After four years of blissful inactivity, I graduated from the National University of Singapore last year. I guess that makes me an old bozo on this forum, but the campus is special enough for me to disregard this minor (?!) drawback.
Situated on the West Coast of Singapore, NUS offers something for every degenerate.
Since the whole university is located in the same campus, there are a variety of digestive delights on offer for the connoisseur and the big fat man who eats anything that swims or has legs in multiples of two. Food stalls ranging from Vietnamese to Western grace almost all canteens and the fare on offer is very cheap by Singaporean standards. There are 7 such canteens dotting the campus, and each of them is very conveniently located, either right next to your faculty, where you can talk about how you simply must start attending lectures, and then burst out laughing, or close to the student union and other offices, where you can not enroll in various ‘enriching’ activities. All the canteens have extremely pleasant facades, and time wasting will become a pleasure, I assure you. There is also a MacDonald’s and Burger King on campus, in case you want to teach a lesson to those healthy arteries of yours. For the health conscious (ha!) there’s a Subway and a general store that sells cigarettes. An ice cream parlor and a snack shop rounds off things nicely. All canteens have conveniently located bathrooms, in case those digestive delights want to see the world again.
Other than the regular canteens, there are small joints which are open till varying hours, (latest 1 A.M.) that sell Singaporean and Western food. A 24 hour “Prata” shop that sells a variety of Malay and Singaporean dishes sits right next to the campus, and is an all time student favorite – mainly due to lack of choice, during those peak hunger hours between 1 and 6 A.M.
All are well equipped with facilities ranging from common rooms with T.V. to laundry rooms with dryers. The good (or bad) news is that unlike in India, all hostels are co-ed, which might make the prudes queasy, but they are very very safe. You might find your laundry bag holding some questionable contents at times – seeing as how the laundry rooms are shared too, but a handwritten note of apology stuck at a strategic place, accompanied with the return of the contents usually suffices. Of course your friends, if they know of this might call you a pervert and other unnameable names that haunt the rest of your uni days – but that almost never happens. Promise. Rooms are extremely well furnished and average in size. Enough for all your belongings. If megalomania is what gets your groove on, you can apply to several positions in the student committees that help the administration in running the residences. You can live out your Hitler and Mussolini role playing fantasies through these. No one will ever listen to you of course, but my duty is to inform, not advise.
NUS has exceptional sporting infrastructure. The sickeningly active types can enroll in teams ranging from water polo to cricket. If you are good, you get to rub noses and maybe other things with the best athletes in Singapore – including Olympic participants and Ranji trophy players.
There is a plethora of student clubs that cater to interests both common and exotic. Indulge in theatrics with the NUS Drama Club, or hold on to your roots through NUS Muslim, Hindu, Tamil or Sikh societies. Other popular clubs include the Toastmasters, which provides training and conducts nation-wide debating tournaments, the Ridge team which produces the student magazine and the NUS Satya Sai Society – I kid you not – that attends to your spiritual needs.
Ah! Now to academia. I have absolutely no idea of that. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Rumors have it that the lecture theaters are magnificent and the faculty fabulous. Of course, there’s a fair share of weird, eccentric and downright crazy professors, but hey- we’re talking about college right? What fun without teachers who should be in padded cells wearing straitjackets? Courses are wide and varied, so think deeply and choose wisely. NUS has exchange programs with the best institutions (IIT, MIT, Stanford, IIM etc.), so this might be the place where your nerdy dreams finally come to fruition.
The illusion of geek paradise is accentuated by the presence of 5 libraries with tomes on ‘History of Inter-Galactic Wars’ and ‘How to not bathe for a week and still smell like the proverbial lily’. Ok, I made those up, but maybe I did not look hard enough. I’m sure they are in there somewhere – hiding.
Cool hangout places include the Lover’s Park (Call up Ripley’s!) where you can take your flavor of the day for nice romantic walks and whisper sweet nothings in her/his (?) delicate ears. Also a hideout for smokers and other villains. The University Cultural Center houses 5-6 huge auditoriums, and has a very nice cafe overlooking the gardens. The staircase behind the McDonald’s is a known spot to hide out from angry girlfriends and drink your liver away. The campus is dotted with benches where you can sit and laugh at students stressing out over lectures, assignments and other mundane stuff.
I have tons to write, but this post is assuming epic proportions, so time for a wrap up.
NUS offers the best of facilities and education without picking your pockets. If you still find yourself financially stretched, you can apply for the SIA-NOL scholarship that covers all your tuition expenses and provides an ample living stipend. If your application is not successful, the loans on offer cover absolutely everything including living expenses. The interest starts only when you graduate and you can repay in small installments. NUS opens up new windows of opportunity, through which you can climb and make it big. If you are the laid back kinds, pull up a chair and just enjoy the view. Either way, it will be an experience to treasure.