Elizabeth Eu recounts – “My exchange experience at Lund University, Sweden”

Elizabeth was one of many students whom I interviewed before her Student Exchange Programme (SEP). When I learnt she was going to Sweden, I told her about my experience with Swedes aboard the Götheborg in 2006. Oddly enough, amongst other things, they introduced me to Facebook!

She’s back suffering in NUS once more, and we just caught up at University Hall’s Spiinelli’s for fika. It’s always interesting for me to learn from our SEP students what teaching practises overseas are like.

Elizabeth had scoured the web for student accounts of SEP before she left. Not many seem to be blogging or perhaps they are writing ephemeral Facebook entries. So I decided to post her email and letter to the net, to add to Goh Kar Ying’s 2009 New Zealand experience.

Elizabeth Eu, SEP @ Lund
Photo by Fung Tze Kwan

On 4 Feb, 2013, at 11:31 PM, “Elizabeth Eu” wrote:

“Dear Mr Siva,

I just came back from my exchange in Sweden two weeks ago, and I wanted to thank you once again for helping to write my recommendation letter that enabled me to embark on this journey.

When you met up with me, you encouraged me to talk to the Swedish and to experience the country and culture while I was there. Indeed as I had the opportunity to stay in a Swedish corridor, I was able to form a friendship with one of the them and we had quite a number of conversations including the topics of Swedish culture and even politics.

Some of the practices that stood out for me were recycling (we had to separate out the plastic, metal, paper, carton, colored and uncolored glass), and having a queue number for the service desks at the bank or post office for example.

During the orientation period, we had a 2-week swedish introductory course and I also took a course on Scandinavian culture and society. Through it, we sang some Swedish songs and watched a few Swedish movies, including Virgin Spring, by the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.

In December, I also had the chance to try traditional Christmas swedish food at a biology department dinner and the Christmas party at Lund cathedral, where we also followed the Swedish tradition of dancing around the Christmas tree!

I have attached the report required by the IRO, in case you would like to read it! I really had a wonderful exchange experience and I have learnt and grown so much from it. Thank you for playing an important part in making it possible 🙂


“My exchange experience at

Lund University, Sweden”

By Elizabeth Eu,
NUS Year 3 Life Science

“Spending six months on exchange in Lund University, Sweden has been such a wonderful experience. Having never been to Scandinavia before this, the Swedish culture of having ‘fika’ or coffee breaks and the practice of greeting ‘hej’ by almost everyone from the cashier at the supermarket to shop owners particularly stand out. Cycling everywhere – to school and around the city—is a fond memory as well.

Through this experience, I have become more independent, having had to settle administrative matters by myself, buying groceries and cooking my own meals, doing the laundry, and taking on the corridor cleaning duty every few weeks. It definitely increased my confidence of living and providing for myself.

Another major plus point is that being on exchange makes one more open to making new friends, and I learnt a lot from interacting with people I otherwise would probably not have made the effort to get to know if I had my circle of friends in Singapore around me. I became close friends with students from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and Thailand, and got to know people from many other countries including South Africa, Spain, Ukraine, UK, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand and many more.

Academically, it was an interesting change to be able to take one module at a time instead of the five we take concurrently in NUS, and I enjoyed being able to focus on one topic. There were also discussion seminars, which I liked because it was a real discussion with each student bringing up points and it helped me learn from them as well as apply my knowledge. I also had the opportunity to work in the lab there as part of a research project module for international students. The experience was a very positive one which I felt I learnt a lot from.

I was involved in the dissection day in the animal facility, and learnt two research techniques which applied to all my experiments. It improved my problem-solving skills and made me more aware of the processes involved in research, which I feel will help me in doing my FYP. The atmosphere was a friendly one, with everyone in the research group having morning ‘fika’ and lunch together, which was something I really appreciated.

For students going to Lund University, I would recommend staying in a Swedish corridor instead of an international corridor, as I feel it is the best way to make friends with the Swedish. Spending time in the corridor kitchen enabled a good amount of interaction and I would say there was a two-way cultural exchange. Conversely, it is very easy to meet and befriend international students. Making it a point to go for the many activities organized for international students especially at the start is a good way of meeting new people and forming friendships that can last for the whole exchange.

