There were many things I wish I did differently for my exchange, so I’ve decided to break down everything I would do or wish I’d known if I were to do this all over again.



  • SEA: Southeast Asian
  • EA: Eastern Asian
  • AC: Air Conditioning
  • OSE: Offsite Enrollment
  • IPA: In-principle Approval
  • NIR: National Immunisation Registry

Course Selection

  1. Check NUSMods for course reviews by previous local students to get a grasp of what the courses are like.
  2. If you want to travel:
    1. Pick courses that have no midterms (then you’re free to travel for ~11 days during recess week)
      1. Recess week is good for travelling to Australia + other SEA countries.
      2. EA countries (China, Japan, Korea) are likely near 0 degrees, so I’d save that for reading week/exam week.
    2. Pick courses that have no final exam (then you’re free to travel for ~25 days)
      1. Reading week + exam week is great for travelling to EA countries, but try avoiding Golden Week to avoid crowds.
    3. Try cramming your courses into consecutive such that you will have 3-day weekends (or even better, 4-day weekends).
  3. If you aim to live in a hall or a house, avoid selecting courses with evening lectures (6-9 PM), because they are likely to interfere with hall/house events. If you are aiming for PGPR or UTR, then there won’t be many events to worry about skipping.

On-Campus Accommodation

At NUS, there are three types of accommodations:

  • Halls
  • Houses
  • Residences

The amount of events and social activity within the accommodation decreases in that order (i.e., halls are the most socially active). That said, if you’re an exchange student and don’t care about those activities, you should be able to skip them without any issues.

Each accommodation has its specialties, so do check out YouTube videos from local students to get an idea of what each one is like.

Regarding AC

If you are scared of heat, I highly recommend that you get a room with AC. If you stay in a room without AC, you may get a portable AC, but you will need to pay a fee of 42 SGD a week (as of March 2024) in addition to the price of the portable AC itself. This may add up to more than the cost of an AC room.

If you get a room with AC, the AC is paid by time. I’m unsure of the exact rate (I’m not in an AC room), but I heard that you should expect to spend about 2-4 SGD a day, depending on how much you use it.


A bare-minimum packing list would be as follows:

  • Documents
    • Thin plastic folder (for holding all the documents)
    • In-Principal Approval (IPA), printed
    • Passport
    • Covid vaccination certificates
      • (As of 2024, the instructions for the OSE state to get your vaccination certificates uploaded to the NIR)
  • Chargers (for your devices)
    • (Note: make sure they run on 220V!)
  • Hygiene
    • Toothbrush
    • Body wash
    • Shampoo
  • Toiletry bag (with a hook!)
    • (especially if you don’t have an on-suite bathroom)
  • 7-10 days’ worth of clothes
  • Checked luggage
  • Carry-on luggage/Big backpack (for vacations)
  • Handheld luggage weighing scale
    • (If you already have one. Otherwise, buying it online in Singapore works too)
  • Cash (at least 100 SGD, just in case)

I’d recommend packing light and leaving lots of space because buying more stuff on arrival is easier than getting rid of things when you are leaving Singapore.

Flight Bookings

Two recommended methods:

  1. Book return flight to Singapore
    1. Likely to be the cheapest option.
  2. Book one-way flight to Singapore
    1. For the return flight, book a multi-city flight such that you can have a holiday at a destination on your way home.

For the departing flight to Singapore, try to arrive around 1 week before the semester begins. All on-campus accommodations allow for you to check in early (take note of the application period!). There are 3 reasons for the 1-week buffer:

  1. There are likely to be orientation events in the week prior to the semester’s start.
  2. You can avoid the check-in rush when all the local students come back from their holidays.
  3. You can check out the area around your accommodation with minimal crowding.


After completing your registration part 1 and getting your NUS email address, you may notice that you must complete two E-courses: RC1000A and SE1000. I recommend doing these as early as you can, as (at least in my case) they had the option to do them over Zoom. I was able to do them in late December. If you do them after arriving on campus, you likely need to go to a physical classroom, which is a bit more annoying.

Book Appointments

At this point, you should be able to book your appointments for Registration Part Two and OSE. Registration Part Two can be done with almost no prerequisites, so I recommend booking a time slot very close to your arrival date (the day after arrival, if possible).

As for your OSE, you may need to have your vaccination records uploaded to the system before being able to do it, so make sure there’s at least one working day before your OSE appointment.

Ideally you can get these two appointments out of the way within 2 days. Also, note that these time slots are fairly forgiving; you should be able to complete the appointment even if you arrive an hour early (Note: I’m not completely sure about the full extent of this flexibility).

SIM Card (Part 1)

To help you get on your feet quickly upon arrival, you might want to have a SIM card on hand. A Singaporean phone number will also be needed for your OSE later on.

I recommend starting off with the $12 hi!Tourist SIM Card from Singtel, as they allow you to pick up the SIM card upon arrival at Changi airport and it’s cheap (about 7 euros). It only lasts for 2 weeks, but that’s because I recommend changing your carrier later (covered in more detail later).

