The Looking Glass: Building Self-confidence While Studying International Development in Singapore

Posted on Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Written by Alara Ozden

Alara looking back over her shoulder at the camera, behind her large tree-like structures lit up against the night sky.
International Development Student Alara Ozden

As an International Development Student, I knew that I needed to study abroad to get to know different cultures. That is why I wanted to come to Singapore to study abroad, as it's a country that is considered a developing country and cares deeply about sustainability. I have learned so much from just being in Singapore and interacting with Singaporeans and my fellow students attending the National University of Singapore from all over Asia. Overall, it has been quite interesting to learn how differently 'development' is taught in a country that self-identifies as developing. 

While in Singapore, I have really enjoyed learning about new cultures and immersing myself in the culture. I would love to come back and live in Singapore for a few years. Singapore has the most diverse population I have ever seen, and I really enjoy it. 

Although I have multicultural experience as an immigrant to Canada from Turkey, Singapore is a much different country than both and I am glad that I had the chance to live here because it has such an interesting mixture of many different cultures. Singapore is actually one of the most diverse countries in the world. You can hear English, Mandarin, Hindi and Malay anywhere and everywhere. The mixture of cultures means that the food is amazing. Singapore is famous for its huge hawker centers where you can get a wide variety of cultural cuisine from food stalls. Even at the National University of Singapore, which is the university I attended, there are over eight hawker centres on campus, which means I will be coming back to Canada having gained a bit weight! 

During my time studying abroad, I have also had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan. These trips have been very important to me because I got to travel by myself for the first time and met many amazing people. Travelling solo helped me feel more confident in myself and gain an appreciation of my own skills and self-reliance by the end of the trip because I only had myself to rely on. While travelling alone, I had to make sure that everything was covered, like hotels, transportation, tickets, money and find ways to entertain myself, which made me feel very independent. Although I started to develop my independence when living by myself during my co-op term in Peterborough where I also did not know anyone, giving me the confidence to apply to study abroad, traveling by myself on this trip has profoundly developed my newfound sense of independence. 

While attending the National University of Singapore, I’ve had access to a variety of exciting opportunities and was able to take many classes from different disciplines.  Study abroad has broadened my horizons in a way that I would have never been able to without this experience. In the future I would like to work in the NGO field regarding women’s rights, so I try to volunteer in those kinds of institutions. One of my close friends here is a computer science major and her passion for coding has made me interested in coding as well. For the first time in my life, I decided to learn how to code and am taking a course online and really enjoy it! Meeting with people from across the world has encouraged me to focus on my education and career goals.  

This entire experience was made possible because I was lucky enough to receive a grant. This grant made me feel more confident about going abroad because now I know I have extra money I can set aside for myself and contributions to my studies. It helped me put myself out there and get involved with more clubs on campus, and travel across Asia with my friends. I have also gained better budgeting skills as I tried to travel as much as I could while in that part of the world with the limited budget that I had. 

Although going on exchange was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life, it was also one of the most enriching. I would recommend doing an exchange for not only fellow International Development students but to all U of G students. It has definitely broadened my horizons and made me more appreciative of different cultures, and I hope to return to live in Singapore or Taiwan for several years after graduation. 

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