Sydney D'Souza Takes Singapore: What Western's Exchange Program Has To Offer

Name: Sydney D’Souza

Program: Third Year Honours Specialization in MIT

Sydney is currently on exchange in Singapore at Nanyang Technological University. She is studying at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communications.

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When did you decide you wanted to go on exchange? Why did you want to go?

I’ve been thinking about going on exchange since grade 12. I decided to apply during second year. I originally wanted to go during the second semester of third year so I could skip winter, but I ended up going during first semester. I picked Singapore because it is a super safe country, so it seemed like the best place for me to stay in Asia. Singapore is also a flight hub, so there are flights going everywhere. It’s also in close proximity to other countries in Southeast Asia which is perfect for travelling.

How was the application process?

The process isn't super complicated but there are a couple steps. First, you have to see what universities your program is offered at. Once you do this you pick your top three and apply to them. You also have to submit a questionnaire and answer a few questions about why you want to go on exchange and what you think you would gain from the experience. You need to have a 70% average to be eligible.

How is course registration at Nanyang different from Western? Was it difficult to ensure that the courses you take on exchange transfer over to Western?

I found course registration here so confusing and difficult. I had no idea what to do. I was required to take 15-16 credits in Singapore, which is the equivalent to 2.5 credits at Western. First, I had to be accepted into the course—Nanyang doesn't allow exchange students to take certain courses. Once you are enrolled in the class you have to send Western the link to the class as well as the course description. Western then approves the course, which allows it to count as a credit at Western. However, it took Western so long to get back to me with approvals. Waiting for answers was so stressful. This process definitely needs to be improved.

Are the classes and style of teaching different?

I’ve found the style of learning here really different. When they ask us questions in FIMS, they want us to answer using both our personal insights and reference to theory. Whereas in Singapore I’ve found that they want us to answer with statistics and give factual information. There isn't as much room for opinion. However, classes here are really interesting. I’m taking an advertising class that teaches us how to create an advertisement and a brief for it. Another class I’m taking requires us to get into groups and make an entire campaign that is supposed to get people’s attention about a social issue. My project is about foreign domestic workers that come to Singapore to earn money to send back to their family. This is a social issue I would’ve never been exposed to at Western. I find the classes here to be really applicable to real life and future jobs.

You mentioned that Singapore is a flight hub. Have you taken advantage of this and travelled?

I’ve been on multiple trips since starting my exchange. I’ve been to Thailand, Bali and Vietnam. I’ve found the prices of flights to be really reasonable. The one-way flight I took today from Thailand was $50. Plus, travelling in Asia is super cheap —especially if you book ahead of time. When I was in Vietnam last week I was able to have a glass of wine and a really good dinner for about $8. Singapore, however, is a really expensive country.

What advice would you give to someone that is thinking about going on exchange?

Definitely do it. Apply, even if you're nervous and have doubts. Even if there is just a little part of you that wants to do it, you'll enjoy it. You have to be open minded but not too much. Know where you're going and what to expect. Do your research and save money in advance. You aren't just travelling. You’re also living here too so you have living expenses and accommodations you have to account for. You still have to buy Q-tips here and other miscellaneous stuff like that! Overall, I’m so happy I went on this exchange. My exchange has allowed me to meet so many different people that I would have never crossed paths with. I’ve also been able to get a new perspective on so many things and see so many different cultures in a short amount of time.

For more information of Western’s exchange program and international learning opportunities check out https://www.uwo.ca/international/learning/.

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