Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tough Stuff

Wow, it has already been a month since my last post. My return wouldn’t sound nice without an explanation. It was really a tiring month. Loads of assignments, many term-end projects, last minute submissions, and above all of that, research and semester exams. Only God could have come to my rescue.

I know I sound a little melodramatic, but that's honestly how I felt. I stayed up late almost every single night. So, now it’s time for me to take a break. I am planning to visit my friends place for a sumptuous barbeque dinner. But before I leave, let me pen down some info about the course work in NUS.

Like any other western university, NUS also works under a modular credit system (most popularly known as MC’s). For a graduate masters by course work, you need at least 40 MC’s for graduation. This works out to an average of 10 grad courses, whereas for PhDs it’s only 24 MC’s. But PhDs also have to do their research simultaneously. So, on an average, if you consider the work load, it’s pretty much the same, which is really heavy. 

The main purpose of these courses is to give students necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to understand and tackle real world problems. Also, one shouldn’t forget that the scholarship, which is awarded at the beginning itself, doesn’t guarantee its validity till the end. It is renewed every semester, after evaluation of the grad student’s performance in both course work and research. Hence, it becomes much more important to score in these courses, at least to cross these minimal barriers.

Based on the assessment criteria, all these modules can be classified under three headers: Continuous assessment, open book or take home assessment and our conventional end semester exams. Each of these has its own advantages and disadvantages. But in my opinion, what it takes to clear any of these is the same thing - your conceptualization and understanding of the subject. Hence, all your assignments and projects contribute a lot.

Presentations and report writing will become a part and parcel of a grad student’s career. Hence I suggest that one equips himself with the required soft skills. A laptop with a wireless adapter is another essential tool, which will come handy during these days.

In conclusion, if you are looking at deepening your knowledge with your grad degree, then this coursework will act as a support, which will train you to sail through your grad life and equip you to take up challenges on a real time basis. Though the path you are following is going to be hard and tough, thinking of the end results will encourage you to move forward.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

By now, you know me well enough to know that I am a foodie! I love trying out different kinds of food. And, what better place in the world for a gourmet than Singapore. As I once mentioned to you, Singapore is the country where east meets west. Here you can find both eastern and western culinary delights.

Like most of the western countries, Singapore too has an eating-out culture. Hence every housing estate has a food court filled with various varieties of hawker stalls serving a range of food including Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian, Western and more... So you have got inexhaustible choices to choose from and that too in your vicinity. More over food in Singapore is cheap when compared to western counterparts.

Some of the local favorites are Laksa noodles (rice noodles and mixed seafood in spicy coconut milk gravy with a half boiled egg), Hainanese Chicken Rice (boiled rice with chicken soup served with roasted chicken), Char Kway Teow (a form of roasted rice noodles), Pepper/Chilli Crab, Rojak (A mixture of fried vegetables with black sauce and groundnut powder), Satay (Marinated meat, grilled and served with spicy groundnut paste) and Steam boats of various kinds. Mmm, my mouth is already watering.
Maybe I should tell you about my favourite dishes though. Kaya toast and Fish head curry, two Singaporean foods I simply love.

Kaya Toast: Kaya is a sort of local jam. It is made from eggs, sugar and coconut milk. Usually it is caramel coloured but sometimes it is also green in colour. I love eating Kaya with hot, buttered toast. Sometimes, I eat Kaya Toast with eggs as well. Yum!

Fish Head Curry: This is one of the mouth-watering creations of Indian origin. Large fish heads bearing a surprising amount of meaty morsels, from cheeks to lips to eyes are simmered in a spicy, intensely red gravy with succulent ladyfinger, tomatoes and brinjal, all eaten with plenty of fluffy rice. This is divine!

But hello Vegetarians! If you think Singaporean food is only a treat for Non-Vegetarians you couldn't be more wrong. All my Vegetarian friends, you have a big surprise awaiting you in Singapore!

You can find many Buddhist originated Chinese vegetarian stalls/ hotels serving you vegetarian dishes that retain their unique flavor and taste. Like chicken made of soya beans, omelet made of bean curd etc…superb! Don’t miss them. These are cent percent vegetarian. You can find a list of Vegetarian outlets in Singapore from Singapore Vegetarian Society (

The best time to discover Singaporean food is during the Singapore food festival. Generally it starts from the end of June and goes on till the end of July and occurs every year.

