The last of the 3 “gap weeks”

I know I’ve blogged a lot today, but it makes sense to write about my three weeks away this semester right now, as I’m pondering over how amazing my travels were… and I think what makes them even better is the fact that I never, ever, ever, thought my exchange to SINGAPORE would take me so far afield to all these other wonderful places!

The last of the 3 “gaps weeks” (as we have called them) was a particularly enjoyable one for me… to the Maldives!  I put this down to three main reasons:

– I was seeing my family who I hadn’t seen since they visited in October (I didn’t go home for Christmas this year)

– I had just handed in my final bit of coursework for my classes… so work pressure was off for a while

– I was going to the Maldives, possibly the most beautiful set of beaches the world!
Maldives are only about a 4 hour flight from Singapore, and then a boat to the island resort on which you are staying is needed.  Luckily ours was only 45 mins from MALE airport, which was a relief.  Although I have absolutely, without doubt, loved travelling, it does grate on you slightly after a while…. e.g. “oh great, lets get on YET again coach/bus”, “oh great, lets have YET another 2 hour search with huge backpacks on for some accommodation that isn’t a rip off or rat infested…”.  All the negotiating of prices, problems with language barriers, the gamble you take when you order food which you don’t really know what it is, etc. etc.  However, since I was meeting my family, and effectively joining them on their easter holiday, all of this was taken care of on my behalf.  For that reason, I can say I truly got to relax for once, and instead of “travellling”, this was definitely a “holiday”.  There’s only a subtle difference, but these are definitely two different pastimes – travelling and holidaying.  The former involves much higher levels of stress and anxiety, huge backpacks, cheap cheap cheap budgeting, mostly young people and students.  Despite all of that, it’s maybe one of the best and most fun things you can do as a student, and my exchange hugely opened my eyes to how much of the world is out there to go galavanting in!

Back to the Maldives… Meeru Island resort.  Heaven.  Blue skies, sunshine, crystal clear blue waters and pristine white sand.  Perfect picture.  Just like the pictures.   Did you ever think that places ever actually looked like the pictures??  Nope, neither did I.  Until I came here!

We had a villa on the stilts over the water, a jacuzzi in the back garden of each villa, steps down into the water to go snorkelling.  For food, it was all-you-can-eat buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And the same applied to drinks!  Really, there wasn’t a shortage of anything.  What I found funny was my family, who had come over from the UK, were all over the asian food since they fancied something different from home.  But as for me, since I’d been living in Singapore over this year, I was desperate to get away from the noodles and fried rice (though I love it!) and stock up on the western grub!  Particularly the fresh bread, meats and cheese.  Something so simple, but so hard to find in Singapore!   My parents couldn’t understand the huge smile on my face as I devoured a ham & cheese baguette, thinking “how can someone be so happy with… some bread?”.  Well all I can say is Singapore doesn’t pride itself in its bakery products!

What was most significant about this trip, and how I felt it related to being on exchange, was the time I was spending with my family.  My family and friends from home are the two things I have missed the most when being in Singapore on exchange.  I do feel like my Singapore friends are as close now as my home university friends, and I can’t get over how close we have become in just a few months.  However, the long standing memories and rapports you have with your school and home university friends cannot be established simply with the click of a finger… and whilst I absolutely love my new friends in Singapore (and will keep in very good contact with them, new friends for life) I did feel lonely at the beginning, and missed the intimacy I had with my home friends, the private jokes, the humour, the natural flow of conversation, the banter we had.  But within a few weeks I was very settled and felt part of a close knit group of exchange students.  So whilst you can (kind of) replace your friends, you can never really replace your family on exchange… I guess unless you moved in with a Singapore family.  Perhaps the lack of family in your life whilst on exchange is one of the reasons why you become so close with the fellow exchange students.  But what was certain was that I was definitely ready to see and spend some time with my family on this “third gap week”, meaning I was all refreshed and psyched to enjoy the final few weeks of exchange upon my return from the Maldives to Singapore!  After some family time, lots of sun, sleep and food, I was definitely ready to live the final few weeks to the max!

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