I would highly recommend Lund University as the modules offered are comprehensive and there are also special exchange (SAS) courses offered that enable one to learn more about Swedish culture and society and also European and global issues. The Lund University International desk is very helpful in organizing many fun activities for students and there are other organizations as well ensuring that one will not get bored. Lund is a quaint university town that is easy to fall in love with and definitely worth considering as an exchange destination. ”

AF-Borgen, the center of student life in Lund, at Sandgatan 2
AF-Borgen, the center of student life in Lund, at Sandgatan 2

Sphinxes of the Lund University main building, at Paradisgatan 2
Sphinxes of the Lund University main building, at Paradisgatan 2

Lund University main building in the background, at Paradisgatan 2
Lund University main building in the background, at Paradisgatan 2

Lund University library in the background, at Helgonabacken
Lund University library in the background, at Helgonabacken

More than seven countries represented -- Ad Fontes International cell group, at the home of a Swedish and Singaporean couple
More than seven countries represented — Ad Fontes International cell group,
at the home of a Swedish and Singaporean couple

Corridor party with Swedish corridor mates, at Ulrikedal student accommodation
Corridor party with Swedish corridor mates, at Ulrikedal student accommodation

For other student posts, see studentsspeak!

A writing module recommendation for undergraduates – NM2220 Introduction to Media Writing

As Marcus’ honours year supervisor, I went through his thesis drafts and oral presentations to fine-tune the way in which facts and ideas were communicated. Happily Marcus had a decent grasp of effective writing and while edits were still required, we spent more time on ideas and discussions. His writing skill lessened his thesis burden considerably – just as well since he had to change his field site late in the year!

Now a graduate student, Marcus has TA-ed in modules I coordinate, LSM1103 Biodiversity and LSM2251 Ecology and the Environment. The fundamentals of writing are addressed in these modules with TAs marking twelve essays (1st years) and four reports (2nd years) to provide comprehensive feedback with detailed notes about improving writing. We discuss ideas during the post-mortem and I asked Marcus if NM2220 was a suitable recommendation as he had cited it a few times during our discussions about his thesis. After all that marking, he is ready to recommend the module and this will be forwarded to the 1st and 2nd years in our modules.

Posts by students for students can be viewed in the category students speak – N. Sivasothi

Marcus Chua in his Halloween costume, 2009:
“A 10,000 word essay/assignment/thesis!”

Marcus Chua - Halloween costume 2010: A 10,000 word essay_assignment_thesis!

In a recent blog entry, NUS Provost Tan Eng Chye highlighted the importance of English language proficiency and mulled over the decision to include compulsory communication modules in the undergraduate curriculum. You need not wait for that to become a reality, for Environmental Biology undergraduates, like all others in NUS, have the option of taking writing courses that may meet their needs. I highlight a module I took which I feel was very helpful to me in particular.

NM2220 Introduction to Media Writing is a basic writing module offered by the Department of Communications and New Media, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences that teaches students the foundation of writing for new and mass media. The skills taught are can be applied to everyday writing and communication. The course is taught by current or former journalists, editors or public relations practitioners and class activities and assignments consist of targeted writing exercises.

Before taking the course, I thought that good writing involved big words and long, complex sentences. The more, the bigger, the better! How wrong was I.

I took the module in my final year as an undergraduate in NUS and found it immensely useful, and it taught me how to adapt my writing for various situations. Some of the most useful tips were keeping writing simple for clear communication and how to write punchy sentences. There and then it hit me that using complex words might appear impressive to me, but it usually confuses the reader and impedes communication. The AP (Associated Press) style taught also has direct relevance to science writing conventions, e.g. when to write or spell numbers and correct punctuation.

All these newly acquired skills culminated in my thesis, which was a departure from most of my previous reports. Even after graduation, the lessons I learnt came in very useful for formal reports, various applications and when writing and editing the Singapore Biodiversity encyclopedia.

Since this is the time when most students would start planning their time tables for the upcoming semester, I would definitely recommend the course to all undergraduates.

Goh Kai Ying on the SEP Experience at Auckland: Getting tough!

