The one about living abroad…

Stars and Crescent
Stars & Crescent by calebk

My younger brother is currently in Canada for a short study trip and he wrote back explaining how food over there was so expensive. Averaging around S$10 per meal, he decided to buy some utensils in order to do his own cooking. Besides exploring the natural wonders around his area, he also plans spend his time by joining Muay Thai kickboxing, the triathalon club and a soccer league.

He’s a pretty outgoing guy who shouldn’t have any problems surviving anywhere really, but I thought I’d share my experience to help him along:

I responded by saying how a lot of students who go abroad (e.g. Europe, America) for the first year would definitely still feel a strong attachment to home. There’s a likelihood that you would compare things at home as better than wherever you are because you already know what you can expect from Singapore, while not much can be said about places abroad which you would barely know. I believe that once you spend a long enough time somewhere, you would start to discover unique qualities about the place which might even challenge the things you like from home.

My dad took it even further by sharing his life story when he studied in Australia:

I remember my study in Australia, Melbourne in 1974-1976. My objectives then was to enrich my experience by:

  1. mixing with the local Aussie and learning as much from them (I still do spent time with my singaporean and malaysian kind). My most memorable experience was to assist / accompany the Director of YMCA with his one week ultra Marathon run from Sydney to Melbourne sponsored by Adidas.
  2. visit / explore the areas around the city.
  3. participate in school ECA. I took up guitar course. I was hopeless.
  4. get job as I was not rich altho I had a scholarship – S400 per month, just enough to pay for my rent (I did evening receptionist work for Melbourne YMCA from 7 to 10pm each evening), did freelance design and took another day job during vacation. For this effort, I had more than enough to spend as there was no tuition fees for foreigners during my time. Free education. Now education is big business.
  5. Do well in my studies. I did OK. I won awards each year. Best in Photography in one year and best in Advertising the next.
  6. Learn to cook quick simple meals esp during winter. I often cooked noodle from Maggie pack (seasoning include and add my own meat and veg). Fruits are a plenty so I ate lots of them. Same in Canada I guess. Fish too. Lots of wheat product there. Like you said, restaurant food was too expensive and I just could not tahan the Aussie food which is Fish & Chips type as they were still very British influenced. Not now. I do pampered / reward myself occasionally with Chinese food at ChinaTown.

My Australian experience was one of my highlights in my life. Just to share my experience. Have fun – play hard and work hard.

Cheers, Pa

I look forward to hearing from those of us who’ve lived abroad. What brings you home, and where is it?

7 thoughts on “The one about living abroad…

  1. It’s been a long time but I was in Columbus Ohio for 4 years (not even a trip back home during the entire period), and came back after graduation to serve the national service. Back then it was still possible to defer although dad had to produce an insane amount of bank guarantee to MINDEF in case I don’t come back.

    So I was in the States 4 years from 16 and graduated when I was 20 (went over after my ‘O’ levels). Reason? One of them is because I couldn’t get into poly despite the fact that I have passed all my 7 subjects (so I am not a brillant student).

    All I can say is the culture shock I experience there and the reverse culture shock when I returned back to Singapore (the army).

    Yes I feel a strong attachment to home, but that is unfortunately only for family, not the country. Back then it was more like a social contract. I let you graduate abroad but die die you must come back to serve. So I did. Food. I just make do with what I’ve got there. Fresh milk as a replacement for coconut milk. Just give me corn starch, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, onions, oil, pepper, salt and if I am lucky some green chilli. I can then cook up something that remotely looks and taste like home.

    Back then in the 80s there was no internet and long distance phone calls was still expensive. I would like to say that I mixed around with the locals a lot, but in truth it’s less than half the time. Great fun I had with the Singapore and Malaysian students during the breaks playing Mahjong until the wee hours in the morning. Pizza delivery at night and Macdonald Supper (I mean breakfast), sleep and start again the following evening. After a while, despite what people say about the food there, you get used to it.

    So there you go, an experience from a slacker (yes, every generation has it’s slackers). I’m just glad that I somehow managed to come back with that piece of paper.

    Not exactly an inspirational account but it’s what I have gone through.

  2. Straydog: Yes, life abroad in the old days must have been really something… no safety nets as I call it. Harder to contact home so you’re really forced to survive on your own. What was your major?

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