Category Archives: Singapore

Glass Half Full

So I just noticed that I haven’t blogged since February. My apologies – but at the same time, it’s been a crazy two months, so I’m going to summarize:

  • Work at the Asia Research Institute: my workload has gone up and down, but the last two weeks have consistently up. I think that I’m almost done with my role in the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium (unless any further changes take place), so I’m essentially in the process of wrapping things up with this co-op role.
  • Turned 24 this week! Celebrated my birthday with AIESECers yesterday at Sentosa Island, and today with my suitemates over a late dinner!
  • Got selected for the national team of AIESEC Mongolia! I will be serving as the National Vice President for Exchange in the 2013-2014 term, which is definitely exciting!

When I turned 23 last year, I felt that I had everything planned out. I had no idea that I would end up in Singapore and then get offered a position in Mongolia. There were times when I did see the glass as half-empty, but it’s always good to be optimistic and see the glass as half-full.

And now, a video! Because I was selected and did the entire interview process for AIESEC Mongolia over Skype, the results announcement had to be done virtually. I was requested to take a YouTube video so that members of AIESEC Mongolia could see what was happening on my end. My friends in the AIESEC Singapore team were awesome in supporting me throughout, and conducting the  water pouring in the traditional AIESEC way. If that doesn’t make sense to you, just watch the video and then you’ll get it.

 

If you asked me last year if I’d end up working in Singapore for co-op this semester, if I’d end up joining the Singapore MC, and then getting appointed to the Mongolian MC, all in the space of four months, I guarantee you I’d laugh it off as pointless conjecture. Being optimistic when things aren’t so certain is always a good thing. It’s always good to see the glass as half-full.

I’m leaving Singapore in just over two weeks, so time to make the most of my last few days here!

 

Shape the Future 2013 – my first AIESEC conference outside of Canada

The last week has been pretty intense:

  1. Work at the Asia Research Institute has kept me busy – the survey that the Migrating Out of Poverty Research Program Consortium will use is almost done and almost ready for approval (hopefully)!
  2. My new role with AIESEC Singapore has also kept me busy.
  3. Lost my NUS Student Card 🙁 I don’t remember where I placed it! This particular event didn’t really contribute to the intensity of the week, to be honest. Just more of an inconvenience!

What made this week extra intense was the fact that last weekend we had an AIESEC national conference. Effectively, Shape the Future 2013 was my first ever AIESEC conference outside of Canada.

I was lucky enough to facilitate two sessions during the conference. I have to admit that it was a bit of a culture shock for me at first, as I found that I had to get the audience to warm up to me first before getting started with the session, but it went well overall.

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Shape the Future 2013 Delegates and Facilitators (photo by conference team)

On a separate note: it is now March, and I’m now halfway through my stay here in Singapore. Time flies!

AIESEC update

Okay, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I applied for a position on the AIESEC Singapore national team for the 2013-2014 term.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. However, there’s always a silver lining! There was a vacancy in the national youth marketing role as a result of the Youth Marketing Director’s resignation. I’m happy to report that I will be serving as a part-time, volunteer MC Youth Marketing Director for AIESEC Singapore’s 2012-2013 outgoing team for the duration of my stay here (until April 30).

I will be doing MC work after hours – after all, I am here for my research internship during business hours, and I remain engaged and excited about the work that I’m doing for the Migration Out of Poverty Program. Furthermore, I remain committed, and I want to make sure that I perform well. Which reminds me, I have to blog as there have been developments over the last few weeks!

Also, I made a snap decision last week to apply for AIESEC Canada’s second round of MC applications. Not too sure if I’ll get it or not, but lo que será, será.

Anyways, just wanted to share this update.

Budgeting Abroad

First of all, if you are celebrating the Lunar New Year: gong xi fa cai!

Just an update before I begin this post: I am currently in Jakarta, Indonesia as the Lunar New Year holiday is now in full swing in Singapore! I am now enjoying a five-day long weekend! I will be back in Singapore on Monday night.

Anyways, I wanted to talk about budgeting while abroad. My situation might be a bit different as I’m on a paid internship, with most of my housing expenses, and all of my flight expenses covered, but I hope you’ll still get something out of it.

A piggy bank.

I recently received my full stipend for the semester, so now, the task has fallen to me to manage my finances. One of the things I want to get out of this internship is to actually be able to take some money home, and not just splurge it like there’s no tomorrow while I’m in Singapore.

So shortly after opening my bank account and receiving my ATM card, I sat down and thought of ways to save and manage my money while I’m in Singapore. Here are my strategies – I hope that they will work!

