Classes start in just a few days, and I am fortunate to have had a great summer! It started with my study abroad program to Singapore & Hong Kong, then continued as I visited family in Spain, and is coming to an end as I welcome international students to campus. I feel as though my first post on my study abroad trip did not do the program justice, so I am here once again to answer a few more questions about this incredible opportunity through the Mason School of Business.
How was the flight?
Someone set a timer when we boarded our first plane, and didn’t stop it until after went through customs in Singapore, retrieved our luggage, and boarded the bus towards our hostel; many of us hit our record time of traveling at 31 hours. The flight itself from Newark, New Jersey to Singapore was ~15 hours, but the connecting flights, and lay over time proved to really add up.
What was the study abroad course work load like?
The program itself involved a two-week residency prior to our flight to Asia. During that time we were taking classes from 9AM-5PM during the week on basic financial concepts, education over Asian culture, and safety advice including the must-know facts about pirates in the region. Every night abroad we would have to do research on the financial sector, professional, or site we had planned to visit the following day. Additionally, we had two long-term group projects over the course of the program.
What did the city look like?
This is a very broad question that is difficult for me to answer. The program was held in South East Asia, and I had the opportunity to visit four countries (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Hong Kong). Even though these countries are in the same region, it is wrong to assume that they provide the same atmosphere. That being said, I confess that my favorite country was Singapore as it had the best environmental protection programs, which was evident as you travelled throughout the city, and saw the vibrant, abundant, vegetation.
We visited Hong Kong during the week of their annual protest march to demand democracy, universal suffrage, rights of minorities, and a variety of other political concerns, just as we have seen occur in D.C. over the past few months. I’d compare this city to a metropolitan city such as Washington D.C.
Malaysia and Indonesia were one-day excursions that I will go into more depth on later in this post.
What kinds of sites did you see in Singapore? Hong Kong?
In both Singapore & Hong Kong we had the opportunity to visit financial institutions thanks to W&M alumni including JP Morgan, BlackRock, and TransRe. I was surprised to hear that there isn’t an alumni network in SE Asia for graduates of W&M, so the two alumni networking events in Singapore & Hong Kong were great for not only the students, but also the professionals.
We also did a great deal of visiting landmarks in both countries. From famous temples, to hiking Victoria’s peak, I am glad I got to see the personal & professional lifestyles, and opportunities of South East Asia.
Did you experience language barriers?
Many people don’t recognize that English is one of Singapore’s official languages! This, coupled with the fact that we were primarily visiting William & Mary alumni, and English speaking financial institutions, there was never a time were I felt at a disadvantage, because of my inability to communicate with the locals.
How was the beach in Singapore?
White sand, blue water, absolutely gorgeous. I had the opportunity to take a small weekend getaway to the beach on Sentosa Island of Singapore with a few friends. They had an aesthetically pleasing bridge for visitors to cross the water, and it looked like an adult version of the kiddy pool playground of Water Country USA. It was obvious that they were catering to tourists, as there were a bunch of free activities (ex. a foam machine) along the beach.
What did you do in Malaysia?
We took a bus to cross the border to end Malaysia. Passing through customs went well, and we were all excited to attend a site visit on the shipping industry & ports of Malaysia. I’d say learning about the management & importance of the Malaysian port was interesting, and it brought into perspective the significance of the intricacies of global trade.
What did you do in Indonesia?
A few of us decided we wanted to visit Indonesia, given that it was only a ferry ride away from Singapore. We had not done our proper research on the country, but nevertheless we were excited to visit the beach that Saturday afternoon. Upon arrival, we observed that Batam, Indonesia was not a tourist-centric city as we had originally believed. We enjoyed the few hours we spent there, visited beautifully constructed mosques (never made it to the beach), and eventually boarded a ferry back to Singapore.
Did you ever feel homesick? How did you try to make yourself feel better?
One might imagine that us students are accustomed to being away from our family for months at a time, so there should be no reason for three weeks abroad to do damage. However, being in an unfamiliar country may have taken a toll on some people, and caused homesick feelings due to the culture shock. Moreover, students may feel homesick as they find it difficult to schedule a good time to talk with family & friends as there is a twelve hour time difference between SE Asia and the East Coast. Fortunately, I was not a victim of homesick-ness, and directed my attention to my interest in embracing the Asian culture to obtain comprehensive experience abroad.
Was the trip expensive?
Yes, the trip was expensive, in fact, I remember applying for the $10,000 program, and repeatedly telling myself, due to financial limitations, I wouldn’t be able to attend. I am pleased to share that I was mistaken thanks to grants, and loans. I can’t reiterate how fortunate I am to have been selected to participate in the Mason School of Business Global Immersion Study Abroad Program.
As I stated in my previous post, the trip was phenomenal, incomparable, and unforgettable. I am excited to share this experience with others, and as I do so promote the importance of diversity. While I have several reasons for supporting diversity, I am glad this trip has only added to my ability speak to why I value diversity to such a high degree.