Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three NYP Girls Take on New York!

An overseas student exchange programme might be challenging as it requires adapting to a new environment, but for three students from the School of Business Management (SBM), it was an experience they cherish and would never forget.

Earlier on, Lehman College and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) signed an agreement on a student exchange programme. As a result, three lucky NYP students got the opportunity to spend a semester in the Department of Economics and Business, Lehman College, New York.
Rachel, Syahirah and Hui Min outside Lehman College (from left to right)
They are Syahirah Binte Ahmad (Diploma in Banking & Financial Services), Leow Hui Min (Diploma in Business Management) and Rachel Teo Wye Shyn (Diploma in Marketing).We managed to bag an e-mail interview with these three amiable ladies, who will only be back in Singapore early 2014.

1. What spurred you to sign up for this exchange programme? 
Rachel (R): I always wanted to go to New York. I knew immediately that this was going to be my first choice on the Overseas Student Exchange Programme (OSEP) list. I also like to experience living alone and meeting new people.

Hui Min (HM): I was interested in the exchange programme because I have always been very passionate about experiencing a totally different culture and New York City was a place I’ve wanted to visit for years. This exchange programme would be a good trial to see if I can cope with attending an overseas university. Furthermore, it doesn’t hurt to have this amazing programme reflected on my resume!

Syahirah (S): It has always been my dream to travel around the world and the first country on my list was New York. As a Banking & Finance student, my goal is to work in Wall Street! I also want to find out what the working environment in Wall Street is like.

2. And how has the journey been so far?
HM: I was really excited to be able to fulfill my dream of coming to New York City but was also worried when the reality of living in a totally foreign environment set in. The things I learn here every single day also make me constantly look back at my life back home. This trip really made me learn to treasure all the things I’ve been taking for granted back home.

S: The journey so far has been exhilarating. I've really learned a lot in the past few months. It can be challenging when you're away from your family, living in a foreign country and living with two girls 24/7. But, I’ve been lucky enough to have Huimin and Rachel as my companions, sharing this unforgettable experience with them.

R: The journey so far has been amazing! Being independent really brought out skills I never thought I had in me. I never used to really monitor my daily expenses, but being here without my family, I really have to control my expenses and budget my allowance. This programme has really changed me, in a positive way.

3. What are some of your best/favourite modules in Lehman College? 
S: It would be Global Marketing, as the Professor does not follow the textbook word for word. He teaches the class by telling captivating stories. He would also tell us about real life lessons he experienced and he puts things in a different perspective. Another module would be International Business Management. Although it is an online-based module, you still have to do the work and submit your attendance via email every Friday. The submission of assignments is very flexible and that is great.

HM: Marketing Management and Global Marketing are two of the best modules that I’m currently taking. The classmates in those two classes participate really actively and the teachers will always share their own life experiences with us. I always come out feeling like I have gained important insights that I would never find in a textbook.

R: Intermediate Accounting is one of my favourite modules; it’s a more in-depth accounting module, which is quite a challenge but still fun nevertheless.  I also enjoy Organisational Behaviour and Development. It’s about what is going on in an organisation and why it is being managed the way it is. My Managerial Economics module is also one of my favourites as I have always enjoyed economics.  Lastly, the best module I am currently taking is International Business Management. All I have to do is submit an email to my professor for attendance taking, partake in any discussions, online video lessons, and email my homework.

4. Give us a brief run through of your daily school routine.
HM: A daily school routine starts with me catching up with my family through Skype or heading to the gym. Then I’ll prepare a lunchbox with Syahirah and Rachel. We would sometimes even prepare dinner as it can be late when we return from school. We would then take the subway to school, and seize the opportunity to explore Manhattan during our breaks.  Sometimes, we will drop by the grocery store, or catch a movie.

S: Earliest class would be at 12.15pm and the latest class would be at 6.15pm. The girls and I would prepare lunch to save some money. The subway is just a walking distance from our housing. I have to board two trains to school and the duration of the train ride is slightly over an hour. I have a three-hour break till my 6.15pm class. So we would either eat in school at the cafeteria and go to the library afterwards, or hang out in Manhattan.

R: We try to leave the house an hour and a half before our classes start. Our class schedules are fairly similar, and we start and end school at the same time despite taking different classes, so we usually travel to and fro together. In between classes, we have a long 3-4 hour breaks every day, so we will go down state and explore parts of Manhattan we haven’t been before, or go to the library to catch up on any work or to take naps.

We end school at 7:30pm everyday, so by the time we get back home, we would always have a late dinner.

