The ESSENTIALS to bring before departure


My students get daunted each time they realise they only have 30kg to check in. I can truly connect with the panic – not knowing how much clothes to bring, what kind of clothes to even pack, should you bring cutleries and crockeries, how about spices and asian comfort food?

Regardless of the number of clothes, crockeries and food you may wish to bring, there are some essential that must not be missed!

In this post, I will list the 5 essential things every international student should not forget out on bringing!

1) Electronics

Get your laptops, handset all from here. Singapore is known to be an affordable electronics base so get your gadgets before flying! If you ever need to repair your electronics, you can always fly back home during the summer or winter break to get them repaired. Some brands have branches overseas that will allow you to utilise their services as well.

2) Stationeries

You can definitely get stationeries in all countries, but it could be more affordable to stock up on pens, pencils (paint brushes, watercolors palettes and the such), notebooks here in Singapore. Head to Bras Basah Complex to shop at the big Popular bookstore to get these!

3) A week worth of toiletries and bed sheets

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Unless you are planning to immediately get some things the moment you land, it would be essential to buy some travel toiletries and a set of bed and pillow sheets. There is no need to stock up in big bulks – just something to last you for a week until you find your way around. Once you do, you can head to Target or Kmart for your essentials in Australia, Tesco, Asdam and Sainsbury in the UK and Kmart and Warehouse in New Zealand. Options are plenty!

4) International Travel Plug 


No explanation needed. This is to plug in all your electronics for charging. If you’re smart, get a multi outlet power strip! 

5) Cold cash

Get some money changed here just in case you need to pay for anything once you reach your destination. Such purchases could involve hailing a taxi, getting some food on the way, or small payments to be made for the first few weeks before you open up a bank account. A good amount would be between SGD$3000 to SGD$6000 (the conversion at the moment is divided by 1.8 for the Great British Pounds, 1.3 for Australian dollars, and almost similar for New Zealand dollars).

Hope that eases the pain of packing. Look out for my next post on What NOT to bring before leaving to study!



Singapore Medical Council – accredited Medicine Programs in Australia

pexels-photo-433267.jpegWith the release of the A levels results and the Singapore Universities admissions for the medicine programs coming out this May, it is only imaginable how frantic parents and students are looking for options to study Medicine

In summary, there are three ways to be able to do the Medicine program: 

1. Apply to an undergraduate degree program with an accredited SMC University
2. Apply to a dedicated undergraduate pathway program which will allow entry into a graduate entry program
(eg: University of Western Australia, Perth – Bachelor of Medical Science leading to MD – 3 years + 3 years (through-trained, progression guaranteed with a GPA of 5.5/7 by the end of the Bachelor’s program)
3. Do a Bachelor’s degree and apply directly to a graduate entry program

The focus of this article is on Number 1.

In Australia, there are four Universities that are accredited by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC). The list can be found in the Second Schedule, but be mindful that some of the programs stated have been discontinued for future students or have changed their program names and structure thus pending the accreditation.

The ones that are still in place are:

University of Adelaide, South Australia – MBBS – 6 years 
Flinders University, South Australia – Bachelor of Clinical Sciences / MD – 6 years
University of New South Wales, NSW – Bachelor of Medical Science / MD – 6 years 
University of Tasmania, Tasmania – MBBS – 5 years 

The ones pending accreditation are:

Monash University, Victoria – Bachelor of Medical Science / MD (if this program is not accredited by the time of graduation, students will graduate with an MBBS)
University of Newcastle, NSW – Bachelor of Medical Science / MD

What are they looking for? 

Every University wants to find high-calibre students who would be able to persevere through the intense program and those with the aptitude (the heart and the mind) to make potential GREAT DOCTORS.

The most popular qualifications looked at are the A levels and the International Baccalaureate. Grades differs from University to University and are usually strictly followed. It is best to read the International Admissions Guide of each program. The typical A levels H2s grades range from BBB – AAA, and IB results range from 35 onwards. 

International Students Admissions Test (ISAT) – This is a 3-hour computer-based multiple-choice aptitude test designed to assess a candidate’s intellectual skills and abilities that are the foundation of academic success at tertiary level. The test is independently developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). 

Personal Qualities Assessment (PQA) – Only the University of Adelaide and University of Newcastle (pending accreditation) set this test. Similar to the ISAT, it is an nstrument designed to assess a range of personal qualities considered to be important for the study and practice of medicine and allied health professions. It comprises questions, grouped into four sections, the first to measure cognitive skills, the other three to measure particular personality and attitudinal traits relevant to health professional practice. The main difference is that the paper is set by the University to determine the right candidates for their program. 

Other than the University of Tasmania, every applicant would have to go through an interview via Skype or a call, in some cases, a face-to-face. 

Some Universities uses the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). A multiple mini interview consists of a series of short, structured interview stations used to assess non-cognitive qualities including cultural sensitivity, maturity, teamwork, empathy, reliability and communication skills. At the beginning of each mini interview rotation, candidates receive a question/scenario and have a short period of time to prepare an answer. Upon entering the interview room, the candidate has a short exchange with an interviewer/assessor. An MMI circuit varies in the number of stations and timing of each station.

