Category Archives: Architravels

Qualia of Architecture Students on Exchange
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École Spéciale d’Architecture (ESA)


French would be a plus plus. But if your main concern is that you do not speak French, fret not. You will still survive. Most Parisians understand English, it’s just whether they are willing to speak it or not.

It is advisable to open a French bank account. If you want to have a French phone contract, you will need to have a French bank account. But you can do without one and use SIM cards. Société Génerale, as far as I know, is the only bank account that allows short-stay visitors to open an account. Foreign bank alternatives would be HSBC or Citibank.

Before you leave for Paris:

Applying for a French visa should be quite straightforward. Just remember to give yourself time. You need to book a visa appointment one month in advance. In addition to that, give yourself at least three- four weeks for the application to be processed. The checklist of things to prepare is up on the French Embassy website.

Do ensure you have everything on the list before heading down to apply. You will come to learn that the only way to overcome French bureaucracy is to prepare more than what they ask for. You win.

It is not necessary to have a birth certificate translated to French.

ESA does not help you to find accommodation, so it’s best to start searching for one as soon as possible. Do search for accomodation via reliable real estate agency websites. They require a fee, but it is totally worth it. Here are some recommendations:
Do find an apartment in a safe arrondissement (district). It’s best to avoid 18,19,20th , but if you’re into the Moulin rouge, then go ahead.

Travel within Paris is very convenient and reasonably priced. However, intercity travel in France can be very expensive and more expensive than travelling to other European cities. SNCF is the major transport operator in France. Tickets can be more affordable if you book them about two months in advance.

École Spéciale d’Architecture (ESA)

Modules: French or English??
Exchange students must take two compulsory modules – design, history of Paris and French language (streamed according to your language proficiency). In addition to that, you have the luxury of choosing two other modules from across all years.

Most design studios in year three are in French. However, the tutor and the teaching assistant usually speaks English as well. The first week of school is studio-free week. Basically, you will get to sit in the studios you are interested in and choose your studio in the subsequent week. (Note: Do choose a tutor who not only speaks English, but is willing to speak English, if you are not confident of your language proficiency that is) More design studios are in English in year four because there are more non-French tutors in year four.

As for the other modules, you can choose from some seminars that are conducted in English. I personally recommend the somewhat intensive but enriching theory modules by Brent Patterson.

Article contributed by Theresa Chua


What I like about studying in ETH Zürich?

Apart from the incredibly scenic city, trams that are always on time (a minute earlier in fact), swimming in the Lake Zürich/ chilling at Zürich West during summer, how beautiful the city becomes when it snows, great student apartments (apply for Bülachhof or Max Bill Platz!)….

What I admire about the ETH is that the school is serious in investing in every single student in the cohort (and not just a select handful), making sure that the overall quality of work in each class is of a consistently high standard. Also, each and every program has been approached by all involved, both lecturers and students, with a level of seriousness, rigor and depth, and their love for the topics involved is a great joy to watch and be a part of.

P.S. Do sign up for Petra Blochlinger’s German classes! She’s super cynical and funny, it’s the one lesson we look forward to most every week! You’ll love her for sure!

Article contributed by Joel Tay

About Chalmers

Chalmers University of Technology is a university known for her stance towards sustainability and having a vision as an institution to educate students to continually be conscious about the environment in whatever field they pursue in the future. This is particularly so in a country such as Sweden that focuses as a nation and community towards living sufficiently without compromising the resources for future generations. You could read up a little more on what their focus is here:

Semester work

The semester started off with two courses, one of which looked at sustainable development and the design professions, and the other a thesis-writing course based on any topic of our interest in the field of architecture that focused on honing our research and writing skills. It was an excellent opportunity through these two courses to understand about the role of our work in our field of studies in relation to other professions such as those in the engineering field, and the impact on our work on the environment.

The second part of the semester consisted of 2 other courses that looked into urban and architectural design and detailed research and design of a contemporary challenge in architecture today. The projects from these courses were conducted on a group-work basis, working with other students to analyze the city of Gothenburg and propose interventions to deal with existing problems and imminent changes in the future.

