Profile: Cooper Setterlund '19

  • Cooper Setterlund
  • Singapore skyline

Major/minor: Economics and IGS major; Business minor

Study abroad program: National University of Singapore (Spring 2018)

Reason you chose this program: I knew I wanted to study in an English-speaking country, and that I wanted to try going as far away from home as possible, which put Singapore on my list from the start. On top of my interest in experiencing eastern cultures, I knew that Singapore would be easier to acclimate to because of how much western influence its culture incorporates. I also hoped to meet some new and different kinds of people that I likely couldn’t meet at home. The exchange program at NUS promised me a less typical “study abroad” experience, where I would actually feel like a real student of my destination university and would have the opportunity to meet students who weren’t predominantly American.

Favorite class: My favorite module, Singapore and India: Emerging Relations,” was actually the one module that I hadn’t wanted to take at first! The class was the only one of the four I took that didn’t apply to my academic track back home. However, it ended up introducing me to an exciting topic that I had never once explored before, and really helped to shape my perspective on global politics as well as the cultural Diasporas that I had seen every day.

Housing situation: The first half of my semester was spent in the scenic Ridgeview Residential College. Ridgeview was located a bit far from the academic buildings in a lush, forest-like setting. The community at Ridgeview was incredible, and there was a sense of pride like none I’ve ever seen at an American school from everyone who was a part of it, from the students to the faculty and staff! Dealing with the heat in RVRC and making the walks to my classes took some getting used to, but quickly began to enjoy the beauty of the scenery along my daily routine!

The second half of my semester I had to relocate to the graduate-based UTown Residences. This was a 25 story, air-conditioned tower right in the middle of the NUS campus’ social hub known as University Town. While the community wasn’t quite as electric at UTR as it was at RVRC, I will admit that spending a few months practicing the luxury life that Singapore can offer was certainly an experience to remember. Regardless of where I was housed, living on campus at NUS was fantastic all around!

Best memory: My favorite night in Singapore was completely unplanned. My friends and I were riding the MRT (The Singaporean subway system) to go out in a new area on a subway line we had never travelled before. When we exited the station, we realized that we had gotten off at the completely wrong stop, but had ended up in Chinatown on the week before the Lunar New Year. We ended up staying and taking part in the festivities, and our other friends at our original destination even ended up coming and joining us later! This was just the first of many nights in Singapore where things didn’t go to plan, but we always ended up going with the flow and were willing to experience new things.

Greatest challenge: About a month into the semester, I was involved in a collision during a soccer tournament that resulted in me breaking my leg. I was in a variety of casts for nearly two months; for the first few weeks I was nearly completely immobile and soon after I was using crutches and a wheelchair to get from place to place. Naturally, this had a lot of consequences- I missed a significant number of classes, and even after becoming somewhat mobile a few weeks in I had to be selective with what activities and experiences I was going to participate in. As incredibly advanced as the country of Singapore is, it and many nearby countries like it are not nearly as handicap accessible as the United States is, so it often took a lot of careful planning, endurance, and support from my new friends to get around from place to place.

What you know now that you didn't know before: Getting acclimated to a new routine and environment happens faster than I ever could have thought. My day-to-day tasks and my reactions to my surroundings became normalized before I even had the chance to be homesick. I got so used to the incredibly hot Singaporean climate that when I returned home it took me nearly two months to start sweating again in the New England Summer “heat.” Culture shock, as well, disappears a lot faster when you’re in the mindset of being completely immersed in a new culture for a few months. Deeper experiences in any of the countries I visited allowed me to adjust to them significantly faster.

Fact about Singapore that you think people would be surprised to learn: It’s common knowledge that Singapore is small, as it’s the only genuine city-state in the world. However, people may not realize just how small it is; the entire country is about two-thirds the size of New York City, and it only takes about 45 minutes to drive between the East and West coasts of the country!