Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Week Into Singapore

I've been here for a week (as of Saturday, 1am) and am slowly getting more used to some of Singapore's unique characteristics. Life moves at a pretty rapid pace here, but interestingly efficiency does not necessarily mean ease of access and getting things done rapidly. 100_0014.JPGSome things are very efficient - transportation for one (most of the time) and eating for another. Other things take more time, which might simply be due to the volume of people and the necessity the government feels of keeping track of all those people (including me).

I matriculated on Monday, Aug 30th, which basically means I showed up in person with all my paperwork, paid my registration fees and am now officially a student of Nanyang Technological University. This is all very important, because the only way I can get my 4-year student visa is if I have matriculated. The other thing I need in order to get the visa (student's pass, officially) is a medical exam done by the university. It's all rather time-consuming, and my classes started this past Tuesday.

Another part of the puzzle is finding housing, since I am currently traveling an hour or more (rush hour traffic) on public transport to get to NTU. I was told that as a first-year research student coming from overseas, I would have priority in on-campus housing in the graduate hall, but apparently they are full, so I have been looking for housing off-campus. The slight wrinkle (I have learned) is that in order to rent a room or a flat, the landlord has to submit your information to the local housing authority. Guess what is required for them to approve your stay? Yup - the student's pass with your FIN (Foreigner Identification Number).

100_0023.JPGI met another American student (from Georgia) this past week, who is in his second year of PhD, but in Sociology, studying social network media, specifically MMOs (Massive Multiplayer Online systems, ie. online computer games). His cubicle is diagonal from mine (see the picture) and he was able to commiserate with me on dealing with the bureaucracy - some of the issue, however, seems to be that I was accepted 4 weeks ago and arrived shortly thereafter. If I had been accepted last May I would probably have housing on campus, etc, etc.. and most of these things would have been taken care of in the two months or so allotted to getting them done - which is actually pretty efficient for a bureaucratic system.

Interestingly, while they gave me appointments for all these things (medical checkup, student pass finalization, etc..) it seems to be just as effective to show up early any day and queue up. The only thing this doesn't really work for is the student pass, but by going directly to the immigration headquarters and explaining my situation (and by God's grace and the prayers of his people), I was able to get my appointment date moved up from September 22nd to the 8th. This bodes somewhat better for my apartment-hunting endeavors.

As a final note, you can check out this video I made of public transport to NTU: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH0Wt52lwkA

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