Have a budget and money tracker

Like an excel file listing my monthly income, and how much I’m planning to save and spend on a monthly basis for the duration of my stay in Singapore. On a weekly basis, I’m going to update my excel file so that I know how much I’ve been spending, and what kind of things that I’ve been buying regularly (i.e. food/snacks during my lunch break) so that I can adjust my budget accordingly if needed. I suggest having some kind of excel sheet tracker so that you know how much money you’re spending on a weekly and a monthly basis.

Free food and free stuff

Because I’m working pretty much all day during weekdays, I’m almost always in the office. The Asia Research Institute hosts regular academic conferences every month – and whenever they have a conference, they have catered food, which everyone in the office is expected to eat!

I’m not joking! One of my co-workers actually went up to me and said that “it’s office culture for us to eat free food when there’s free food in the office.”

I guess the point of this little anecdote is that if there’s free food/free stuff, take advantage so that you can save money!

Don’t use taxis

Taxis are great in Singapore, and are certainly cheaper than taxis in Vancouver! However, expenses do add up, so if you’re in Singapore, I highly suggest that you use your ezLink card, and plan ahead when it comes to using public transit. gothere.sg is a great tool that allows you to figure out what bus/train to take, and the duration of the journey.

I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of using taxis a little too frequently the last two weeks, so I’m trying to cut down on it!

Phone usage

I have a prepaid phone with SingTel, and while I don’t send a lot of texts or make a lot of phone calls, I do like to check e-mail on my phone, which is a really expensive bad habit as it tends to eat up my phone credit really quickly! My suggestion would be to only use the internet functions of your phone when you’re in a wifi spot.

Anyways, hope my suggestions help, and that I stick to my advice! I guess I’ll find out after I’m done with my internship!

 

Applying for AIESEC Singapore’s National Team

AIESEC Singapore National Team Candidates, photo by Sarah Zhao

AIESEC Singapore National Team Candidates, photo by Sarah Zhao

The last two weeks have been pretty crazy.

During business hours, I’m completely focused on my co-op/internship at the Asia Research Institute, but after office hours, I’ve been focused on participating in the selection process for AIESEC Singapore’s national team for the 2013-2014 year.

Within four days of arriving in Singapore, I attended my first “Meet the People” session with one of the AIESEC chapters here, followed by three more that took place three days in a row last week. On Sunday, I was able to observe the election of AIESEC Singapore’s national president and local chapter presidents for the next term, and also managed to secure a vote of confidence from AIESEC Singapore’s membership to participate in the interview stage – the final step of the national team selection process.

I didn’t come to the decision of applying for a role with AIESEC Singapore lightly, and it took me almost two weeks to decide whether I would even submit my application when I found out about it last December. I thought that I was done with AIESEC; clearly, I’m not. I don’t know how things will turn out, but regardless of the end result, I know that I won’t regret taking this step and putting my full effort into it. It has been an intense three weeks.

While my MC term with AIESEC in Spain was unfortunately cut short last year, I’m glad with how things have turned out in the end. My co-op work term here and the timing of the elections made my participation possible. I’m glad that I, along with the rest of my fellow MC candidates, have invested a lot of time into this. It’s awesome being surrounded by people who are driven, and share the same passions as you, even though you’ve only known them for a few days.

So, with that said, all the best to my fellow MC candidates who are participating in the selection process physically here in Singapore, and virtually around the world! What will be, will be. All the best at the interviews this weekend. Fingers crossed, and good luck!

Registration Day and My Phone

I took the day off work today to attend Registration Day, complete my Student Pass (student visa) formalities, and finally get my phone unlocked.

Registration Day

Registration Day is basically to confirm that you are an NUS student and that you have paid whatever fees you have to pay. It is also meant to help streamline your Student Pass application. While the student visa application process is different between Canada and Singapore, I really like how NUS goes out of its way to help exchange/international students. Unlike UBC, which pretty much leaves its students on their own when it comes to their study permits (aside from sending them the letters/documents that they need), NUS has actually done everything in its power to make life as easy as possible for exchange students in terms of the Student Pass application process.

They actually brought in people from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) to process the applications on-campus so that we wouldn’t have to go to them. They even had a photo booth for people who didn’t bring passport-size photos (me being one of them) for their Student Pass ID card (charge of $7 for four photos), and went through our documents before letting us go to the ICA counter, which was really thoughtful and made things so much easier.

It’s like they were expecting people not to have everything together – they even had printers for people to print out last minute items they forgot. The thing is, you had to pay to use the printers, but luckily I found out about free printing at the Yusof Ishak House, so I didn’t have to pay. Yeah, I cheaped out.

