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 (http://www.vegetarian-society.org/)

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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_food
Food fair in Singapore: http://foodandbeveragefair.com.sg/
Singapore Food Blogs:
http://www.visitsingapore.com/publish/stbportal/en/home/where_to_eat/singapore_food_blogs0.html

And, these are my favouritest restaurants in Singapore. See you there!
A-Roy Thai
Lau-Pa Sat http://www.laupasat.biz/home.html
Rice table http://www.ricetable.com.sg/
Riverwalk Tandoor http://www.riverwalktandoor.com.sg/index.htm

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 (www.equinoxcomplex.com). 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): (https://www.singa.a-star.edu.sg/whysingapore.php) 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: (http://www.smf-scholar.org/) 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:
http://www.gse.nus.edu.sg/financial_assistance.html
http://www.edb.gov.sg/edb/sg/en_uk/index/industry_sectors/alternative_energy/clean_energy_scholarships2.html
http://www.seed-net.org/support_scholars.php
http://www.gse.nus.edu.sg/NUS_DSO_Presidents_Graduate_Fellowship_Scheme.html

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Fair Affair

Thanneer
Singapore is a fair city. Both in terms of justice and celebration. Anything and everything here is fair and just. Last week, a travel fair was being held here. This week there is a career fair and next week there's going to be an IT fair. Mostly of these fairs/exhibitions take place either in Suntec (http://www.suntecsingapore.com/index.pl) or Expo. (http://www.singapore-expo.com.sg/), the two big convention/exhibition centers/halls. These fairs are the most happening places if you're looking for information on any subject. Usually, these fairs last for approximately two or three days and the places to get exciting and cheap deals.

From my last post, you guys must now know, I love to travel. Last year, I travelled to Cambodia and Vietnam during my summer vacation. It was an unforgettable trip. But I'll talk about it some other time. This year, I'm planning a trip to Bangkok and Pattaya in late June. I also have to attend an official trip to the USA for a conference this August. So I've got lots of travel lined up this year. I'm eagerly waiting to say 'time to go!' So to check out some good deals for my trip I went to last week's travel fair.

NATAS Travel – 2009, National Association of Travel Agents Singapore (http://www.natas.travel/) conduct a travel fair twice a year. This year it was held at Expo. Compared to last year, this year’s fair was huge. More than 200 stalls from all travel agents, tourism boards and flight carriers spanned the 2 halls of Singapore Expo. You can imagine the scale of the event! It has earned S$45m in travel sales this year.

I got some really fantastic deals. Like to and fro to San Francisco from Singapore via Japan in ANA for S$980 including taxes {FYI: A normal round trip (SIN to SF) would cost nothing less than S$2100}. But the bad news was the travel dates had to be in the month of Jun – 09. So I planned to wait till the end of this month because the US taxes and fuel surcharge are expected to come down in the coming budget.

Some Chinese drummers performing there. I took some pictures and videos, do have a look at them.

I've also planned on getting a new laptop so I'm going to next week's IT fair. I will update you guys with photos of how laptops and LCD/Plasma TV’s are sold here. The IT fair here is similar to the street markets in India. You can get very good bargains.

Some people also call Singapore a fine city Stay tuned for more. Later.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Passion in Paradise

Hey guys, I've just got a new video and some photos from my university regarding our engineering faculty. I've put it up on my Flickr account. Have a look it and get to know more about my university, NUS. Okay, enough about campus and academics. I'll come back to them later. I want to tell you guys about my passions. I've wanted to write about this for a while now. My passions are travel and food. I love to travel and discover new stuff, in fact that’s one among many reasons why I chose Singapore for my graduate studies.

To visit all places in South-East Asia, residence in Singapore is very ideal. Beginning with currency exchange till airfares and trip planning, it's very convenient and cheap if you reside in Singapore.

Whether it was my time at school or under graduate days or even now in my life as a graduate….I've had a million trips (well, not a million but quite a few). I am neither a holiday planner nor a back packer. I'm somewhere in between. My trips mostly focus on venturing out and experiencing something new always and of course, different cuisines. I've had many, many fun filled trips during my stay here. If I started talking about all of them, I will run into pages. So I better make it short and sweet and talk only about a few of my best ones.

My trip to Tioman (www.tioman.com) was something I will never forget. I actually commend this as a perfect trip. Everything, from climate to travel to accommodation came our way easily. We had great fun. I took this trip to experience (experiment) snorkeling and scuba diving.

