Thursday, August 12, 2010
It happens to everyone. At home, at school, wherever. You fall into a pattern where one may do the same things over and over again in a similar manner on a daily or even weekly basis. It's still very early in the game, (having only had three days of classes) but I can already tell that there will be no repetitiveness in my daily routines.
Before I get into that, let me talk about how those first three days of school have gone. Dependency on a school's bus system to get to class is something I have never had prior to coming to Singapore. However, while UConn may be a bigger campus than NUS, there are no shortcuts (or at least I haven't found any) to cut across campus. To be honest, even if there were any quick ways to get from one side of the school to another I would still take the bus since the heat is so brutal as I have mentioned non-stop like a broken record. The point of me bringing this up is I had to figure out the quickest route to class so I didn't have to wake up at 11:00 A.M. for a 12:00 P.M. class. Although, there are worse things that could happen to an individual than sit on the NUS-run coach buses to kill time before class (picture above). Seriously, comfy seats, air conditioning, you have the option of people watching or socializing, whatever suits you.
I was forewarned, though, that once you do get to the Department, or Faculty as they say here, of Engineering, it is quite a hike to get from one side of the building to a lecture hall. This I learned very quickly on Tuesday getting to Fluid Mechanics. A decent class but one that seems to follow a similar pattern that I didn't see coming.
What trend am I talking about? Well, at UConn and I'm sure this applies to the majority of colleges and universities in the United States, your class grade is comprised of a few different elements. Ten percent for participation here, another twenty percent for quizzes here, forty percent for two mid-terms there, sprinkle in a five percent for attendance then twenty five percent for the final. Not so fast compadre. NUS classes seems to all have their final exams take up around eighty percent of the class grade.
Depending on who you talk to this can be both good and bad. Good in the sense of not very much work to due until the end of November, which actually could make this great so that there is time to enjoy Singapore and see more of southeast Asia. This could be seen as bad just as easily as you can imagine. Bad in that you basically have one shot and one shot only to show the teacher how well you know the material taught in lecture. Also bad since it provides less incentive for the student to keep up with the lectures and to instead play catch-up at the end. Now I'm not saying I will be that kid that loses sight of the reason I am here to begin with. These are just thoughts that have gone through my mind in hopes that I don't get caught into any of these traps.
I should add that the word on the street is that the curves you get on exams are not student-friendly, either. I'm talking belt curve-esque. Bom Bom Bommmm!!! But that's OK since it will get curved back up when my grades transfer back to UConn, WINNER!?!
Classes aren't just unique based on their grading systems but how often they meet, as well. Each class only meets three hours a week and in contrast to having lab about fifteen times at home for Physics I, my Physics II module at NUS has two labs the entire semester. I have been reminded numerous times that despite the decrease in lecture/lab time, that these classes are going to be harder and more competitive than anything I have ever experienced.
The only constant part of my day thus far has been making the two minute walk from my building to the basketball courts. It is hit or miss whether you get a good group to play with but I'm happy to be there either way and improve my game.
I have also been able to check out Clarke Quay, the go-to spot for fine dining and hanging out with other foreign exchange students in Singapore. It is a very nice area, one that I can't compare to anything I have been around back in the States. Not that I've been there but from video and photos I would compare it to the River Walk in San Antonio but the river is wider at Clarke Quay. Nonetheless, a very cool place to hang out with other twenty-somethings for its restaurants and night clubs in and around the area.
Last night, I went to an Indian restaurant with a friend in addition to a few other fun and cool people I had never met before we went to Clarke Quay. The food was interesting but very good. What was unique about this establishment was that they had no prices next to the items on the menu. Now when I was picking out what I wanted to eat I didn't think much about that, especially since I didn't know what to get so other people ordered for me. I didn't realize until halfway through the meal that it was a "pay what you want" kind of thing. While tempting to walk out having paid very little compensation for the meal, apparently if you don't pay a respectable amount then some Indian Goddess will smite you, but don't quote me on that.
While on the subject of things that seem taboo to myself and I'm sure many of my readers, I have noticed since day one that all the other rooms in my hall leave their shoes outside their room. It makes sense to not track dirt in but I can't see myself going through with that; someone who doesn't really care about germs and the like could snatch up a nice pair of my Nike SBs that I got in SoHo. I say NoHo to the possibility of that happening so I have no plans on joining the crowd. There are also in ground toilets. I won't elaborate on that other than by saying it is funny when I do see them considering it is literally just a hole in the ground with plumbing. I saw them in Tokyo-Narita Airport on the way to Singapore and I didn't know what they were, initially. I actually thought that I went to the bathroom on a normal toilet then had to do "something," I still am not sure what I was thinking at the time, in one these squat toilets but then kind of realized what they were. No joke, I kind of was freaking out that I didn't know what to do in a Japanese bathroom with all my luggage to make matters worse.
Moving on, I will close by saying be happy you are not me during the day tomorrow (I guess you guys will be sleeping but you get the idea) for I must endure five hours of lecturing between Physics II and European Literature. I will be looking forward to most likely going to Kuala Lumpur this weekend, the capital of Malaysia and home of the famous Petronas Twin Towers. It will be nice to get off the island for a few days and see what the rest of southeast Asia has to offer.
Stay classy readers!