I also got my NUS Student Card (aka the “matric card”), which will be useful in terms of getting into the office at the Bukit Timah campus, as well as using facilities at the Kent Ridge campus. I’m not sure what other services I can access with my matric card, but my supervisor at work really wants me to get it soon so I can access the office (it works kinda like a key).

Overall, Registration Day was smooth and easy.

Unlocking my iPhone and getting a sim card

So one of the things that I didn’t do in Vancouver before going to Singapore was to unlock my iPhone 4S. Luckily, TELUS has a way of remotely unlocking iPhones (for a charge of $35). They were able to set this up for me on Sunday night (Singapore time). However, there was a catch: I needed to plug my iPhone into my laptop, and reset it in order for the unlock to take effect.

The thing is, my laptop’s OSX is not updated, so I wasn’t able to do anything. At first, I looked into getting my laptop upgraded to Snow Leopard, which I guess I should do, but none of the Apple Stores I went to near NUS Kent Ridge Campus had it – I had to order it online, and it would take two weeks to ship out.

Luckily, I got my matric card today, so I was able to access and use the Mac Computer Commons at University Town’s Education Resource Centre. I was able to reset my iPhone, finally get it unlocked, and then went to a mall in Jurong East to buy a new sim card from SingTel. Again, there is a catch: all of the numbers I had in my phone are gone, as I couldn’t back my iPhone up on a public computer. So if you know me and have my number, I do not have yours. But at least I’m reachable now, and won’t have to use my Canadian number to call local numbers here!

First Monday in Singapore

My first day of work was fairly standard. I was introduced to people in the office, given a tour of the office, shown where everything was, and did all the administrative stuff, including setting up my office computer account. Afterwards, I met with my supervisor and a member of her research team, where I learned more about my role in ARI.

From now until the end of April, I will be part of the Migrating Out of Poverty Research Program Consortium, funded by the British Department for International Development. ARI’s role in the research program is specifically to look into why Indonesian domestic workers (predominantly women) chose to emigrate and work in Singapore. My role will be to mainly help the team in research (including newspaper/journal articles), analyzing data and looking for trends, and “cleaning up” interview transcripts (which often switch or combine English and Bahasa Indonesia). Cleaning up basically means going through errors (in English and Bahasa Indonesia), and if something doesn’t make sense, that I call attention to it. I started cleaning up a 35 page interview transcript with a former Indonesian migrant worker and her family, and hopefully I’ll finish up with it by tomorrow.

The slightly odd thing about my internship is that my work station is physically separated from everyone else in the office. But the flip side to that is that I know who goes in and out of the office, as my desk is at the very front.

One neat thing about this internship is that there will be many lectures/conferences taking place just a few steps away from my desk, so it will be a great chance to get involved and learn more about ARI’s research, and life in academia in general.

*Note: Haven’t been able to take pictures on my phone lately – will start posting pictures on future blog posts.

Now in Singapore!

It’s official: I am now in Singapore!

Singapore

Here’s a recap so far:

Thursday-Saturday

I left Vancouver on Thursday afternoon. For the first time in years, I flew Cathay Pacific. Because of my choice in airline (this is based on the cheapest options provided by Sears), I had a six-hour stopover in Hong Kong Airport. I arrived in Hong Kong on Friday afternoon (HK time), and pretty much spent the whole time walking around the airport fighting the urge to sleep in order to avoid missing my flight! My flight to Singapore left Hong Kong at 1.30am, Saturday morning, and landed in Changi at around 5.30/6am. During my two flights, I think I slept a combined total of 1.5 hours – and I didn’t sleep at all in Hong Kong for fear of oversleeping!

Before I boarded my plane in Vancouver, I was told by the Cathay check-in person that I needed proof that my Student Pass application was approved by Singapore immigration. So, naturally, I freaked out. However, my parents then took me to the Philippine Airlines ticketing office, where they let me print out the confirmation. It was a 15-minute crisis that was resolved quickly, and kudos to my parents and PAL for getting it sorted (even though I wasn’t flying with them this time!). While I didn’t even have to show it when I landed in Changi (immigration officer told me that I should just follow NUS’s instructions, after I explained what I was doing in Singapore), she just stamped my passport and off I went!

I managed to get my luggage at around 5.50am, and then left Changi ten minutes later for my hotel, and arrived at around 6am. I was very much looking forward to passing out and sleeping the whole day in my hotel room, but it turned out that check-in time was at 3pm. Faced with a nine-hour wait, I left my luggage at the concierge and then went off to Orchard Road (pretty much the only place I could think of at the time!).

