Saturday, November 12, 2011

It’s Not Easy Being an Exchange Student

24-year-old Eui Bong Yeo (Charlie) is a fourth year student from Chungnam National University, South Korea, is doing a one-year attachment at Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore, and has done a 6-month attachment in the US. The reason? He wants to broaden his horizons, improve his English, and hopefully gather enough worldly experience to become a global financial trader in Korea.

So what are the perks and gripes of studying at NYP as an exchange student? Charlie bares his heart out…

Education Culture

“I like the Singapore education culture because it is very balanced. It promotes CCAs but is also focused on studying,” said Charlie. “Korea tend to focus more on studying. Students here have a more balanced attitude so they are more relaxed.

According to Charlie, the teaching style is “less stressful” and lecturers try to inject humour into their lessons. The lecturers are also caring and concerned about students’ assignments.

“Korean lecturers are strict and if you don’t submit your assignments, you don’t get a grade,” he said.


Charlie loves basketball but he did not expect this CCA to have a heavy focus on training.

“I just want to play basketball with others, but the CCA focuses on training,” he said. “I thought it was just playing together, not like a basketball team.”

He is also taking guitar lessons from a Singaporean friend.

Local Students

“Local students sometimes speak in Mandarin. All exchange students have the same problem. Usually we just wait for the translation to come later, but it’s difficult to follow because we get partial translations and not the whole conversation,” said Charlie.

Guys, be nice here! Charlie also griped about group meetings being cancelled at the very last minute, often just five minutes before the meeting. Tsk tsk!

Other Exchange Students

Charlie stays in the same apartment with some 20 German and 20 French students, who are pretty outspoken and outgoing. He mentioned that communication can sometimes be frustrating due to cultural differences.

“When they invite me out, and I say no, I get sweared at,“ he said. “Then I realise they are just joking. They are actually friendly if you get to know them better”


Charlie is one of the few lucky students who has an apartment to himself. Pity it has no hotplate, so he bought himself a very small one. However, he and the hotplate can get a bit lonely sometimes..

“The problem is that many of my friends are back in Korea so communication is done through Facebook,” he declared. “Sometimes while studying, I’ll feel tired and just want to go out and do something. However most locals have a curfew, and so I chat to my Korean friends on Facebook instead. They are waiting for me to be back.”

He has since learnt to cope with the loneliness.

“Now it’s fine, when I feel lonely or stressed, I go swimming or to the gym, and it’s a good way to relieve stress,” he smiled.

Free Time

During weekends, Charlie used to go on short trips to Indonesia or Malaysia with other exchange students as he enjoy discovering new things. We really envy his allowance! 

Now, he has sheepishly admitted running out of money and he no longer has the budget to go on such trips. Shame!


“Singapore food is a little bit sweet, especially the drinks,” Charlie claimed. “Korean food here tastes different as well. But I like chicken rice and laksa here.”

“Whenever I miss my home, I’ll just have Korean food,” he said. “But that makes me miss home even more.”


So being an exchange student has its ups and downs! What about you guys? Do share some of your overseas studying experiences with us!

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