Duke University FAQs

Duke University

Subject studied:
Engineering, Economics

What subjects did you do at IB/A levels and what were your CCAs?
Subjects: Math, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, 2 ‘S’ Papers
CCAs: Students Council

How does the workload of universitiy compare with IB/A levels?

Comparable; you can choose your own pace.

How did you decided on this final university?
The flexibility and breadth of education afforded by the US system appealed to me. Duke has a great combination of a strong engineering school & reputable economics department.

What are the cost of living and cost of school fees for the entire duration of the degree?
Cost of living in North Carolina isn’t too high. Do budget for about USD $10,000 to USD $15,000 a year for room and board. Typically, tuition fees will come to around USD $45,000 to USD $50,000 a year.

How do teaching and learning work in your school? Are the faculty accessible?
Teaching is conducted through a combination of classroom lectures, discussions, lab work (for science & engineering), & field work. While students are given the latitude to perform self-directed learning, numerous opportunities are available for collaborative work. Faculty are accessible, and are willing to engage students.

How large are your courses?

Varies; small discussion-based classes may have 10 students or less, while introductory courses (e.g. Introduction to Economics) may have up to 400 students.

Are people very competitive academically? How many exams are there in a year? What happens if one fails the year?

There’s a healthy, collaborative spirit with regard to academics. In the US system, there’s typically a final exam for each course at the end of the semester, with about 1 to 2 midterm exams scattered during the semester.
It’s possible to repeat courses, with the permission of the Academic Dean.

How would you describe the school culture?
The Duke spirit is really strong. Duke isn’t located in a big city, and it makes campus life that much more vibrant. Sports like basketball, and to a smaller extent, football, are big at Duke.

Is there an established Singaporean presence at your university? How many Singaporeans are there per batch?
Yes there is. We have a reasonably-sized Singaporean community, and a Singapore Students Association. There are about 10 Singaporeans per batch.

How are international freshmen/freshers welcomed to your university?
There’s an International Students’ Orientation and a freshman orientation program. Freshmen are housed in freshmen-only dorms within East Campus. This is helpful in letting you get to know members of your class. Many of my closest friends at Duke were from my freshmen dorm.

Is your school “cliquey”?
To some extent. Greek life (e.g. fraternities & sororities) is rather popular. Certain groups of international students tend to form cliques. In general, however, Dukies are a bunch of approachable & friendly people.

Do people tend to hang among people of their own major/course/social class/race/nationality only, or is there a high degree of integration?
There is a good degree of integration. Due to the first-year housing arrangement and flexibility in course arrangements, there are numerous opportunities to meet people & find a group that you’re comfortable with. My freshman year hall-mates got along well, and we decided to live in the same cluster all the way through senior year. Among us, we had English majors, pre-meds, engineers, Caucasians, American-born Indians, Singaporeans – we were certainly a diverse bunch. Nonetheless, there are, as with many Ivies, rather ‘exclusive’ fraternities where people of a particular race / social class tend to gravitate towards.

What do students normally do in their spare time? Have you joined any extracurriculars? How do you find them?
I joined the motorsports team for a year, and was active in our SSA, helming it for a year. There are dedicated events for students to learn about the different extracurriculars on campus. Apart from extracurriculars, students can do lots in their spare time – attend campus events (theater / performances), socials, parties, go off-campus, explore the beautiful surroundings. During breaks, many of us venture beyond NC and travel around the US & beyond.

How would you rate the following “scenes” in your college and its surroundings: shopping, drinking, clubbing, fine arts, and sports?
Shopping – Not very active, although online shopping is very prevalent. There are very decent malls nearby (e.g. Southpoint mall).
Drinking – Active (on-campus & off). There are some pretty good bars in downtown Durham, near the American Tobacco campus. The legal drinking age is 21 and this is strictly enforced in Durham. Nonetheless, authorities provide students with reasonable leeway to hold parties on campus as long as things don’t get too rowdy.
Clubbing – Active. Don’t expect something like Zouk / Butter Factory though; the most popular club for Dukies, Shooters’, is more of a country-style establishment. Definitely not what we’d call classy.
Fine Arts – Active. The arts & theater scene is strong at Duke. The DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) is the largest theater in the Carolinas. It’s a beautiful establishment located in downtown Durham, just a 10 min drive away from Campus, and plays host to Broadway productions, high-profile concerts, recitals & comedy events.
Sports – Very active. Pretty much everyone is a Duke basketball fan. The Cameron Crazies, as they are called, are the most spirited in the country.

How’s the accommodation? Do most people stay in college dorms/halls, or independently? How should one look for accommodation?

Most people stay in college dorms & halls. There’s an annual on-campus housing lottery. On-campus housing is guaranteed for freshmen on East Campus.

How is the transport like? Does one need a car? If so, how should one go about getting a car?
There are free shuttle buses that ply the major routes around campus. A car isn’t necessary; if you need to take a quick trip or run errands, car-sharing services like Zipcar are available. A number of my American housemates had a car, and we could run errands together.

Is Asian food readily available? If one is to cook, where can we get the Asian food from?
Yes, there are nearby Asian supermarkets that cater to a sizeable Asian population in the Triangle region.

Do most people cook, eat at a catered facility or cafeteria, or eat out? How’s the catered food?
Most people eat at on-campus cafeterias. Portions, as with the rest of the US, are large. There’s a good variety of options, and many nearby delis and cafes do food deliveries to campus. It’s possible to cook if you’re living on Central Campus, an option open to Juniors & Seniors.

What are the laundry arrangements like?
On-campus laundry rooms are available, and are well-maintained.

Is it easy to find places of worship?
Yes; do get in touch with the various religious organizations on campus. The Duke Chapel is a great piece of architecture.

Do you think Singaporeans will experience a major culture shock?
No. Things aren’t that different in the US. For one, language isn’t a problem, people are pretty chill about things.

Do you ever feel peer pressure to do something you’re uncomfortable with?
No, Dukies tend to be respectful of each other’s values & practices.

Do you think that there might be any groups which might feel uncomfortable or marginalized at your school?
Duke is sometimes perceived to have a ‘rich, white-boy’ image. There has, in recent years, been much discourse to reinforce the importance of inclusiveness, after a couple of incidents where African-American students were abused with racial slurs.

What’s the best experience you’ve had so far in college?
Tenting with 11 other Cameron Crazies to get front-row tickets for the basketball game against our arch-rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in 2009. That involved living in a tent outside the basketball stadium for a month, in the middle of winter. That was great for bonding & forging camaraderie through the pursuit of this common goal – to survive that period.