My name is Tommy, a year four student in Chemical Technology. I'm glad to get the chance to have academic exchange to the National University of Singapore during my final semester (2017/18 semester 2). No doubt to say, PolyU & NUS are both Asian-leading universities. However, the cultural differences is significant. After my 4.5 months' life in Singapore, I realized that outbound study made me more independent, more comfortable in communicating in English, and equipped me with better time-management & socializing skills.
Study in Singapore
To graduate, I was supposed to take two level 3 and two level 4 electives to fulfill the credits requirement only. However, to transfer the credits into PolyU successfully, I just need to pass the modules in NUS. That's why I took four level 4 modules that is not available in Hong Kong. They are Art & Methodology of Total Synthesis, Organic Spectroscopy, Advanced Coordination Chemistry, and Sustainable & Green Chemistry.
Art & Methodology of Total Synthesis
In this module, I studied the total synthesis of some useful natural products & their derivatives. Both general and advanced strategies are covered. PolyU's Organic Chemistry I & II discussed lot of reaction mechanisms of typical organic reactions and some famous and powerful reactions. It does fit me out to exam the retrosynthesis of more complex desired products. To pass this module, there was a group project about total synthesis of an anti-cancer drug needed to be present. Hence, me and my teammates did look over many papers from literatures. I think PolyU could also try to assess students through group project in the Organic Chemistry modules. The topics could aim for practicing students' skills for retrosynthetic analysis since in final exam we also had this kind of questions. Meanwhile, after graduation, we always work as a group and give oral presentation in workplaces. Hence, university should be a platform to educate students have all-rounded development.
This module covers mass spectroscopy, infrared spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance (1D- & 2D-NMR) spectroscopy. The main foci of this module are skills in spectra analysis. What I learnt in Analytic Chemistry I & II and Advanced Analytical Techniques equipped me fully on the working principles of these instruments, that form a solid background for me to understand the realationships between chemical structure and spectral signals. In PolyU, I already learnt how to analyze spectra from laboratory classes. Thus, the most interesting and challenging part in this module is 2D-NMR since only research students having the chance to study 2D NMR spectrum in HK.
Advanced Coordination Chemistry
Throughout the lectures, it covers electron transfer in the mixed-valence compounds, metal-ligand multiple bonds, metal-metal bonds and some inorganic biology. The knowledge learnt from PolyU's Inorganic Chemistry I & II, such as constructing Molecular Orbital diagrams, the concept of sigma donation & pi-back donation are crucial to digest the new knowledge here.
Sustainable & Green Chemistry
In this module, content is focus onto the 12 principles of green chemistry. Most time was contributed for their individual assessment and group project. Concept of sustainability, environmental fate, metrics for environmental risk evaluation, material & energy balance in physical & chemical processes, sustainable processes are covered.
Life in Singapore
Isolating yourself is definitely easier to cause mental problems. For me, making friends is certainly a must. Some may go to church. My strategy firstly was kept greeting to everyone loudly with self-confidence. This is a simplest way for ice-breaking and leaves a good impression. A simple greeting may also be a good starting point to exchange contacts so that they can invite to join some activities whenever they wish.
Aleks is an Australian, he was one of my close friends I made in Singapore. He was living in the same level as me in the student dormitory and we knew each other since the first night in Singapore. We share similar personalities and both of us like to share our stuff with all cluster mates. We went to supermarket together regularly and shared cooking utensils, detergents and foods with each other. I would say we lived together like symbiotic. Aleks introduced his best friend, Soth, to me. Soth lived in the next block, so we 3 always go to gym, play sports and study in library together.
NUS provided a recess week before midterm tests. Study is important, but I did manage my time and money spending well to find some ways for exploration. During recess week, I travelled around Penang with Soth for 3 days and made some new friends from Netherland since we lived in the same room in hostel in Penang. I also had a cycling day with Rachel (a Singaporean, I knew her before because she came to PolyU for study exchange during last semester) and her classmates. Near the end of semester, we also held a birthday party for her friends.
My life in Singapore was full of fun and bondings with people from different cultural backgrounds. We respect each others and we all kept carrying on our friendly smile to cheer others up. I would conclude, being kind and well-planned are the keys to well beings in new environments (perhaps, also true for familiar environment).