School facilities

If you’re currently worrying about printing and materials purchase and all, fret not. The school provides basic materials like greyboard, Bristol etc. which you can purchase at the school workshop. They have a good range of woodwork machinery, laser machines, spray room and experienced staff who can help you out. The best part is they have quite a few printers in school for you to print your own A0/A1 etc. 24/7. Each student gets a number of printing credits courtesy of the school, which you can use. More details will be given during your introduction tour to Archi School, so do head down for it! Really important as well as that’s when they’ll brief you about the course details and any other administrative matters you would need to settle.

Living in Gothenburg on exchange

Eating out can get pretty expensive, close to maybe S$15 (~75Kr+) average for a meal, so you may end up cooking quite often to save on costs. There are quite a few supermarkets there, cheapest being Willy’s and Lidl. (The cost of groceries is pretty decent, almost comparable to cooking in Singapore) So start learning how to cook, or make sandwiches. Transportation: Gothenburg is a really bike-friendly city, so you may want to consider buying a second-hand bike to travel. It’s pretty safe and there are quite a decent number of cyclists over there. There’s a second-hand website where you can look for second-hand bikes, furniture, anything you name it. If you aren’t too keen about cycling, not to worry as the tram and bus system there is really efficient. There are different pass options, like 1 month, 3 month payments and unlimited rides for that duration. However, Chalmers has a student offer you may want to consider, for unlimited rides on bus 16 only, along a certain route that goes past the campus. You will be able to purchase this card at the campus bookstore (more details about it will be given during orientation day).

Other thoughts

Having the opportunity to go overseas for an exchange is a wonderful time to really discover more about how others in the world do things and also sort of find our own voice and opinions, and learn a little bit more about ourselves in how we have seen the world. For those going on exchange in the future, here are just some thoughts I would like to share that maybe you could use to mentally prepare yourself before embarking on this journey.

  • Firstly, be willing to just try most things, of course within the safety boundaries that you will always be control of.
  • Always look out for opportunities, take the initiative, be it talking to others or looking for activities to do. Just be daring and try to be the first one to break the ice. There is nothing much really to lose, but the opportunity to expand your horizon if you had not dared to try. Others are equally eager to make friends and find out more about the rest, just as you are.
  • Sometimes if the opportunities don’t arise, create them. Organize your own activities to get to know others more. Don’t stay in the hostel, go out to school, go explore the town you are living in. This is one of the best opportunities to discover how people in other parts of the world function and what kind of lifestyle they live or what kind of environment they live in. Try to experience it less of a tourist but more like an inhabitant of that town or city.
  • Talk to different people and always be curious. You gain a lot of perspectives talking not only to the natives but also other international students.
  • Expectations. I believe all of us would have high expectations and built up visions of what we hope to gain or learn out of the entire exchange experience, especially since this would probably be the first time most of us would have the opportunity to live and study abroad for a decently long period of time. However, be prepared that there would be some things or expectations that would probably not be met due to circumstances or were just not realistic to achieve in actuality. Yet, embrace these experiences as well or whatever that comes along, for an overseas exchange would probably not be something new if everything we expected came true or happened. Spontaneous is probably the word that might come up often. It’s good to have some expectations of what you would like to learn from this exchange, as it serves as a good motivation point to get you to step out of your comfort zone and discover more about the world and how others do things. However, don’t beat yourself up if sometimes these expectations don’t turn out the way you hoped it would. Just enjoy every moment you are overseas, because that in itself is already an accomplishment and whatever you gather, see and hear during your time there, will probably enrich you as a person at that time and for the future.

Article contributed by Lina Heng


Preparation for University of Strathclyde

1)     Visa

If you are a Singapore citizen, congratulations! There’s no need for a Visa. If not, a Student Visitor Visa usually suffices. Check out to confirm the type of Visa you need. It usually takes about 2 weeks to process your Visa application, and your passport will be kept by them, so do plan ahead to make sure you have ample time. Prepare all the documents you need (be kiasu!) so that there won’t be any hiccups. They would require both originals and photocopies, and the photocopy machine there charges quite a high rate, so make your own copies before heading down.