Student Exchange Programme
to University of Auckland, New Zealand,
July-Dec 2009

Being away from home for five months can be very daunting. It wasn’t just the mental challenges, it took my body quite awhile to adapt to the cold and dry climate of Auckland, New Zealand. Even as I reminisce about the ‘roughening and toughening’ I experienced, SEP was all worth while!

I began exchange experience with a week of getting and being lost. While my five NUS schoolmates had taken residence in the university hostel, I lived in the suburbs with a kiwi family. Getting home was tough as the bus frequencies and routes were all unfamiliar to me. So I spent that week taking the wrong bus, alighting at the wrong stop and missing the bus. With daylight hours in winter quite short and the streets not exactly exhibiting docile Singapore conditions, the fear of lurking bad guys triggered lots of adrenaline through my blood!

With familiarity though, I began exploring Auckland beyond school and home. Weekends became fun-packed short road trips to various towns on the outskirts of Auckland. But fun and danger always come hand-in-hand. Once up a ski mountain, Mount Ruapehu, my group of friends ventured beyond the training grounds to the higher ranges for a taste of death. The combination of poor control and bad brakes battered our heads and butts, but the domino effect ending with laughter.

Meeting and getting to know new people is an integral part of the exchange experience – package. There are unpleasant individuals everywhere, but the friendly ones do make up a fair share. It was the people who make the SEP really memorable for me and the best parts of my experience were the shared ones. In particular, I had my New Zealand family whom I bonded with and truly felt to be a part of. Those genuine feelings are hard to describe but priceless.

The SEP experience began from the pre-exchange period – when the financial issue finally surfaced, it was hard not to get worried. Fortunately, since the application for SEP was approximately a year ahead of actual travel, there was time to gather money – I did odd jobs which supplemented the support from a NASA award and my parents. Choosing exchange universities and mapping modules got really messy so I had to be alert and persistent. I decided to forgo the competitive and prestigious Universities for a less popular one. As a budding ecologist, nature was a much bigger draw than mappable modules, so New Zealand easily secured my vote.

My motto when it came to SEP then was, “Fun is primary, studying is secondary.” The pictures below provide a tip of the iceberg impression in describing Auckland’s wonderful outdoor classroom experience!

Goh Kai Ying,
Honours student, Marine Biology Lab, Department of Biological Sciences.

Morning at Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park

Yearly sand dune jumping competition at the geography 101 module field trip

Kayaking around the coastline of Abel Tasman National Park

To Harwoods Hole, Golden Bay

Glacier walking, Fox Glacier

Trina Chua says of 1st year, “I was not prepared for such a stressful education in university.”

“Looking back at Year 1”
by Trina Chua,
Honours Class, 2009/10

“When I think of Year 1, I think of stress, stress and more stress. It has not changed much over the past three years but one thing has definitely changed – how I handle the stress.

Unlike many of my university peers, I did not take the conventional route of going to Junior College after my O Levels and then continuing to university. Instead I graduated from polytechnic and optimistically started the first day of school in NUS in August 2006. Optimism slowly faded away during the first lecture! The words in the lecture notes looked like Arabic to me and everything just seemed so new although the lecturer re-iterated during class that ‘all of you should already know this since you’ve studied it in JC’.

I started to panic. Not a day passed without me worrying about the various modules. The only thing that made me feel just slightly better was the fact that I was not alone. My friends in NUS and other universities were as stressed about school work as I was and in one extreme case, a friend quit university! Similar thoughts crept into my mind but I told myself to go on…you’ll get used to it!

My parents started to worry about me when they saw me taking one too many snoozes on the study table and looking weary too often. Basically, I was not prepared for such a stressful education in university.

But before I knew it, there I was, enjoying my Honours year, and grateful for not giving up in the first year. Honestly, it becomes wayyyyyyyy better after you pass the first year mark as you’ll get used to it! First year is the time when you adjust to the new environment and find out which is the best way for you to excel in your studies! Get yourself involved in extra-curricular activities to give yourself a break from work or you will just burn out.

Most importantly, although grades are very important, enjoy your university life!”

Facebook | Photos of Trina Chua
Trina Chua rescuing horseshoe crabs @ Mandai Besar mudflat, 07 Sep 2010

Trina did research work with mudskippers in her 3rd year, spiders in her honours year, played squash for NUS and after participating in several mangrove cleanups, became a Site Captain with the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore this year.