Make sure your phone has the SIM card order confirmation email downloaded,

Get in Contact

From what I’ve seen, NUS exchangers tend to have a WhatsApp group for each semester. Try asking your fellow NUS-bound exchangers at your university as they may be in the group.

This is especially important if you are arriving in Singapore around midnight to 5:30 AM as the MRT (Singapore’s subway/metro system) and busses are not running. In this case, you may want to share a Grab (Singaporean equivalent of an Uber) or a taxi with another exchanger to get to campus. I would actually recommend getting a Grab/taxi regardless, because:

  1. Public transport in Singapore can be quite crowded
  2. It’s takes more than 90 minutes to get to campus from the airport with public transport
    1. Grab/taxi takes about 40 minutes or less.
  3. Assuming that you aren’t familiar with the campus busses, getting from the nearest bus stop or MRT station might be quite an unpleasant walk, especially with your luggage.

Get Apps

Assuming that you have your NUS account, do get the following apps:

  • NUSNextBus
    • This is for figuring out how to get from point to point across campus using the campus busses.
  • Canvas
    • This is where most of your course material will be stored.
  • uNivUS
    • This acts as the digital version of your student card (eCard).
    • You will still need your physical student card (when you get it) to access certain zones.
  • Your accommodation’s digital key (this isn’t the actual name; the app depends on where you’re staying)
    • Some accommodations require you to use an app on your phone to access your room or enter certain accommodation facilities.
    • If your phone is unable to download this, don’t worry. This case will be discussed later.
  • Grab
    • This is for getting a Grab.

[move this later] - If your phone doesn’t let you download the app (like in my case), you should also be able to pick up a physical key card (the pickup point depends on your accommodation). - In the case of Pioneer House, LightHouse and Helix House, the key card pickup point should be the Fire Command Center (FCC), which is also where you would go to check in after office hours.

Arrival Day

Upon arriving at Changi, pick up your baggage. Before exiting the baggage claim area, figure out where the nearest Singtel pickup point is. It may be inside the baggage claim area.

Upon collecting your SIM card, the salesperson you are collecting your card from may also recommend that you buy a NETS card. Get it, as it allows you to take public transport in Singapore, and it can also be used like a debit card at many places for purchasing goods or services (e.g., most, if not all, canteens on NUS campus accept NETS as a form of payment, but not Visa/Mastercard). Additionally, you should get the NETS app and link your credit/debit card to it for topping up your NETS card.

Going to your Accommodation

You generally have two options here:

  1. Take a taxi/Grab to your accommodation. (~34 SGD, 40 min)
    1. Taxis and Grabs are around the same price.
    2. You may share the ride with another exchange student who is headed to your accommodation too to halve the cost.
  2. Take public transport (~5 SGD, 95 min)
    1. This option may be appealing if you are arriving at an off-peak hour and are willing to walk.

Checking In

You should be sent instructions regarding checking in via your NUS email and/or personal email. Follow them.

If you’re checking in after office hours, there should also be a place which you can go to to check in. This may not be so obvious in the emails, but you can also send an email to the support staff to ask for more details.

Settle Down

Just unpack and rest. If you have spare time, explore your accommodation.

Day 1

This section should only be done if you have checked in very early in the morning, or on the next full day after arriving in Singapore.

Registration Part 2

Ideally, today is the day you have booked for your Registration Part 2 appointment. There should be instructions sent to your email, so follow them and complete the appointment.

Getting Proof of Residency (Optional)

If you plan on setting up a bank account later on, you can go to your accommodation’s office to pick up your proof of residency.

Day 3


Similar procedure to registration part 2. Pay attention to the email as there is more to bring this time.

Day 10


At this point, your OSE should have been approved and you should be able to register for a Singpass account. Try registering now. If you accidentally skip the facial recognition process, try again by pressing on the “Forgot Password” button at the Singpass login page. Your Singpass ID should be your FIN, which is stated on your STP and IPA.

SIM Card (Part 2)

Now that you have Singpass, you should be able to get a Giga SIM card. The recommended plan is my go-to, which should cost about 17-18 SGD a month. The reason I’m suggesting Giga is due to the following reasons:

  • Much more generous data and call limits for the price (compared to the main carriers in Singapore such as Singtel)
  • Really fast data connection on campus (I’ve been getting about 200 Mbps on Giga, but only about 20 Mbps on Singtel)
  • All plans from Giga offer data rollover, which Singtel does not offer for prepaid sims.
  • No contract, which means you can cancel anytime
  • Very generous roaming plan, which includes most SEA countries, some EA countries and Australia (Full list). Pretty much all you need for overseas trips.

The SIM card can be delivered by the next working day directly to your accommodation, and you just need to pick it up from the delivery driver. Setup is quite straightforward and explained on an instruction sheet included with the SIM card.

Ending Note

These are only the key events I would take note of for the first half of the exchange semester. There will likely be another post created when I complete my exchange.