2)     Accommodation

The university provides student accommodation within campus, and exchange students usually get allocated to Birkbeck Court ( Each flat has 6 individual rooms with a shared living room, pantry, toilet and bathroom. The pantry has most things you would need, except a rice cooker! So if you can’t survive without rice, bring your own mini rice cooker.

3)     Insurance

There are a number of insurances available, but we would recommend the AIG Student Assist Insurance ( as it covers both studies and travels.

4)     Getting to Glasgow

There are currently no direct flights to Glasgow, but quite a few options with only one transfer i.e. Emirates, British Airways and Lufthansa. Before you set off, register at to inform them of your arrival details. There will be a booth at the airport arrival hall, jointly set up by all 3 universities in Glasgow. They will direct you to the shuttle bus that will bring you to the city centre.

At University of Strathclyde

1)     Getting around Glasgow

The university is about a 15 minute walk from the city centre, so there usually isn’t any need for public transport. There is a subway line that would bring you out of the city centre, but the system is not as extensive as the ones in Singapore.

As long as it’s not raining, the weather should be pretty comfortable for walking up to half an hour or even more. When it is raining, do take care! As temperature dips, you might find frost in your shoes.

2)     Grocery shopping

The closest and cheapest supermarket is Aldi, located along High Street, about five minutes’ walk from the Campus Village. There are also a few smaller ones like The Cooperative Food and Sainsbury’s Local along George Street. For a larger supermarket with more varieties, head down to Tesco Metro along Sauchiehall Street. Tesco Extra at Cobden Road is a 2-storey hypermarket, with products ranging from groceries to clothes to electronics, but it is also a half an hour walk away.

There are 2 Chinese supermarkets in Glasgow, selling groceries and food products from China and Southeast Asia. All your sauces, not only limited to Chinese product, can be found in these two stores. Chung Ying (中英行) is located along Dobbie’s Loan, and is about 20 minutes’ walk from the Campus Village. See Woo (泗和行) is further away, at Saracen Street, which is about half an hour’s walk away. There is a fresh fish market down in High Street, at the junction near Glasgow Green Park.

3)     School facilities

They have an A1 plotter for plotting line drawings in DWG or PDF format, but you would need to bring your own A1 paper. Use the thinnest A1 paper to avoid jamming the machine.  It’s relatively cheap, at only 50 pence per A1 paper. You can get the A1 papers from the Art Store (see below). The computer lab is pretty much equipped with the necessary software, but for more sophisticated programmes like Rhino, you would have to use your own laptops.

A gym membership allows you unlimited access to the exercising facilities in the school gym. The membership fee is relatively cheap compared to other universities, at 50 pounds for a semester. Facilities include a badminton court, a squash court, a basketball court and a swimming pool. There is no tennis court in the school.

For Starbucks addicts, there is one right at the Student Union building and another in the library building. You are allowed to bring coffee into the lecture halls and computer lab.

Laser engraving and laser printing is available in school, but the technician will do it for us. Submit your cad file with the layers properly labelled (to laser – in red; and to engrave – in blue). The laser machine can only take materials up to 3mm thick, including grey board and corrugated board. Beyond that thickness, you will have to outsource, which is much more expensive.

4)     Eating out

There is a fish and chips store at the junction of High Street and Ingram Street, which serves really good (and huge) servings of fish and chips for less than 4 pounds. There is also a Chinese eatery called Lao You Ji (老友记茶餐厅) right outside the school compound, also along High Street.

If you are craving for Singapore / Malaysian food, check out Rumours Kopitiam at the junction of Bath Street and West Nile Street.

Most fish and chips store would offer the local Scottish delight of fried mars bars (or fried pizza or fried anything you can think of), even if it’s not on the menu. But most would only do it at the end of the week, right before they switch to a new batch of oil for the new week. There is one store called Laquila, located at Dundas Street, right next to Queen Street Railway Station. They have a wide range of fried things on their regular menu.

The Marks and Spencer department stores all come with a café and they are good and cheap.

