof of address, your Student's Pass and visa, if applicable to open an account. Your bank may also require a minimum deposit.

Medical and Insurance

It may be hard to be away from home, especially if you are under the weather. I have a child of my own, but I still want my mom when I am sick. You have options to seek medical assistance when you don't feel well.

There are student insurance schemes to provide students with basic medical and personal accident insurance coverage. Usually, the premiums are incorporated with the fee that is payable to your University. Contact your school to inquire about your medical coverage.

Culture and Leisure

Travel

Singapore's geographic location is ideal for traveling to Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, and India. Take advantage that you are in "The Little Red Dot" and explore all the surviving cultures.

Local Must-See Spots

On the other hand, you don't need to leave the country to have an adventure. The College Tourist, a travel blog, recommends the Gardens by the Bay, the Marina Bay Sands, the Botanical Gardens, Sentosa, and the Ion Sky and Orchard Road as their 5 top must-see attractions.

For a more low key list of backstreets, visit Pulau Ubin, Haji Lane, and the Bay East Garden. For free sights, take a look at the Southern Ridges Trail, the Macritchie Reservoir, Little India and China.

Restaurants

Singapore is known as one of the “foodiest” countries or a foodie’s paradise. Take a look at the Paddy Hills cafe, Fat Boys for a burger, and Lau Po Sat at the Hawker Centre. Of course, you must visit a Hawker Centre while you are in Singapore.

Do note that if you see a pack of tissues on a table in the Hawker Centre, this means that table has been “reserved" by local unspoken cultural authorities.

You may want to try the Burpple, Chope, and Open Table apps to reserve a table at the restaurant of your choice before you arrive.

Foods to Try

One of Singapore's national dishes is the famous Hainanese Chicken Rice. This is one of my favorite chicken dishes! In addition, Roti Prata is a staple food originally from India. Finally, one of the exotic and must try fruits of Asia is durian. As a fair warning, you will need to pinch your nose but definitely try this sharp smelling fruit.

Night Life

night life singapore

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Singapore is saturated with themed nightclubs, clubs, live music bars, pubs, and beach bars. Moreover, every Wednesday or Thursday, a large number of clubs run Ladies Night specials. These specials include usually include free drinks, free entry, and some even have free massages or makeup.

For a nice drink over the city, try 1-Altitude, Empire Bar, or Ce La Vi. Of course, you can have a more casual drink in Hawker Centres or at the Purple Turtle in Boat Quay.

Final Thoughts

I know that you will study hard in Singapore. After all, you worked so hard to make these arrangements and fill out the appropriate paperwork to receive a Student's Pass. However, don't miss this amazing exchange opportunity to explore a new culture, eat until your heart is content, and meet new people on your adventure.

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