“It’s hot.” These were the first words that came out of my mouth as I exited the doors of Changi International Airport. Coincidentally, it is also my default response whenever friends back home ask about Singapore. Not a day goes by when I don’t state the obvious on the country’s tropical climate except for those odd days when the weather is damp. But my purpose here isn’t to say what everyone already accepts as an uncontested fact; after barely scraping through my first semester, I think it’s only appropriate to celebrate this accomplishment with sharing my first impressions of LKYSPP and Singapore in general.
Best commute ever. Like most of the students at LKYSPP, I reside in College Green Hostels which is just a 12-minute walk from campus. After living in Singapore for merely four months, I doubt I’ll ever be able to go back to my previous lifestyle of cycling from home to the nearest station, riding the metro, and walking about 10 minutes from the station to my classroom. In Japan, most universities do not have dormitories or student housing within or near campuses which means students must either rent out apartments in the neighborhood (which can be costly) or commute an average of 30 minutes to school. My daily commute to LKYSPP is a lovely stroll through the Botanic Gardens or if I’m feeling spoiled, a quick shuttle bus ride. This is especially a heaven-sent for days when we have morning classes—less time commuting means more time to hit the snooze button.
Death by group work. During orientation week, we were jokingly warned by the Academic Affairs that LKYSPP is infamous for assigning group projects. If the hefty load of weekly readings and papers haven’t burned you out by the end of the semester, you can guarantee the sheer amount of group work will. As someone who usually prefers the luxuries of individual assignments such as schedule flexibility and accountability only to yourself, working on multiple group assignments simultaneously was a new norm I had to adapt to. While I’d like to say I’ve grown accustomed to working in a team, seeing my phone screen being inundated with messages from four different Whatsapp group chats still manages to make me break into a nervous sweat.
Countless events and talks. I think almost all students at LKYSPP would back me up when I say that we receive a fair share of e-mails on daily basis. Most of these e-mails are announcements on upcoming events, which the school seems to host almost every other day. Out of curiosity and possibly incentivized by the prospects of free food, I have attended a handful of lectures and talks. One of the talks I attended was given by a Disaster Risk Management Specialist from the World Bank who shared his experiences as a mediator between the Free Aceh Movement and the Government of Indonesia. I felt that the lessons he shared with us were a great complement to a course on negotiation I was taking at the time.
Where are the Singaporeans? Just kidding, I see you guys. But in all seriousness, the diversity at LKYSPP came as a surprise to me initially. Back in my home university in Tokyo, I was part of the international program at the Graduate School of Public Policy where we had students from all over the globe but there is still a large presence of Japanese students. In contrast, the student body at LKYSPP is so diverse that I wouldn’t have thought I was in Singapore if it weren’t for the country’s founding father’s name attached to the school. One event in which the diversity of the school really shines through is the annual cultural night held in the beginning of the first semester. It’s always exciting to see everyone donning their cultures’ traditional wear and showcasing cultural performances. Cultural night is just one of many occasions that promote cross-cultural learning and interaction.
My time as a double degree student here in LKYSPP is already halfway completed, yet there are so many students I have yet to meet and places I still need to discover. Singapore is notorious for its rigorous academics and the coursework at LKYSPP lives up to the reputation. But all work and no play makes for a dull life, so whenever I’m not glued to my desk finishing assignments, I’ll be wearing my flip flops, trying out local dishes at the hawker centers and soaking in the warm weather.