I started out on a Saturday morning, in a car with a few friends and headed toward Mersing Jetty (in Malaysia) with a lot of doubts about the climate. In fact the weather was so bad that our ferry from Mersing to Tioman was to get cancelled. But luckily, they agreed to sail. During that 2 hour journey we were terrified of the rash sea. You can imagine what it would be like, when on a heavy, windy, rainy day; the driver speeds the big ferry at 200Kmph against the huge waves and switches off his motors when it comes down. Oh God! I was totally terrified.

But when we got off at ABC jetty, I really felt the journey was totally worth it. I was overwhelmed by the nature’s creation. It was an awe-invoking scene. The beautiful mountains covered with fog and astonishing green scenery at its foot were on one side and the boisterous sea on the other. Just a few steps out of the jetty terminal and that was it. I was speechless as I looked as a small school of fish moved and jumped in the crystal clear sea water.

Later, Tiong-Man, now called Tioman continuously puzzled, dazed and even inspired me with its beauty. Be it the white beach sand or the coral islands or even the water falls. I didn't miss a single chance to explore everything. My most favourite spot was Monkey-Bay. The multi-coloured fishes, colourful corals, live sea urchins and everything else was a different experience in itself. You have to try out snorkeling at Monkey Bay…you will really want to go there again and again and again! We spent almost half a day there and yet, didn't manage to cover the complete land scape. Do go through my pictures and videos of Tioman. You will be spellbound and who knows you may want to visit Tioman for your next vacation.

All in all, it was among one of the best trips I've had. The only drawback was, all these activities required a lot of swimming. And I'm not much of a swimmer so I missed out on a lot of fun stuff like exploring the deep sea. Otherwise, it was an astonishing trip. I hope to return there during the next season with better swimming abilities. But for now, I am leaving for the NATAS travel fair in the EXPO. Hope to get really cheap holiday fares for my next trip. I will update you guys in my next post. Till then, goodbye and keep watching this space for more details on my other trips.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Journey across the seas - part 2

Journey Across the Seas Contd
Sorry, I was really sleepy the last time I was writing....so here is the rest of my in-flight escapade.

The next morning, when sun suddenly made its presence felt I woke up. I had never before realized nights could be so short (and this was when the realization of global timings dawned on me). One peek through the window was enough to take my breath away. The scenario was splendid. This was the first time I was peeping out of a plane; I always used to assume that people who fly get lucky sometimes to get a glimpse of some marvelous scenes from their window. But you can rest assured you will always end up getting glimpses of some splendid natural beauty. As the clouds whizzed by I felt as if I was floating on air. The pilot announced that we were approaching Singapore in 15 min, while the air-hostesses were busy distributing the embarkation/ disembarkation card. Something they forgot to do earlier.

The arrival of Changi airport was promptly announced . And then came the airborne view of the concrete jungle (Singapore city). This was the first time I was getting a chance to see some city from a plane and that too the financial hub of South East Asia. I got a breathtaking view of the city as the plane took a U-turn to align itself in the direction of the runway. And the landing was perfectly smooth. Many things happening now were my 'first time' experiences. Like getting on a plane, getting off a plane and so on. I always had this dreaded fear that landing of a plane was one of the most harrowing experiences of life. I still remember vague images from my childhood as I conjured up passengers dangling in zero gravity in air as the plane nose dived for landing (I guess inspiration from the ONIDA television ad which levered the weight of the passengers to align the plane up and down, with the help of TV set pairs at the front and back of the plane). The descent however wasn’t so unpleasant after all, though I felt giddy from the 'hanging in air' sensation, it was smooth.

Before the plane landed I enquired all about Changi, so I could leave smoothly and quickly. While disembarking, the fact that I was new to this place and knew nothing about international travel was written all over my face. Certain other factors were clear indicators of this. The fact that I was clutching my only possession, a file, which housed all my documents such as VISA, passport and plane tickets so tightly as if my own life depended on it (although in one way it was true).
At the airport I really felt as if I was in a multistory shopping complex. Changi was too big. It actually had 2 terminals (now three) filled with more duty free shops housing all sorts of international brands. Walking through Changi Airport was truly an amazing experience in itself. I felt as if I was walking in my dreams as I flitted along the corridors of the airport with a spending view of airplanes taxiing on the hangar on one side and beautiful shops and suavely decorated interiors of shops selling various items. It was almost like a dream come true and it seemed to me as if I was watching an episode of travel and living. It was a drastic change for me from Anna to Changi. With fellow passengers I managed to reach the arrival counters in less than 5 min.
I was amazed to see 20 officers working at parallel counters to abate the crowd. To top it off, all Singaporeans and permanent residents have separate automated doors through which they can leave. Knowing me as a student from Tamil Nadu, India, the Malay officer greeted me with a “VANAKKAM” with a heavy Malay accent. She asked me for the IPA letter. It was a fraction of seconds and I was out of Changi along with my luggage. The entire process took less than 20 min. This was indeed a great welcome to a new country.

