05 Jul The 3 Ways to Maximize your Experience in Singapore (or Anywhere)
Butler University’s Sam Varie takes us on his journey on the Singapore Internship Program working in the Non-profit Industry as one of Absolute’s Summer 2017 Intern Heroes
To those who said six-weeks would fly by, you were right (unfortunately). As cheesy as it sounds, my time in Singapore was truly a once in a lifetime experience, filled with (mostly) highs and (a few) lows. As I reflect back on my experience and ask myself what made it so great, I have come up with the three ways I maximized my experience in Singapore.
1. Adapt. Adapt. Adapt. When you travel in a group, each person has a different agenda and a different travel style. I learned that being willing and able to adapt is crucial before we even landed in Singapore. When we ate dinner in Denver, each of us wanted to eat someplace differently. When we touched down in San Francisco, people broke off spontaneously to pick up NyQuil or a magazine or go for a walk before our 17-hour flight. That’s when I realized that everyday, each of us would have a different agenda in what we wanted to do, who we want to be with and where we want to go. Ultimately however, when you are traveling in a group you can’t expect to get your way everyday. That’s where adaptability comes in. I had to learn to become more willing to adapt to events and mishaps that didn’t necessarily go my way because adapting is better than complaining. No one likes a complainer. Once I decided to just go with the flow, no matter what happened or what situation we were put into, it was something that became an experience and a memory.
2. Always say “yes.” “Let’s get durian!!” “Want to ride a motorcycle?” “Do you want to try pig intestines? How about pig heart?” “Do you want your chicken feet extra spicy?” Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Whenever I could, I said yes. Yes to new experiences, new foods, and new people. It made my experience so much better. I stretched myself to try things outside of my comfort zone like chicken feet and interact with people that were totally different from me. In doing so, I forced myself to have an immersive experience. Each time I said, “yes” I got a rush of excitement and adrenaline in anticipation of trying something totally new. It didn’t always work out for the best, though. When they say durians smell bad, they truly do smell terrible. When they say “extra spicy” they mean an inedible amount of spice. But it was fine that it didn’t work out. It was an experience. If I had not said “yes” to everything I did, I would have walk away with surface-level experience and memories I could have gotten at home. Always say yes and try to live with no regrets.
3. Find the locals. I think finding the locals is the most important thing to do in order to have an immersive and outstanding experience. For me, it was my co-workers and program coordinator. My co-workers took me in as one of their own. They took me to a new restaurant almost every night, taught me how to use (and not to use) chopsticks (they can be taboo!), taught me how to (at least try to) be a local and most importantly, nurtured outstanding relationships and friendships with me. My program coordinator, who is a local Singaporean, answered questions night and day. “I don’t know where I am. Help me get home PLEASE!” or “What gifts do I buy for my coworkers?” or, something a little deeper, “How do Singaporeans coexist with many different cultures?” No matter what it was, Nandhini was there for us. Each of these people made my experience what it was. They taught me an incredible amount about the culture and living a Singaporean and Asian lifestyle. They made Singapore feel like home. Find your locals and become immersed.
As I sit in the airport waiting for my flight to Bangkok, I am saddened to leave this place where I have made lasting friendships and life-long memories. At the same time, I have an urge to keep traveling, to keep meeting new people and to keep saying “yes” to new experiences.