Why study overseas? 

 

I’m sure you guys have been asked this question before. Here’s my story and explanation:

 

Studying in Singapore Institution of Management (SIM), a distance-learning degree programme deprived me from an exposure to real university life. I stumbled upon an announcement about signing up for a global international summer school programme and decided to sign up for it. It was one of my best decisions. I hope by the end of this article, you would be inclined to sign up for one too!

 

Experiencing Hostel Life

 

Living in a hostel was something I looked forward to, as it’s an escapade from the constant glare of your parents. It was pretty interesting that I was to be living with someone I didn’t know beforehand for the whole duration of the programme. I was lucky to be paired up with a really cool Singaporean guy. We operated on the same wavelength, and I’m really thankful for that. Learning to coexist with someone was an important skill that I picked up in the process, a potential marriage-saving tool (maybe?) in the future. 

 

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In Busan with my hostel mate and his clique

 

Getting to know foreign friends

 

I’m always surprised whenever I strike up a conversation with the foreigners I meet. The foreigners I met during the trip were very curious of the lifestyle we had in Singapore and our English accent. When it deviates from the usual conversation like ‘how’s your day’, you know you’d probably have endless stuff to share. You would also be amazed by their lifestyle and then be hit by the sudden realisation that you were a frog in a well.

 

I got to know a German friend who actually went to a language school in Shanghai to study Chinese, and there were few others who did the same too. It just feels like studying in a foreign country is becoming increasingly common, and that the world is shrinking.

 

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Picture with my German, Lithuanian & Singaporean friends.

 

Knowing foreigners also mean free tourist guides when you visit their country! I got to know a few Koreans during the course of study and they were enthusiastic about bringing us around their country. We would hangout during the weekends, with them trying to impress us with their local culture. The cool part of the summer school was that everyone wanted to get to know each other. They had this great idea of each Korean bringing a group of foreign friends on an exciting field trip, and we all had fun.

 

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A trip to Incheon’s ChinaTown and Wolmido with this massive group of people. Most of us met each other for the first time.

 

Another plus point is that your foreign friends will not bring you to conventional tourist areas. They strive to bring you the real local experience. For one of the places we went to – Wolmido, there were close to zero tourists spotted other than us, as it was a rather hard to access place for tourists who do not know Korean. The trip was the most memorable one out of the whole programme – it included eating famous local chicken brisket as well as enjoying a mini theme park. Everything was in Korean, so it’s pretty hard to get around if you do not know any!

 

Knowing your country and being patriotic

 

The foreign friends that you meet will not only be interested in your local culture, but also be impressed by the practices of your country! In fact, you may even find yourself impressed. For example, we often complain about the large amount of fines that the government dish out, such as for littering. However, without that fine, Singapore wouldn’t be clean and green in the eyes of your foreign friends. So it’s actually highly likely that by the end of your rant to your foreign friends, you would actually feel proud of your country :) I have hosted two groups of foreign friends from Hong Kong and Korea, and brought them around Singapore. The process of explaining and showcasing Singapore have made me understand and love my country more. It’s a beautiful experience.

 

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Bringing korean friends around at USS

 

 

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A picture with my Hong Kong friend and his family

 

A Global Network

 

Building up a network of foreign friends is great, and I look forward to travelling to their country knowing that they would play as great hosts. The only hurdle stopping me now is my studies as well and limited finances. Don’t you wish that by the time you get to retire and start traveling, you would have a wide network of friends from all over the globe? And from whom you could just shamelessly gratefully couch-surf with for a week or two? It most definitely beats having to pay for tour guides, at least for me.

 

So seize the opportunity to study aboard, at least for a month. You’ll be amazed at the experience you get.

 

-Marcus Quah-

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