Global Option in Business – Reflection

As she gets close in completing her Global Option in Business program, Megan Reardon reflects on how the program helped her learn, develop skills, and gain experience for her to be ready for a global future.

Before I came to Fisher, I knew I wanted to study abroad. Having studied Mandarin in high school, I wanted to be able to apply my language skills in a real-world setting. When I was abroad, it opened my eyes to the world of global business and that I could be a player in the international business scene. At this point, I did not find it worthwhile to pick up an International Business degree. However, I wanted a way to differentiate myself among my peers as a global citizen. Thus, I learned more about the Global Option program and decided that I wanted to pursue it.

The global option consists of several sections in order to earn the certificate. For my sections, I took classes, mentored students, and went abroad. Going abroad was definitely the most impactful section that I completed, however, it only gave me insight to business in Asia. Through the other sections, I was able to learn more about business in other parts of the world, including South America and Europe.

Since coming back from Singapore and having had a full semester to reflect on how my experience impacted my personal, school, and professional life, I have started to notice visible changes in how I act. I am now more confident in speaking up in classes. I no longer get nervous that my answers will be wrong or I am not knowledgeable enough about a topic to answer a question. My classes at Singapore Management University (SMU) were all discussion based. Because of the language barrier, I often had to make sure that I was well-prepared for classes and spoke very clearly about what I was trying to convey. This has translated back to my studies at Ohio State in that I come to classes ready and willing to make my opinions known.

I also think that I am much more understanding in group projects. Before I went to Singapore, I would completely commandeer the leadership position in my group projects. I would delegate and assign tasks to people, even if I didn’t have the best knowledge of the topic. After I went to Singapore, I am much more willing to take a step back and first look at what people are good at or interested in and discuss roles based on that. I no longer take a lead position in every project I work on.

Also as part of the global option, I took International Finance and International Marketing. I definitely found International Marketing more interesting because it focused much more on culture abroad compared to International Finance which focused on hedging and derivatives. For International Marketing, our final grade was a semester long consulting project designed to bring a U.S.-based firm to four different international markets – France, Hong Kong, Canada, and Brazil. We did in depth cultural, economic, and political analyses on these topics that resulted in recommendations for how to introduce this new firm to international markets. Overall, I really liked this project because it gave a good sense of business operations in other countries without having to go to those countries.

I would recommend the Global Option in Business program to any student at Fisher. As the world is becoming more globalized, it is inevitable that current students will have to work with foreign entities at some point in our careers. The Global Option in Business is a quick way for students to enter the workforce more prepared for inevitable global careers.

Ten Reasons You Should Study Abroad in Singapore

Why go to Singapore? Megan Reardon who studies at Singapore Management University in Singapore tells you the top 10 reasons why!

Don’t let anyone tell you Singapore is small!
In front of the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The largest infinity pool in the world sits on top.

1) Travel

Probably the top reason I went to Singapore was because I knew that travel opportunities would be plentiful. People normally think of Europe when they want to travel, but Singapore is in the heart of Southeast Asia and offers easy access to destinations like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. On top of that, Singapore’s airport was recently voted as the best airport in the world for the fifth year in the row, making getting to these places very easy.

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Junk Boats on Koh Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Floating Markets in Bangkok, Thailand
Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Summit of Mount Batur in Bali, Indonesia
Victoria Peak in Hong Kong

2) Language

English is the most widely spoken language in Singapore. While Singapore has four national languages (English, Tamil, Malay, and Mandarin), signs and communication are largely in English and very easy to follow. Unlike other Asian countries, it is not a problem if you are only familiar with English.

3) Safety and Cleanliness

Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world. There is essentially no fear of harm if you are out walking alone at night. Singapore is also very clean. Have you ever heard that gum is illegal in Singapore? It’s true! Singapore is so clean that the government doesn’t want to risk gum being spit out on sidewalks.

