I’ll be honest, the weeks leading up to my move to Singapore I wasn’t even remotely excited. I’d had a short, stressful summer. I didn’t feel ready to jump on a long haul flight to a place I’d never been or to spend time with people I hadn’t met yet. As well as that, I’d be starting a new semester at university, and having to say goodbye to my friends and family back home, including my dog. Well, especially my dog.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think I’d have a nice time, it’s just that I thought I’d have to go through a murky stage of discomfort and awkwardness before I could relax and begin to enjoy myself. However, after being here for nearly a month now, I can verify that those anxieties were totally unfounded. Actually, I’m a little intimidated starting this blog post and attempting to convey the magnitude of everything I’ve experienced so far. But since time is flying by already, I’m going to go ahead and get started! First of all, I’m Kate and I’m spending my year abroad in Singapore at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) studying English Lit.
I arrived at Changi Airport in Singapore on July 28th, and after struggling not to weep through whatever 100th episode of mind numbing TV I decided to watch on my flight, I headed to the hostel I’d arranged to stay at with plans to sleep for the rest of the day. Although I’d been accepted to (and now moved into) halls at NTU, I’d arrived about a week early from the move in date and was excited to explore from a location much closer to the city. If you’ve stayed in a hostel, then you know that the atmosphere tends to be quite open and friendly. But as a solo traveller, the need to meet other people is especially prominent. So, after catching some sleep, I was approached almost immediately by a girl who was in the country alone. Naturally, we thought it’d be worthwhile to hang out. So we headed outside to check out some of the most popular and well known sights, including Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands. Contrary to what I expected, then, my first day in Singapore was actually really, really, nice.
Our day ended with a delicious chunk of mango ice-cream which was sandwiched between a piece of colourful green and pink bread (something which I hear is traditionally Singaporean). We ate this while watching a light show at Marina Bay, where images were projected onto water fountains while emotionally overwrought music played in the background. I really couldn’t have imagined a better start to my trip, and standing there watching the show, I knew I wouldn’t regret my decision to come here.
While I had to say goodbye to my travelling partner, the next few weeks were no less exciting. But to avoid going on and on about everything I’ve done so far, I’ve decided to narrow it down to the top 4 tourist hotspots I’ve visited. This is excluding the aforementioned Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay; both which go without saying.
Singapore is known for its cultural diversity and it’s really great to experience that first hand. I visited Chinatown during a 50 cents food festival, which was happening as a tribute to the prices of food in the 50s and 60s and where you could buy small Chinese dishes for really cheap prices. Even without the food festival, eating in Chinatown is super cheap and, of course, delicious. Street performances are also quite popular in this area, my favourite so far being a man who was carving intricate flower designs into a watermelon, although you’re probably more likely to find someone belting out songs into a microphone.
- Little India
Similar to Chinatown, Little India is another place where you can really feel the diversity that exists in Singapore. As well as being another great place for cheap cuisine, you can also visit one of the many shops they have there, or one of the amazing temples such as this Sri Veeramakaliamman Hindu Temple:
- MacRitchie Tree Top Walk
This is a hiking trail which takes you over a bridge suspended high up among the trees. As well as experiencing some pretty great views, you’re also likely to have run-ins with the monkeys there, who happily roam about the area and aren’t afraid of getting close (or stealing your food). The trail ends (or begins, depending on which way you come) with a really beautiful lakeside walk. But if you’re scared of heights, then this probably isn’t for you.
Sentosa is a famous destination in Singapore for Universal Studios. However, not being a big fan of theme parks I stuck to the beach. In my opinion, this was less impressive given how geared it was towards tourism, and the fact there had incidentally been an oil spill in the water some days before. I was later told by someone at my hostel that Singaporeans have an acronym for Sentosa, which was “So Expensive, Nothing To See at All”. If you’re on exchange in Singapore, though, it’s definitely worth checking out at least once. And if you do like theme parks, I’ve heard Universal Studios is actually a really good time.
While much more has happened since my touchdown in Singapore, I hope this brief overview suffices for now. In my upcoming blog posts I’ll be sure to go into more depth about the different aspects of studying abroad. Thanks for reading, and if you do have any questions, please feel free to get in touch!