There is no easy feat to conquer the rigorous procedure of entering the Medicine program. If the first time, you fail, there will always be the next round of application, or perhaps, going through an graduate entry might prepare you better for admissions. Ultimately, the main aim is to ask yourself if you are willing to push through these steps of entry –

Do you want it enough? 

I can’t get into the Masters due to my grades, what can I do?

First and foremost, DON’T PANIC!

There is always an option, it is simply a matter of time and to a certain extent, finances. If you are looking to further your studies with a Masters in the UK but did not meet the entry requirements, then your best option is the Pre-Masters!


What is the Pre-Masters in the UK?
A pre-master’s course in the UK is designed to prepare students who wants to pursue their master’s degree in the UK. It provides one with academic tools such as academic writing, advanced research skills, time management and basic knowledge of academic terminologies thus prepares you for a master’s degree. One would have to choose the subject related to the master’s programme that he/she wishes to pursue to satisfy the requirements. After the successful completion of the pre-master’s course, a student is guaranteed an admission to that program. You can continue either in the same school to do your master’s degree, or you can get admission in other schools as well. It is usually an intensive two-term or three-term program (roughly a year long). 

Who is this program designed for? 
The most obvious reason would be for students who did not meet the academic qualifications required for the Masters program. This would encompass the following:

  • graduating from a non-Honours background;
  • failing the English requirements.

However there are various other reasons that students may undertake the program:

  • wishes to switch the discipline from your undergraduate degree to postgraduate degree;
  • take more time to adapt to the University’s style of teaching;
  • brush up on English skills especially if you are moving to a country that is non-English speaking. 

Entry requirements for Pre-Masters
It varies from the courses one wishes to undertake and the Institution/ Provider providing the program. Usually the requirements are:

  • An undergraduate degree with a pass
  • IELTS UKVI score 5.5

Popular courses for Pre-Masters
The options are myriads; here are a few:

  • Business programs such as Business and Social Studies, Economics and Accounting & Finance
  • Engineering programs such as Electrical & Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering
  • Humanities and Art programs such as Hospitality, Leisure, Recreation & Tourism,  Design Management, Advertising Design Management, Fashion Management and Global Media Management

If you think these courses are for you or if you have some doubts you need clarifying, feel free to contact me

Should I use an agent from an education agency for my Universities’ applications?

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First and foremost, I would like to state that I am working as an agent myself, so some of you may decide that this post is somewhat biased. I am, however, once an international student as well, therefore I am speaking from a student’s perspective.

To start off…

What is an education agency?

An education agency is an agency of counsellors that assist and guides international students in securing a place in an Institution. Some agencies might charge a service fee, but there are also a number of agencies in Singapore that does not charge students – they get their commission from the Universities they represent.

Now that you know what an education agency is, you should ask yourself if you are independent and knowledgeable enough to go through the applications, acceptance and visa process on your own. If you have concluded that you are, then there might be no need to engage one.

There are, however, so many benefits to engaging an agency!

  • Most of them have a wealth of experience and knowledge about the Institutions you are planning to enter. They can also provide alternative options to help you make a more informed decision;
  • They can check with the Universities’ representatives if there is any chance in appealing your case (depends on the agency);

  • Most application fees are waived off if applied through an agency (if you applied on your own, you can’t enjoy this perk!);

  • They gather all the documents you need for your applications;
  • Assist you with the acceptance process;

  • Guide you through the documents you need to apply for the visa application online;

  • Facilitate in making an on-campus, or student accommodation booking for you;

  • Conduct pre-departure seminars to gather students going to the same destination and brief them on what to prepare before departure.

Engaging an education counsellor allows you to have a second eye to make sure that your applications are thorough during application. This assistance is definitely something priceless!

Nevertheless, it is essential for you to do your research on the agency you would be engaging (especially if you are paying for one). Look up at the list of Institutions they represent.

When choosing one, I also suggest you ask for references, check up on social medias for testimonials. If other students are happy with the service, chances are you will be as well.

Still not sure if you should engage one? Ask me for more details about what I can do for you!

When would be the best time to start preparing for University studies?

One phrase: It is never too early. 

Some parents start as early as Secondary One for their children, while some would wait till the final results of the A levels have been released. There are no right or wrong answers but depending on the destination and course you are planning your child to enter, there are some timings that would ease your stress.

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Secondary Three:

When your child reaches this stage, it is essential for them to explore subjects that they are interested in and brush up on those they are not particularly strong in. Most students tend to pursue subjects they feel they can excel in and miss out on the learning journey for the rest. For example, most female students feel they would excel more in Humanities such as Literature and History and feel that they should not pursue “hard” subjects such as Additional Maths and Physics. However, it is essential to note that the latter are hard not because they are tough to learn, but because not enough time and emphasis are given to these subjects. “Hard” subjects are usually better pre-requisites for majority of University programs thus it is good to have them in the list of chosen subjects for O levels to establish a good base. Parents can give additional support in finding techniques and methods to make learning more enjoyable.

