Report on Student Exchange Programme to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), attended from Aug-Dec 2016

I would like to thank the NUS School of Computing for offering me the Computing Alumni Assistance Award to help finance my participation in the Student Exchange Programme at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), between August and December 2016. I am grateful for this exchange opportunity that NUS has provided me with – living and studying abroad in the US had turned out to be indeed an experience of a lifetime.

Photo: Me standing in front of my hostel in winter time

UIUC is ranked as one of the top universities in the world in engineering and computer science. As a Business Analytics undergraduate in my final year of studies, I found it enriching to be immersed in such a campus environment, as it provided me with many opportunities to hone my technical skills, as well as to find out more about the tech industry's needs in the field of data science. While there, I took useful classes relating to data science and CS topics. Apart from those classes, there were also many opportunities to attend talks by industry professionals from top tech companies, who were invited by the CS department to share about their expertise. There were several analytics workshops which I participated in as well over the course of the semester, and I believe they made for good exposure.

Besides these opportunities to hone my technical skills, I also took up classes like oil painting and piano lessons (through which I picked up jazz improvisation). These were classes which I looked forward to every week, and I really appreciate how the university offers such modules to non-art and non-music majors, which is in line with a US liberal arts education.

Photo: An oil painting assignment which I completed for a painting module

Apart from academics, I also befriended several internationals (Indians, Chinese) and Americans. It was interesting to learn about their cultures and to listen in on their different perspectives – such as when my Indian friends shared about not minding being subjected to arranged marriages, something which did surprise me quite a bit.

Photo: Trip to Curtis Apple Orchard for apple picking with some friends

Photo: Hiking with members of the Singapore Student Association at Lake View Park Trails

I had a good time experiencing American culture as well. My friend’s American host, who often speaks about their former president Abraham Lincoln with much pride, took us to the Lincoln Museum at Springfield one weekend, and I learnt a lot about that period of America’s history in that visit.

I was also invited to a church’s Thanksgiving dinner, and for dinner with an American family on another separate occasion – both of these were unique experiences in themselves.

Being abroad afforded me the privilege of exploring places which I would usually not travel to, due to the sheer distance that they are located from Singapore. Before returning, I made a trip to the Bahamas – a country which I discovered to be rich in culture, and to hold many natural gems which have not yet been trampled on by an influx of tourists. These trips made up the many highlights of my exchange experience, and I appreciated being closer to mother nature.

I believe that I learnt independence and achieved much personal growth while overseas. Being away also broadened my worldview and enriched my life experiences. These memories that I have made while on exchange, I will cherish for a lifetime.





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