5.6 million people, 5 official languages and three major ethnic groups, all packed into an area of 719km2, a tiny country but a very big city. The first thing one notices is the striking contrast between the 30-degree temperature outdoors and the cool air inside the buildings due to air conditioning. The second thing is probably the extensive variety of street food available: Chinese, Malay, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese, Korean and Western. The third thing is the welcoming nature of Singaporeans.
In university, your responsibilities are simple: get good grades and come to class. Sure, there is always that personal drive to understand and engage in what you are learning, but that is not a responsibility that has been placed on you. In the professional world, your responsibilities start to affect everyone else around you. The focus is no longer just about you; it’s kind of like being in a group project everyday. Your tasks and deadlines, if not met, will negatively affect everyone else’s work as well. That is a big change in pressure.
I honestly did not think there were that many differences between being a working professional in the United States and Singapore, until I attended a career development workshop hosted by my employer’s Human Resources department. The workshop was designed and moderated by Goldman Sachs, an investment banking firm. From my (little) knowledge of the corporate world in the United States, I noticed that Singapore’s corporate work environment is very different from what I am expecting and have heard the US to be like. Here’s how:
My engineering internship has been everything I expected it to be. Full of computer programming, lots of circuitry, and plenty of tinkering. Basically, much more hands on that anything I’ve learned at my university. While I’ve been a part of multiple engineering projects, this is my first internship. Even so, many aspects of the internship remind me of my experience working on a solar car at my university: very hands on, lots of getting my hands dirty, and plenty of figuring stuff out on my own.
I’ve been in Singapore for about a week and a half now, and without a doubt it’s been the most exposure I’ve ever had to another culture. I have spent a solid number of hours simply walking around areas of the city, observing everything from the way people walk to the signs in the MRT stations that I see everyday. After my short time here, I’ve learned that Singaporean culture, in comparison to American culture, emphasizes kindness and courtesy towards others. At the same time the culture is richly diverse in terms religion, language, and most of all, food.
Just do it. Intern abroad because I haven’t a good enough reason not to. An internship in another country not only gives insight in an entirely different culture, but also the added benefit of “real world” working experience. Without question, I learn at a much faster pace when everything is hands on rather than taught conceptually and written in a textbook. For something as difficult and complex as laser-cutting I went from completely clueless to being able operate it without much of a problem within the first week. That extra time gave me the opportunity to branch out to other machines where I was taught to grind and polish and “tap” metals. As an intern, I’m curious about everything about my work. I’m encouraged to ask questions there and that gives me my motivation to learn more. When I started work in programming and 3D modeling, my supervisor was initially skeptical because I knew nothing about it and interns usually have some experience before coming here. But I was determined to learn it and asked if I could read the manual and would read it for hours on my own time. Eventually, he saw my progress and decided to give me actual work. In the end, I was given the opportunity to model for a large scale project and he was impressed that I was able to finish the framework for it by the end of the week.
Prior to 1963, Singapore was a British colony and as such, still maintains a unique variety of cultures, people and languages. In fact, there are even four official languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin. Discover more about the “Lion City” with these 10 fascinating facts:
As with any other city, there are several ways to how to get around in Singapore. But in Singapore, there are just a few tips and tricks to be aware of. Just so you’re not scrambling to figure out how to commute using the transportation system on your first day of work, here are some helpful tips.