5. What do you do when you are not attending classes?
S: I would go out and be a typical tourist in New York City. I went to tourist attractions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Bryant Park, Time Square, World Trade Center and Brooklyn Bridge just to name a few. My friends and I would sometimes have a mini picnic at the park. There are always lots of flea markets and thrift stores here so I would go shopping with the other two. We would also cafe hop. There are a lot of hidden gems in Brooklyn like Mominette and Vineapple Cafe.

We also check out different festivals, like this Italian festival where they sold Italian pastries and delicacies. Once, we went to the Halloween Parade and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting. It was crowded but nonetheless, an amazing experience, especially when Mariah Carey was singing the Christmas carols.

R: On days we do not have lessons, we usually go sightseeing, shopping, catch a movie, or eat out at some nice place we happen to come across. Being in NYC is somewhat similar to being in Singapore. Everything here is so developed and there are so many things to do and places to see. Transportation is really easy and convenient too, just like taking the MRT.

HM: Three of us have no lessons on Friday and we dedicate this day to do our laundry and some grocery shopping. We also try to visit all the attractions in Manhattan and Brooklyn. This includes shopping on Fifth Avenue and of course visiting the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty. Our American classmate has also introduced us to the local food scene. We also try to attend events here in the city that you will not get to see back home.

6. Lehman College is a school rich in culture and ethnic diversity. Explain how this has benefitted you.
R: Studying in Lehman College, I have met people from many different cultures and ethnicities. I got to learn more about them and their different backgrounds. It widened my knowledge of the different kinds of people, as well as exposed me to different ideas and contributions during group work.

S: It has definitely broadened my knowledge in terms of culture and ethnic diversity. I worked with different people from various cultures and they help me understand their culture better.
HM: Well, we have definitely learnt to better appreciate the uniqueness of the different cultures. I feel that this makes our education experience that a very well-rounded one as the things we absorb in on campus are more just theories in the textbooks.

7. What are some of the non academic school activities you’ve taken  part in? 
Three of us outside MET with our American friend on a beautiful sunny day!
HM: We were invited to be part of an international breakfast event organised by the teachers in Lehman College. We got to introduce ourselves to the director of the college and our fellow international students. We also went to an international culture event on campus where there were performances and booths set up by students from different cultures and countries.

S: At International Culture Event, we got to know more about different cultures and ethnicities and also tried their food delicacies.

8. List down some of the best food/ restaurant ever tasted/ been to in New York?!
Just some of the AMAZING food that New York has to offer! 
S: One of the best breakfast food we went to was at IHop. The pancakes were amazing and there were several syrups- butter pecan, original home syrup, strawberry and blueberry. My favourite was butter pecan because it tasted like our caramelized popcorn! Another would be Mominette, which is a French Bistro where they served the best-poached eggs with seasoned potatoes.

Smorgasburg is a Brooklyn Flea Food Market where there are around 75 vendors selling beverages and food. They would prepare the food on the spot and the food is delicious and affordable. In terms of desserts, I had cupcakes from the famous Magnolia Bakery and Sprinkles. If I had to choose, I definitely pick Sprinkles cupcakes because their flavors are very unique and the cupcakes are mouthwatering.

HM: All the restaurants that we’ve been to so far turn out to be a pleasant experience and the food has been delicious! I would say that brunch at Mominette was amazing and the Eggs Norwegian that I ordered was really nice. We also had a meal at the International House of Pancakes and the Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant & Bar, which is a very unique restaurant with a Halloween theme and its own haunted house. Something that I will definitely miss when I go back to Singapore is the famous Sprinkles Cupcakes. Their cupcakes range from traditional flavors such as red velvet and vanilla to more special ones such as caramel apples and s’mores, and every single one is mind-blowingly delicious.

R: The Jekyll and Hyde Club, around Times Square, is an experience I would never forget! We entered the restaurant through a phone booth that led us to a dark room filled with mirrors! It was like a mini haunted house where there were scary voices, dim flickering lights, and a collapsing ceiling at the end. When we finally entered the restaurant, I was in awe. The restaurant’s theme is spooky horror with an emphasis on English Gothicism. There were detailed decorations, set pieces, and characters (actors) from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde roaming the restaurant, entertaining patrons. There were also a number of animatronic props, sounds, and special effects, which contribute to the overall atmosphere of the club. The entertainment was amazing! The menu consists of burgers, pizza, wings, and pasta. A place definitely not to be missed!

Another themed restaurant I have been to is called Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., located in Times Square, this restaurant is based on the movie “Forrest Gump”. According to the movie, Forrest and his Benjamin Buford Blue had an idea to start a shrimp business.