I headed out to meet one of the GSS (Graduate Students Society) members from NUS, holding a board on which my name was written. Actually the GSS have a meet and greet facility, so you can register with them to send a senior student who can guide you to your residence. Though I did this, I was also prepared to take a taxi straight to my residence, in case I missed them. But these guys were on time, looking out for me. I went forward and introduced myself to them at the Airport Terminal and to my immense relief, I received a warm welcome from them. Whoa...I think I have written a lot today. I think I'm done.
Keep an eye for more stuff...Until then bye from me

The best part

Singapore’s flagship university with 14 faculties and schools across 3 campus locations is educating over 30,000 students from more than 100 countries. It also shares a close affiliation with more than 100 research based national and university level institutes and centers. Does it sound big??? And that’s my university, NUS. A global university, thriving to be a global knowledge enterprise.

I have the best campus ever. It’s a mini city in itself with world-class infrastructure ranging from sports & recreation, libraries, food outlets to halls of residence. To start with, it’s a high tech campus which strongly believes in the use of modern electronics. Beginning from your purchase of books, laptops, etc. in the co-op society (local market) to the use of sports facilities such as the swimming pool, gymnasium and borrowing books from the library, you need your electronic student/metric card. With this one card you can live the life fit for a king on the campus.

Other than most of the common facilities such as wi-fi broadband, sophisticated and very frequent internal shuttle bus facility, a big center for instructional technology (which takes care of all e-needs like hardware, software, networking, etc…) is present on campus. Most of the top class universities have this. Some of the specialized sections of NUS are YIH (Yousuf Ishak House) serving only students' non-academic needs, Central Forum for student bazaars and a University Cultural Center (UCC) also housing a beautiful cultural and heritage museum.

During my course, I’ve met students from all over the world giving me a uniquely global outlook. The multiracial and the multicultural nature of this place really gives students a proper blend of fun, creativity and imagination and hence education in the true sense of the word. The usage of multimedia in NUS is commendable. Most of the lecture theaters are equipped with well versed multimedia systems (such as Bose speakers) and all the lectures are recorded and web-cast for further reference.

As a PhD student, I also have access to the latest and best in teaching and research facilities. Ranging from sophisticated research equipments to rare books and journals and what not??? I get everything I need for my research. Strong collaborations and joint programs with world class universities such as MIT, UIUC, etc. gives us good networking possibilities and a chance to learn more from the west.

Overall, my experience at NUS is very close to my heart and wonderful. In a nutshell, the university provides me with a conducive learning environment with its great passion in producing outstanding research talent and a well designed education system with a good balance of curricular and extra-curricular activities, with a focus on entrepreneurship is a diamond on its crown. I hope to learn more and can envisage my future plans with the support of NUS.

For those who believe in numbers here are some fact sheets for u
1.Times Higher Education - QS (THE-QS) World University Rankings, NUS was placed 30th among the world's top 200 universities - and 4th in Asia
2.NUS Engineering ranked 11th in the world (http://www.topuniversities.com/)

Wanna know more about my campus??? Then do take a virtual tour and have a look at few of these videos.

VIRTUAL TOUR: http://www.nus.edu.sg/vr/

Other Links:
http://www.nus.edu.sg/
http://www.youtube.com/nuscast
http://www.nus.edu.sg/aboutus/corpvideo.php#corp
http://www.nus.edu.sg/campuslife/

Festive Season

I've been wishing everyone a great new year. I know it's been 3 months since the New Year began but I'm talking about the Chinese New Year. The month of Jan and Feb are two lively months in Singapore. This is when you get to see many lively and exciting activities taking place all around.

