Study Abroad Singapore: Winter 2023

Published February 16, 2023

Amidst a colder-than-usual LA winter, eighteen CSULB students flew 8,769 miles across the Pacific Ocean for a weeklong study abroad program in sunny Singapore. In the Fall semester before their visit to Singapore, students worked on group projects researching and presenting on the historical, political, and economical links between Singapore and its Asian neighbors. While in Singapore students engaged in comparative analyses of the differences in business practices between Singapore and the US resulting in presentations and video essays. MBA students drew on their time and experiences in Singapore to develop nascent business ideas for the US market.

Students met up with leaders across different burgeoning sectors in Singapore such as the director of cash solutions for Deutsche bank (finance), the former president of the Singapore tourism board (travel), and the Chief Technical Officer of Aliena, a satellite company (aerospace technology). These leaders of industry spoke on the different ways businesses in their areas sought to differentiate themselves to retain their competitiveness in the region. Students learned: how Singapore was able to provide unique banking and finance solutions because of its location and business environment; how Singapore’s tourism and airline industry was able to recover from COVID faster than most other countries; and how Singapore’s aerospace thruster technology is revolutionizing how satellites are launched and maneuvered in space. Beyond the academic activities, students were also given time to saturate themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Singapore by exploring areas such as Chinatown, Katong, and Changi Village. Students were immersed in the short but eventful history of Singapore through their visits to several museums. They toured the urban development center, discovering how Singapore developed from a 3rd world country into the bustling metropolis it is today within a single generation. Students visited the former Ford factory, the site of Singapore’s surrender to the Japanese during World War II, and found out the devastating effects of the Japanese occupation on Singaporeans.

No trip to Singapore would be complete without taking the opportunity to sample the distinct local cuisine from Singapore’s street food, i.e., hawker food. Students were able to expand their culinary horizons by feasting on some of the best dishes Singapore has to offer. Throughout the week students indulged their palates and taste buds on Chicken Rice (poach chicken served with fragrant rice), Laksa (noodles in a coconut seafood broth), Char Kway Teow (aromatic flat rice noodles stir-fried with lard and sausage), and Nasi Lemak (coconut milk infused rice served with fried chicken). They rounded up their experiences in Singapore with an unforgettable meal at Roland’s Seafood Restaurant, the birthplace of the iconic Singaporean dish: Chili Crab.

I include excepts from students’ reflections on their time in Singapore. Their experiences in Singapore were marked not only by rich social and cultural exchanges but professional and newfound career aspirations. Students consistently highlighted that their time in Singapore was pivotal to helping them develop their skills in presentation, and group work, as well as fostering their desire for meaningful international careers.

Undergraduate Students

Overall, experiencing Singapore has had an incredibly positive impact on me personally–from changing how I view the world around me to inspiring me to pursue unique opportunities for growth in whatever career path I decide. The knowledge I gained during this journey will continue shaping who I become along my journey ahead. It also provided me with an eye-opening exploration into how different life can be lived across two countries that both offer their own unique set of experiences and values. The memories made during my time spent there exploring is also something I’ll remain close to my heart.

This trip impacted the way I interact with other cultures. I believe respect is the most important thing you can offer to anyone. However, in Singapore, it was more than just being respectful but getting to understand the culture and support it as well. In terms of my career, I had the opportunity to give marketing insight to George [Chief Technical Officer for Aliena Pte Ltd]. He mentioned how he was struggling to do every branch of business on his own and I gave him tips on how marketing can improve Aliena’s online presence. I got to experience global business which was something I was not preparing for. As a marketing major, I learned how accessible business is around the world if you look for it.

Leaving my country and visiting Singapore was an honor for me. Witnessing a different culture, and experiencing the foods, smells, music, and people was so wonderful. I loved seeing people smile and laugh in Chinatown. I loved how on every tour we had of Singapore; the tour guide did not sugarcoat that there was something for everyone. If there was a way to make money a Singaporean would get it done. I felt a strong sense of Singaporean pride throughout the trip. Having expensive things does not interest me as much as wanting to explore the world. I want to continue to travel, and experience new customs traditions, and cultures. I hope my new career will give me the opportunity to travel, so I may experience life and do business from a different side of the world. I feel like this world is just so big and I want to experience as much as I can.

Overall, I enjoyed my time here and it definitely shifted my mentality and perspective about the world. It's completely different being taught all this information about Singapore about the different cultures and actually learning and experiencing it firsthand.