4) Education

The university that Fisher partners with, Singapore Management University (SMU), offers great courses and a competitive curriculum. Unlike at Fisher, most of their core courses focus on one intense, semester long project. Every class is required to have a group project. This gives an awesome chance to work in a project setting with people from all around the world.

My Group for my Sociology of Terrorism Group Project

5) Food

Singapore is famous for places called Hawker Centers. These are open-air complexes that house stalls selling inexpensive food from around the world. Most days, I would eat various hawker meals for lunch. These cheap meals also give you a chance to try all of the local flavors without breaking the bank.

6) Public Transportation

Singapore is small, and therefore so easy to get around. Getting to the middle of the city from my apartment was a 15 minute MRT train ride. The public transport system hits all parts of the island, and they are constantly adding more routes to improve efficiency.

7) Cultural blend of local and international students

One of the best parts of studying at SMU is that there is such a diverse blend of students and teachers. Whereas in Europe, many of the exchange students are from the U.S., in Singapore most exchange students were from Europe. I rarely met other U.S. foreign exchange students, which offered great opportunities to learn different cultures.

Three Finnish Students, Three American Students, and One French Student
Singaporean Friends

8) SMU is in the city

Unlike the two other Singaporean universities, Singapore Management University (SMU) is directly in the middle of the city. It’s easy to get to, and offers many off campus options for things to do when you’re done with classes.

SMU’s Modern Campus

9) Leading global business hub

Singapore itself is a hub of international business in Asia. Being a business student, this was an awesome way to learn about international business and how business is conducted in Asia.

10) High standard of living

Singapore offers a very high standard of living. SMU is a commuter school, so all exchange students live off campus. Most students live in condos with a few other students. These condos are luxury. They have pools, hot tubs, gym facilities, etc. Since Singapore is usually about 80 F, a long morning of classes is easily followed by an afternoon at the pool.

Tips for Studying Abroad in Singapore from Ohio State

Considering to go to Singapore Management University (SMU), but still unsure about going? Read Megan Reardons advice on studying on the Student Exchange Program to Singapore!

Before I went to Singapore, all I wanted was someone who had been there before to answer some questions. I did not have this person, but I want to try and answer some of my biggest questions for potential students studying abroad in Singapore.

1. How hard are the classes?

Coming from Ohio State, I would say the classes are the same level of difficult. However, they are difficult in different ways. Singapore Management University (SMU) puts a large focus on class participation and group projects in every course, while Fisher’s core classes focus on exams and homework. Being an exchange student, it is also difficult because all you want to do is explore the city you are in and travel on the weekends. Since classes transfer back as grades rather than Pass/Fail as most other U.S. schools, you have to try for good grades. This means studying harder than your other exchange friends.

2. Where should I live?

Unfortunately, since SMU is an urban campus they do not have dorms. You are on your own to find housing. Most students end up living in condo’s run by individual landlords. Some people choose to live in hostels, however I would not recommend this. When I first arrived in Singapore, I stayed in a hostel that was very dirty and ended up being unable to receive my deposit back. Many students wait until they arrive in Singapore to find housing. They book a hostel for the first few nights, and take the first few days to contact a housing agent and tour potential condos.

Note: it is required that you have an agent to rent a condo. I was not the person in my group to contact the agent, but I believe they just Googled, “Housing agent for expat in Singapore” and emailing the first few.

I ended up finding two other Americans, three Finnish people, and one French girl to share a condo with. Being with other nationalities was a very rewarding experience because it gave us the opportunity to learn from each other. We stayed in City Square, which was right next to the MRT train station making it very convenient to get to school. There are many other housing options closer and further from school, depending on the price range you pay. We each ended up paying S$950 = US$680 per month.

