Welcome to Singapore!

Marta Bento

Hello everyone. I am Marta, a Portuguese 25-year old, who studied Structural Engineering but started working as a Associate at The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) right after concluding my Masters degree. 

I am lucky enough to be part of INSEAD's 17J class, which means that I have just kicked off my MBA a couple of weeks ago. Actually, this is going to be an incredibly important year for me. My to-do list for this year includes graduating from the #1 MBA programme in the world, strengthening both my professional and personal networks, properly learning all the business concepts I have been (and will keep) using in my daily life, traveling insanely, and getting married. I just hope it does not go past too fast, so that I can enjoy every second.

The main goal of my posts will be to help you enjoy every second at INSEAD as well. Having said that, this first post will be about how to organise your first days on campus (Singy) efficiently.

Ideally, as soon as you arrive on campus, you would have already found a place to stay. Most INSEAD students stay either at Heritage View or Dover Parkview, both less than a 10-minute walk to campus. There are other options, like staying at One-North, even closer to campus, or around Holland Village – a cool vibrant neighbourhood two metro stops away from INSEAD. 

However, the first two options are typically more popular for a couple of reasons: 1) everyone wants to be all together, and make the most of the condos' swimming pools, dinner events, barbecues, pre-drinks, and so on 2) it is so common for INSEAD students to stay at Heritage or Dover that a process is already set in place and it is pretty easy to find more than one agent interested in renting out two- to three-bedroom apartments for only a few months.

Why do I say that ideally everyone would already have a place to stay before arriving in Singapore? Because there are so many other things to be taken care of, that you will not want to be looking for housing as well. Which things am I talking about? And how to handle them?

  1. Issuing a student visa

Two months before the programme kick-off, you will receive an e-mail from INSEAD with the list of procedures you need to follow. 

You will have to share certain personal information to be sent to the Singapore Immigration (ICA) for a SOLAR application number, which can take up to 10 working days to be issued. Then, you will receive an approval letter from ICA and will be required to schedule a in-person appointment.

For the appointment, you will have to take along the approval letter, your passport, a photocopy of your passport, a recent passport photo, and a medical report according to a form shared by ICA. For medical exams, I would recommend you to do them once you have arrived in Singapore. Raffles Medical Centre, for instance, is very efficient, close to campus and not too expensive. 

Be aware that an ICA appointment may take a while so be prepared to free up around three hours of your busy schedule for that.

  1. Opening a bank account

INSEAD will share a list of recommended banks with you. The most time efficient way of opening a bank account is by scheduling an appointment at one the suggested banks. Before that, do your homework and check which bank would be a better fit for you. For instance, there are banks with no commissions whatsoever for people under age 29.

  1. Equipping your apartment

There is an IKEA 10 minutes away by cab or 35 minutes by MRT (Singapore’s metro).

  1. Getting a Singaporean cell phone number

If you are staying for less than one year and/or you still don’t have your student visa ready when it comes to getting a cell phone number, the best option is to buy a pre-paid card. Phone calls here are for free or very cheap. You’ll just need to buy data plans (and you can get them for around $20 for 3G or $30 for 5G) - $ referring to Singaporean dollars, not to USD, of course.

  1. Buying a computer – or, ideally, a 2-in-1 device

Before arriving in Singapore, you probably will also need to get a computer or similar device. In fact, I would recommend you to get a 2-in-1 device, such as Lenovo Yoga, Dell 13 7000 series, Microsoft surface or HP x360, among others, as laptops are not allowed in class.

  1. Filling your house with food

There is a Fairprice (small grocery store) close to Heritage and Dover. There is also a Cold Storage inside The Star Vista shopping mall, close to Buona Vista MRT station. A more practical option would be online shopping. A good online supermarket option in Singapore is RedMart.com with free delivery on orders over $70 and 10% off in the first order.

To be honest, I would try to do this as soon as possible. Orientation week gets quite busy with the Splash project (a charity group work assignment), the first classes, career services presentations, club recruitment, tons of networking events, and real parties. Trust me. You don’t want to be dealing with the bureaucratic stuff by then for sure. Also, be prepared to meet 200 people from your class plus dozens more from the class before yours in just a few days!

Looking forward to seeing all of you in Singapore soon,