Monday June 5, 2006
After a long weekend of shopping and sight-seeing, waking up this morning was a difficult task. Nevertheless, all of the participants eagerly awaited our jam-packed week of academics, cultural movies, and several group excursions. At 8am, many of us met to have a refreshing breakfast of fresh fruits, citrus juices, and light snacks that were sold early at The Deck, a dining facility, on the NUS campus. After quickly laughing and recapping some of the weekend’s highlights, we walked to class in the hot, humid air to graciously accept the air conditioning that awaited us at the School of Arts and Sciences. After two mind-stimulating classes about education policy in SE Asia and the origin of China’s influence on the region, we hurried to lunch. At the Central Library, Dr. Quek showed the movie, Homerun, which emphasized Singaporean cultural values of friendship, respect, and hard work. Not only was this movie engaging and entertaining, one could easily see how it connected with the class objectives. After the movie, we were on our own for the rest of the afternoon. Though many of us were exhausted after a busy weekend, several SEAS participants headed to Chinatown to explore more of the diversity and culture of Singapore–and of course shopping!

Tuesday June 6, 2006

This morning, we woke up to cloudy skies and cooler air, which contrasted the hot, humid, sunny skies that we had been accustomed to since our arrival to SE Asia. Today in class, we discussed housing and nation-building as it related to Singapore. In lecture, Dr. Quek introduced HDB and the economic development benefits of re-housing. Not only did I find this to be drastically different from living conditions back home, but I also realized that it provided a great introduction for our excursion to HDB and the home-stay that was quickly approaching. After lunch, we made our way back to the room to view a film entitled I Not Stupid 2. This movie is about two boys from Singapore who suffer from the pressure of school, while their parents have another set of problems - their jobs and careers. It emphasized family, friendships, and the importance of encouraging others. Later tonight, we had the opportunity to dress up, despite the rainy weather, to unite with UNC alum at a tea/dinner located at ChongQing Hot Pot in Suntec City. This was an amazing experience to interact with successful Tar Heel alum, share similar experiences, and establish friendships for the future. The food was also different than what most people were used to, but still quite tasty! Some opted to try the vegetarian menu where they were able to mix different vegetables, noodles, and spices to create a perfect blend of authentic Asian cuisine. Regardless of what people ate at the restaurant, it was a wonderful time to fellowship and try something new! The best part was that we had a great time with one another and it overlooked the world’s largest fountain—the perfect view! This was truly a night that I will never forget.

Wednesday June 7, 2006
This afternoon, we traveled to the Housing Department Board Headquarters (H.D.B.) Hub located in Toa Payoh, the central part of Singapore. This organization is responsible for providing low-cost government-built housing to approximately 85% of the population. One thing that surprised me about this facility was that it not only contained offices, but also visitor areas specifically for tourists, including restaurants, gift shops, a museum, and a mock layout of a residential flat. From this, we were able to full comprehend how much public housing has improved in Singapore and the positive effects that it has had on the citizens. Angeline Ong, our tour guide and Senior Executive Public Relations Officer of HDB, conducted a question-answer session that allowed us to convey our concerns about public housing and how it affected cultural relations among the three racial groups of the area (Malays, Chinese, and Indians). We then took a tour to see what an actual flat (similar to an apartment) looked like. Everyone had a blast! HDB was defnitely one of the week’s highlights so far. We arrived back to PGP around 5pm where we were left to venture out on our own, simply curl up with a good book to learn more about international relations, or for some people, take a much-needed nap after a jam-packed week thus far!

Thursday June 8, 2006

I made up my mind that today was going to be a productive day. It was only Thursday, but the week was so busy that I truly just needed time to reflect on the excursions, class lectures, and upcoming projects. My mind raced frantically as I thought about all of the things I wanted to see and do, in addition to preparing for class assignments. At first, it was quite overwhelming because I wanted to venture out and explore, but I felt somewhat obligated to slow down and take some time to get organized. So, I opted to do a lot of reading and begin working on the very important group and individual projects for class. It has been raining for most of the day, which is somewhat soothing and creates a relaxing atmosphere here in Singapore. For this reason, I went to the library in order to be in the midst of other NUS students and observe their interactions with one another. They truly seemed intensely engaged on their academics, but yet I felt comfortable striking a conversation with a few of them. From class so far, I’ve learned the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone and interacting with local Singaporeans. I thought it would be a challenge, but I’ve also learned from my own personal experiences that the NUS students enjoy talking with Americans; it allows both parties to learn more about one another and truly immerse into another way of life, simply through verbal communication. Since we were able to explore the city, many people met to eat dinner at a local hawker stand together and others chose to explore Little India.