3. What did you do about your phone?

Fortunately, most mobile phones that we buy now are unlocked. This means that as long as the phone is working well, it will be able to accept any wireless carrier. I brought my iPhone from the U.S., and was able to use one of the wireless carriers in Singapore to get a new sim card with data and messaging. It is very straightforward to get a new sim card. Like Verizon and AT&T, wireless carriers in Singapore have physical store locations. If you walk into one of these locations (I prefer Singtel), you will be able to purchase a sim card with however much data you want. I was able to get 2GB data for S$20/month. Singtel also offers international packages, so when you travel abroad to places like Thailand and Indonesia, you don’t need to buy a new sim card in those places.

4. How do the subways work?

The subway in Singapore is called the MRT. Rather than buying a package at the beginning of the semester, I recommend purchasing an EZ-Link card at any of the kiosks at the entrance to the MRT. You can refill this card throughout your semester at any self-serve kiosk at every MRT station. Rides are typically in the S$1.50-S$2 range per trip, but are cheaper during rush hour. This same EZ-Link card is used for buses and printing at SMU.

5. What do I pack?

Singapore is a hot, humid, tropical city-state. Students in Singapore look much nicer than students in the U.S. They hardly wear athletic gear and are more in favor of trendier styles. Still most people wear shorts and nice shirts to class. I would pack a light jacket because the air conditioning can be very chilly indoors. Additionally, research the places you want to visit. Northern Vietnam and Hong Kong can get chilly during the evenings, so jackets might be necessary. I would recommend bringing at least one business casual outfit. This can be used for group presentations, meeting with professionals, etc. I chose to purchase cheap, plain t-shirts and leave them in Singapore to save luggage space for souvenirs.

If you have any questions about studying in Singapore, please do not hesitate to reach out. I am more than happy to talk to anyone who is interested but unsure about what to expect.

Networking While Abroad

“I would highly recommend reaching out to business professionals wherever you go abroad.” says Megan Reardon who attended Singapore Management University. She gives tips and advice on how you can set up informational interviews with professionals abroad to take full advantage of expanding your network while abroad!

One of the top reasons that I chose to go to Singapore is because I am really interested in working abroad once I graduate. That being said, I was excited to start grabbing coffee with Singaporean business professionals. It was surprisingly easy to find people to meet with once in Singapore. There are four different ways I was able to connect with people:

1. LinkedIn. I was able to search my LinkedIn connections for graduates of Ohio State who lived in Singapore. I reached out to several people this way and was able to meet for coffee with a few people in the banking industry and the fashion industry. More so – they were all impressed that I took initiative to reach out that they were able to give good recommendations for places to search for internships and jobs in Singapore. One of my connections brought me out to eat with his whole family, so they would understand what native English sounds like!

2. Leveraging professors. Before I went to Singapore, I spoke with my professors at Ohio State about my goals. Several professors were able to connect me with their peers in Singapore, which shows the power of connections given how small Singapore is. As it turns out, one of my professors at Singapore Management University (SMU) received their PhD in Finance at Ohio State! It was interesting to be able to talk to him about the differences between Ohio State and SMU.

3. Past work experience. I knew that one of my past internships in Cleveland had a location in Singapore that operated their Asian business. Since I knew that I was going to Singapore when I interned with this company, I was able to talk with the people who did business in Singapore before I went abroad then meet them in person while in Singapore.

4. Family connections. Though I previously believed that my family had no connections in Singapore, I asked my dad to reach out to one of his work friends that lived there previously. They set me up with someone else, and before I knew it, I was talking to my cousin’s best friend’s older brother who happened to go to the same college as my dad and had a cousin that I was friends with at Ohio State. What a small world!

It was typically very informal when I met with the business people. I would usually ask that they pick the place where we would meet – this gave the professionals flexibility and gave me good recommendations regarding the “local favorites.” We would usually meet at a coffee shop, and the conversation would start pretty naturally given that we had already exchanged a few emails by that point. Some of my favorite conversation topics were:

1. Do you see significant growth opportunities in Singapore in regards to business as a whole?

2. Do you do any business with the U.S., and if so, what are the major differences that you see?

3. I would usually ask about their family, whether it be a simple, “Do you live with your family here?” or “How are your kids liking school here(primary school in Singapore is much different than in the U.S.)?”

