When I was looking at study abroad programs for the winter semester of my junior year, the overwhelming number of places I could go both excited and scared me. Ross Global Initiatives and the Center for Global and Intercultural Studies offer programs to over 40 countries. I felt and continue to feel lucky to be student at such an international-reaching university, where the opportunities to travel and learn are plentiful.
Although I’m a seasoned international traveler, I’d spent most of my time abroad for vacation or visiting family, with the exception of the six week language program I did in France last summer. I had never spent four months by myself in a place I’d never been, and I was hungry for this experience to be different from my past experiences. Since I’ve already lived and visited most of Europe, I decided to eliminate it from my list of potential places to go. Europe is a big place with hundreds of different cultures and thousands of things to do, I wanted to explore somewhere that I knew nothing about, and a culture that I had never experienced. I wanted to participate the Ross Global Initiatives Semester Abroad Program, which has partner schools mostly in Europe and Asia, so I chose Asia. I’d never been to Asia before and the idea frightened, but intrigued me. I’d be at least a 25 hour plane journey from home and in a completely opposite time zone.
In my research of different Asian countries and programs, I realized the vast differences I would be choosing between. The schools in China versus Thailand versus Singapore had many differences in class selection, student life and culture. For example, the International Education of Students School in Shanghai is a school that specifies in study abroad. Contrasting with the National University of Singapore, which is a large university that attracts students from all over the world for regular enrollment. An experience at a university that only has study abroad students, and learning to mesh with regular students is a completely different experience. As a whole, the huge continent offers a plethora of ways of life, landmarks, languages and peoples. Looking through the different schools, the variations and options were amazing. Singapore stood out to me for three distinct reasons: the school, the food and the travel opportunities.
When I go to Singapore, I will be attending the National University of Singapore. The school had all the academic requirements I was looking for, noted as the best University in Asia, as well as the travel opportunities I was looking for: Vietnam, Laos, Bali, Thailand, etc. Since I’m only in the country for about four months, this is the perfect opportunity to try something new, meet new people and maybe develop some new skills.
Singapore is known for its amazing food. It is estimated that almost 40% of the population is non-citizens, so naturally, the food is an agglomeration of Asian influences and European dishes. “Hawker centres,” or market places, boast many street food stalls — each with a different dish from India to Malaysia. I am so excited to try foods that aren’t generic in the United States and give myself the opportunity to branch out in tastes. Although the idea of eating some strange meats and vegetables I’ve never heard of makes me a little nervous, I’m looking forward to exploring.
I’m also looking forward to travelling. I plan to visit Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali and maybe even Australia to visit family. The opportunity to visit all these places at once has never been available to me before. I also plan to travel with other exchange students that I meet at NUS and develop good relationships with people from all over the world. Singapore is a popular location for many students to study in all over the world, which makes it the perfect place to meet young students just like me. The best way to get to know someone is travel the world with them, and that’s exactly what I plan on doing.
Although I’m excited to do all these fun things while abroad, I do have some concerns. For example, Singapore has a very strict set of laws and regulations. Almost everyone’s heard that “gum is illegal to buy and chew” since the city cares deeply about cleanliness and order. One thing I’d never heard of before is that jaywalking is illegal and punishable by prison. As a converted “Ann Arbor-ian,” jaywalking is second nature to me, and I am guilty of stepping out into the street whenever I please. Let’s hope I don’t end up in prison during my four months there. Lastly, it is forbidden to urinate in an elevator. In fact, most elevators have urine detectors and if you dare to do so, you will be locked in the elevator until your arrest.
Ultimately, planning my study abroad and learning about my future temporary home has been one of the most exciting parts of fall semester. I plan to branch out in ways I never have before, meet people who will hopefully be my friends for life and expand my sense of cultural awareness.