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How to Spend a Semester Abroad in Singapore?

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I've just found out that I'll be spending a semester at the National University of Singapore next year (January-May 2011). I know it's early to start planning, but I'd love some suggestions as to where the must-hits and skips are in south-east Asia. I've never been anywhere in Asia, and am open to anything--history, nature, extreme sports etc.
I am a student travelling on a budget, so fancy hotels won't really be on my to do list. I'm going to try to keep those expenses low so that I can fly more and see as much as possible. I have friends who will be studying in Bangkok and Hong Kong, so those ones are pretty much the only spots that I've committed to.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

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    SE Asia is my favorite part of the world. Singapore is a great gateway to so many places.

    Consider Indonesia: Bali and central Java are most accessible, but there are many other places to consider.

    Malaysia: Malaysian Borneo is a short hop from SIngapore. fly into Kota Kinabalu or Kuching. In Peninsular Malaysia, consider the historic Georgetown area of Penang.

    I'm sure your friend in Bangkok will want to show you lots of Thailand - so much to do and see there.

    Cambodia - don't miss the temples at Angkor - truly one of the wonders of the world.

    Luang Prabang, Laos is lovely, and the rural parts of laos (almost all of the country) is undeveloped, untouched by tourism.

    VN - we especially like Hanoi, but you could spend weeks traveling in VN.

    Take a look at our SE Asia photos, they will give you lots of ideas

    And if you click on my name, you can read some of my trip reports.

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    My daughter did this exact same semester two years ago! She had a fabulous time, did a lot of weekend trips and made some great friends, all on a tight budget.

    She lived in a dorm on campus. Said the cafeteria is like a food court and she spent $3 per meal there. When they went out, they ate cheaply all over the city. She said going dancing was a bit pricey, but they learned of clubs that had "ladies nights" and in Singapore, that means women not only get in free, but drink free as well.

    I can't even begin to remember all the places she went while there, but some were, Bangkok, Northern Thailand, Kota Kinabalu, the Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur, Sipadan Island, Tioman Island and many others. They would stay in the places where other collage aged kids stayed, usually paying no more than $3 to $10 US per night. She got cheap flights to Bangkok, but in Malaysia the buses or trains were the way to go...Cheap, clean, fast, and actually very safe in Malaysia (unlike buses in other countries!). My daughter had hoped to get to Bali, but was unable to get cheap flights at any point in her semester. Many of her trips were fairly spontaneous, as someone would find a great fare or hear of someplace other kids had gone and a group would all go together.

    Though rigorous, classes at NUS meet less frequently than Univ classes in the U.S. My daughter had planned her studies so that she could do mostly electives while abroad. When was lucky at NUS to have no classes on Mondays and most Fridays, so she had a lot of very long weekends.

    She also found that she mostly made friends with the other foreign students, which at first she thought would be a negative. However, it turned out that Singaporean students who live on campus usually go home for the weekends, and rarely travelled.

    It is a real honor in Singapore to get into NUS, and families expect their kids to study hard and excel, not take off on weekends. My daughter had one good local friend, but her traveling partners were mostly Canadians and Swedes. i liked seeing her travel photos with lots of tall young men; at least I felt she was safer in their company!

    A couple of quick things I know my DD mentioned: take a backpack with you for your weekends, as well as mosquito repellent ($$$ in Asia) and a mosquito net (cheap lodgings don't have AC or screens). Both NUS and my DD's Univ told the kids to bring conservative clothing. In reality, they kids dress exactly like they do in Southern California or Hawaii. It is very hot and rainy over spring semester, though you'll want a jacket in places at higher elevation, like Cameron Highlands or Kota Kinabalu.

    Dd's weekend trips involved a lot of hiking, snorkeling, seeing animals, diving, and other outdoor activities. If you have any interest in diving, get your scuba certification before you go. So many of the Scandinavian kids were divers that my daughter got certified halfway through the semester.

    And last, you might consider buying a one way ticket, or planning your flight home about 2 weeks after school ends. Every single one of my DD's friends ended up doing "one last trip" after the semester ended, and most paid a lot to reschedule their flights. My daughter luckily had a one way ticket, as she ended up traveling for a week with friends, then we travelled together in India, Malaysia, and Vietnam for another three weeks.

    I hope you also have a great time. let me know if you have any specific questions that I can ask her. She's in the process of planning a trip to Europe and Scandinavia this summer to visit a bunch of her friends from NUS!

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