4. Would you recommend working in Singapore?

I would highly recommend reaching out to business professionals wherever you go abroad. This gives you the chance to experience other cultures at a more personal level and determine more about the working culture to decide whether or not you want to work abroad.

Business Etiquette in Asian Countries

Megan Reardon, studying at Singapore Management University for a semester, talks about what she has learned on how to conduct business in Asia.

While Singapore is a very Westernized culture compared to other Asian countries, business is still built on the same founding principles as other Asian countries. Most of the principles here are applicable in the workplace, but also in the school environment. In general, business in Asia is more focused on the group rather than the individual. This stems from the familial ties in Asia. Business emphasizes family and kinship more than the individual, as in the U.S. To be successful in Asia, the first thing is to ensure that you are willing to put in the long hours to get to know the people you are working with. In Asia, it isn’t about just signing a contract. It’s only when your Asian business colleague is fully willing to trust you that you will make any progress.

“Face” is an important concept in Asia. “Face” is essentially preventing embarrassment at all costs. You can lose face, save face, and give face. You should avoid putting possible partners in situations where they are required to contradict their superiors, give black and white answers, or make them uncomfortable in any way. This is typically regarded as not only disrespectful, but will cause the partner to lose face and thus lose trust in your partnership. It is very much appreciated when you give face to another person. Giving meaningful gifts, complimenting them to their superiors, or other positive affirmations give face to another person.

Another important business etiquette is the importance of exchanging business cards. You should have your information printed in English on one side and your language printed in the local language on the other side. Have plenty of business cards, as they are exchanged frequently. When you first meet someone, it is normal to give them a business card, even if you never anticipate doing business with them. When exchanging business cards, you should hold the card with both hands and present it to your counterpart.

A final business etiquette is becoming fluent in popular phrases of the country you are visiting. While most business in Asia is conducted in English, it is important to recognize that English is never their first language, and phrases in their native language could go a long way. Essential phrases like hello, good to meet you, and thank you could make the difference between a business deal gone right or wrong.
In Singapore, business people are accustomed to Western business practices. Almost everyone speaks fluent English and is comfortable enough with Western practices. That being said, first impressions are important and being prepared and comfortable with standard Asian business practices will show strong interest in conducting business in Singapore.

Singlish 101

Want to learn some of Singapore English – Singlish? Megan Reardon gives you a quick lesson on how to speak Singlish, which she learned while studying at Singapore Management University on the Student Exchange Program!

Singapore has four national languages – English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin. While “English” is the most widely spoken language, it is initially a very difficult transition for most foreigners. Singaporeans call their dialect of English “Singlish” or colloquial Singaporean English, as it is a mixture of all four national languages and other dialects around. By the end of my exchange program, I was speaking Singlish like it was a foreign language. At first, my friends and I would speak in Singlish terms to show how well we knew Singapore, but it quickly morphed into us unknowingly adding the phrases into our sentences.

There is a lack of officially printed Singlish dictionaries or pamphlets. Since Singlish is commonly regarded as having low prestige, the government and some Singaporeans highly discourage using Singlish. The government has created the “Speak Good English Movement” to emphasize the importance of speaking traditional English. Still, as it becomes more accepted as a cornerstone of Singapore’s culture, Singaporeans use Singlish in casual conversations with friends and family.

Singlish is colorful, expressive, and demonstrates the history and multiculturalism of Singapore. Singapore was established as a British colony in 1824, and remained so until 1942 when it was occupied by the Japanese Empire during World War II. When the war ended, Singapore reverted to British control, but quickly merged with Malaysia from 1963-1965. Singapore became an independent republic in 1965. Given Singapore’s rich history of cultural blends, Singlish is a language that brings diverse ethnicities together.

