Thailand and the first week of school

20 Aug

Friday I finished my first week of classes at the National University of Singapore. The biggest difference is that most classes meet once a week for a two-hour block (105 minutes of lecture), rather than multiple times for a shorter length, plus a one- or two-hour tutorial (recitation). I have a hard enough time staying concentrated at Purdue, so some classes may be a challenge. Course registration for exchange students was a bit of a pain: in our initial application we could apply for up to ten modules, but several of the ones I wanted were rejected because the number of exchange students in each class is limited. We could make more requests a week before classes started and again the first day of classes, but some weren’t responded to until the end of this week. Then if someone still didn’t get a needed class, he would have to go to the department in person for approval. After the two adding rounds I’m happy with my modules, but we still have to register in person for the tutorial sections, resulting in an unfavorable time slot. The local students, though, have a bidding system where there’s essentially a silent auction for classes! I hear it’s stressful and complicated, but I suppose it’s better than a mad rush when MyPurdue opens.

Morgan 2

Morgan 3

Morgan 1

I’m taking two chemical engineering classes, Fluid Dynamics and Process Safety; Chinese 1; Politics of the Middle East; and Clean Energy and Storage. I’m a little worried about the difficulty of the ChemE classes, with the final exam worth over half the grade and it being graded on a secret bell curve! I’m jealous of the many exchange students who get to take all their classes pass/fail – I’m doing it for Chinese.

This week has been great for meeting more new friends. I was suprised to walk into my Chinese class and already know five other students there! Monday evening there was a welcome party for the exchangers, where I also met Linus, the unofficial NUS lion mascot. On Thursday and Friday I attend three club call-outs, which they call Welcome Teas but don’t actually serve tea. Two were hiking clubs, but I was sorely disappointed to learn that all their cool trips to Malaysia and other countries are only in the summer and winter breaks, something that wouldn’t really work at Purdue. The third was for Dive Club, and I’m really excited to learn how to Scuba dive and go to the reef at Pulau Dayang in the South China Sea. Saturday I went with a big group to the National Museum of Singapore, which has a fantastic exhibit about the country’s history.

Last week before classes started my parents and brother visited me here and I had a chance to show them around the place I’d lived the past two months. They were excited to see campus, Chinatown, Kampong Glam, Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens, and other sights of Singapore. For four nights in the middle of their trip we went to Khao Lak, Thailand, which is just north of Phuket Island. We stayed at a great resort, where the Swedish Prime Minister had actually just left! It unfortunately rained our whole first day, but we got great $8 Thai massages. The next day we went for elephant rides! My brother and I got a 12-year-old elephant named Puey, and we got to sit in both the saddle seat and on the huge neck where the mahout (trainer) usually sits. The best part of course was going to a reservoir and swimming with the elephants! It was so much fun when they stood up when we were trying to climb on but slid off instead. Thursday we took a full day trip to Phang Nga Bay National Park, which is filled with incredible karsts, limestone formations dramatically rising from the sea. We made a stop at James Bond Island, a narrow rock used in The Man with the Golden Gun, and for lunch we visited Ko Panyee, a floating village built around one of the karsts, where about 1600 people live. Afterward we went to the Sea Turtle Conservation Center, where we saw hundred of cute baby sea turtles! They raise them in tanks for several months until they’re big enough to be released.

Back to now, yesterday some friends and I went to the Istana, Singapore’s presidential palace, which is only open four times a year. The grounds and mansion were very nice, and we even got to see President Tony Tan and his wife! They just walked right past us on our tour; not something you can do so easily in the US or many other countries!


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