Design PF

Zahira Diefenbach

at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

The student of B.A. in Industrial Design about her semester abroad

Why Singapore? I love new challenges and Asia seemed for me a big one. I think it is important for designers to experience new things and cultures in order to expand their knowledge and so be more innovative. Singapore is in the middle of southeast Asia and still completely different and more developed than other Asian countries. Furthermore it its a multicultural country and I found it interesting how people from different countries lived together.


Singlish. I knew that Singapore had four official languages: English, Malay, Mandarin Chines and Tamil. However, english is the common language and is the language of business, government, and the medium of instruction in schools. So I thought I wouldn't have a problem with the language. But I kind of did. Singapore people have a strong accent and the first days I hardly could understand any of my Professors. Good that Singaporeans are very friendly and always there to help (so far the ones I met). But after a few weeks you get used to it and understand their slang.

Plastic. A big issue in Singapore. The city is known for one of the cleanest in the world and it kind of is. When you walk through the streets, you feel almost if it is too perfect to be real, as it would be a city of the future but once you buy something you start with the plastic consumption. If you go to a super market and buy 4 things you will come out with 6 plastic bags even tough you would had been able to pack them in to one. People also like to drink coffee out of plastic bags or milk and juices out of plastic coups in plastic bags with plastic straws. Many exchange students where shocked like me, so we started to bring our own metal straws and thermos and spread the idea out so more people would o it do it.

Architecture. One of the things that impressed me the most and still does. I love to go to downtown and look at the big buildings. There are so many but all so different and crazy. It looks almost like a playground for architects where no idea is too crazy. The skyline at night from Marina Bay is amazing and I still can't get enough of it. Another interesting thing is the contrast between the districts for instance of the banks and chinatown. From chinatown you can see the small houses and suddenly the tall skyscrapers. Even in its architecture, Singapore is multicultural.


Campus life. I live on NTU campus since it is 1 hour from downtown and I wanted to experience campus life. The university's main campus covers 200 hectars of land, making it the largest university campus in Singapore. The primary campus grounds are located in the western part of Singapore, so it has everything to offer. It has supermarkets, restaurants, shops, food courts, sport & recreation centres, lakes, libraries, health services… Most of the exchange students live on campus, so it is easy to meet up for dinner or some beers at canteen 2. Like the locals say, the meeting point for exchange students. If you have nothing to do you can go to canteen 2 and you will find someone to hang out with for sure. Since it is a multicultural country, Singapore celebrates all the indian, chinese, malay, etc. celebrations and students organise parties and games so there is always something happening.

Clubs & Societies. Since most of the students live on Campus, everyone is signed up for a club. There is a club for EVERYTHING, so everyone can find something they like. For instance, I was registered for the climbing club, Wine Society, runners club and yoga club. I really Like that the students are so enthusiastic to create and support these clubs since it is the best form to get to know people while doing things you like. I mostly got to know local people through these activities, and everyone is welcome. Once more I realised how kind and friendly Singaporeans are.

Weather. It is always warm in Singapore! Forget wearing a long t-shirt or pants only in the buildings – it's freezing. Every time I go to class I have to remember taking my sweatshirt and my scarf with me because it is really really cold. I arrived in August and had always nice and warm weather, sometimes way to warm. My friends and I had a hard time getting used to the heat. In October the rain season began, and it rained all the day. Most of the times at the same hour, so you knew that in the morning the sun would shine but at 3pm it would get dark and start raining a lot. The Campus is prepared for the Weather and they have buses here which bring you around the campus.

Food. First shock: no one cooks. Since it is cheaper to go to get some food at the food courts as buying food for cooking at home they don't even have a real kitchen at the Halls. In my Hall for instance, I only have a microwave. At first I was excited about the Asian food and open to try new foods but after 4 months eating almost everyday rice with vegetables I do got a bit tired from the food and miss cooking and to know what I am eating. Since Singapore is a mix of cultures you find Indian, Malay, Chinese food, etc. But most of the things are deep fried or very oily. But I have to say It helped me a lot when my local friends helped me with the food choices at the beginning. You always have to expect it is going to be spicy.

ADM, With Singapore being a cosmopolitan nation with Asian sensibilities, the School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) seeks to play a weighty role in transforming the island state into a global media city. Students are encouraged to explore interdisciplinary across multiple domains even in connection with engineering disciplines. I study Industrial design, but with this method NTU offers the possibility to sign up for courses from other majors. Besides the Industrial design courses I had the chance to sign up for an engineering, a fashion and a media course. I think it is nice to have the possibility to try other things while doing your major. In summary, NTU and especially ADM is an interdisciplinary school. So if you like to work together with people from other majors or try some other courses it is definitely something for you. The only struggle I had was the registration of courses because it works with luck. If you're lucky you get in to the course you want, if not you'll have to be at the waiting list till someone drops out. The school is also known for the furniture department and animation design. But unfortunately I couldn’t get in these courses. Professors at ADM are very friendly, supportive and always there to help you. The number of people in every course is small so Professors know everyone and it is easy to get in touch with them. I have the feeling that the Professors are more friends than professors to the students.


All in all I recommend this experience to everyone who loves new challenges and would like to try courses from other majors, or is interested in furniture or animation design. Also if you want to get an unforgettable campus live experience and visit nearby countries since Singapore is in the middle of Southeast Asia.