CHINESE NEW YEAR: Lunar New Year/Chinese New Year is a very big festival in Singapore. Since 80% of the Singaporeans are Chinese descents, it's one of the official festivals of the country. It's celebrated here with much splendour and the goodies are to die for. The variety is amazing. I can write a lot about the Lunar New Year because I've represented this festival for the past 2 years. But to put in a succinct form, it’s basically the festival of 'GET-TOGETHER'. People from families come together and visit others, share gifts and meals.

It’s supposed to go on for the first 15 days of the Chinese calendar but in this modern era, the Singapore version goes on only for 3 days. The first two important days and the fifteenth day. This is when the lantern festival takes place in the Chinese garden. Want to know more?? (Learn here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_New_Year )

But for me and my friends the actual celebration is at China Town and Marina Bay. We usually take a trip to Chinatown to marvel at the festivities and the celebrations followed by a midnight fireworks show at Marina Bay. This is the time you can get a taste of many signature Chinese dishes and chocolates at Food Street. For shopaholics, this is the perfect time to treat themselves to some street shopping at cheaper rates. You actually get to see many varieties of gifts and goods. Want to know more about Chinese New Year? Have a look at my pictures.

Other major festivals Indians in Singapore celebrate during this season are 'Pongal' and 'Thaipusam'. Let me tell you something about them.

PONGAL: When someone talks about Pongal, what instantly comes to mind is this hilarious incident that happened with me. A Tamil speaking worker man who worked close to my house, explained what Pongal is, to a European friend of mine. According to him Pongal is a festival of “over boiling the rice”. In addition to this he said, on one day it's celebrated for man and on the next, for animal. My friend went crazy on hearing his explanations and I too, was shocked by his literal translations. Kudos to him! Guys, Pongal is not how we actually prepare Pongal. Rather, it's actually a festival celebrated to thank the sun god and mother nature for a good harvest in the preceding year.

Since there are approximately 20% Indians in Singapore, of which a majority speaks Tamil, the so called Tamilar thirunal / sankaranti/ pongal/ baisaki in India is actually celebrated in an extravagant fashion here. Apart from the usual rituals at home and the temple, it is widely celebrated at Campbell lane. During this time it is converted into a mini village, with stalls displaying various festive goods used during Pongal.

And guys if u want to see live cattle around Singapore this is the right time. Go to Little India, you'll definitely can find them there.

THAIPUSAM: Believe it or not, Thaipusam and the Theemithi (walking on fire) are two other important festivals in Singapore. They are celebrated in a very grandiose fashion which is equivalent to any famous temples in Tamil Nadu. It’s actually the festival of Lord Muruga. All the deities start the procession from Sreenivasa Perumal Temple in Little India and end in Thandayuthapani temple at Tank Road. You can see all sorts of Kavadis (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kavadi) during this time.
And you know something? Some of the major participants of these festivals are Chinese!! Ha....I just love this melting pot of cultures.

The good old days

Someone's moved in next door and it's reminded me of the time I moved in. I don't think I wrote anything about that. It was so much fun. I found a place so easily and the people here are so helpful, they made moving in so much easier. At the time I didn't know anyone here so it was quite a relief.

My first accommodation in Singapore was Gillman Heights Condominium. Actually before I even landed in Singapore, I had my first residence. How cool is that? Singapore is actually an online world. All the essentials u need are only a click away. With a click from India I got my bookings done through NUS. So when I arrived I landed directly in my own apartment.

It was quite a big apartment with three bedrooms, one very big hall, a dining room and a kitchen equipped with some basic requirements like a hot plate, refrigerator, microwave, etc. Obviously, I wasn't alone in this big house. I actually shared it with a few of my other mates from India. Some of the other facilities included a sophisticated gym and one of my favourites, a huge swimming pool.

Gone are those good old days. By penning this down I'm actually painting myself those good old memories. No research, little work because everything was new and it was the first year of my course. Hence, I had more free time. We totally rocked at Gillman. I had friends who were Americans, Eurasians and Asians. We really had a very big gang. It’s very easy to get along with the locals. It’s during this time I realised, how colourful a student's life really is.

We did everything from cooking over night barbeques at the poolside to more rigorous stuff like workouts at the gym and some relaxing activities like midnight chats. I enjoyed every moment of my experience at Gillman. But later we had to part ways since the great beautiful Gillman was coming down due to an en-bloc sale.

