Summing up and reflecting on my entire exchange experience is something that I have wanted to do since coming back to Singapore. Therefore, this blog post shall act as a medium for my reflection and as an exchange experience summary for prospective and current SUTD students.
For context, I am a CSD student who had an exchange at Aalto University in Finland for roughly 4 months. This blog post shall cover different aspects of my exchange at Aalto University and provide context and learning points.
Taking the opportunity to take modules SUTD don’t offer
Expanding one’s skillset through academics is one of the core aspects of going for exchange. When planning which modules to take, some modules cannot be mapped back to an existing module in SUTD. However, do not despair! Some of those modules can still be mapped back as an elective. Therefore, take this opportunity to explore different areas of interest. Personally, I decided to take modules that dive deeper into user interface design, designing scalable software systems and data analytics. I took these modules out of pure interest, and I have deepened my technical skill sets while finding out areas of computer science that I do not like that will help me scope my expertise.
Be yourself and make friends with people of similar interests
Being an introvert, sometimes orientation and talking to strangers can be quite challenging. However, I found that just finding a common purpose or interest helps. Therefore, I made local Finnish friends through project work and casual slack discussions about software. This might not work for you, but do not be afraid. Just be yourself, and you will find similar people by being you.
Appreciate the space created when living by yourself
Being a normal Singaporean who has always been living with my parents, living on my own is new. Everything had to be done by myself, from cooking, cleaning, and handling laundry. Walking to the laundry room in freezing temperatures is often a hassle. However, you will soon realise they have peace and some therapeutic elements. A routine as simple as waking up to make breakfast for me was therapeutic. I started looking out the window while waiting for my cereal to turn soggy (controversial, I know…). Life in Singapore can be hectic and busy, so while you can, slow down and look outside and you will start to see life as something more than the rat race.
Here is a view outside the window:
Take advantage of the different curriculum
Many of the modules I took had multiple project-based web development assignments with the freedom to choose technologies. I took the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone learning new frameworks and technologies such as Astro, Docker, etc. The freedom to choose technologies is quite an uncommon theme for assignments as marking would be easier with standardised programming language and framework. Therefore, given the freedom, take it to its full advantage and learn something completely different.
With that, I end my reflection. The exchange has been a joy to experience, and I have gained many skills and perspectives. For current, incoming and prospective SUTD students, the GEXP programme will be a core memory and highlight of your university life so grasp the opportunity to go for it.