To study abroad or not to study abroad? That is the question. After months of debating, I made the decision to study abroad for a semester at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
After choosing to become an exchange student nearly halfway around the world, I asked the people I knew who had previously studied abroad for tips and guidelines, and with their advice I began planning my journey. All of my adventure-seeking peers warned me of the headache I would encounter while planning for the months ahead, but I was not warned of the intense struggle to adjust once I arrived in Singapore.
Adjusting to a new situation is always difficult. For example, just three years ago I made the adjustment to move to San Diego to study towards earning my undergraduate degree in sociology and biology. It took time to find my niche, meet new friends and learn how to crash courses.
But here in Singapore, that is just the beginning. Aside from making new friends, learning to thrive in a new cultural setting and adjusting my palate to the interesting food here, I was also faced with adapting to the intense humidity! The first few days were the most challenging; almost enough to make me want to fly back home. But with the support of my family and friends both here and back home, I fought the urge to return to what I knew and decided to embrace the life waiting for me outside of my comfort zone.
After a few days, I settled into my little dorm room and began making friends with students from all around the globe – from up in Canada to all the way down under in Australia. My favorite thing about this beautiful country is the people. I have never encountered a more friendly or welcoming culture than here in Singapore. The students here go out of their way to help others and make sure that the exchange students feel right at home. Whenever I was lost – and trust me this was often – I was always steered in the right direction by a local Singaporean.
Now, I am beginning my third week here in Singapore, though it feels like I have already seen so much.
Here are some of my favorite places I visited:
- Pulau Ubin Island
- MacRitchie Reservoir Park
- Gardens By The Bay
- The Marina Bay Sands
- Clarke Quay
- Boat Quay
- Sentosa Island
- Little India
A few days ago, a fellow exchange student and I were talking about some of the difficulties that come with studying abroad. The important thing to remember is that “putting yourself in uncomfortable situations can be hard, but these are the moments when you grow the most.” With this in mind, I know I will grow so much from this journey and I look forward to looking back on the struggles of adjustment and recognizing them as the moments that shaped my future self.
I can’t wait to embrace the thrill of what lies ahead while keeping in mind the three promises I made to my brother before my departure flight: to be brave, to be safe, and to be adventurous.
Ashley Kahen is earning a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Singapore during spring semester 2016.