January 30, 2018, by Anjni
Being on Exchange – Semester One vs. Semester Two
So semester two of my year abroad is well underway now, and having already sat my exams in December – because that’s just how they roll here on this side of the world – it’s back to those 8am lectures and six-hour lab-sessions! (Fun, I know). But having already been in Singapore one semester already, there’s a few things I’ve grown to learn and love about this place, and starting semester two has got me all kinds of happy! That said, there’s still loads that I am yet to learn and gain from this experience – about this part of the world – and whilst new exchangers have this notion that I’m some sort of expert and can serve as their own personal tour guide, I can assure you that’s certainly not the case. But here are couple things that I’ve picked up so far.
1. It’s really hot here. ALL. THE. TIME.
It’s no surprise, but the weather this side of the world is considerably hotter than the UK given that we’re just one-degree north of the equator. It’s forever unbearably, swelteringly hot and I’m always in a constant state of perspiration, despite the fact that I basically live in shorts and a tank top. But it’s okay, who needs that Becca highlighter when you’ve got that natural – sweaty – glow?
I’ve also learnt a lot about the laws they hold on public transport. Standard stuff like no smoking or no flammable liquids to be carried on board, all upheld in the UK and all. But unlike Britain where you can eat and drink – water of course – whilst on the tube, you can’t so much as sip some Evian on the Singapore underground system for fear of breaking the law. Yes, it’s actually illegal to eat or drink anywhere within the station premises and its trains, and if caught you will be heftily fined. But if you’re feeling parched and don’t mind a fee of $500, then by all means, sip away.
3. Locals speak fast, work fast but walk slow
Language barriers don’t really pose a threat, for the most part, here in Singapore; you can get by almost everywhere with English. But what I’ve noticed is that locals speak very, very fast. So fast, that I need them to repeat even the simplest of sentences because I just don’t understand. That being said they do mix “Singlish” – a fusion of English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil dialects – into their sentences time to time so it’s no wonder we exchangers have trouble following along.
They’re also extremely hard-working and are ahead of the syllabus even before term starts. Their ability to work fast is incredibly impressive; they’re forever studying and scrawling something down. However as fast as they may work, they walk very, very slow. Very slow. It’s actually painful. Maybe it’s because, being a city girl, I’m used to walking fast and getting from place to place quickly. But here, they can be late for their 8am and you’ll still see them ambling to the bus-stop, not a care in the world. I’m sorry but, how?!
4. Your accent, it’s noticeable. Trust me.
We all have an accent. No matter which part of the UK you’re from, your voice is distinctive and depicts where you come from regionally. Studying in Nottingham everyone, for the most part, sounds British-ish and London accents like mine don’t attract much attention. Normally, someone like me just fades into the background, I’ve even been mistaken for a local more than once (not exactly sure why, perhaps it’s because I’m brown…?). But the moment I start speaking – it’s a dead giveaway. “I’m actually an exchanger.” One sentence and the locals are so intrigued. “Oh so you from London, lah! You so posh.” Um, it’s just my voice? Even other exchangers (namely Americans) seem to take an – unhealthy – interest in the way that us Brits sound. But it’s actually pretty amusing to see their reactions to something so common as my British accent.
But there you have it! Hopefully there are more revelations to come this semester, but having been here six months already, I’d be a pretty lousy exchanger if I wasn’t already accustomed with even the simplest of things. But hey, it’s all a learning curve!