I have successfully made the transition from a consistent 30 degrees and a slightly-more-than-comfortable level of humidity to the absolute scorcher of the Adelaidean January heat. My name is Thomas, I’m about to enter my 5th and final year of biomedical engineering and I just returned home from my 20-week engineering placement in Singapore.
Having never lived away from family for an extended period of time before, I saw this as an opportunity to develop a higher level of independence while experiencing a completely new culture and way of life. Myself and five other engineering students have now officially finished our placement at Nanyang Polytechnic, funded through the New Colombo Plan Scholarship program.
Besides the constant and heavy rainfall, and subsequent greenery associated with water that Australia lacks, the first obvious difference between the two countries is the number of skyscrapers present in Singapore. I’d never seen so many tall buildings in my life but as I came to realise during my stay, Singaporean architecture is astounding. Aligning with the theme of structures stretching to the sky, my favourite attraction, the Supertrees, are man-made trees which stand at a proud 50 metres high. Each night in Supertree Grove, a seasonally themed light show is displayed, which I made sure to watch four times during my stay.
I quickly learned that the average workday in Singapore is longer than that of an Adelaide workday by 1.5 hours (8:30am to 6pm – ouch). However, for the first time in my degree, every evening and weekend was my own as I did not have the pressure of ongoing assessments, tests or exams. Being on placement while living overseas gave me a unique opportunity to explore Singapore at my own pace, and I made sure a week didn’t go by without a new experience.
From eating at a Michelin Restaurant for under $5, tandem bike riding through a rain forest, accelerating along Universal Studios rollercoasters to trying food I had no ability to pronounce, I made sure my tourist, adventurous and hunger related sides were all catered for.
My project was to develop two different facial recognition methods, capable of learning through artificial intelligence, for use in a portable application. I was successful in my objective and have learnt many new skills and programming techniques in the field of computer vision and image processing. Given my new-found exposure to Singapore (and Malaysia after a spontaneous weekend getaway), I now feel much more comfortable with the prospect of working in Asia.
I would strongly recommend studying abroad to anyone who wishes to challenge themselves, expand their understanding of people through different beliefs or gain a different perspective and appreciation of Australian culture. I have made many unforgettable memories and experiences through what I now believe was one of the best decisions of my life!