By the SMU Postgraduate Research Programmes Team
Luo Qian and his friends are in the middle of a conversation about the accommodation situation for SMU’s PhD students. “Hopefully I can find a girlfriend here!” he quips, to the laughter from the rest. The first-year PhD in Business (Operations Management) student is surrounded by his schoolmates who have all moved into the same student hostel in mid-August, and the banter comes quick and easy.
Their hostel, the SMU Hostel @ Pearl’s Hill, is an exclusive floor for SMU students at the top of yo:HA Hostel @ Pearl’s Hill. The hostel is located in the prime Chinatown district, a few minutes away from campus and within walking distance of the central business district. Each of them pays slightly more than S$600 per month for a shared apartment, which includes utilities, furniture, air-conditioning and WiFi. They can also use the basketball and badminton courts, and the barbeque pits. Through a special arrangement, SMU students live on the topmost floor of the 12-storey hostel and enjoy panoramic views of the city.
For Nguyen Hoang Minh, a PhD in Information Systems student, the location is unbeatable. “Staying here’s a great option,” he says, “They provide all the facilities including a microwave oven, induction cooker, washing machine and refrigerator, and there’s access to a wet market and supermarkets like FairPrice, Daiso and Sheng Siong. There are also many affordable places to eat around the hostel, like People’s Park Complex, which makes living here convenient and affordable!”
Bian Xueying, a PhD in Economics student, agrees: “I love that I am able to walk to school, and there are good food and shopping around here too! The security guards are also very friendly, and some of my PhD classmates live here, which has been very helpful.”
The guys engage in an animated discussion about the benefits of living close to a park.
This is the first year that a number of hostel beds were set aside specifically for PhD students. Demand and feedback have exceeded expectations, especially among those coming to Singapore for the first time, like Luo Qian. “When I was in China,” he shares, “I didn’t know what to expect or what I could do about housing, but SMU provided information on this hostel, which made things so much easier.”
After our chat, the boys insisted on bringing me on a tour of the park behind the hostel. Hoang Minh claims to have made a few friends with fellow park users, and Luo Qian occasionally dribbles his basketball here in order to wind down. As we make our way up to the park’s exercise area, we talk about how the first week of school has been for them, the differences between educational systems, and their hopes for the future. When we arrive at the exercise corner, Max promptly shows off his pull-up prowess before Zilin attempts to do sit-ups with his friends cheering him on.
As SMU is a city university, sourcing for high-quality and affordable accommodation for international students can be challenging. By working with reputable vendors like yo:HA, SMU is able to secure accommodation close to campus at affordable rates while maintaining the oversight of quality.
Meanwhile, Max He Qiugu, a PhD in Economics student, has become such a fan of his yo:HA experience that he plans to sign a longer-term lease. By living here, he hopes to build relationships with peers from various disciplines outside of his classrooms and research labs. His housemate, Yan Zilin, a PhD in Psychology student, sums up the general sentiment of the group:“ I’m very satisfied here!”
The guys – Hoang Minh, Luo Quan, and Max – playfully cheer Zilin on after his attempt to do sit-ups.