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Secondary Four:

The O levels (equivalent to Year 10) is a crucial moment for most Singaporean students (and parents likewise) as it would determine if a student would pursue Singapore GCE A levels or the Tertiary Diploma. Students who already know they would be going overseas to pursue a University program can use this O levels to apply for the UK A levels or Foundation programs available in most countries like the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The A levels (both SG or UK A levels) pathway is a MUST take if one is planning to pursue professional courses such as Medicine and Dentistry. The Tertiary Diploma is a great pathway if students already know what they plan to pursue. These students who already know what they want to do should explore doing a Foundation program, which is a bridging program of typically 8 months – 1.5 years (depending on student’s grades) that will lead to a University degree. It will be a shorter duration instead of doing the full 3 years in a typical Polytechnic here in Singapore. Parents, do take note of this opportunity cost.

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Junior College Year 1:

This is a good gauge if your child is coping well in the A levels program. If they are not doing so well, it could be a sign for you to explore either the UK A levels (which is only 3 main subjects) or the Foundation programs.

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Junior College Year 2 (mid year or prelims):

The A levels results will be out usually in late February or early March the next year after the exams. With this in mind, students and parents should have some contingency plans and start applying to the UK, Australia or New Zealand using the mid-year or prelims results which are usually out in August and October respectively. Do not wait till the last minute, otherwise you would realise that you would need to rush Universities for offers! Attend University fairs, start going for webinars, check on alternative pathways and googling on Universities you may be interested in attending if you do not get to local ones.  

Still confused what the different programs are? Speak to me about your options!



Tips in helping you to adapt to a new environment

It is never easy to leave a place familiar and comfortable, but some changes are necessary to build resilience and to increase your value when you get into the workforce.

This article explores the little tips on adapting to the new environment and hopefully, will be useful for all the courageous students out there who took that leap of faith to study abroad for an extended period of time.

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Tip 1: Learn about the culture before flying
Prepare yourself by reading up on the country and Institution you are flying to. Find out the favourite activities locals love to do, places to explore, and festivals to attend! You will never fully learn about a culture until you experience it, but it is always good to do some research prior.

Tip 2: Pick up some local slangs
If you are studying in UK, Australia or New Zealand, there will hardly any language barrier, but you may find that some phrases and words are very different from what we speak. Have fun researching on the popular slangs before you fly to easily comprehend your new friends!

Tip 3: Get over your fear and initiate the conversation with locals
Everyone gets shy at the start, thus be the brave one and break the ice. If you are not sure how, read my post on How to break the ice for some pointers!

Tip 4: Get a job
This is perhaps one of the greatest way to blend into the local way of living. Study abroad students should seek out internships and casual jobs that are open for international students through their Institution’s career portal. You will not only earn some cash, but you make friends outside of your Faculty/ University and get to experience how the locals work. Do read my post on How do I get a part-time job while studying overseas? for tips on getting employed.

Tip 5: Be open-minded and embrace the little quirks
Everybody who decides on living in a foreign country needs some time to adjust to their new environment. Be kind to yourself and give yourself some time to adjust. However, after a certain period of time, you need to remind yourself to break out of your comfortable little nest and try to immerse yourself in the local culture. You have to accept that certain things were simply not the same back in your home country.

Until you get to this point, remember to be respectful, patient, and humble. You are, after all, a guest living in a foreign country, and have to be open-minded to the different way of living.

What do you think are some other important tips to take note of to ease adapting in a new place?

Privileges you probably were not aware of as a student

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Do you know that you can enjoy some benefits of being an (international) student? Check these points out to see privileges you could bask on!

Complimentary airport transfer
As a first-timer to the country, most Universities offer a complimentary airport pick up for their international students. This is only applicable to the student and any accompanying adults may be subjected to additional charge.

Microsoft Office downloads
Your University would most probably be a customer of Microsoft Office, which will allow you to download the latest version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access, Publisher, Outlook, Skype for Business, OneDrive for Business. Your free student Microsoft Office subscription ends upon graduation.

Career and Employment Portal
Most Universities will have a Career and Employment Portal of which only students of that University have access to. You can then to a wide range of industries and you may find part-time employment that fits in between your study hours. You can find work in restaurants, retail outlets and most service industries. The Career Centre would also be a stop to help you look at your resume and help you look for suitable internships.

ISIC card
The International Student Identity Card (ISIC) is the only internationally recognised student ID card. Since its launch in 1968 and at an affordable rate, the ISIC card has pushed millions of students to get the most out of their student life by providing access to a global network of affordable and specialised student services. It is your passport to more than 150,000 discounts and benefits in over 130 countries worldwide!

If you booked your tickets with STA Travel, you would get the ISIC card for free!

Know anything else that are exclusive benefits to students? Do share your thoughts and comments below or contact me for more information!