As incredibly cliché as this may sound, experiencing a Singapore exchange student life will undeniably change your perspective on most things. Whether this is for the better or the worse, is up to you and you only.
This post is an attempt at putting a 20-year-old Millennial’s experience of living and studying for one semester in the culture hub called Singapore into words. Just a little heads up: it is quite the culture shock. For real.
The initial shock
On August 2nd, my adventure of a lifetime all started at the Brussels International Airport. After having spent an hour of emotional and melodramatic goodbyes with my mother and having had to go through 5 solid dad-jokes from my father, it was time for me to get started on my 15-hour journey.
It is safe to say that by the time I had landed in Changi International airport of Singapore, I was closer to resembling a body-double of Samara from The Ring than my initial self (or at least what I thought a Singapore exchange student should look like). However, the excitement of slowly realizing that yes, I had just landed in Singapore that yes, I am officially a Singapore exchange student and no, I had no clue how to even get out of the airport, quickly brought me back to my senses. Fast forward to me checking into my hostel in the charming district of Little India and I was ready to conquer this city-state.
In true Millennial, ever-trying-to-be-relatable-style, the first thing I did was to explore the nightlife of Singapore. In between the OH’s and AH’s of me discovering the overwhelming skyline of Singapore, the flamboyant club-goers and the interesting music-taste of the DJ’s, it ended up being an exciting first night.
Upon returning to my hostel, it first hit me that this was the beginning of an entirely new chapter, which I was beyond excited to write.
Could you repeat that please?
Of course, being the model Singapore exchange student that I am, I made sure to read up on the Singaporean culture and lifestyle, in order to somewhat prepare myself for this semester abroad. I found out that there are four major sub-communities in this city-state: the Malay, the Indians, the Chinese and the “others” (being all nationalities which do not belong to the three prior mentioned groups).
Next, I found out that in Singapore, eating was a big part of the culture, which translates to having opportunities to eat at literally each and every street-corner. Naturally, being a food-addict, this felt like I had just hit the jackpot.
I also found out that Singapore’s first language was English, and that the locals even had their own version of it, called “Singlish”. Having said that, I would like to focus on the latter part of my initial research, and how I came across some interesting surprises.
I thought that Singlish could not be that far of a stretch from regular English, right? Well, was I wrong. Not only can some parts of the vocabulary and the grammar vary from what I am used to, the pronunciation can make it extra tricky for me at times. Given that Singaporeans are used to speaking at a very fast pace, I have found myself having to ask “Could you repeat that, please?” quite (too) often.
Nonetheless, usually it would take me a few attempts but eventually, it always worked out.
Why. Is. It. So. Humid.
Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is an amazing place and coming from a country where rain and mediocre temperatures could be considered part of its Unesco World Heritage, I should be thankful to be in an environment where temperatures vary between 28 and 31 degrees Celsius all year long. And I am, but my sweat glands are not. In theory, such temperatures all year around sound quite pleasing, and they could be, if there would not be such a high humidity rate. Given that on average, Singapore has a humidity level of 80 percent, it is safe to say that my body has been moist since August 2nd. Yes, you’re reading it correctly: my skin has not been 100 percent dry since I landed.
At the beginning, I found myself showering three times a day, attempting to cool down my body and get rid of the constant layer of sweat. After a few weeks, I learned to accept my fate and found out that everybody else is experiencing the same scenario as me, except they stopped caring about it. Now, I have accepted the fact that occasionally, just eating a warm meal will make me sweat uncontrollably, and it is A-Okay.
I’m not crying, it’s allergies
At this point, I am half-way through this journey, and all jokes aside, it has been an unforgettable one so far.
From all cliché’s in the world, I think the ones about exchange can certainly be categorized as true. In the few months that I have been here, I have met incredible people that I can already call some of my closest friends, I have had the opportunity to travel and see extreme opposites from very wealthy and affluent people and districts to poverty yet unconditional happiness and joy.
To bring it back to the introduction of this post, studying a semester abroad changes your life and your perception of it in many ways, some of which you probably did not anticipate before leaving. Although there might be some challenges, the biggest ones being homesickness and the financial cost it represents, in the end, it is worth every single tear and penny.
Would you like to find out more about topics such as preparing yourself for the big move, calculating the costs or where to go and what to do in Singapore? Make sure to stay up to date with my adventures as a Singapore exchange student on the College Life Magazine.