A Year Abroad in Singapore: Reflections

10 July 2020

Katerina spent her study abroad at NUS, Singapore. In her final blog, she reflects on her experience and explains why she chose to study abroad.


After a year abroad in Singapore, I share some of my personal reflections in this last blog (in a more eloquent form than what is scribbled down in my journal).

Why did I not just travel?

Why go on a year abroad if you could just take a gap year and travel? Studying in a foreign culture broadened my horizons and allowed me to meet people with similar (as well as completely different) academic and personal interests really easily. It also gave me time to slow down and think about my direction in life at a time when I can still make use of the resources offered by higher education.

Additionally, having UCL’s support while navigating through a different continent was a big source of comfort. UCL helped me with securing accommodation, my student pass, it covered health insurance, and paid for my flights home during the pandemic. I could go on. At the same time, though, I did not miss out on that thrill of independent travel – I could just buy a £100 round flight to a nearby country and go nuts.

What do I wish I knew before going?

If you know anything about me, I am rarely ever grossly unprepared for new experiences. I’m the kind of person who usually reads all the reviews and sits on them for a month before deciding to watch a movie. How, then, is it possible that I didn’t know Singapore was basically on the equator and that Asia was not all just one big homogenous blob?

I was looking forward to pleasant weather, sushi, Phở, Thai curry and soy dairy alternatives on every corner.


It’s hot, it’s humid (but you get used to it) and the food is mainly Chinese, Indian or Malay. And I don’t know where that lack of soy milk comes from. Coming to Singapore was a wonderfully enlightening experience that revealed to me just how ignorant I am. I wish I knew how little I knew about the world. I wish I had started discovering it earlier. But hey, it’s never too late!

What challenges did I face?

It was sometimes hard to communicate due to a language barrier, both in Singapore and while travelling. I also found it hard to become close with people from entirely different cultures – we could have enriching and educational discussions but it would be a challenge to achieve an intimate, comfortable friendship. It is also tough to connect when your in-person time expires in one semester (or two, at best). And if you do become close, it’s a challenge to let go.

Hopefully, none of that sounds too scary. And if it does, I encourage you to face your fears and get out there.

This is my last blog, so let me leave you with this… If you’re thinking of going on a year abroad, do. Having doubts? Get in touch – zctlkku@ucl.ac.uk. I will be there.


By: Katerina Kupkova