First Impressions: So far, so good.
Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
14Trip End May 13, 2010
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Where I stayed
National University of Singapore
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 Sentosahttp://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 insteadhttp://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
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 kindhttp://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.