I'm going to share with you some cool links that'll help you discover Singaporean food treats:
Cuisines of Singapore:
Food fair in Singapore:
Singapore Food Blogs:

And, these are my favouritest restaurants in Singapore. See you there!
A-Roy Thai
Lau-Pa Sat
Rice table
Riverwalk Tandoor

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fun with the Freshers

An educational system isn't worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn't teach them how to make a life. Singapore’s education system teaches us to make a life and not a living! In my course we dedicate our time and efforts to several pursuits, some academic and several non academic.
One of the major teams I am associated with is our Graduate Students Association. This is a graduate student body which works for the betterment and development of graduate students. We take up lot of activities here in college that are both academic and non-academic. It ranges from local industrial outings to cultural trips and regional conferences. To be associated with this executive team is one of the rarest opportunities. This has taught me many new skills and also helped me find many new friends!
As always, the current year’s association activity started out with a freshers program. But, this year we decided to do things with a twist. The motive of the program is to informally welcome freshmen and to interact with them. This usually it happens in a small closed air conditioned room where people comfortably sit, eat the snacks and push off. In order to make this activity really effective and lively, this time we decided to take the freshers along with us to the Singapore Botanical gardens and have some fun.
You know what? It was real memorable. Everyone really had an enjoyable time and made many new friends. I think this time the freshers program achieved its objective and how! Though the rain tried its best to stop us but it couldn’t make us its victim. With a range of innovative games organized by the team, we spent half a day of fun at those gardens. Do you wanna see all the fun? Check out my albums and videos on you tube.
Do watch this space to know more. There's lots coming up!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Creatures of the Night II

So, in my previous posts I told you guys about the pubs that you can hit when you're in Singapore. But if you're more into dancing and partying the night away there are many big and small night clubs mushroomed mainly around the night life district of Clark quay. Big or small, each one of them has unique music style and lightening effects and the crowd. It’s very difficult to squeeze in story about all of them. Mentioned here are some of the most popular night clubs.

St. James Powerhouse- Once a real powerhouse, the building is modified to host numerous clubs and hangouts ranging from an Asian night club (Dragon-fly) to Latino Salsa dance floor (Movida).

If you're a person with quick mood-swings, then it’s the place just meant for you. You can start with some hip-hop at the Powerhouse club here. Want to get a more R&B flavour to it? Just walk to the Boiler Room. Live hip-hop and R&B will sizzle your senses. If your Asian friends are feeling left out, then take them to Dragon-fly. With cool Asian music playing and beautiful bodies moving to the music, no one can resist standing still. If you suddenly meet someone special and want to dance to some romantic music, take her to Movida which will open your senses with a latino music performance. Hungry and tired, try out various food outlets to satisfy you taste buds. Location: Harbour Front

Zouk – Popular for the largest dance floor in Asia, it’s a place which hosts some of the most popular international DJs and bands. Equipped with 3 different rooms i.e. underground velvet, Phuture and Main floor, it is perfect for a big night out. With the occasional dry ice showers, you will always be up for crazy times.

Zirca- Previously hosting the Ministry of Sound, Zirca is a place quite notorious for their unique Vegas style performances. It may or may not match your taste. Don’t forget to try it out.

And finally I would like to end this post with one of my favorites, new Asia bar in equinox complex ( It has got a cozy atmosphere with a phenomenal attitude at a very high altitude. The birds view of Singapore in night is awe wondering. But the prices....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Creatures of the Night - Part I

If you think that education in Singapore is all about studies, then you need to correct yourself. With a vibrant mix of students from all around the globe, Singapore caters all nocturnal party animals and unleashes them to take over the night. It’s very difficult to not to find a mate to party or hangout here. Believing in the spirit of ‘Work hard, party harder’, most of the young crowd flocks towards the numerous pubs, clubs and customized hangouts to have a good time.
The nightlife scene in Singapore is exhilarating with some of the world’s top clubs and DJs. The music is great and the people are so friendly. It’s a great way to unwind with friends after a hard day’s work. There aren't too many clubs back home, so I pretty much have a great time always. We don't have a car yet so we take the bus. It's really safe to do that at any time of night and affordable.

