Exchange: Singapore Management University (SMU)

November 17, 2015  //  By:   //  EXCHANGE  //  No Comment



Name: Zoe Toriello

Study Programme at CBS: BSc in International Business

Exchange School: Singapore Management University (SMU)




I can’t believe THREE months have flown by since I boarded the flight from Venice to Singapore. It’s so exciting that I have a chance to share my “alternative” exchange experience with you.

Why “alternative”? Well, during my time here not only have I enjoyed student life at SMU, but also the vibrant and lively expat scene in Singapore, which resulted from a part time internship. Approximately two months before the exchange would even start, I woke up one morning with this crazy idea of getting a part-time job in Singapore, despite not knowing anyone or anything there! Some people thought I was crazy to commit myself to such a thing, because they would say that “going on exchange is like a holiday”. But by networking, researching online, writing loads of emails and having a CV that traveled across the globe, I eventually got the part-time job I was aiming for: Sales & Marketing Intern in a Swiss advertising company.


Was it easy to make friends?

Well, yes! All of us exchange students were in the same position: living abroad, away from our families, homes, and lives. Meeting up and making friends is really casual and never awkward. Not only at SMU, but across all Universities in Singapore. I was also lucky enough to make some local friends, but don’t expect it to be that easy, there is quite a big cultural gap.


Do you like living in Singapore?

Living in Singapore is amazing! I love both the cultural and the corporate aspects of it. There are four communities living together: Chinese, Malaysians, Indians and Euroasians, plus the fifth category, called expats, who bring a “western” atmosphere to the city. There is so much to do here: go visit temples, go cafe hopping around the hipster areas, enjoy a drink at one of the rooftop bars (options vary from the 3rd all the way to the 63rd floor). Not to mention everything is within walking distance from each other.

The only thing I find hard to get used to is the heat and humidity*: some people love it, but I really hate it.

*NB: If you’re going to Singapore don’t make the same mistake I did, remember to bring a jacket/sweater just because it’s hot. The indoor temperature (school, office..everywhere!) is around 20°C.


One Altitude, Singapore
Via: Zoë Toriello

Did you have any language difficulties?

English is Singapore’s official language, so you can easily find your way around. It might however take some time before you get used to their accent and dialect, called “Singlish”. Quite funny and irritating at the same time!


What is the accommodation like?

Considering a “Copenhagen” budget of about DKK 5000, accommodation has its pros and cons. Most exchange students live in nice apartments in tall skyscrapers with facilities such as common pool, Jacuzzi, steam bath, tennis courts and gym, and not far from the city centre. However, the only way to afford such places is sharing rooms. I like my room: it has big glass windows, a private bathroom with bathtub overlooking the city, but sometimes I wish I had it all to myself :-)


50m Pool in the housing complex
Via: Zoë Toriello


My bathtub view on the 14th Floor
Via: Zoë Toriello

What electives are you taking and do you like them?

The equivalent of 30 ECTS is four electives at SMU. I am very interested in marketing and branding therefore I chose Strategic Brand Management, Storytelling for Brands and Organizations, Marketing Research and Advertising.

I really like the courses, and this makes it easier to be engaged and committed to school. It’s also really nice that we get to make up our own schedule. This way I can insure that work and classes are perfectly aligned during my week.

FYI! For most of the courses expect a pretty high workload: group projects, presentations, individual assignments, quiz.


What are the main differences between CBS and SMU?

First of all, the size of the classes and the participation; in Copenhagen I am used to having lectures with over 100 people This makes it impossible to have discussions and debates. At SMU, classes are made up of max. 50 students and the interactions are pretty intense (especially since participation is graded..yes ahah!)

Most courses at SMU require group work, meaning you will end up having to deal with four different groups during one semester.

Also, since I’m used to having a quarter-system at CBS, I find it pretty tough to coordinate four courses at the same time within one semester at SMU. But on the bright side, you will only have one lecture per week. Forgot to mention: attendance is compulsory and makes up part of the grade. Tip: do not get classes on Thursday morning: Wednesday night is ladies’ night ;)


What advice would you give to someone considering Singapore for his/her exchange semester?

Singapore is the perfect choice if you want to have a “moderate” Asian experience. The city is pretty western, people speak English and you can find any kind of food. However, I strongly recommend to be open minded towards the multiple cultures living here and be patient. You will be struggling big time with the locals when it comes to bureaucracy and similar things; just remember to count to ten and then give up.

Singapore is truly beautiful, and there is so much to do! But if you get tired of the city, you can easily (and cheaply) flight to South East Asia for a weekend gateway!


Seminyak, Bali – October 2015
Via: Zoë Toriello


Krabi, Thailand – August 2015
Via: Zoë Toriello

About the Author :

Zoe is a 19-years old Italo Brazilian. She travelled to Copenhagen last year for the first time to start her BSc in International Business. She speaks five languages, plus she is learning Danish. When she is not attending class, you can find her at Nexus sipping Vanilla Chai Latte with Soy Milk listening to R&B on Spotify. Her idea of "chilling" is laying by the lakes (Søerne) with a bottle of white wine, a box of strawberries and a couple of friends.

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