When I first found out I was going to Singapore for my exchange programme, I was extremely excited, but also intrigued. Everybody has heard of ‘Strict Singapore’; no jaywalking, no chewing gum…so what would this place be like to live in? Well, it’s rapidly becoming one of the world’s leading powers, yet it hasn’t even celebrated its 50th birthday! Walking around Singapore, it doesn’t take long to see the attraction the island offers. Booming businesses illustrated by the vast blocks of skyscrapers and the extravagant hotels, especially Marina Bay Sands (see below), show that Singapore doesn’t mind showing off. The skyline is one of the most amazing sights you can see.
Singapore has a little bit of everything and there is always a lot going on. Its cultural diversity means you can be sat smoking shisha in Arab street, 5 minutes down the road be tucking into a curry in Little India, another 5 minutes down and you’re in Chinatown, and from there you’re 5 minutes from Sentosa; a man-made resort island which hosts casinos, beaches, Universal Studios and many more attractions. Sometimes all this can feel a little overwhelming and can leave you wondering where is the Singaporean culture, however it does mean Singapore has a lot to offer and is very exciting for tourists to visit.
It is no surprise that Singapore has, for the past number of years, been voted the ‘World’s best airport’, as the country desires to achieve the best. Even with regards to university work, there is a great level of competitiveness amongst Singaporeans, which may explain how they have managed to turn themselves from almost nothing into almost everything in such a short space of time. The recent death of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, associated with spearheading the independence of Singapore, sent the country into mourning. This really showed that Singaporeans are incredibly proud of what they have become and what they have achieved, and that they are not just a mixture of different nationalities and cultures.
Now I would be lying if the only reason I came to Singapore was for the studying. Situated in the heart of South East Asia, Singapore is the perfect base to see all sorts of wonderful landscapes that lie in this beautiful part of the world. From trekking through the Sumatran Jungle in Indonesia, to tasting scorpion in Bangkok, to watching sunrise over the 2000 Buddhist temples in Bagan, Myanmar (or Burma as you’ll be more common with). The memories I have from my trips will stay with me for a very long time.
One thing that will be common amongst all exchange students in Singapore is the food…and not a pleasant one. The very bland and simple rice and noodle dishes don’t leave you looking forward to your next meal, unfortunately. I’m not saying that all food in Singapore is terrible, but when on a student budget one can’t eat out every day. You won’t find any deep-fried mars bars or steak pies over here that’s for sure!
The famous ‘Singlish’ language that use over here will irritate and aggravate you at first. Their abbreviations are confusing and irrelevant, however it’s impossible after a while not to start to use Singlish phrases yourself; ‘can la’ will become a regular one. This is how I feel about Singapore; it grows on you. Some of your first memories might not be great, but then you become use to Singaporean life, and eventually you find yourself becoming attached to the place, accidentally calling it home when skyping your mum…(didn’t go down too well!)
Now that I’m coming to the end of my stay here I can’t help but feel sad that I have to leave. Singapore has been a unique experience, and I have learnt things that I wouldn’t have if I had stayed at home for the year. I feel much more adventurous and independent because of my exchange, and even though I’m excited to get back home, it won’t be the last time I’ll be seeing this extravagant place.