On this trip, I kept finding myself appreciating all the sights and differences instead of focusing on where we were going next. I felt like I saw what I wanted to see, and even more because I took the time to stop and smell the roses. Coming home, I noticed I don’t drive as fast. I’m taking my time with everything and definitely feel more relaxed. What this trip has truly helped me with is realizing that I put too much pressure on myself and that I need to relax a little bit more. I’ve always put the weight of the world on my shoulders but after traveling, I realized I don't have to do that. This trip was a lot of fun. I'm so grateful I had this opportunity. I would recommend this experience to everyone, and I would definitely pack my things and hop on a flight back to Singapore in an instant.

So many of the places we had been to both in class and in our free time served a purpose and were genuine. What I mean by that for example, is bars that the class attended together all had some sort of activity, be it darts, karaoke, video games, etc. They all served to foster an inclusive atmosphere that I realized had been prevalent during the entire stay, that everything was designed for everyone. And this realization made me realize so many things in the United States aren’t genuine in the same way, I began thinking about how many places I had gone to because it seemed picturesque on social media, only to be disappointed by the lack of activities or genuine things to do there and to realize that it was simply to portray that feeling of inclusivity, something Singapore had no reason to fake.

Compared to our group assignment, Singapore on a personal level has many facets that speak to the individual and public that America lacks. One thing I noticed was that Singapore puts a lot of attention to detail in public spaces. I believe each country handles things like space differently because of the amount of space and resources offered to them. Singaporeans know they are working with limited space and resources which became super apparent after going on the tour of the city gallery.

As for myself, being present for the presentations and getting to know our guest speaker Aaron Tay made me question what is next for my career. Have I settled for what I am doing now? It awoke a drive in me to search for something better that's out there for me. I plan on taking a three-month leave of absence from work to be a freelancer. 

This short-term study abroad was a life-changing experience. The short time I was there had a large impact on my worldview. I find myself more intrigued by people–wondering how all of the experiences of their culture and environment have shaped them into the beautiful, intricate person they are today. I am grateful for this trip and how it has given me gratitude for all of the people and elements in my environment that have contributed to making me into who I am.

Having the opportunity to visit Singapore, a global financial hub and a multicultural country has given me an eye-opening perspective into the different ways a country can handle certain issues such as Singapore’s land mass, global warming, limited resources, culture, etc. It is fascinating to see how a geographically small country can gain so much power in the global economy by remaining both hyper-efficient and connected. After this trip, I was inspired to continue pursuing a career that will allow me to work abroad, especially after seeing how much insight I can gain from exploring a country like Singapore.

There is a quote that I live by "The world is too big not to be seen." Exploring the world and being a student comes with its perks. My career aspiration is to land an overseas job for the DHL supply chain. Learning different cultures, values, and languages has me intrigued for this chapter in my career. Being accustomed to and open to learning new cultures will enhance how I conduct business in future endeavors. These study-abroad experiences have given me a greater appreciation of the world's cultural diversity.

Picture a nation destined for failure but decided to become the best version of itself, which would ultimately make them such a powerhouse that other countries would wreak havoc to come close. This trip to Singapore has allowed me to appreciate the nation I live in; while recognizing other countries being very close yet built on a different formula. I will take this experience and share my knowledge with colleagues and family members. 

Graduate Students

In my personal explorations of Singapore, I was able to enjoy Art Week and many festive activities at museums, galleries, and public spaces. I was very moved by some of the artworks that spoke to the social struggle with colonialization in Singapore’s history since there is much of the same resonance with my background in the US. Works that celebrated nature and cycles of life were especially impactful. Through these experiences, I was reminded that art and music truly are universal languages, and it is so important to really feel. C'est la vie . . . we will always have art, music, and food!

I traveled to Singapore with the expectation of a city that is completely different from my norm here in Los Angeles. What I found was a city that is direct, open, straight to the point, and operates in a manner that is effective and efficient regardless of the perception that is given from the transaction. Aside from the tropical weather and the time zone change Singapore is a city that thrives based on its customs and ways to go about things. I definitely enjoyed my time visiting and would recommend it as a travel destination to visit.

I reached out to my employer’s HR department to better understand how I can play a global role specifically with our company’s operations in Southeast Asia. I have a virtual meeting scheduled with the core members of the ASEAN Business Resource Group which focuses on patient advocacy and equal representation in pharmaceutical clinical trials. I am very excited to get involved and hopefully make a difference for patients in the Asian community that need the life-saving treatments our company manufactures. I am grateful for my time in Singapore and the having the opportunity to immerse myself in its beautiful culture and connect with truly amazing people.

My Singapore trip was an incredible experience, and it left a lasting impact on me in many ways. From bustling city life to breathtaking architecture, I was captivated by all that the country had to offer. To me, this fascinating place was more than just a tourist destination as it left me with many new insights into Singapore’s financial transaction practices, industries, customer service, and culture. My trip has also had a profound impact on me personally, from the way I view the world to my career aspirations.