My favorite Singlish phrases are below:

  1. Lah

This is easily my favorite Singlish phrase. It’s added to the end of sentences as an exclamation, or to add emphasis to a sentence. It can be used in questions, exclamations, or statement sentences. Examples of sentences lah can be used in are, “The weather is so nice today lah!”, “Will you pass the pepper lah?”, and my personal favorite, Ok, lah!” By the end of my time in Singapore, I would answer almost every question with an, “Ok, lah!”

  1. Kiasu

Singapore’s education system has a reputation for being highly competitive and overly focused on grades. Bred out of this competition is a highly individualistic culture. This individualism continues to manifest in many of the company cultures around Singapore. Kiasu is a word that is essentially the fear of losing out to other people. It is getting a child ahead so they won’t be behind their peers, overly prepping for group presentations, or being competitive to the point of doing anything to win. One example of a sentence using kiasu would be, “She is so kiasu that she bought her school books early so she could study over summer.”

  1. Can can

Typically, people in the U.S. use affirmative words like “sure” or “sounds good”, but Singaporeans largely use one word as an affirmation more than any other word – can. It can also be asked as a question, as in Can I?” Asking for favors usually ends in a, Can can!” Working on a group project, people would answer questions with a simple, “can.”

The Substation

One of the classes Megan Reardon took at Singapore Management University (SMU) was “Arts and Culture Management”. She worked on a group project to research about The Substation, a arts hubs created under government policy, and through this leaned the difference in U.S. vs Singaporian business practices.

Singapore’s arts scene is not as vibrant as other countries. Since policy has always been focused on economic development, arts policy has often been deemed as a sort of forced social project. This is not a uniquely Singaporean problem – Hong Kong and Shanghai also face similar obstacles. One of the policies implemented was the Arts Housing Scheme, which refurbished vacant government buildings into arts hubs. The Substation was born out of the Arts Housing Scheme and is Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts center. Established in 1990 when the arts in Singapore were severely lagging, as a collaborative and pioneering experimental arts center. For one of my classes, Arts and Culture Management, my project team was assigned to analyze The Substation’s role in the emerging Singapore arts scene. Once the centerpiece of a bustling neighborhood, The Substation is now surrounded by new, upscale restaurants and shopping centers, and unable to financially compete with the surrounding businesses.

Image from Google Images

Part of our assignment was interviewing various people associated with the development of The Substation in its current form. Though no longer thriving, the mission is clear – to foster creativity and innovation in the Singapore community by providing programming, practice spaces, and courses to artists. For part of our project, we had to interview people closely connected with The Substation, whether it be previous artistic directors, the woman who gave The Substation its original building, or various artists who have used their facilities. These interviews gave me the opportunity to discover more about how business is done in Singapore.

The most interesting observation in comparing Singaporean business to how business is done in the U.S. is the level of formality. Though I had previously believed lunch meetings to be very casual, the lunch meeting with several of our interviewees was formal. There was no small talk, no exchange of pleasantries, but the ever looming feeling that we were there for business only.

Another difference in business practices was that our professor joined us on meetings. At first, I found this odd. It was as if our professor did not trust us enough to be able to conduct the meetings on our own. However, as we continued interviews, I eventually learned that my professor attended these meetings as a vessel to continue her own learning. She was just as curious about the answers to our questions as we were. The emphasis on continued learning is very strong in Singapore. Because it is such an economically advanced society, people are constantly trying to stay on the cusp of what is new and exciting. It’s why Singapore continues to thrive during these times.

Our Final Presentation Timeline

First Month of Adjusting to the Culture of Japan

Cayhil Grubbs explains the process of adjusting to a new culture while he is abroad in Tokyo, Japan on the Student Exchange Program to Rikkyo University. “I knew how to deal with this feeling – laugh”

When I first landed in Japan, I didn’t truly feel like I had left the U.S. There was English under each kanji character on every airport sign, every staff member greeted me in English, and there were foreigners everywhere. I didn’t truly process where I was until I went to the supermarket a few hours later to look for things like hand soap and paper towels. At first everything felt normal. The supermarket’s layout was similar, I could here American pop music playing through the loud-speakers, and I even heard the Migos’ song “T-Shirt” playing a few minutes later.