There’s a Jamie Italian down at George Square and a Thai food restaurant in Buchannan Street. And for a cheap quick bite, you can try Gregs for a quick breakfast bite. They sell sandwiches, pies and muffins for a very affordable price – from 2 pounds to 3 pounds.

5)     Architecture and art in Glasgow

Glasgow has a wide range of interesting architecture. For a taste of its Victorian architecture, visit the University of Glasgow or the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. The Glasgow Cathedral is also a must-see.

The most famous architect in modern Glasgow is none other than Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Check out the website for a list of buildings designed by him. Some of these places provide guided tours for free, but would require booking in advance.

The Glasgow School of Art is magnificent gem of architecture. Sign up for the tour at the school to see Mackintosh’s famous library and the inspiring studio spaces. A new extension to the school, designed by Steven Holl, is being built.

For a vantage view of the city, check out The Lighthouse. From the Mackintosh Interpretation Centre, climb up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower. Admission is free!

Take a walk down River Clyde to see a cluster of modern and postmodern buildings, by starchitects like Sir Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid.

For those of you who love art and history, there are a number of museums scattered around the city. Other than the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Musem, you should also not miss the Hunterian Musem and Hunterian Art Gallery. Both are located within the University of Glasgow. The Gallery of Modern Art is also worth a visit. There, you will also see the iconic Wellington Statue with the cone on his head.

6)     Shopping and other cheap deals

Glasgow has a network of pedestrian shopping streets such as Sauchiehall Street, Buchanan Street and Argyle Street. Most international brands can be found there. There are also two shopping malls (Buchanan Galleries and St Enoch Square). But remember that shops there generally don’t open beyond 7pm.

The Glasgow version of Art Friend is known as Art Store, but the prices there are pretty steep, and some of the materials that we are familiar with (such as Bristol board, art card and plastic sheets) are not available there. Check with your studio mates on where to get cheaper (or even free) alternative materials. Also, bring extra blades for your penknives as they are seldom used there.

The City of Glasgow College provides haircut services by their students, at a very affordable rate of just one pound! Just go up to their hairdressing department for more information.

7)     Recreation

For movie lovers, there is a cinema complex called Cineworld near our school. Each ticket costs 10 pounds, with free seating, and you are allowed to bring your own food in.

Theatre in Glasgow is pretty vibrant as well. The King’s Theatre often hosts various international musicals. They hosted Wicked and Jersey Boys. It is around 20 minutes’ walk from school. Tickets range from 20 pounds. New venues like the O2 arena also hosted musical, such as Jesus Christ Superstar and many concert. There was a Jammie Cullum UK tour when we were there 😀

Glasgow is known as the student city, simply because they have a vibrant student night life in the city centre. Many clubs and pubs are located around Sauchiehall Street. If you do want to try these pubs, go with international student society for pub hopping weekly and enjoy some company.

During our year, there was a céilidh organised after the “red-pen day” (the last studio session before final crit. It’s a fun-filled event whereby your peers will come dressing in kilts and dancing to Scottish music. It only cost 5 pounds, and was followed with a clubbing session in a nearby club (some of the local students might have free passes to share).

Both the Kelvingrove Park and Glasgow Green are huge public parks where you can picnic or simply take a stroll through. Stay away from them after dark, though.

The Necropolis is also a gem within the city, and is just a short walk away from the campus.

8)     Travelling out of Glasgow

There are 2 main railway stations in Glasgow (Glasgow Queen Street Station and Glasgow Central Station) that connect to most cities around UK. Virgin Train, among other train services, is a good option to travel with. The Glasgow International Airport is a 30 minute bus ride from the Buchanan Bus Station. Tickets for the airport shuttle cost 6 pounds for single ride, or 8.50 pounds for a return ticket. The city is also connected to the Edinburgh Airport via its own airport shuttle, giving you more options when flying out of Scotland.

For a cheaper journey out of Glasgow, you can go to the Buchanan Bus Station to check out their bus routes out of the city. But do bear in mind that a bus journey from Glasgow to London will take 7 hours. Not for the faint-hearted. And such long-distance bus rides will stop at various points, so keep a lookout of your belongings in case they get removed from the buses at these stops..

