I am going to arrive in Singapore in about three days and I am filled with anticipation for the new semester. This will be the first time that I would have stayed away from home for more than seven weeks. One of my main goals is to experience many different cultures during my short time abroad and broaden my global perspective. Another goal is to challenge myself during the semester and try new experiences that push me out of my comfort zone. My last goal for the semester is to enjoy the semester and make the most of my time abroad in a different culture.
- What are your top three goals for your semester abroad?
- Find out more about myself. Sometimes the best way to learn is by pushing one’s limit and finding out what happens there. Singapore is a really long way from home, and can push me to grow exponentially. Conflict gives rise to growth, and I will not want to back down from this opportunity.
- Learn about the new culture. Being on the other side of the world, I can scarcely imagine what the new culture will be about. That being said, I hope to embrace the culture as much as possible. I only have a few months in this place- may as well have memories that will last a lifetime.
Dear future self,
Starting A Journey of Rediscovery, Renewal, and Revival
Ever since I took my gap year, I grew accustomed to traveling solo, finding peace in the unknown. Therefore, I have always believed in is in discovering new experiences. I made the decision to study abroad in the United States when I was in high school, and chose to go to a school I knew nobody at. Everything was fresh, everything was new. For me, it was easy to challenge myself in new environments, simply because they’re new. However, once I got comfortable at UVA, I knew I had to leave for yet another new environment. We talk so much about leaving our comfort zone, which can be solved easily by experiencing a new environment, but the true challenge is leaving our comfort zone in familiar environments. It is so difficult to pull away from what we already know, or think we do, and get lost in the past.
In three days I am going to leave for a four-month semester in Singapore. The excitement and the nerves have really grown, now that the realization that my semester abroad is really about to begin. When I was 8 years old my older sister was in college and did a semester abroad. Hearing her stories and experiences made me certain that one day I would also study abroad somewhere on the other side of the world. In my eyes going abroad was simply a necessity in the college experience.
I have never left the United States, so needless to say I am quite excited to be embarking on this new adventure. I am not entirely sure what to expect, but I am excited to experience a whole new world. While I am in Singapore, I want to accomplish three main goals. I want to make lifelong friendships with the people that I meet at the university and the surrounding community. I also want to venture outside the university and see what the actual daily life in Singapore is like. Lastly, I want to travel to at least three other neighboring countries in South East Asia while I am in Singapore.
I leave Singapore this weekend. Hell of a semester. I look back and try to understand everything I’ve been through, but I realize that the best thing is not understanding my experiences at the fullest. I’ll have to further analyze my experiences in years to come. Try to draw back and learn from moments that have past, but have yet a lot to teach me.
My last 2017 Southeast Asian exploration before heading back to the West.
Borneo has a sense of its own. Although I’ve tried to avoid touristy places in my Asian travels, you always come across tourists, backpackers and other western friends that you meet along the way. Borneo was nothing like that. We might have run into a couple of tourists as well, but not the tourist culture.
We were in Borneo for four days and we constantly ran into situations where we were living the local experience. All of the restaurants, the bars, and the activities were filled with people from the Sabah province – and if there were tourists, most were Malaysian. It was basically my friend and I travelling together through the real deal.
Singapore’s peculiarities never cease to amaze. It is a world of its own. After almost 3 months here, I am still amazed by the cultural, economic and social experiences.
Perhaps the most amazing socio-economic experience I’ve had here, is the consumer polarization. The difference between the high socio-economic class and the low socio-economic class is infinite.
In Singapore you can choose between two lifestyles. The cost of living is barely a spectrum that is constantly approaching to a binomial reality. Like in America, the middle class is shrinking.
So why am I amazed if Singapore is just following a global trend?
It’s amazing to me how fast a place can start to feel like home. I have lived in Singapore for less than 2 months, and yet by the end of a 10-day trip to Laos and Thailand, I started to get antsy and was ready to come “home” to Singapore. I was excited to sleep in my uncomfortable bed in my tiny, non-air conditioned room. I couldn’t wait to go to Flavours at UTown (one of the two food courts where I live) and get a #5 from the Japanese food station. I had missed looking out at the skyline and seeing Marina Bay Sands off in the distance. I looked forward to riding on the pristine, orderly MRT. While my sentimental feelings toward Singapore partially resulted from my having slept on night busses and in crappy $6/night hostel beds for the past 10 days, some of the feelings also resulted from me actually having started to develop a connection to the country. In a city, in a country, on a continent I’ve never been to with cultural norms different than my own, I’ve started to feel at home.
- Traffic Regulation – If you hate authority, drive in Vietnam. Rumor has it that Vin Diesel has scouted the country to film the next Fast and Furious. *Cough* horrible joke *cough*. Your attitude, talent, and attention span are far better indicator of how fast you’ll get to your destination than light stops, street signs or pedestrian walkways.
- Sleeper buses – Greyhound, Peter Pan, and Vamoose all have to take note and learn from the Vietnam bus system. If you’re on a tight schedule –like we were-, and need to travel at night, sleeper buses are the solution. These buses provide nearly horizontal seats that help travelers take advantage of nights to travel and rest. By using this cheap and accessible travelling method you manage to save money, time, and days. Pragmatism at its finest.