The soap section changed everything. Everything was in Japanese. I couldn’t tell the difference between hand soap, body soap, and shampoo. Trying to pick which soap brand I wanted was humbling. It marked the first time I felt helpless in Japan, but I didn’t mind because I knew how to deal with this feeling – laugh, pull out Google Translate, and learn more Japanese. These are the basic survival tools of living in any foreign country for the non-fluent nomad/exchange student.

One thing I’ve quickly adjusted to is the dorm and surrounding area I live in. Like Ohio State, Rikkyo University has more than one campus. The main campus is in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and the second campus is in Niiza, Saitama. Unlike Ohio State, Rikkyo’s dorms aren’t on campus. I live in the dorm right outside of Asakadai Station, called RUID Asakadai. The many restaurants and stores in and surrounding the station can be very lively during the day, but the area gets nice and quiet at night. There’s a certain sense of serenity in the air, a calmness, peace. I think this aspect of Japan is overlooked. The calmness is unmatched in the world.

Since I have Japanese class at 9 o’clock every day, I have to take the train during rush hour. Any train I get on before 8:30am is packed. The train ride to school is extremely uncomfortable, not because of how you get body slammed with the collective force of nine sumo wrestlers every time the train car rocks back and forth, or that at each stop five people try to squeeze their way in for every person that gets off, or even the fact that it’s a 23-minute ride. What makes it uncomfortable is the strange pose I inevitably end up in. It’s like playing twister, but all of your color’s spots that are close to you are gone, you only get one spin the entire game, and there’s no room to fall.

Having lived in Japan for nearly a month, I’ve noticed a few cultural things that are different. The one thing here that has stood out the most to me is using a public bathroom. Not all public bathrooms have soap and there’s nothing to dry your hands with. Paper towels only exist in grocery stores and the rarer than unicorn hand dryers are weaker than Derrick Rose’s knees. Lastly, anime, video games, media, and sushi are not representative of real life. Americans don’t eat hamburgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s better to not come to Japan with expectations, especially not ridiculous ones. Allow yourself to learn through experience. Let yourself be surprised.

Chinese New Year in Singapore

Megan Reardon shares her experience spending time over Chinese New Year! From Hong Bao to lantern festivals, she describes the celebration she saw while on the Student Exchange Program.

“恭喜发财!” As I walked around Singapore during Chinese New Year, you could hear these words being uttered by groups in passing. The literal translation of 恭喜发财 (gōngxǐ fācái) is “Congratulations on making money,” meaning well wishes for prosperity in the New Year. Chinese New Year is one of Singapore’s biggest cultural celebrations. It is celebrated at the turn of the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar, which traditionally falls around the middle of February. The best way to describe the importance of Chinese New Year is by comparing it to the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving. Traditionally, the Chinese New Year is a way to celebrate deities and ancestors, as well as an opportunity for family to come together from around the world.

There are many traditions that occur during Chinese New Year. Perhaps the most treasured tradition is the giving of a red Hong Bao envelope to the young. The red color symbolizes good luck and is used as a symbol to ward off evil spirits. This is such a common practice that even my landlord gave me a Hong Bao with $10 Singapore dollars! Other traditions include cleaning the home to ward off bad spirits that have accumulated in the prior year, eating mandarin oranges to celebrate fullness and wealth, and tossing together a large plate of Yu Sheng, a salad made of raw fish, fruits, and vegetables to ensure a lucky, prosperous, and healthy year for all.