Check your emails regularly when you are there, as there will be updates on the latest tours conducted by Student Tours Scotland. The organiser and guide, Gary, is a really awesome guide who always has lots of interesting stories to share. He organises tours within Glasgow and to major attractions around Scotland at very affordable prices. But places are limited so book early!

Coming Back

1)     The exam period over there will overlap with the first week of your semester 2 back in Singapore, but for most architecture modules there, there won’t be any exams. However, the final crit might be uncomfortably close to the start of the new semester, so do talk to your tutor and the level coordinator to check if you could push your final crit forward, preferably before the Christmas break.

The following map shows most of the locations that were mentioned above:

Article contributed by Yeo Zheng Hang and David Octavianus

Delft and Holland!

Things to know about Netherlands:

There are 2 types of coffee shops: ones that sell actually coffee, and one’s that sell something closer to the plant variety. You will know the latter by smell; unfortunately, the smell of coffee loses out to the smell of weed. If you want to try weed, please eat something first.

Shops close early, ~5pm and are probably not open on Sundays, or have shorter opening hours. Take note especially if you are rushing a project and need to buy materials.

Intercity travel within Netherlands can be expensive; the further you go, the more expensive the ticket. – this website has monthly promotions to various parts of Netherlands is their version of SMRT; you can also use to check train timings is like – Various shops will also sell a day card (dag kaart) every once in a while, so grab it if you can. This website tells you which shop sells it at which period of time. The day ticket costs about 15 euros round trip. This is worth it if you want to travel to some exciting but ulu location (round trip may cost up to 50 euros) – Let me introduce you to your new best friend

It rains. A lot.

Rainbows in Netherlands are equivalent to the Northern Lights in Norway

Things to know about the Dutch:
They are known for being frank/blunt; this may be at odds with our Asian thinking of “saving face” etc. So, if they 不客气 to you, just feel free to 不客气 back
But of course there are always friendly Dutch
There is also quite a large international community, especially amongst the Master students
Dutch food… they eat sandwiches for lunch >< (2 cold meals in the day, and one hot meal for dinner)
Almost all Dutch speak English proficiently

TU Delft/School Stuff:
This is the student housing body that we apply through for lodging. We stayed in Papsouwselaan, Poptahof area; it’s about 420 euros each for a 4 room HDB-like flat. Prices for housing are about 300-600 euros/month. For exchange students, the period of rent is fixed and cannot be changed. It should start around mid-August and end in 1st Feb (5.5 months).  As an exchange student, you pay for the first 1.5 months and the last 2 months of your stay there via deposit while you are still in Singapore. So when you transfer money to your Dutch bank, remember that you still need to pay for 2 months of rent when you are in the Netherlands.

TU Delft only
List of modules to choose from, per studio:

Before you leave for Netherlands:

  1. Get your visa application in time (especially if you want to travel before school). Dutch visa is arranged through the school; your school should send you the relevant documents to fill up, which you send back to them, which they will process with the relevant authorities in Netherlands, and then send it to the embassy in Singapore (what a long process!). You should give a minimum of 6 weeks for this process to avoid any heart attacks (e.g.your visa does not arrive before your fly).
  2. Forms that you need (the school should send you these forms for you to fill up and send back):
  3. Bank Statement (they are quite strict about this bank statement. If I am not wrong, it should come from a current account, implying that we have easy access to cash. Most of us only have savings account)
  4. Health Statement
  5. Passport photo (the requirements of the photo are different from Singapore. e.g. you cannot smile in the photo/show your teeth. Pls check this up)
  6. Antecedents Certificate
  7. Visa Confirmation form
  8. You will also need to make some prior payment to the school, this includes visa application payment, and the rental fees mentioned above

Article contributed by Samantha Chia

Architecture Students on Exchange

We invite all Architecture students who have been on exchange to share your experiences abroad with all of us! This will greatly aid students who will be going on exchange in future (:

Submit your write-up to today. It could be anything less than 1000 words; a review of the architecture education system there; a guide to architectural sights in the region; even a travel guide! Or it could be photos and photos!

All posts will be shared on this website!