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Reflections on my year abroad

As my final post, and a few months after returning to the UK from Singapore, I feel like I had to make a post regarding how I feel now about my time away.


Through my previous posts I have probably alluded to the fact that my time away was not all that it is hyped up to be. I figured, after moving from Aberdeen to Edinburgh and not missing anything about Aberdeen, I would be able to cope fine with moving a little further (or the other side of the world). I was wrong. It was not plane-sailing, not the ‘I don’t miss home’ I thought it would be.

Singapore and I just don’t fit together; we were never meant to be. In fact, if you aren’t rich, then as a Westerner you will not enjoy your time. There were a few main things that grated with me while I was there:
1) 35 degrees. All year round. Without air con.

Unless you can afford the ridiculous price, nearly all the University rooms are without air con. I never thought I would miss the Scottish weather, but when I couldn’t sleep properly the entire time I spent there, I did.

2) Food

Singapore is supposed to be a food-lovers haven, however when your Uni supplies you with no kitchen to speak of and you are forced to eat at the horrendous food court because you can’t afford to eat at reasonably nice places, you only experience the worst of its food culture.

3) The teaching style at the University

This was probably my most important reason for choosing NUS for my exchange, however, I’ve come to realise that the Uni league tables are not to be trusted. NUS might be great for subjects like Engineering or Business, but for Biology it just didn’t seem like it was anywhere near Edinburgh. The teaching style was very much: do not understand it, just learn it. I felt that each 3rd year lecture was equivalent to the previous year’s lectures at Edinburgh. They also barely looked at research papers and an essay to them was ‘800 words between 4 students’.

Now you might suggest I just not live in Uni accommodation and these problems would be solved, but as one of the most expensive cities in the world ( that is simply impossible. Alongside these main issues there were a few unfortunate events that probably didn’t help, the ridiculous laws, the fact that my boyfriend lives in Scotland, and a few personal crises.


Despite these daily annoyances I do not regret going abroad. I am quite a pessimist (if you hadn’t already realised) but once back in Scotland there were things I began to miss.

1) travelling and the food there

I was never big on the travelling thing, not like my friends. I was determined to get good grades so only traveled occasionally – but when I did it was amazing. The food in every country I went to (except maybe Cambodia, minor food poisoning) was AMAZING, and so so cheap!


2) University

Although I had completely slated this previously there are a few things that NUS offered that I’m sure will shape my future career. As I mentioned earlier, the 3rd year lectures were very basic, so I took a few 4th year lectures to compensate for this.These were extremely different; they were led by experts in their fields and really focused on specific topics (e.g. only two microbes instead of an overall knowledge of many like in Edinburgh).
Furthermore, after being rejected for many courses I was forced to take mainly immunology courses. The lecturers for these were so inspirational that I changed my degree to Immunology once back in Edinburgh.


3) The people

The most significant thing that makes me think maybe it wasn’t so bad was the people I met there. I made friends much easier than in Edinburgh, and became closer with them after only one year, or even one semester, than I have with many of my friends in Edinburgh after two years. I don’t know if this is because I am older, so making friends is easier as I’ve been through this before in Edinburgh, or perhaps it’s because I made friends with exchange students, and freshers, that are in a similar position as me and haven’t met anyone yet either.  Nevertheless, I will not forget the people I met in Singapore.

yukei, anh, me

Overall there are many things I didn’t like about Singapore, and I wouldn’t want to live there permanently, but it’s impossible to say it hasn’t changed me.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to experience another culture so different from my own; in many ways I feel I fit in better in Singapore than at home. And I encourage everyone else who has been on exchange to also reflect on the ‘bigger picture’ from their experiences. But until I become rich (which will obviously happen in my future), I think I’ll stick to home.


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