After that I've moved to 3 places in 2 years. So you can understand how simple it is to move around in Singapore. It's not like I had any kind of trouble at any of these places, it’s just that I wanted to stay close to the university. And now, I actually live right beside my university in my own rented apartment. I think by now you guys must've got the flavor of what it takes to be here and what kind of a life a student would lead here.

Apart from this to help you out, here are some common Housing Terminologies used around Singapore:

BHK: Bedroom, Hall and Kitchen
HDB: Housing Development Board houses. These are more common and cheap accommodations.
Condominium: Private developed accommodations which are a little more expensive than HDB houses but far more sophisticated, like Gillman.
Fully furnished house: Comes with all basic needs such as television, refrigerator, hot plate/ stove, etc…In addition you also get all rooms furnished with wardrobes, cupboards, beds, etc…
Partially furnished house: U might find some basic essentials missing.

I don’t know much about other universities but as far as NUS is concerned. Undergrads and married graduates, don’t worry you've got a place to stay inside the campus. Postgraduates…You will always be taken care of once you land here, just like me. Later you have to figure it out yourselves, which is really simple, just like my experience here. Some quick links u can follow.


For student’s hostel: http://www.yoha.com.sg/

For long term private/public rentals ST701: http://property.st701.com/

For NUS students: http://www.nus.edu.sg/osa/housing/

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Journey Across the Seas

Hello everyone, I am back! I've had an excellent weekend. We went to St. John’s Island (A hangout spot in Singapore). It was a fun filled trip with exhausting activities. I don't want to pen here how my weekend went. That, I think I should reserve for a different occasion. Some time when I have the time to muse over my past, I'll definitely tell you guys all about this trip later. Now, I would like to pen down my first journey to Singapore. This whole idea of telling you guys about my first journey across the seas is to let you know what it takes to come here and how I felt when I landed in 'videsh' (Singapore).
“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”
This was once said by Don Williams, Jr., an American novelist and poet. After great twists and turns in getting admissions (will explain in detail what they were in my coming posts), I had my NUS admission letter/package in hand. What this new road of life was going to teach me? Where am I going to end up? Does the end matter? With all these questions I started my journey to Singapore.
Since I am from Tanjore, I wanted to board a flight from Trichy (an upcoming metropolitan city in the middle of Tamil Nadu with an international airport). But unfortunately there were no direct flights to Singapore (SIN) from Trichy (TRY) during that time (luckily after few months we have got one budget carrier flying at cheaper rates which takes only only 4 hrs from SIN to TRY). Hence, I was forced to take the route via Chennai (MAS). So my travel agent planned a trip from TRY to SIN via MAS with. Firstly, I didn’t want to wait or change flights at Chennai and secondly, I wanted to fly on the night of Jan 1st ( I thought I would spend the new year at home along with my parents and friends). But…he booked a ticket for Jan 1st 00.15 hrs from TRY (which was New Year's eve) and I would also have to get off and wait for 2 hours in Chennai before I could catch my next plane to Singapore. I wondered if this was the right beginning.
After all these goof ups, I half-heartedly began my journey on the 31st of Dec 2006. The journey from TRY to MAS was on a local flight. It was smooth and nothing eventful happened. Whereas after a 3 hour wait at Chennai airport, I found out that my onward carrier had been delayed by 2 hours. I started to question myself…Is this the right day to travel??? And finally at 6 AM, “INDIAN AIRLINES” opened their check-in counter and I was the first one to run and get my boarding pass done. Soon after that I went into immigration and gave my passport and IPA letter (A letter from Singapore immigration department which serves as a visa). Another surprise was in store for me. The immigration officer asked for my visa. I told him that it was inside my passport. He said this is an IPA letter but you officially need a visa to enter Singapore. And finally it took more than 15 min for me to convince him and his superiors to allow me out of India. The reason for this confusion stems from the single line on my IPA letter, which stated that I would be given a students' pass on successful completion of my medical test upon arrival in Singapore. So their question was what if I fail my medical test? I was like...first allow me to take the test then we can discuss whether I pass or fail.
After boarding the plane it took me sometime to get in sync with the surrounding environment. Luckily the carrier was a brand new airbus 320. So I was quite relieved. After a few instructions from the beautiful air-hostess regarding in-flight safety and emergency landing, the captain announced the takeoff. I felt quite nervous as the plane gained momentum on the tarmac. After all this was my first experience.
And 'whoosh', the plane set out with a sudden screech of the wheels. We could feel the instruments (TV panels) in the plane wobble under the tremendous power that was building up and then for a brief instant I felt all the organs inside my body, suspended in air as the plane left the tarmac. The ascent felt as if I was riding a roller coaster. After a brief while, I saw the plane take a U-turn or half a U turn in mid air and I lost all sense of direction as the plane continued its ascent.
My feelings of sorrow at leaving my country and dear ones was one thing and on the other hand, thoughts of how my future was going to be in 'videsh'. Soon dizziness crept in and I fell asleep because I had gotten really tired of waiting at the Anna International Airport, Chennai. The air-hostess promptly served food and it was then I realized that we were flying above Andaman & Nicobar Islands (but I couldn't see anything from my flight window). After a nominal meal I soon dozed off again. And I'm feeling really sleepy now too, so more about my in-flight experience in my next post.

