I didn’t get the rush of relief that usually comes with the end of exams and deadlines. While I was of course happy to have finished my exams, I knew that it also meant the end of my time in Singapore.
Near to the end of my stay, I started to learn more about Singapore from a citizens point of view, proving the paradise of Singapore to be more complex than just a country full of good natured people. One friend we made was a Singaporean beach club owner who my friend and I would spend time talking to on our Saturday afternoons at the beach. He explained that while he was proud of Singapore’s safety, it came with a multiple of rules and regulations limiting the freedom of the Singaporeans. The housing shortage in Singapore, for example, caused the government to enforce legislation which meant that someone could only buy their own property if they were married. Before I knew this, I always thought it was strange that the majority of the students at NUS lived at home with their parents rather than on the campus, and would be expected to move back in after university until they got married. I presumed this was just the culture. It is commonly assumed that certain rules and laws, for instance the ban on public drinking between 10.30 pm and 7am, are just a result of Singapore being ‘boring’ or trying to uphold high levels of safety. However, people believed that the bill was passed by parliament after the 2 hour long 2013 Little India riot. This involved 300 migrant labourers which broke out because of the death of an Indian migrant worker after a collision with a private bus. Investigations found the migrant worker killed to have been intoxicated while trying to board the private bus. The apparent perfection of Singapore has obviously come at a price.
One of my few regrets about my time abroad is not having applied to spend a year here instead of just a semester. At the time you think that 5 months away from home is going to be more than enough but I have realised that 5 months flashes before your eyes and it was only at the end of this time that I actually started to feel settled and comfortable. It was only in exam season that we started to discover some of my favourite parts of Singapore. Kampong Glam, for example, is beautiful and has a certain atmosphere that I think you would find hard to come across anywhere else, as you walk past the open front shops selling incense and different arabic fabrics and clothing. Despite how much I love Singapore, I think the one thing I am most grateful for are the friends I have met while I have been here. I feel very privileged to have met people all across the world, from places like South Korea to America and Canada to countries all around Europe. As I start to pack up my things I think back to when I first arrived in my room and how nervous I was, especially when I realised there was no wifi and no way of contacting home, freaked out by the lizards and stressed out because of the humidity. 5 months later, I’ve learned to love the lizards and am definitely not looking forward to being cold in England.