There pictures of scenes from the movie hung up on the walls, and props of the memorable Forrest Gump bench, his briefcase, along with his running shoes, and the fallen leaf. They specialise in shrimps of course! All kinds of shrimps in many ways you can think of. It was definitely a place for shrimp lovers like me! To top it all off, dessert was also delicious!

Lastly, for every fast food lover out there, please drop by Taco Bell!

9. How similar or different is the education in Lehman College compared to NYP?
HM: The daily routine of attending lectures is pretty much the same. Instead of having a separate lecture and tutorial, we would attend lessons where the professor would go through the materials and the students will constantly be involved, by asking questions or sharing their opinions with the class. The students here are definitely more vocal and as they are older, they would inject a lot of experiences from their work and interesting news that they chanced upon. Assessments wise, we have tests throughout the semester, much like the ICAs and exams back in NYP, and teachers will always have extra credit assignments for students so that they can try to pull up their grades if they didn’t do so well in the tests.

S: The difference would definitely be the lecture notes. Instead of lecture notes, which we are given in NYP, we had to buy whole textbooks in Lehman Collage. These books can be expensive, up to USD$300! Also, the The mode of teaching is more traditional at Lehman College, as they still use the old school chalkboards.

R: Education wise it is quite similar, we have tests every 2-3 chapters and group projects too, followed by finals at the end of the semester. However, one thing that really differentiates the education system is that over here, we do not have any lecture notes. We buy our own textbooks, and take down notes during classes.

10. What are some of the learning skills or experiences you wish to take back home to Singapore?
S: I have learnt to be independent and to trust my own instincts. I've been cooking since I’ve been here so I wish to try my cooking skills at home. Most importantly, I learnt to appreciate what I have and not to complain about trivial things because in New York, poverty can be seen every day on the subway or along the streets.

HM: Well I certainly hope that cooking almost every single day has improved my culinary skills (laughs)! I would say that trying to live in a foreign country without an authority figure like my parents has forced me to assume a lot more responsibility and to be adaptive to things around me. So I hope to bring back my newfound maturity and adaptability to Singapore. The amazing thing about this programme is that you learn a little something about yourself and experience something new every single day. So rather than certain experiences that I would like to take back home, I would like to compile all the tiny daily experiences and bring all of them back to Singapore.

R: On this trip I have learnt to be really independent and responsible, and I feel that these are the most important skills that I can take home. I wish that I would still be able to practice these traits that I have gained here living alone back in Singapore. And of course, every single moment that I have experienced here in NYC is an experience that I never want to forget.
Beautiful day in Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Bridge
11. Any advice for students who wish to take up this exchange programme in the future?
S: Apply for this exchange programme even if your friends are not going to apply because this is a lifetime opportunity and you won't regret it. It is the best way to find out what you're capable of. It's not always going to be rainbows and sunshine but at the end of the day, it's definitely worth it.

HM: I would say to put your all into making this experience an unforgettable and enjoyable one, and to always keep an open mind. The whole process of preparing for this trip and being on this journey requires a lot of effort and dedication. As we were the first group of students that NYP sent to Lehman College, we did not have the luxury of depending on advice from seniors. Hence, there were a lot of uncertainties and initial frustration that we had to work through when things didn’t go as planned. The important thing is to learn to be a mature adult and recognise that this is truly an amazing opportunity.

In addition, it is crucial to keep in mind that you will only be able to go home feeling like you’ve had one of the most amazing learning experiences of your life by having an open mind at all times. Sometimes, we forget to throw out all our assumptions, and this is really one of the greatest mistakes to make when experiencing a new environment.

R: Firstly, do not be afraid. The unknown is always scary but don’t let this discourage you, there is a first to everything! Because of this trip, I am comfortable and confident of traveling around the world by myself in the future, as I know that I will be able to survive on my own.

Secondly, be aware of your surroundings. Being in a foreign land, without much help around, it is always wise to be cautious of your belongings and take safety precautions. It is also always wise to watch your spending! This is for your parent’s sake as well as for the sake of your wallet. You wouldn’t want to overspend in the beginning and have nothing left for the remaining months – budgeting is important! (PS: also keep in mind your luggage space)

Lastly, have the time of your life! Studying is important, but it’s not all that there is. You are halfway across the world! Enjoy what the place has to offer; take in the sights, the sounds, the culture, and the excitement that life can bring!

Times Square! 
By Farihin Joehari, Year 2, Diploma in Mass Media Management

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Farihin Joehari, 20, thinks he can cook really well and admires Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver a little too much. He’s a massive gore and comedy movie junkie and when he’s not broke, he enjoys going to concerts and be left in awe. He also loves going on escapades with his loved ones and hopes to travel the world before he turns frail and boring.

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