As most of Orchard Road is closed in the wee hours of the morning, the only place that I could go to was Starbucks. I spent the first few hours on wifi, fighting the urge to sleep so that I won’t be as jetlagged! At around 9am I just started walking around Orchard Road. I decided to be productive and started looking for a place where I could get a sim card for my phone!

After visiting both SingTel and M1, I found out that I couldn’t get a sim card unless my iPhone was unlocked (which I assumed could be done in Singapore). It turns out that you need to get your iPhone unlocked before coming to Singapore, as all iPhones sold in Singapore are already unlocked, so there are no unlocking services available. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how my iPhone can be remotely unlocked (apparently this is possible!), so I will be talking to TELUS a little later tonight (early morning Vancouver time).

After eating brunch, I took a taxi back to the hotel at 1pm, and managed to check-in early after the room was cleaned and made available. I fought off the urge to sleep so early, so I left the hotel after checking in, explored the Joo Chiat area, and ate a late lunch/early dinner at around 4pm. Afterwards, I returned the the room, and promptly passed out.

Sunday

I woke up at around 6am today – not bad for someone with jetlag!

At around 10am, I bought an ez-Link card for public transport, and went to Parkview Mall to eat brunch and buy a travel adaptor for my laptop and phone chargers. After lunch, I went back to the hotel and took a bit of a nap, and then decided to figure out how I would get to work tomorrow by actually visiting the NUS Bukit Timah Campus. It took a while, but hopefully tomorrow will go well.

Pending

  • Getting my phone unlocked – hopefully I get a Singapore number by tomorrow or Tuesday!
  • I got major AIESEC-related stuff happening starting this week – will blog about it later.
  • Hopefully my on-campus accommodation will be ready tomorrow – otherwise, I will have to book a room at the hotel I’m at now (provided it would still be available).
  • Registration this week – as I’m here as a co-op student, my internship is treated as a course by UBC and NUS, and at the end of it, I will get a grade. So I will have to officially register for my NUS “course” and enroll. At the same time, I’ll have to complete final formalities for my Student Pass.

Long post and long wall of text – but that’s it!

End of CWM internship, school, and getting ready for Singapore

Things have been a bit crazy lately, so this is mainly just an updates/catch-up post.

I wrapped up my marketing internship with Canada Wide Media last Thursday. The night before was the Best Companies to Work For in B.C. Awards Gala, and it was really great to see how everything turned out. During the actual event, I helped with set up and registration, which meant that I actually got to meet some of the people whose names I became familiar with as a result of looking updating the RSVP list daily. John Herdman, the keynote speaker for the evening, was just awesome.

What was also cool for me was seeing my contribution to the event – the title videos that accompanied each speaker, category finalist and award winner were all made by me on iMovie. It was a bit tedious, I admit, but it was great seeing those accompanying title videos run without any problems!

Anyways, I’m now in the process of wrapping up school. I finished one of my final papers last night and submitted it a few hours ago. I have one more paper to write, and then I’ll be studying for what will hopefully be my last final exam for my undergraduate degree ever.

I’m almost set with my upcoming co-op work term with Singapore. I now have my student pass (ie student visa), which was issued just two days after I submitted the application online! This is a far cry from my experience with applying for a Spanish visa, which took forever and was unsuccessful after four months worth of trying and waiting.

I’m just finalizing my flight details with Sears, and waiting for NUS to tell me where on campus I’ll end up staying. Another thing worth noting is that I contacted AIESEC in Singapore about getting involved – they replied to my e-mail quickly, so I’ll probably be doing some AIESEC stuff on the side while I’m there, which should be really cool.

Anyways, back to schoolwork!

Accepted as an exchange student at NUS, and got into NUS housing!

It’s been a while since I posted. I’m still pretty busy at Canada Wide Media as I’m now helping out the marketing team in getting ready for the upcoming Best Companies to Work For in BC Awards Gala, taking place in November 28th.

Anyways, this blog post is not dedicated to my internship at Canada Wide, as has been the trend the last few weeks, but rather, to my upcoming (and final) co-op work term in Singapore.

I’ve been “officially” accepted by the National University of Singapore as an internship/exchange student, even though the position was offered to me almost two months before. I also now have housing at NUS campus, which will be awesome as it means that I will live near the Asia Research Institute’s office (where I’ll be working), which is on-campus!

Excerpt from my acceptance e-mail

The visa application process, as outlined in the acceptance e-mail, seemed fairly straight forward. That said, I’m confident that I won’t go through the Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare that I went through with Spain earlier this year.

All-in-all, very much looking forward to next year!