Published: Feb. 12, 2018

As part of our commitment to the development of Southeast Asian Studies, the Center for Asian Studies, in collaboration with the CU Boulder Education Abroad Office, runs a Southeast Asia Study Abroad​ Scholarship Program to help CU students explore Southeast Asia and develop valuable knowledge about this oft under-studied region of the world. Recently, Elise Brizes, a senior at CU Boulder and one of our scholarship recipients, kindly shared some of her experiences studying iat the National University of Singapore. 

Hello! This past semester, Fall 2017, I studied on exchange at the National University of Singapore. Coming into the program, I was very nervous about the difficulty of classes, my adjustment to life in Asia, and meeting friends when I came in knowing no one. All of that dissolved within a week of being in Singapore, however, because of the quality of the exchange program at NUS. I met friends from all over the world, had two amazing Singaporean mentors, and was able to pass all of my Chemical Engineering classes due to the support I received from my professors. That aside, I was also able to travel around Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Myanmar over weekends and school breaks. I am incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity by the University of Colorado.


I took 16 credit hours, all completely transferrable, of Engineering classes. This included Heat and Mass Transfer, Thermodynamics, Probability and Statistics for Engineers, and Kinetics and Reactor Design. This is not a typical study abroad class load, but I was able to make it work by spending Monday through Wednesday extremely focused on my studies. The rest of the week was spent traveling with the friends I made at NUS. My friends mainly consisted of other exchange students because of our shared values of travel and exploration around Singapore and the rest of South East Asia. I did have many Singaporean friends through Chemical Engineering and mutual friends, and they taught me a lot about Singaporean life. My Singaporean friends showed me their favorite spots to eat (I tried some amazing Chili Crab), and fantastic night life destinations in Clarke Quay and around. Most importantly, we worked intensely on school work together and developed lasting bonds.


Singapore is extremely humid and hot, which I grew to love, and so every day was like summer. They city was the most modern and efficient that I have ever experienced. The subways had marble floors and eating was strictly prohibited on the trains. Singapore is definitely a city of rules, for example chewing gum is banned, and jaywalking is punishable by jail. If you feed the monkeys by MacRitchie Reservoir, the fine is 50,000 SGD. I think these rules are worthwhile to the city’s values though and have made the crime rate plummet. I felt safe at all times in Singapore, even walking by myself at night. The culture in Singapore is incredibly unique, as a mixture of many Southeast Asian cultures as well as Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Korean. The largest proportion of the population is Chinese and so Singapore is dominantly influenced by Chinese culture. However, you can see a lot of Malay and Indonesian influences in the food, language and in many people’s dress. The food in Singapore was amazing. I got to try so many new things like Nasi Goreng (Malaysian breakfast), Ban Mian (Malaysian noodles), Chili Crab (Singaporean), Korean BBQ, and so many more. There are four national languages, though people predominantly speak English, including Mandarin, Tamil, Malay and English. All of my classes at NUS were taught in English. Some of my favorite highlights of the city are Arab Street, Marina Bay Sands, Clarke Quay, Chinatown, and the areas around the National Museum. The diversity of Singapore is so special, and a reason why I loved living there so much.


I traveled a lot during my weekends due to the ease of travel out of Singapore. Its incredibly cheap to travel internationally due to the country’s close proximity to many South East Asian countries, and the many budget airlines that offer flights to them. My favorite destination outside of Singapore was Komodo National Park on the Island of Flores in eastern Indonesia. I went on a scuba diving liveaboard and saw some of the most incredible sea and land life. I saw Komodo dragons on land, and under the water, I swam with gigantic Manta Rays. The coral was so healthy and beautiful, and the people I met were warm and kind. Myanmar had a huge impact on me as well, because the people lived with so little, yet were always smiling and joking. Surely, I am not finished traveling around South East Asia and the next places on my bucket list are the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. I can’t wait to go back!


For more information on CAS' current intiatives in Southeast Asia Studies, please see our new webpage here