After years of partying in Singapore, I along with my friends, have few of our favorites. This post may act as a quick handy student guide to partying in Singapore.

Pubs: There are various pubs scattered all around Singapore. If you are coming to NUS, SMA, NAFA etc, Holland Village, Clark Quay and Boat Quay will turn out to be the places to find the pub of your taste. Some of the most popular ones are –

Wala Wala – Affectionately known as Wala’s to the locals, Wala Wala is an old-faithful watering hole of Holland Village. The ground floor lets you enjoy a cold one at the distinctive yellow-lit bar and you get an opportunity to catch sports on one of several flat-screen TVs. It’s an awesome place to hangout when your favorite sport is on. The bar upstairs hosts a variety of local music and comedy acts, with an ‘acoustic happy hour’ from 7 to 8.30pm which may vary time to time. Live bands and awesome mouth-watering food make it the perfect place to be at. There is a direct bus from NUS (#95) which takes you directly into the heart of Holland Village.

Clinic – Another interesting place to be in Singapore. Located in the Heart of Clark Quay night district, Clinic provides a never before drinking experience in a hospital like ambience. With hot nurses serving you favorite cocktails while you sit on an operation bed or a wheel-chair, you can never miss on good times there. A must try is a cocktail filled in a medical drip bottle which makes the whole thing look close to real.

China One- A fusion of a pub, night-club and a pool room, China one can usher you with whatever you want. With copious amount of floor area, you can fit in all your friends with even making the place a packed warm chimney. From time to time they come up with drink promotions so if you have a tight partying budget, you can still fit it all in. Location: Clark Quay.

Loof – A roof-top open air pub with contemporary d├ęcor makes it a very cheeky place to brag about yourself. Above all, there are 1 on 1 cocktail promotions on few days of the week before 9 so if you have a clue how much liquor you’re going to pour in your blood, then everything is set. Also, get martinis at only 8 S$; Awesome price for an awesome drink at an awesome place. Location: Top of Odean Tower, Bugis Area.

Chimes- If you have a strong liver and a taste for liquors, there is no better place to be on Wednesdays than Chimes. Just pay 20 bucks and enjoy free-flow of whatever you can drink in 3 hrs. Located in the courtyard of a church complex very near to Bugis MRT, it’s a fun place to see your friends getting wasted. Other days of the week, it’s a really nice place to come down with someone special and have a good evening. Decent food (which I could never afford) with a nice choice of wines will make your evening match his/her expectations.

O-bar – If you’re looking for some decent music, plus a nice ambience, then probably O-bar can usher you in. I specifically like the place for the occasional free-flow of Carlsberg beer cum all drinks 3 S$ each all night long. I like the place because it’s not too crowded and the crew members are very friendly. Location: Mohammad Sultan Road.

Prince of Wales- A typical Aussie pub located at Dunlop road in Little India. It’s the place where you shouldn’t worry about the dress code. Whether you’re sweaty, in shorts or in flip flops, it’s the place to chill out to the full extent. Enjoy the drinks in real Aussie style.

You can read up on these places on the internet. But this is not all. There are some fantastic night clubs too that I need to tell you about. But that's later. Till then take your pick.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bohemian Glide

Have you ever tried to skate on roller blades?? If you haven't you'd better try it now. Guys…it's awesome fun! You must try this at least once in your life time. The smooth glissade is really an amazing experience. Though you'll fall a lot initially, once you learn the trick, it's incredible.

After a long week of work it's really our call to relax. Work hard and play harder is true Singaporean style. People work very hard for five days and enjoy for the next two days with the money they earn. As usual we were planning a Friday night fever but one of my friends, working here in a MNC asked me to go out along with few of his colleagues for a rollerblade session.

Though I was very reluctant at first, I later agreed to try this out. There were few school kids waiting for us at the ground that night. These people were a bunch of school kids who were expecting their high school results at the end of the month and so in the mean time they wanted to make some money. So they started lending their roller blade kits on an hourly basis. And not only do they lend their blades, they also teach people like us to glide. Look at their entrepreneurship and enthusiasm. I really admire their spirits and thoroughly enjoyed their company.

Started with a V march, T march, Scooters, 6 step V march and glide and so on. It was a long lasting night which was totally worth it.