My Tyrst With Destiny

You see things and you ask, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were, and I ask, "Why not?"
George Bernard Shaw (1856 – 1950) ' Back to Methuselah' (1921), part 1, Act 1.
With these words in mind I dared to dream of being an engineer and now… I am. Hello everyone, I am Thanneer Malai Perumal, an ardent soul from the temple city (Tanjore) of Tamil Nadu, India. I don’t want to write anything about myself because I believe my life is on 'quick change' mode so anything I write today will be obsolete soon. So I'll spare you and myself the trouble. Rather, I'm going to write about my past, present and future.

On the dawn of 4th April 2006, I had secured my engineering degree and was trying to figure out what to do next. I wasn't jobless, more like clueless. I had a few offers but was totally confused as to what to choose. Hence, I ended up changing 3 jobs in a span of 7 months, ranging from software to research. You can imagine how bemused I was. I was a wanderer then…searching for more challenges and opportunities and therefore a new place. My experience in Industry and Academic made me realize that higher education is indispensable.
Why does one need higher education? What made me make this choice? I tried to find reasons/justifications for my choice. I ended up with the following answers,
As expected, my prime concern was,

1) Higher salaries.
2) Pursuing a passion, gaining in-depth knowledge and skills.
3) A concern for career growth, increased promotion possibilities.
4) Increase in Job opportunity.
5) Changing careers.

And also more time to prepare for life after work (If you're not sure soon after your under-graduation, life after graduation really gives u more time to think and mold yourself for better prospectives)

So, what next? I had to choose my course, university and place of study. Believe it or not guys…this is really a tough decision to make. Because… you're responsible for your own decisions which will change your life. After some homework and research for a month or two, I narrowed down my choices. Like most of my other friends I too decided to apply in the United States. Why you ask? I didn’t really have any reason, but I was in no way different from others, holding the same list of brands such as MIT, Stanford, Rice etc. I was affected by the US craze too.
Some of the familiar words during my undergrad days are GATE, GRE, CAT, GMAT, etc…Each and everyone of my friends wants to give one or the other. In fact one ended up giving all the exams. But what did I give? The answer is…None. Hence, it’s my turn now…to try my hand at some of these cut throat thrillers. Somehow I managed to score decently in these exams.
As I said earlier my life is really on ‘quick change’ mode, things change overnight. It was during my SOP (statement of purpose) preparation I got to know that one of my seniors was doing his masters in Singapore. This encounter with him made me realize how biased I was during my homework/search.

With his suggestions and my ‘research’, I also decided to apply to the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore. Anyway, I finally had two choices. And NUS turned out to be my final choice. What made me take this decision? (1) Change in my field of study: I was mostly involved in environmental research but I wanted to shift to process/controls. Studying at NUS really gave me time and a choice of courses to take up whereas in the US I only had the option of environmental research. (2) Faster Degree with same recognition: A Doctoral degree at NUS is 4 years when compared to its counterparts in other countries. More specifically this is a direct doctorate for undergraduates without masters (with the same quality) which significantly saves time. (3) Good Financial aid: Lucrative financial aids that are equivalent to industrial pay packages and (4) Most importantly, Singapore is close to home.

Am I right by making this choice? Try to look for the answers in my coming posts. Right now I am packing my stuff. I'm going on a vacation…Considering this is my first post I am opening this blog with a note of anticipation and hope this will be an informative blog for you so you can get a very good review of essentials of living and education in Singapore.

Keep reading and don’t forget to have fun. See u soon…until then bye.