“Highlights”: what it’s like to study industrial design at a major Asian university
We reached out to Joshua Cirjak, a 21-year-old Croatian who is now studying design in Vancouver, so he could recount his memories of being an exchange student in Singapore. Croatia, home to some of the best beaches in the world, is a completely different scene from the city of the Lion. “My time at NTU began with uncertainty and doubt, and ended with tears of happiness,” he says.
Currently, at age 21, he remembers some of the best things about his participation in the industrial design program at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Check out what he has to say about The Little Red Dot below:
Tell us about some of your favorite memories of studying and living in Singapore.
Words cannot describe how perfect a study experience in a foreign country across the world was. I didn’t know what to expect when going to Singapore. Being alone in an unfamiliar environment has helped me grow and find myself.
Everything frustrated me at first. Having a roommate, having to share a shower, not having supplies to do my projects, and basically anything that is out of the norm for me has got me frustrated. However, being in these situations, you start to adapt and find new ways of doing things.
Some of the things I miss about NTU are the scorching sun outside coupled with the freezing air conditioning inside. Besides seeing all my friends at Canteen # 2 and eating budget rice every day, I miss kaya toast as well. After the first week of class, I knew it would be the best semester of my life.
To add to that, I miss booking last minute trips across Asia with friends, hanging out with random people at the top of the art and design building, playing soccer with the boys and to spontaneously go out to Clarke Quay.
All great moments come to an end, but it’s important to realize that there are still so many amazing moments to come. Singapore will always have a place in my heart and I can’t wait to return.
Why did you choose Nanyang Technological University and what were the best aspects of your studies there?
NTU was actually second on my list of exchange schools to attend, a close shave after the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Israel. Although I had the choice, I am extremely happy to have been accepted to NTU in Singapore.
Thinking back to my experience, when choosing an exchange program, my goal was to get somewhere as far as possible, and Singapore probably won on my list by miles. I knew it was a unique opportunity to live and experience life in a country that seems exotic to me and far from home.
Being in a country where they still speak English made me feel much more secure living on the other side of the world from my family. Another determining factor for Singapore was its proximity to a number of other countries. Traveling was something I had with several of my friends who were exchange students like me and chose NTU because of it.
In addition, I chose NTU because of its stellar reputation, it is a leading design school in all of Asia and ranks 13th best university in the world, according to QS Rankings. One of the many amazing aspects of studying at NTU were the teachers, they were cool and full of experience. For example, my robotics teacher designed a rover that is currently in the international space station!
Plus, the school itself is another cool aspect. The NTU community is very strong and exchange students integrate well with local students. At school and outside, everyone got along well!
To boot, the facilities were on another level. There is so much to do at NTU, from playing soccer, going to the gym, swimming and choosing to eat in 12 different canteens. You will never be bored. The school buildings are amazing, as even international photographers flock to NTU to take photos of its unique architecture.
How did your experience at Nanyang Technological University prepare you for the future?
NTU taught me a lot of things, not only useful things but also interesting things. Although I am now a design student, my home school in Vancouver allowed me to take a few electives that had nothing to do with design.
Some of my classes included 360 degree video and virtual reality, robotics, digital composition, product design, etc. One main thing for me was to learn to adapt quickly. Being thrown into an environment where you don’t have basic supplies and having to do the same classes and projects at home has prepared me for this. NTU has helped me think creatively and differently in order to adapt.
Adapting to new situations is what really prepared me for my career. When you’re not used to everything, thinking out of the box with minimal supplies and resources has really helped.
If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently as an international student?
If I could start all over again, I would just live in the present moment more and soak up everything. I would have spent more time getting to know people, participating in other activities outside of school. Some of the different options for extracurricular activities included outdoor movie nights, barbecues, and concerts at NTU venues, which is something to balance all the schoolwork!
What is your advice for international students wishing to study in Singapore?
DO IT! Studying in Singapore has definitely been a highlight of my life. On the academic side, to my daily life immersed in a culture different from mine. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being there, but when you suddenly find yourself in an unfamiliar situation you only have room to grow.
My advice would be to make yourself uncomfortable, to do things that you would never have done before. You only live once and these are the things you will remember when you return from your exchange program.
Remembering when I first moved to Singapore, I hated a lot of things including having a roommate, not having my own bathroom, not having a refrigerator, being warm, etc. . However, looking back, these are the things I miss the most!
Try to create as many memories as you can, while you can. Focus on school, but don’t bury your head too much in the books. Gathered in the main auditorium on the first day of school at NTU, I remember being impressed that there were so many different and unique people and wanted to meet them all.
The cool part of being an exchange student is that you feel connected with other exchange students. Being together in a foreign country brings you together in a way and makes you feel like part of this big family.
At the end, they showed us a graph of our emotions and how it went from sad because we missed home, to happy when we were adjusting in this new country, again to being sad during our exams and then to being happy when. We lived. at the height of our exchange program. Then came the time to come home, the graph showed us that we were sad again.
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