A Home Away From Home

I wanted to explore a country that is influenced by both the western and the eastern cultures. I longed to visit a location that is constantly evolving and offering endless possibilities. Singapore, being a thriving global hub, is that place. It opened my horizon up to numerous things that I would never be able to learn from textbooks. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to live in Singapore for 8 weeks and intern for an amazing American Fortunate 100 company – Caterpillar Inc. Because of the welcoming atmosphere of my internship office and how lively (or happening, as Singaporeans would describe) Singapore is, I never felt bored or homesick abroad. My experience was extremely rewarding and memorable. In the short span of two months, I can genuinely call Singapore my home away from home.

Here are some of the factors that made me fall in love with Singapore:

  • My Internship at Caterpillar Inc.! Entering a well-known enterprise with 98,400 employees serving 192 countries certainly frightened me. However, everyone that I interacted with at Caterpillar was super approachable and accommodating. I had the opportunity to connect with consultants from the company in a personal as well as a professional level. I never had to worry about participating in an event alone or seeking for a lunch buddy. All of my coworkers were very friendly; many of them took me out to lunch and dinner, and some of them even brought me souvenirs from their business trips. Concerned that I was away from home and how this summer was my first time in Singapore, my coworkers always checked up on me and never failed to make recommendations on sites to visit and food to eat in Singapore. Although it has been almost a month since I left Asia, my coworkers and I still frequently chat with each other. Not only did I get to network and create long-lasting friendships with employees at Caterpillar, I also learned a great deal about the global business world and working in a corporate. My supervisor was always inspiring, and he challenged me to think critically and creatively in many aspects. By completing various projects for different teams, I acquired a better understanding of the responsibilities of numerous functions and disciplines within the business field and gained important skills that I know will carry me far in not only my collegiate years but also my post-graduation career. Because of the size of the company, I even had many opportunities to interact with employees who are stationed overseas in countries such as Australia, India, China, and Japan. I was constantly learning from my coworkers, my supervisor and the company. I certainly do not think I will have such an amazing international exposure and once-in-a-lifetime experience if I did not take part in the Summer Global Internship Program.

Photo: Preparing for the office’s Hari Raya Celebration with my coworkers!

Photo: Shopping at Kampong Glam (Malay Village) with my coworker!

  • Food! There are so many delectable food options in Singapore! Being a diverse country, Singapore offers a huge selection of cuisines – to name a few: Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and Western. You can always find yourself indulging in something unique. One of my favorite food places is the hawker centers. Hawker centers are food courts in Singapore where you can taste a wide variety of local foods at very reasonable prices.

Hawker Centers

One can spend around 5 Singapore Dollars for a filling and delicious meal. Some of my favorite dishes are Chicken Rice, Fried Kway Teow, Yong Tau Foo, Fried Carrot Cake, Nasi Lemak, Laksa and Satay.

I always looked for the long queues at hawker centers if I felt too overwhelmed by all the choices. Following local residents’ decisions would never be wrong! There are hundreds of hawker centers with thousands of food stalls in Singapore, there has to be one that suits your taste! Did I mention some of them are 24/7? That’s right – you would never have to go hungry! If you are looking for a fancier dining experience, Singapore also offers lots of remarkable restaurants. Many of them are Michelin-Starred! Just a fun fact: the cheapest Michelin-Starred restaurant is in Singapore. It’s called Liao Fan Hawker Chan. It’s famous for its soya chicken, and you can get a plate of soya sauce chicken rice for 3 Singapore Dollars.

  • Shopping! I was amazed by how many shopping districts and malls there are in Singapore. All of the MRT (the Singapore public transit system) stations have stores for an extraordinary underground shopping experience, and many of the stations are connected or next to at least one shopping mall. One example is Plaza Singapura – a 9-storied mall that is 5 minutes away from our accommodation and is linked to a very busy subway station called Dhoby Ghaut. Not only is the mall located at an accessible area, it also sells any necessities and products you could imagine – ranging from groceries to instruments to salted egg fish skin (a very popular and dangerously addictive snack in Singapore). You can also satisfy your entertainment needs there with an arcade, karaoke stations and a large theater. Besides shopping at the malls, you can immerse into a cultural shopping experience as well. Some ethnic neighborhoods in Singapore are Little India, Chinatown and Kampong Glam (Malay Village). They all have their distinct decorations and features, and you can explore the ethnic groups’ history by visiting their heritage centers.

