There’s a lot more to Go Global than just exchange. UBC Sociology student Dragon Feng participated in a 7-week long program at the National University of Singapore.
This program allowed Dragon to take two courses at NUS throughout June and July, and he received UBC credits when he returned. It’s just one of the dozens of Summer Abroad experiences offered by Go Global, where students can study in a different country outside of their regular winter course load.
Why did you decide to do a Summer Abroad program as opposed to a more traditional semester or year-long exchange?
I’m an international student, and I don’t have that much space to take elective courses and I didn’t have enough time to go abroad for an entire regular semester. For me, going on Summer Abroad was easier.
And this was a really important experience for you to go on, right?
Definitely. Go Global actually rejected me the first time after I applied, but I appealed and wrote a letter to the office about why I had to take this opportunity. Learning is a lifelong process, and I told them that being able to study in another nation, even for a short time, was my dream. I told them that I’m still growing and that I wanted the chance to go on Summer Abroad so I could keep improving myself. And then they accepted my application!
That’s really inspiring! What did you study while you were there?
I wanted to study areas other than my major in Sociology, and I wanted to learn something specific related to Singapore. I only had to take two courses, so I took one on Singapore’s geography and one on Singapore’s economics.
That’s cool you could learn something about the place you were living.
Yeah! I learned that Singapore is very tolerant of other cultures. You can find food from all over the world in Singapore, similar to Vancouver. You can find a Chinatown, an India-town. I got to explore some of these cultures as well. I did a project with my classmate about filmmaking in my Geography class, and we got to do some research in Singapore’s Little India and learn about that as well.
Was there anything different about studying in Singapore than at UBC?
The National University of Singapore is very high pressure. It’s made UBC feel more relaxed for me in comparison. Students in Singapore study very hard. I made some friends who were regular students and they told me it was pretty hard to find a girlfriend because everyone they know just studies all the time!
But the class structure is pretty similar—I had classes 3 days a week for a few hours each day. The rest of the time I got to discover the city, the campus, the life of Singapore.
Do you feel like you’ve changed at all as a result of this program?
Yeah. I’m an international student multiple times over now. Every time you go to a new country, you feel more familiar because you already know what the process will be. You’re just more comfortable sharing your ideas.
My experiences as an international student have allowed me to meet people from all over the world, from so many different cultures. It really makes you change your behaviour and rationale and thinking each time, and you become better at communicating with new people.
So you want to study or live internationally again?
Definitely—I would love to go to Japan next. Or Sweden. Or Denmark.
What advice do you have for students thinking about going on a Summer Abroad?
As soon as you get a chance, go. Don’t be shy to share your thoughts and your ideas, and talk to different people and become friends with them. You can learn some amazing things from people you wouldn’t normally interact with. You’re going abroad to talk, to share your ideas, to get to know more about the world, and also yourself.
It’s not just meeting people on campus. You meet and become friends with strangers and learn from them as well.
I actually became friends with a local Uber driver after I got into his car one day. He brought me to his favourite food place in Singapore and even bought me a meal. It’s amazing how you can become friends with strangers in a new place. We still talk!
Any last pieces of wisdom you gained from your trip you want to share?
A close friend I made in Singapore, who was from Los Angeles originally, really inspired me. We talked about how the focus in university shouldn’t be on our GPA, but instead on learning, improving ourselves, meeting different people, and expanding our interests. We should focus on areas other than just “I’m here, I have to study all the time.”
Now I’m back at UBC and I’m thinking about if I’m actually learning something from the lectures, or if I am just trying to get a good grade. Everyone has to decide what they’re actually here for.
For me, I’m not just here to get a “good” GPA and to get a good job. It’s for my life. It’s about learning something I didn’t know. Going to Singapore really helped me realize that.
A big thanks to Dragon for sharing his story and advice!