Settling in Singapore

After being in Singapore for what seems like forever, but has really only been three days, I have finally found time to sit down and write my first blog post!

I arrived in Singapore at 1am on Saturday morning, along with my friend Gargi, who is studying abroad with me. It took us a total of 24 hours to get to Singapore from Houston so we were extremely exhausted and jet lagged by the time we got here. We spent the rest of Saturday night and Sunday night with some family friends whom we had never met before, so it was almost as if we were staying with a host family, but only for two nights. They took great care of us and they helped us get cell phones, so I’m really glad we had people to guide us on our first day.

On Monday morning, it was time for us to venture out and move into our dorms on campus. The taxi driver first took us to Prince George’s Park, which is the dorm where I am living. It is HUGE! There are over 2,800 rooms in this building and it is extremely confusing to find your way around. Anyways, I registered and moved my luggage into my room, but couldn’t stay more than five minutes because it smelled so bad. So I opened the window to let it air out and we made our way to Gargi’s dorm to move her stuff in. We thought our dorms would be close together, but sadly, that isn’t the case. It’s about a 45-minute walk from my dorm to hers, and that’s without factoring in the twenty or so hills along the way. The other way to get there is to take the shuttle, which is what we did. This was our first encounter with other students and they could tell immediately that we were exchange students, but they were quite friendly and answered a lot of our questions.  After we dropped off Gargi’s luggage in her room, we went on a mad hunt for some water since we had been walking around all day in the heat and humidity.

After buying large bottles of water, we decided to walk into the Student Services Center to check it out. We were looking at some brochures when someone asked us, “Are you guys from Texas?!”

Turns out, there are three other girls here from UT that we had no idea about! We were really excited to meet them and really surprised that we had happened to run into them on campus on our first day! The three of them had planned on studying abroad in Thailand, but decided to come to Singapore instead to avoid the political strife. I am so glad that we have more friends here from UT, and I can’t wait to hang out with them!

In the evening we attended the Welcome Party for exchange students, where we got a chance to mingle with other exchange students and Singaporean students who have studied abroad. There, we met Hazi, who is a Singaporean student who has studied abroad in India, Canada, Mexico, AND America! She was awesome and really excited to meet us, and she is a great resource to have here. She took us out to sushi with two of her other friends and they also took us to IKEA afterwards to buy bedsheets.  On the way to IKEA, we walked past the night market, which is basically a compilation of various street vendors that set up shop together in different areas of Singapore. It was really interesting to see some of the Singaporean vendors selling clothing and traditional foods that I had never seen before. Hazi bought us some interesting looking fruit called Rambutan which looked really scary on the outside but was quite tasty on the inside!  Then, Gargi and I called it a night and headed back to campus.

I was really surprised I was able to find my room in this maze called Prince George’s Park. When I got to my room, I opened the door, and I was surprised to find a visitor waiting in my room! Why hello there, LIZARD!

To his fortune, he scurried away and I never saw him again for the rest of the night. I will probably never leave my window open during the day anymore. If you’re wondering why I open my window, it’s because there is no air conditioning in my room. I had a really hard, literally hard, time sleeping the whole night because my mattress was as hard as a rock. But, hopefully I will get used to that soon!

On Tuesday, I woke up and got ready to meet Gargi so that we could go register together. After receiving our list of modules (classes), we attempted to add/drop and it was really frustrating because no one really told us how or what to do. It is really confusing to register for modules here because you can’t tell what timings you are registering for. We have to wait until tomorrow to see if our add/drops were successful, so we still aren’t sure about what our schedule will be like. School doesn’t start for another week though, so we still have some time to figure things out.

We ate lunch at a canteen near my dorm, and then we headed out to a hair salon to get our hair rebonded, which is similar to permanent straightening, and it lasts for a few months. We spent about four long hours at the hair salon, but it was totally worth it. We walked out with soft, shiny, straight hair, which is just what we need to combat the super-humid weather in Singapore. We are really excited about our new hair styles!

Next, we ventured out to Clarke Quay, which is a really neat area with lots of clubs and restaurants near the waterfront. It was really lively even on a Tuesday night, and we sat near the water and hung out for a while until we decided we were exhausted and ready to head back to campus.

Overall, it has been a very stressful, yet exciting two days here. We have realized that we have to figure out how to do things on our own here and we cannot expect much guidance from the administrators. But, it is definitely making my study abroad experience a great learning opportunity and I am excited for the rest of this semester! We have also found that many people here have a hard time understanding our accents and vice versa. It’s almost as if we are not even speaking the same language! This was not something I expected here since everyone speaks English. Other than that, I am really liking the culture here in Singapore, and I am really glad I decided to study abroad!

Things I have learned in the past two days:

  1. Quay is pronounced “Key”
  2. 2359 hr means 11:59 pm, NOT two thousand, three hundred, and fifty-nine hours
  3. Supper does not equal dinner. It means “late-night meal.”
  4. Lizards are scared of peacock feathers (and I will buy some the second I see them).
  5. “Top-up” means to recharge.
  6. It is not normal to tip in Singapore.
  7. It is normal to wear dresses and heels to school.
  8. Spaghetti does not come with spaghetti sauce here. In fact, there is no such thing as spaghetti sauce.
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