"Always keep your knees bent", "don’t lean backwards, lean in the front", "don’t look down", "fall in front and don’t fall back", etc are a few of the common tips you get to hear from them. And finally now I know to skate on roller blades.

I'm hoping to return there next weekend too but also can’t miss the clubbing. So I think I'm going to plan the clubbing on Saturday. Hey...did I ever write a post about clubbing in Singapore? Not yet? I will do it ASAP. Keep watching this space. Until then. Bye!

Recognizing Excellence

Did I ever tell you guys that I came here on a Scholarship? I think I did. In line with Singapore's tradition as a talent attraction hub, the Universities here make available an abundant array of scholarships, fellowships, tutorships and other forms of financial assistance to students.

I came here as a Masters by research student under GST (Graduate Student Tutor) scheme. But later looking at the prospects for PhD and scholarships, I converted to PhD under the NUS research scholarship. Actually these were the simple scholarship or financial assistance schemes which almost all students admitted at NUS will receive.

Singapore is a place that recognizes excellence. If you have talent, you will be rewarded for sure. So with hopes I also tried for other prestigious scholarships like the SMF (Singapore Millennium Foundation) scholarship and the PGF (President Graduate Fellowship). I'm not sure if it was because I'm smart or I was lucky but it so happened that I was awarded the prestigious SMF scholarship which is given to two or three PhD students every year.

There are also various other types of financial assistance schemes offered to international students. I don’t have much information about what and how they are awarded in other faculties and schools but as far as the Faculty of Engineering is concerned, there is a wide range to choose from. Generally, these scholarships vary in the stipend amount, incentives and the name and fame. Though some of them are especially for Singaporean Nationals, international students also have a fair chance if there aren't enough deserving applicants. So it’s always advisable to write to the respective funding agency for clarifications. Let me talk about a few of the most common ones and some of the special ones which I am aware of.

NUS Research Scholarship: This is the most common scholarship for PhD students. The scholarship amount is S$2000+500 per month, where the additional S$500 per month will be given on successful completion of his/her PhD qualifiers. There is also a tuition fee waiver associated with this. And most of the PhD students who get admission will be awarded with this scholarship.

MOE Research Fellowship: The amount remains the same as that of NUS-RS but the funding agency differs. This is from the Ministry of Education.

Singapore International Graduate Award (SINGA): ( Earlier ASTAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) used to have a PhD scheme in their research labs. But these days they partner with the existing universities in Singapore. The amount remains the same but you get to work in one of the ASTAR institutes.

Graduate Student Tutor (GST): This is majorly awarded to Master students by research. The amount ranges from S$1400 to 1500. But one has to pay his/her tuition fee. So effectively it will be S$800-900 only.

Graduate Student Loan Scheme: For Master students by course work, there are no scholarship or fellowship schemes as such. But there are various banks in Singapore which give u an interest free loan for tuition fee which is also easy to repay once you secure a job.

Some of the other special fellowships which are relatively competitive to secure are….

President Graduate Fellowship (PGF): Awarded only to top 1% students in each faculty of NUS. It includes S$3000 monthly stipend and tuition fees waiver. A one-off air travel allowance for 1 one-way ticket of up to S$750 (only for overseas students); and a one-off settling allowance of S$1,000 (only for overseas students) are also given.

Singapore Millennium Foundation (SMF) Scholarship: ( This is one among the most prestigious scholarship one looks for. It has been awarded by Singapore Millennium Foundation (A Temasek Group based non-profitable organization) to majorly number of post-docs and very less PhD students. Every year approximately two to three PhD students in Singapore will be awarded. Major focus of this award is on subject areas such as life sciences, materials research and advanced computation. Though the process is lengthy and the competition is tough but it’s worth a try.

Other few fellowships include Lee Kong Chian Graduate Scholarships, Graduate Fellowship for ASEAN Nationals, AUN/SEED-Net Scholarship, NRF (Clean Energy) Scholarship by EDB (Economic Development Board), NUS-DSO PGF Scheme, etc…

NOTE: All these scholarships are awarded on a renewal basis. Generally the term ranges from six months to one year (As is the case everywhere, there are no free lunches in Singapore). And mostly the bare minimum scholarship amount you need to live a decent bachelor life is around S$1000 (if you're lavish). So with any of the above mentioned schemes you can be self sufficient.

Links of Interest: