How to break the ice


With the new semester commencing, I can only imagine the nervous excitement that my bunch of students must be feeling. No matter how extroverted you are, it is going to take some energy and effort to strike a conversation with a stranger. Everyone gets a little shy at first—after all, you don’t know what this other person is like. In this short article, I am going to share with you five effective ice breakers an a new international student!

1)      “Hello, I’m new to this campus, do you know how to get to…”
Always the ultimate conversational starter especially if you are around a big campus. Everyone has a soft spot for a stranger who is lost and in a welcoming place like Australia, UK and the beautiful New Zealand, I am sure people would be happy to even walk you to your destination! If you come across an equally lost stranger, that’s is even better, since both of you can then explore the area and experience things together!

2)      “Hey, are you an International Student too?”
You could tell from afar a foreigner as disoriented as you in an unfamiliar environment! In class, most international students would sit right at the back and hope to not get noticed, thus look out for these signs to spot fellow students that you could potentially make friends with. Another advice is, when stepping into a room, quickly scan for a face that looks amicable and take a seat beside them. After that, use this line to find out if they’re new to the country just as you are! 

3)      Or… “Hey, are you a local here, do you have some tips to do around the area?”
If you are a little more courageous, pick someone who looks local in the room and use this line to start a conversation with them!

4)      “Wow, is there always a queue here? Still feels like back home!”
I find this line very useful to use especially if I have to queue up for food, or at the bookshop. Most times, you’ll find the person behind you as equally bored/ annoyed of having to spend a fraction of their time queueing up for something as mundane as getting a pen or a book. Take this opportunity to break the ice and lighten the tension. If you get lucky, you get an amused person who’ll continue the conversation with you to pass the time!

5)       “I’m not sure what to eat, what is good around here?”
Nothing beats a conversation around food (well at least for most people!). When in a social setting, why not start off saying you are new to this place, that you are craving for the food back home, are there any recommendations of a good place to eat? Or if you are looking for something more unique to the country, what is a favourite dish among the locals and where are the best hunts for these? The conversation, I’m sure, can get very lengthy!

There we go, I hope these tips help you newbies out there find your place in an unfamiliar environment! I’m sure, soon enough, all of you will adapt quickly! If you have a better ice breakers, do leave comments below so others can have fun with them too!




Why Overseas Studies puts you ahead

faustin-tuyambaze-135473Photo by Faustin Tuyambaze on Unsplash

Having worked in the Education Recruitment for more than three years now, the number one reason as to why students do not accept an overseas University offer is when they have guaranteed a place in a local University. Of course, much as I do not doubt the quality of domestic education, there are a number of positive outcomes that would put student who took the leap to study abroad ahead of those who decided to stay put to study.

Being in a different country, you would definitely find yourself in a group work with multi-national students, all with contrasting way and pace of working. Though there will be moments of miscommunication, the learning growth in finding a way to handle your groupmates is immense! It is a skill that is valuable and would help you when you get out to the real world – the workforce. Based on a study done by The Council for International Educational Exchange (CIEE) (S Trooboff, 2008) and the recent article by Forbes (Matt Symonds, 2014, Does Studying Abroad Really Boost Your Job Prospects), employees certainly look for students who have studied abroad as they display diversity and show that they are not afraid to seek out new challenges or put themselves in difficult situations. Students and alumni generally felt that international education improved their “managerial and cross-cultural competencies and also made them more independent, flexible and self-aware”

Having new-found freedom in an unfamiliar environment, you will discover all the wonderful activities your host country has to offer! If you are in Australia, you would most probably be surrounded by the clear-blue beaches. Try surfing, water skiing and diving with your new local friends. In the UK, you might appreciate the amazing rich history. Museum-hopping could be a new hobby! In Switzerland, you are surrounded by the massive breath-taking mountains. Pick up hiking or snow-skiing depending on the weather!

Being alone abroad will bring out more challenges, specifically in time management and money budgeting. You would realise that there would be no one to nag you to clean your room, wash your dishes or do your laundry – but you still have to do all these, on top of all the project work and assignments. Soon, you would also realise as well that you need to start paying for your handphone bills, utilities, gas, water expenses if you are living off-campus. What a way to be a grown-up!

According to the world university rankings compiled by the Times Higher Education, more than half of the world’s top 200 universities are located in either the US or the UK. Both countries share a rich tradition of reputable higher education, excellent research facilities and professors, and a culture that promotes intellectualism as well as academic freedom. Thus, whether you are going to study in the US or the UK, you would need to take a proactive and initiative approach towards the learning style and environment. This independent style may defer greatly from your home country, but is definitely beneficial in the real world.

In summary, I can summarise all these benefits to a formula:

Different culture and environment = enriched experience
(how good it would be depends on how much you maximise it)

Still not sure or simply planning ahead till you graduate? Why not sign up for our newsletter to receive various articles about studying overseas!

How do I get a part-time job while studying overseas?

One of the main advantages as an international student is that you get to work part-time while studying:

Australia – 40 hours fortnightly and full-time during the holidays
New Zealand – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays
United Kingdom – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays

There are so many benefits to this! 
– You get to have experience before you graduate especially if you get a job relevant to your interests and course. Don’t understimate the role of a retail staff or service crew! Such experiences hone your crisis management skills, interpersonal skills and most importantly the ability to think on your feet.
– You earn to offset some cost of living.
– You make friends outside of your University

Of course, always weigh your priorities and make sure you are able to balance studies and a part-time job. 

So with this in mind, how should I start to get part-time employment?

First things first, make sure you apply for the necessary tax file numbers that would ensure that all tax and national insurance contributions made while working are recorded correctly. 

AustraliaTax File Number (TFN) is to be applied online. 
New Zealand IRD Number is to be applied online.
United Kingdom – You may have a National Insurance (NI) number printed on the back of your biometric residence permit (BRP). You don’t need to apply for a National Insurance number if you already have one, or one is printed on your BRP.

Once you have got this settled, you may start the adventure of searching for a job! Here are some recommendations on the modes of search:

1) Job-search website – Use popular job search websites like the following to look for employment.

Australia – Seek, Australian JobSearch, and Gumtree
New ZealandSeek, Trademe Jobs and Careers NZ
United Kingdom Student Jobs UK, Reed and Student Employment Services

2) Jobs listing on campus boards
Take a walk around campus and keep your eyes open on any job opportunities listed on your campus notice boards! These are casual and popular ways some employers look for casual employment, especially for on-campus employment.

3) Walk-in to restaurants, cafes and retails
Pick up your courage and walk in to various hospitality and retail shops along the city or popular laneways to ask if they are looking to hire. Most employers are looking for frontliners who are able to speak fluent English and it would help them to make a decision knowing that you can speak smoothly. 

4) Career and Employment Centre in the University
Make full use of the Career and Employment Centre located in almost all Universities. It provides a professional support service that aims to increase employability and career development for all current students. The advantage of the Centre is that it assists students in vetting through their resumes and recommend certain changes for improvements. It holds networking sessions for students to engage with potential employers as well. 

5) Be out there and network!
Get out there and speak to lecturers, professors and seniors of your University to get tips on how to get employment, or even better still, ask if they know of any opportunities that you can grab! Your time abroad is limited thus there is no space for procastination and complacency. Thicken your skin and get them to know of your presence and your intention to look for casual employment. 

With these tips at your fingertips, I certainly hope you hitch an enjoyable job in no time!


How do I know what I want to do in University?

woman in black t shirt leaning on white table in front of white book
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on

In my years of conversing with students as young as 15, it has impressed me so much that some of them are already very sure of what they want to do in University. I remember a particular meeting with a student who talked to me for a full hour about his collection of stories of airplane accidents, and concluded that the design and engineering of the airplane mechanics are important factors to prevent such mishaps. His strong interest made him firm that the best program for him would be aerospace engineering. 

Of course, he was one of the few exceptions.

In most instances, a large number of you would not have identified your lifelong passion, and that’s okay!

If you are not too sure which programs are good for you, you might like to take these options to explore: 

Take up online classes
With the growth of online educational platforms such as Mooc, Udemy and Coursera, there is no excuse to not be able to learn (unless you do not have access to internet). Take some time to explore a variety of online classes and see which ones lit a spark in you. If you found one that makes you curious in going in depth, you might have just hit the nail. 

Consider a gap year 
Why not take a break? Since you spent a large amount of your time trying to climb the ladder of academic success, taking a gap year can be a good option to reward yourself and explore future plans. Travelling around can allow you to have a bigger perspective about global issues and perhaps you might develop an enthusiasm in solving a particular concern. You can also take this time to take up an internship or a job in a certain field.

Even if you do not find something that you’d like, at least you might be able to discover what you surely do not want to do.

Already have an idea of some programs in University? Think about a reading list of courses you are considering and get them from Universities you are contemplating of entering. Buy books or head to the library to read up on books of particular subjects that have got you interested. Books are great sources of knowledge, so start with them! 

Speak to people already out there in the career world
Take some time to speak to people in your community and find out what they do! They can be people close to you such as your parents, older siblings and relatives. Even teachers, counsellors, alumni of your school are great people to have a casual chat with. What is their day to day schedule? What skills do they feel are essential in their workplace? What are the challenges they face? Why did they choose this career paths? These answers may help guide you with your own path.

Choose a University with a flexible system
If you still can’t decide on a course path, look through Universities which allow you the flexibility to explore options for the first year. For example, the University of Western Australia in Perth allows you to do majors from different faculties. You could be doing a Marketing major with Psychology! The good thing too is that you do not have to choose your majors till the second year. 

Similarly, the University of Melbourne‘s curriculum is “designed to give you a wider understanding of the world beyond your degree”. Every student has to take Breadth subjects to complement their main discipline with a wider range of knowledge, skills and interdisciplinary perspectives.

Having flexibility in your program will allow you to explore your options if you have yet to decide your niche. 

What else do you think will help you in making a more informed choice? 

Applying to UK Universities for Undergraduate courses


Are you thinking of applying to UK Universities but feeling lost? Applying to UK Universities is made easy through UCAS application.

What is the UCAS? UCAS stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is an online centralised service that students use to apply to university. Students who are planning to apply for Undergraduate courses in the UK Universities will have to apply through UCAS.

Are there any datelines? There are datelines for certain courses in UCAS. For more information, please visit the UCAS Undergraduate: when to apply.

15 October (the year before commencement year), 18:00 (UK time) – Oxford’s and Cambridge’s courses, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry.

15 January (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – for the majority of courses.

24 March (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – for some art and design courses. Make sure you check the course details to confirm the correct deadline you need to apply by.

30 June (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – the final deadline for late applications with course choices

20 September (year of commencement), 18:00 (UK time) – students will be entered into ‘Clearing’ – the process universities and colleges use to fill any places they still have on their courses

What do I need to prepare?
Academic transcripts – You can use equivalent international qualifications that you have already completed, or the predicted/prelims grades of the qualifications you are still studying now.

Personal statement – a statement of 4000 characters/ about 500 – 550 words of why you want to study the course and why you would fit into the University. It should display passion for the subject area, and demonstrate motivation, enthusiasm, and the skills and experiences that will enable you to succeed at university.

Academic referral letter – A reference is a written recommendation from a teacher, adviser or professional who knows you academically.

Passport details – optional but best to put it in for identification purposes.

How much does it cost? The application fee is £13 for a one course application, or £24 for a maximum of 5 courses and for late applications sent after 30 June.

Now, if you need additional help, you should be looking for an education counsellor to help you with the procedures. Some agencies are paid a fee while some are not – the Universities will pay them for the service. However, most first-time consultations are free of charge so you should consider getting their advice. There are some Universities that allow direct applications (avoiding UCAS) and this would save you a considerable amount of time.

If you have any queries, please click on my contact and leave me a comment!

Should I study in Australia or the United Kingdom?

kangaroo and tea

So after reading the first article Why Overseas Studies put you ahead, you are now perhaps thinking more about taking that leap!

When it comes to studying abroad, the two most popular destination to sought after is Australia and the United Kingdom. Based on the 2017’s Australia Department of Immigration and Border Protection and the UK Home Office statistics, it showed that more than 2,800 Singaporeans attained student visas to Australia and 2,700 to the UK last year. There are a number of reasons for this large number, and in today’s article, we would highlight the differences in both destinations.

In both Australia and the UK, the normal course duration is typically three years. The main difference is that in the UK, the degrees are imbedded Honours, whereas in Australia a student would require to complete another year for an Honours program. This will be a huge advantage for students who are planning to study and qualify for a professional course such as Engineering, Physiotherapy or Law in the UK. It will not only save them time, but a year worth of tuition fees and cost of living.

Credit Transfer / Recognition of Prior Learning
Students with tertiary studies or extensive working experience can apply for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), or credit transfer which refers to the recognition of previous informal and formal training, work experience, professional development, professional licensing and examinations, and other work-based education and training. In the UK, one can state which point of entry he/she wishes to enter to (eg: Year 2 or 3). Australia, however, is a little more flexible by allowing credit exemptions, which means a student may not need to do certain units/ modules based on similar units/ modules studied prior. Therefore, students can study as short as one year or 1.5 years depending on how cognate the discipline of study.

Cost of Living
In Australia the Immigration requires students to prepare AUD$20,290 for one year cost of living, which includes off campus accommodation, food and transportation. Of course, depending on the state you are planning to live in, this can defer greatly. The estimated costs of living per state will be the following:


State/ Territory Cost of living State/ Territory Cost of living
Sydney 22,000 – 28,000 Queensland 22,000 – 25,000
Melbourne 22,000 – 28,000 Perth 20,000 -22,000
Canberra 22,000 – 25,000 Adelaide 19,000 – 20,000
Darwin 22,000 – 25,000 Tasmania 19,000 – 20,000

As for the United Kingdom, a student would need to prepare about £1,015 in his/ her bank account for each month you plan to stay outside of London. This works out as £12,180 per year. If you are studying in London, you need to be prepared to spend a bit more £1,265 per month, the equivalent of £15,180 per year.

Ultimately you would need to weigh this in consideration with your tuition fees and this will vary depending on the University and course you are applying to.

International Students
Based on the statistics given by the UK Council for International Student Affairs for 2015-2016, only 14% of the students are international (not including the EU which is about 6%) where majority of them are from China, followed by Malaysians. Australia proves to still be a popular study destination with more than 35% being international students (, 2015). Majority of them are also from China, followed by India, then Malaysia, Vietnam and Nepal.

Post Study Work Permit
The Temporary Graduate visa (subclass 485) allows graduates to work in Australia temporarily after they finish their studies, provided that they have minimum requirements of studying in the country of about two years. In the UK, however, as soon as you graduate, international students need to switch their visa to a work-related one if they wish to extend their stay. The new laws have made it tougher for international students to do so, and the post-study work visa was scrapped in 2012.

In summary, ask yourself a few questions like the following before deciding on a destination:
1)      Do I want to be closer to home?
2)      What do I want to do after my studies – go back straight or get working experience in another country?
3)      What kind of learning environment do I want to study in?

Both Australia and the UK would be good countries for international studies, the final choice will be dependent on the student’s priorities.

What happens after O levels?

pexels-photo-261895.jpegWhat should I do after my O levels? 

Most students are lost after their O levels examinations. It is certainly a period to think about the different pathways to take as it would determine (in some ways) the career road that a student will go down to. In most cases, it is a choice of entering a vocational education route (Polytechnic diplomas or the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)) or Pre-University Institutions (Junior Colleges or the International Baccalaureate Diploma)). Here are three quick questions to ask yourselves:

1)      Do I already know what I want to do?
If you do, then the decision is easy. If you are looking at Professional Courses such as Medicine, Dentistry or Law, the Pre-University Institutions should be your choices. This will better prepare you in terms of academics. However, if you are looking Niche Vocational Courses such as Hospitality, Media and Communications and Engineering, the Polytechnics may mould a better pathway to the workforce.

2)      Does my O level grades meet the requirements to enter?
Perhaps you are looking to do Medicine. You have to however, be realistic and ask yourself if you are able to enter any of the Pre-University Institutions based on the results that you got. In such cases, you either have to sacrifice your dreams and pursue a different pathway such as a Diploma in Biomedical Science in a Polytechnic.

3)      Can I guarantee myself a place in the Singapore Universities if I am planning to pursue Higher Education?
So let’s say that you did manage to do the A levels, can you then be sure that you will meet the required grades for you to enter the course that you want in the local University? Remember to take note that the spaces for Professional Courses in Singapore are limited thus entry are stringent. If you have taken a vocational pathway, you have to make sure that you are maintaining a GPA high enough to enter most courses (a GPA of 3.8/4 may be safe).

Such cases are so unfortunate and we have to prepare students at an early stage. What most of students don’t know is the following pathways to get you to your preferred courses overseas:

1)      Do the GCE A levels (UK)
The UK A levels is a main school leaving qualification which is internationally recognised. It is usually taken by students who are not comfortable with taking too many subjects (6 subjects in specific) like the Singapore GCE A levels. Students uses the UK A levels to apply for Professional Courses such as Medicine and Dentistry in both UK and Australia. It is a duration of about 1 to 2 years (the shorter duration would be extremely intensive). The standard full-time load is three to four subjects typically taken in fields relevant to intended study at the tertiary level. A common pattern of study for many students is to take four subjects in Year 12 and will drop out the last subject before the final exams.

2)      Do the Foundation program in UK, Australia or New Zealand
If you already know that you want to progress to the Universities overseas, do the Foundation program from your country of choice and proceed to the University and course that you wish to enter. The standard Foundation program is usually 9 months – 1 year depending on the destination and pathway provider you have chosen. It can progress to courses such as Engineering, Arts, Commerce and even the popular course of Law! Progression is usually guaranteed as long as the student meets the requirements of the chosen University.

Of course there are other factors to consider:

1)      How much will these pathway cost?
2)      What if I am still not sure what I want to do?
3)      Can I change courses after my pathway?
4)    Can these courses gain me entry to local Universities? 

The discussions are extensive thus I will not discuss it in this entry (do contact me if you wish to discuss on these specific questions). However the main objective of doing the pathways overseas would be to:


If you noticed, the UK A levels and Foundation will save you a good precious amount of time of about 0.5 to 1 year (more if you unfortunately fail the Singapore A levels/ Diploma program). This could have been used for better purposes such as getting employment faster. Take note for the boys, you would need to spend 2 years of your life in the Army, thus it is better to save the 1 year in Education to get you ahead.