Profile: Stephanie Weinstein '16
Major/minor: Environmental Studies Major, Education Minor
Study abroad program: Exchange: National University of Singapore (Spring 2016)
Reason you chose this program: Singapore is everything I could have possibly asked for. The National University of Singapore is one of the top schools in Asia and Singapore is known to be innovative in its pursuit of sustainability. I also love food and Singapore has some of the best food in the world with an incredible link between food and culture.
Why did you choose to study abroad when you did: Spring 2016 seemed to fit the best for my required courses at Brandeis, it also was just about the time I was getting stir crazy and knew I would be ready for an adventure.
Favorite class(es): My favorite class was titled The Biophysical Environment of Singapore. I was able to learn incredibly interesting concepts about geology, geomorphology, ecology, and its relationship with a fast urbanizing island all in the context of my new home for four months. It was wonderful to learn about Singapore, its history, and its current environmental layout all while strengthening my skills in speaking about important environmental concepts.
Housing situation: I lived in a dorm or residence called The College of Alice and Peter Tan or CAPT. CAPT was the most incredible part of my time abroad in Singapore. CAPT is more then a dorm; it's a community and a family. There is a strong effort to help students get to know others on their floor and the floors around them, and the people I met in my residence turned out to be my most treasured friends while studying abroad.
Best memory: I love eating local Singaporean food, and I always wanted to go out to eat with my Singaporean friends on my floor but was a little nervous to ask them. One of the girls on my floor encouraged me to ask everyone so I wrote asking everyone to join me at my favorite hawker center (a hawker center is like the most amazing food court you have ever been to). Everyone on my floor was so supportive and excited and ten of my friends came with me even though the hawker center was an hour away. We ate so much food and laughed a ton and I really felt so much like a part of the family.
Greatest challenge: Communicating home with the large time difference was a challenge. I could only talk to people back in the states during the morning or at night, and it was difficult to arrange times to talk. My family and I were able to get into a pretty good schedule and over time it became much easier to navigate.
What you know now that you didn't know before: Going to Singapore has taught me so much. I have learned more about world politics, different political systems and ideologies, as well as cultural preferences and characteristics. What has impacted me most however is learning how important it is to push yourself to really experience the people and the culture of a place. It would have been so easy to stay in the exchange student bubble at NUS, but I am so grateful I did not take the easy way. It was a challenge to push myself to hang out with Singaporean students, with jokes I did not get and Singlish (Singaporean English) words I didn't understand. However once I got used to the Singaporean way of speaking and became closer with my Singaporean friends, I became a part of the jokes and I really developed wonderful friendships. I am so grateful I pushed myself and now I can really feel the value of making myself go out of my comfort zone.
Fact about (country) that you think people would be surprised to learn: Even though Singapore is a small island nation, only 296 square miles, and with a growing population, 47% of the island is covered by green space. In future building projects in Singapore, if a developer removes a certain amount of green space to create a building, that same amount of green space has to be incorporated onto and around the building, making much of Singapore's incredible architecture incorporate greenery into the designs.