…go in a flash. Hi, my name is Iyan. Welcome to my blog! I’m going to be writing about all the amazing things I see, the people I meet and the adventures I take during my year long exchange in Singapore. I’ve spent twenty-two amazing days here so far so I apologise if this first blog is a little long (I’ll try and be more concise and less waffly in future)!
The Disastrous Journey
I spent my summer holidays in a blissful daze, dreaming about the year to come and enjoying our uncommonly warm weather. I spent most days doing bits of preparation (visas, accommodation, registration etc). Despite the fact that I didn’t pack until the morning of my flight, I was confident that I was completely prepared. I wasn’t. I felt an unwelcome surge of terror upon being left at the airport as I wondered what I had gotten myself into. A year without my family and friends in a country where I didn’t know a single person, where the culture was completely foreign to me. What had I done!
Thankfully by the time I was safely aboard my cosy Boeing 777-300ER I had returned to ridiculous levels of excitement! I’m ashamed to say that at 20 years old, this was the first time I had properly travelled alone. I couldn’t wait to prove to everyone I could do it. A good idea in theory…I breezed through my changeover in Dubai, got through Singapore customs without a problem and threw myself into the nearest taxi. Sitting in the taxi half-way to my university halls I was busy thinking that everything was going surprisingly well. That’s when my taxi driver asked me whether he should turn “right or left”. Nightmare! When I finally arrived, cursing the taxi driver who assured me he knew where U-Town was, I was shown to my room (full of the last resident’s rubbish) and my bed (with no sheets or pillows). At around 11pm, having deprived myself of sleep on the plane to avoid jet-lag, I was a little distraught and extremely tired.
Awaking to Adventure
After a solid hour of sleep, I woke with the realisation that I was about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life so far. This somewhat overshadowed the previous day’s turbulence.
I have been amazed and astounded by so much of what I have seen in Singapore so far, it’s hard to know what to write about. My Dad shared some wise words when he told me that my experience of Singapore would be defined by the people I meet. He was entirely right…
Living in U-Town is fantastic. It is a real hub of activity and excitement. The locals are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. They introduce themselves to you at any opportunity whether it be in a lift, passing in the corridor or even when you’re brushing your teeth and have to splutter out a reply!
The local students, most of whom are freshers, are surprisingly eager to help you settle in too. There’s a very kind and supportive atmosphere amongst the student population which is really fantastic.
I’ve met what feels like hundreds of exchange students so far and all of them are so friendly. It seems like all of us travellers have similar mindsets. It’s been really fun meeting fellow law students. We spend too much of our time being genuinely interested in how our various legal systems work, and sharing bad, bad, bad legal jokes! I’ve already met a great group to travel with and we’ve booked a trip to Kuala Lumpur for next weekend.
The people of Singapore are mostly a mix of Chinese, native Malays, Indians and British expatriates. The benefit of this is that it’s like getting 4 exchanges in one; I can learn about all these cultures without having to travel more than a few miles.
The Holiday Phase
The first week in Singapore was like being on holiday. Us exchange students decided to embrace our inner tourists and we explored more of our new city than I thought possible in such a short time.
We wandered China Town, Little India and Arab Street, we took a Night-Safari at the zoo, we went skating in East Coast Park, we explored the Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens (catching an outdoor concert by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra in the process), Marina Bay by night, the Bukit Timah nature reserve and cool artsy areas within the city. We even had Eid Al-Fitr and National Day celebrations to enjoy.
Back to Reality
I was having so much fun that I managed to forget the fact that I was in Singapore on a law-school exchange. That meant classes. And lots of them. I opted to take an ‘intensive course’ as one of my four modules. This means that for the intensive course you get 3 seminars a week for 3 weeks, but after that you have much more free time for the rest of the semester. It’s been tough but if you can do it, I’d definitely recommend it as a way to gain some long weekends later in the term.
NUS (the National University of Singapore) is really, really international. I have professors from all over the world teaching teaching a range of fascinating subjects. I even have the Secretary General of INTERPOL teaching me about international police enforcement. It’s pretty surreal! The classes are interesting and even when they’re not, I can’t help but appreciate the campus. The law school is based at the Bukit Timah campus which is in the centre of the Singapore Botanic Gardens! It’s a pretty amazing setting.
Life in Singapore
Having had time to settle in, I can safely say that I love life in Singapore! The heat and the humidity is intense but I love it. Getting to spend so much time outside is a luxury we don’t really have back in Edinburgh. The city is cheap on food (really, really good food!) and travel, but quite expensive on other things. The MRT is quite slow but taxis are relatively cheap. The city is full of life, there is always something going on! One of my favourite things about Singapore is how central it is in South-East Asia. There are so many amazing places to travel to.
Speaking of which, my next blog will likely be about my trip to Kuala Lumpur. Until then,
TTFN (ta ta for now) =)