First Impressions: So far, so good.

Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
1
4
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Trip End May 13, 2010


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Where I stayed
National University of Singapore

Flag of Singapore  ,
Monday, January 4, 2010

I've survived my first week in Singapore. It’s official. It was a little bumpy at first, but I’ve finally settled in and started my first classes in this foreign country, where I must stick out as a foreigner myself. Each professor I’ve had has made some comment about exchange students and has made a point to look directly at me in the process. There goes any chance of blending in. (Not that I thought I could)




As different as Singapore is, I find the strangest part is how similar it is to home. I guess people are still people, no matter where you go in the world, and everyone needs a place to eat, a place to sleep, a place to shop and a place to relax. Here, my home is Prince George’s Park Residences, I sleep in a single dorm room with a fan, I eat at the food court across from my dorm, I shop at Vivo City (which feels like the Mall of America to me) and the destination relaxation of Singapore is Sentosa. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentosa)

To be honest, Sentosa isn’t what you would expect from a Tropical beach, mostly because the island is on important shipping waters and so most of the view is clouded by hundreds of ships. Although, I was able to see some mountains in the distance, which I was told, was Indonesia. I visited Sentosa on Saturday, it was about a half hour and 5 dollars in travel round trip and overall quite pleasant. The only downside would be that it is meant for vacationers, so everything was twice as expensive there as on the mainland. Also, the sun was brutal, much worse than Florida. I would equate this place to Florida in the summer months when it is extra hot, humid and rainy. (I’ve only seen one rainstorm, but it was an impressive one)




I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself, jumping to Saturday, so I will work backward from there. On Friday I went out with a few girls I met here to go for a walk on the Southern Ridges. We never actually made it there, getting to the right station, but walking in the wrong direction and ending up at the monorail station to Sentosa instead. Having not found our destination and being hungry, we went to Vivo City instead. (I’ve been there a lot since coming here) Afterward we headed to Clarke Quay. Pronounced "Clark Key". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke_Quay)

Now, Clarke Quay is also meant for vacationers/tourists and so it has a rather Western feel to it. I have to say I really like it though. It is right on a river, and each bridge is lit up a different color. There is an outdoor shopping/restaurant area that is covered by giant umbrella-like structures and there are fountains and lights everywhere. (Singaporeans put colored lights on most anything) It was also here that I ventured onto a bungee-type contraption, the like of which you normally find at an amusement park. It was incredibly fun. I was strapped into a seat and then flung into the air going from 0-200ft almost instantaneously. Imagine being in a racecar that flips with no windshield. It was kind of like that.




Moving back to Thursday, I attended two Orientations. The first was for the bulk of the exchange students (there are about 3-400 of us) and mostly focused on Singaporean culture, opportunities on campus, health concerns, and administrative details. The second was for USP (University Scholars Program) students and consisted of meeting some staff, touring the building/ study rooms dedicated to USP students and learning about other opportunities. I’m actually considering getting involved with some of the programs here, as USP sponsors some community service events, which would be a good way to see another side of Singapore, and they also have an Ultimate Frisbee league! I might get some practice here after all.



Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I will combine into one abridged story. I arrived on Monday night around 6pm. A girl from NUS met me at the airport and rode a taxi with me back to school, helped me check in and had dinner with me. It was really wonderful to have someone to talk to and ask questions for the first couple hours I was in the country. When I checked in, they didn’t have a room for me yet so they put me into a temporary room. On Tuesday, I went back early to see if my room was ready yet, but they asked me to come back later, so I went out with some other UConn girls to do a little shopping- get phones, bed sheets, pillows, that sort of thing. I came back around 6pm again, and when I went to check in they said that I had no housing in PGP. They let me stay in the temp room for the night, but I would have to go to Housing Services the next morning and figure it out. Needless to say, I was rather distraught and very anxious, believing that I would not have a place to live for the semester after traveling to the opposite side of the world. However, I told the director of the USP program my plight, and he worked some magic and found a place for me on campus. I still don’t know he did it, but apparently I had been lost somewhere in the system and he found me. So maybe that wasn’t entirely abridged, but long story short- I have a room to live in.

Also on Tuesday, when I was out with the girls, a couple of Singaporean students were showing us around, helping us to find good deals and where to go. They were immensely helpful and kind. I have had the privilege of meeting some very nice locals. While we were all shopping we passed by some street vendors selling Durian. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian)

The Durian is a native fruit that is near impossible to describe. It has an outer thorny shell and the inside is a fleshy, yellowish, thing with a pit. It smells rather horrible, but it is something that when you are in Singapore, you have to try, so I did. The first bite was horrendous. I wanted to spit it out, but didn’t want to seem rude. That initial taste is overwhelming and almost invokes a gag reflex. However, the after-taste is something almost pleasant and definitely intriguing. After getting over the initial shock of having such an item in my mouth, I found that it was actually quite good. It has a definite sweet onion, almost garlicky taste to it that you wouldn’t expect from a fruit, but I imagine if reasonably ripe or prepared well, would be a treat. I wouldn’t dare bring any home, but if you happen to stumble across a durian in any travels you may take, I highly suggest being adventurous and trying a bite. If nothing else, it is an experience.

All in all, I have enjoyed my stay here so far, and I look forward to venturing out into the city to Chinatown, Little India, and our course to surrounding countries. Thanks for reading through my excessive posting, but there is so much to see and tell after a week in a new country. Now to remember that I’m here for schooling and get ready for classes. ;) Please browse my pictures; it is really quite beautiful here.
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Comments

Laura Ann Transue on

Jackie how wonderful to be able to let us know your travel adventures. This is quite different from the time Therese had here study abroad program in Australia. I look forward to traveling via e-mail with you
Cousin
Laura Ann

Josh on

Yes! Thank you for confirming that Durians taste like garlic, nobody believes me. And something you'll realize about Singapore is that it isn't just the malls and clarke quay that have "a western feel" to them. From my experience, Singapore doesn't really have too much of a culture of their own, so they borrow a ton from western cultures. Glad to see you're enjoying youself!

JoEllen Oakes on

Love your blog! It's a bit like watching the Travel Channel. The wikipedia links are quite educational. Keep up the good work!
(One observation: time on the comments from folks are in Singaporean time. It was weird to read comments that appeared to be posted in the future!)
Love you!

Cousin Kathleen on

Jackie, good lord! You're giving me the travel bug so bad! It's great being able to follow your discoveries. It's pleasant reading too, very objective and informative, not like most blogs that are just full of useless personal opinions. Also glad to see how upset the lack of environmental preservation made you. You're definitely a cool chick. :) Just BE CAREFUL... you must stand out pretty bad over there.
Love, Kathleen

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