  • Attractions! – There are so many activities to do and sites to visit in Singapore. For a stunning viewpoint, I would recommend the top of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) or a ride on the Flyer. The MBS SkyPark provides a vantage point for taking in the entire city. Whether you visit during the day or the night, you would always be impressed by the splendid skyline.

Note: my camera does not do the view justice.

If you want to enjoy some vibrant green life, I would suggest strolling or biking at Gardens by the Bay. The garden is magnificently designed and is fantastic for people of all ages. Once you are there, you will not miss the Supertree Grove – a cluster of futuristic tree-like vertical gardens. Another incredible attraction at Gardens by the Bay is the Cloud Forest Dome where you can view the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

A third must-visit place is Sentosa, also known as The State of Fun. Being Asia’s leading leisure destination, you can see and do an array of exciting things there. If you are craving for some sun fun, you can visit one of the 3 beaches at Sentosa. If you are seeking for something more thrilling and adventurous, you can check out the Mega Adventure Park that operates Southeast Asia’s steepest zip wire and iFly that hosts the world’s largest wind tunnel for indoor skydiving. Sentosa is also home to  fine dining, beautiful natural scenery and a shopping paradise.

  • Accessible transportation! – Singapore’s public transit system is efficient, clean and affordable. I never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a train to arrive. Because of Singapore’s size, it is very quick to get from one stop to the next with the MRT. You can pretty much go anywhere in Singapore with the integrated systems. The trains and buses are always very clean, because of Singapore’s strict rule with no eating and drinking once you are on board. Additionally, the cheapest I paid for a ride in Singapore was 0.77 Singapore Dollars, and the priciest ride I paid for was 1.72 Singapore Dollars. Singapore is also a very central Southeast Asian location. One can take the bus to cross the border to Malaysia, and the cost of the ride could be as low as 2 Singapore dollars. Besides Malaysia, I also had the chance to fly to China and Seoul. Some of my peers flew 2 -3 hours from Singapore to various locations such as Thailand, Vietnam, Bali and the Philippines.

Now you might be wondering how I afforded the program and all the extra excursions I participated in. Answer is: apply for scholarships and start saving up early!

  • Do STEP (Second-year Transformational Experience Program)! STEP encourages students to take part in a transformative experience by offering those who complete the program a $2000 grant. There are weekly meetings in Autumn semester and a few requirements to finish for STEP, but it is worthwhile and you are going to walk away discovering more about yourself. I used the $2000 to cover part of the Global Summer Internship Program’s program fee.
  • Another source of monetary support came from the FCOB Global Experience Scholarship. The application for this scholarship can be found on Fisher’s Funding Your Global Experience site. The form you need to fill out for the funds is very quick and easy. The funds are allocated on a first-come first-serve basis, so I would advise students to apply early! I used this scholarship to pay the program fee as well.
  • As for the rest of the expenses, I first budgeted out how much I would need for various categories such as food, flight tickets, in-country transportation, extra excursions and miscellaneous needs. I checked on my savings and discussed with my parents to see if I can receive any financial support from them. By planning out in advance, I was able to identify how much money I would need to earn by the time I depart for my trip. I set that as one of my goals and worked diligently toward it for about 4 months.
  • Always do more scholarship search and apply to as many scholarships as you can! Look into the OIA Grants and Scholarship page for more opportunities and external as well as internal resources on funding your trip abroad! The more time you spend on applying for scholarships, the higher chance you will have in receiving them!

My summer was super eye-opening and unforgettable. I am so glad to have chosen Singapore as my location for the Global Summer Internship Program. I had a valuable experience with Caterpillar where I grew professionally as well as personally, expanded my network and created long-lasting friendships. Besides having a phenomenal work life, I also enjoyed the mouthwatering dishes and countless food options in Singapore. I was amazed by the extensive shopping that one can do and all the impressive attractions that one can visit in a country that is 152 times smaller than Ohio. If I had to make the decision a thousand more times, I would pick Singapore every time with no second thoughts, because it has already become a home away from home for me.

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