The Hong Bao with S$10 from my Landlord
Tossing the Yu Sheng Salad

At Singapore Management University (SMU), though Chinese New Year was on a Saturday, we had the day off of school so international students had the opportunity to travel home if needed (in China, the students and adults get a WEEK off of school/work). Many expats in Singapore treat this weekend as a chance to explore the surrounding countries, knowing that everything closes down for the weekend, including restaurants, shops, and grocery stores. Rather than leaving the city, we decided to experience what Singapore had to offer for the Chinese New Year.

Every year, Singapore lights up the city to commemorate the Lunar New Year. Chinatown is lined with beautifully designed lanterns for weeks prior to the New Year. There is a giant lantern with the yearly zodiac; in 2017, it was The Year of the Rooster. During the weekend of Chinese New Year, downtown Singapore has a festival with glowing lanterns that explain what Chinese New Year is and the history of the holiday in Singapore.

Every year, there is a fireworks show over the water on Marina Bay. Since Marina Bay is in the downtown area, we were able to get reservations for one of the many rooftop restaurants in the skyscrapers, observing the fireworks from the one of the best vantage points in Singapore.

At the rooftop restaurant with fireworks behind us

Can My Semester Abroad Be Over Already?

Culture shock happens, even if you prepare as much as you can before you depart. Megan Reardon shares some of her culture shock moments and how she survived through them while in Singapore on the Student Exchange Program.

After you go through the application process and finally get accepted, you start telling people about how you are spending a precious 1/8 of your college experience in another country. If your experience is anything like mine, your parents will be asking how safe it is, your aunts and uncles will demand constant Facebook updates, and your friends will rant about how they wish they could visit. People who have gone abroad before will talk about the transformative nature of studying abroad. They will talk about how it completely changed their perspective on life, gave them more patience and understanding of other cultures, and was the greatest college experience one can have. When I was packing to leave on Christmas Eve, these were the thoughts going through my head. “I’m going to come back to the U.S. a completely different person that people won’t even recognize me. I’m going to be so tan.

Within the first 36 hours of leaving my house that Christmas Eve, my flight had been rerouted four times, spent the night in the airport, lost my luggage, my accommodation had no record of me planning to arrive, lost a $600 deposit on housing, and knew absolutely no one in the city. At this time, the only thing I wanted was to be back in Ohio, sitting on the couch on Christmas Day and be with my family.

Looking back, that experience was my most challenging in any of my experiences abroad. At the time, I didn’t think that anyone would understand what was going on in my mind. Now, I can clearly define this as culture shock. All of the prep classes, YouTube videos, and articles I read, could not prepare me for the reality which is physically going to another country. Everything was changing at once and I was not prepared. By the time I finally met other exchange students two days later, I was ready to call it quits. Talking with the other exchange students about how strange it was to be in Singapore finally pulled me back to reality. I was no longer “alone” and had people to share and reflect on everything with.

My point with this story is that culture shock will probably happen, and you won’t be nearly as prepared as you think you are. Culture shock is  normal, and being ready to deal with it and face the uncertainty that it brings is essential. The best thing that I did for myself during those first few days was watching a Netflix movie one afternoon during a rainstorm. It brought me back to a place of familiarity. Additional to that, I continued to remind myself why I was so excited to be in Singapore. I visited the major tourist areas, toured my school, and drank a cold tea by the South China Sea. That initial culture shock passed, and I was able to really enjoy the rest of my time in Singapore. From then on, whenever I was feeling homesick, I would pull out my journal from the first few days and remind myself of why I was in Singapore.

I wanted to completely immerse myself in Singapore. I wanted to experience what it is like to live in another country for an extended amount of time. I wanted to make friends from around the world. Most of all, I wanted to prove to myself that I had it in me to live alone for four months. I wanted to grow more independent and discover more about myself with each new day in Singapore.

By the time my program was over, I was so thankful that I stayed in Singapore. Though I would continue to feel culture shock throughout my four months, I was able to have once-in-a-lifetime experiences that completely altered my view of the world experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I let culture shock hold me back. I am extremely grateful for my time abroad.

Bags Packed – Ready to Move In