As someone who has never traveled outside of the United States besides having short visits to Canada, I had no idea what to expect when I was preparing to travel to Singapore. Although we studied virtually everything we could about Singapore while in the Urban Studies Research Seminar this spring, the concept of actually visiting this country was too far out for me to grasp. Everything about traveling- the 16hr and more flights, the 12hr time difference, exchanging currency, language and cultural barriers… this was all easy for me to talk about but not easy to actually imagine.
Arriving here, I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t think I’ll ever forget seeing the words “Changi Airport” on a building with my own eyes rather than on paper or in pictures. The airport was more vibrant and exciting than the other three I had already been in on the way here (Pittsburgh International, JFK, and Hong Kong International) and when I saw the various trees and plant life throughout the inside of the airport I had no doubt in my mind that I was about to enter a rare garden city. I was nervous to go through customs and security, since my research over the previous few months focused on safety and policing and I knew Singapore is extremely strict in their police policies. To my surprise, the process was much quicker than most security checks and when I received my stamp in my passport, the whole experience still didn’t seem real.
Leaving the airport was also unreal. Ricky, Makeda, and I caught a cab right at the airport and told our driver to head to our dorms at Prince George’s Park Residences on the NUS campus. Along the way, I was overwhelmed by the site of trees, plants, flowers, and general greenery. Had we really just entered a city of over 5 million people? When I describe this kind of greenery, don’t picture the masses of trees and such that you see along a Pennsylvania highway. This was nothing like that. All the trees and plants were well maintained and thriving; it was all very perfect but not unnatural looking. As the drive continued we observed large housing structures and got some information from our taxi driver about which public housing units were scheduled to be renovated or rebuilt soon and also saw new, taller structures being constructed.
I think I adjusted well to Singapore on that first day. Our dorm complex looks more like a resort than a housing community for students. The weather is very humid. And I mean very humid, but it isn’t unpleasant if you find shade. I’m definitely not in Pittsburgh anymore but I like it here and though I am well aware that I am on the opposite side of the world I feel comfortable and that feeling is very unexpected.