Visiting Singapore as a student and conquering the initial challenges

USC Dornsife undergrads visit Singaporeƕs iconic Merlion with Saori Katada, professor of international relations. In the background is the Marina Bay Sands, a shopping center, hotel and casino. (Photo/Vivian Wu)

Visiting Singapore as a student was a huge challenge for me. I was apprehensive even before I flew to the famous city state. I had never been to an Asiatic country before and I was worried that I would not be able to integrate well with the people and their ways of life. All my life I had actually never moved to any foreign land and had always been within the country.

I knew the Asians to be a people with very different cultures and traditions. I had observed a few Indians who lived around my country and I had found them to have very different ways of living. They wore different kinds of clothes, they spoke different, and they even had weird foods. I did not know if I could be able to cope living in an environment that was predominantly Asian.

When I got to Singapore, my fears of having to live in a predominantly Asian community were abated. In Singapore, despite the populations being made up predominantly of Asian communities, I realized that it was a multi-cultural state. There were all kinds of people around. There were Arabs, Jews, Russians, Africans, and all kinds of Anglo Saxon communities.

Despite many of the communities holding on to their extreme customs; such as having special clothing, many of the people had modern clothing and most had modern ways of living that I could easily fit into. Despite the people also having different native tongues, the common language in the island was English and so communication was not a problem at all.

The main challenge that I faced when I landed was getting a place to live. As a student, it was imperative that I find some accommodation close to the University. This was a tough task especially given the fact that I was a foreigner with no clue about how to go about getting a house. The other problem was the fact that things were very expensive in Singapore. Especially housing.

With the help of some people at the university, I was able to learn that I could get a room from the residents living close to the university. This would be much cheaper than me going on to rent an entire apartment. This is especially since I would have had to rent a house from a private owner. Privately owned housing in Singapore is much more expensive than government managed HDB apartments.

In hiring a room from the residents living in HDB houses I had the choice of renting a master room which had a bathroom attached to it. I also had the choice of renting a common room which is a room with no bathroom attached to it. A master room is more expensive due to the extra facility and a common room is much cheaper.

Despite the higher cost, I decided to get a master room for I valued the benefit of having a bathroom all to myself. I was able to get a suitable house through the use of an online website that had listings of some of the available HDB units.