Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Study Abroad Program: UNC NUS Joint Degree
One of the first things I would quickly learn and come to cherish about the Phillips Ambassador Scholarship and the NUS exchange program is the deep sense of community that both programs foster. Before going to Singapore, I was contacted by a few Singaporeans who had studied abroad at UNC. They asked if we needed anything in advance and arranged to pick up the UNC exchange students from the airport. We instantly became friends. This bond between UNC and NUS gave the UNC exchange students a unique opportunity to gain both a genuine local perspective as well as an outsider’s perspective. Some of the best parts of my semester came as a result of this UNC-NUS community. The locals showed us the late-night food culture of Singaporean youth by taking us to eat Chili Crab at 11:30 PM on a week night. The area of town (West Coast Park) was alive with young people out eating and socializing. We were welcomed into our Singaporean friend’s home one night for a steam boat dinner – a communal dish in which everyone partakes in adding the ingredient to a hot-pot soup. We spent many nights with our Singaporean friends listening to music and sharing great conversations at Wala Wala in Holland Village. They took us to Chinatown and taught us how to drink tea the traditional way and eat the infamous Durian fruit.
The Phillips Ambassador program also fosters a deep sense of community. I was always grateful to have fellow ambassador Charles McLaurin in Singapore with me. The Phillips Ambassador program challenged us to synthesize every experience. The two of us constantly discussed the Phillips Ambassador questions, as well as our own questions that we wanted answers to. Between the two of us venting about our frustrations, laughing about it all, and discussing our experiences, we went beyond the limits of a tourist or exchange student and found more meaning in our time abroad.
Furthermore, I met up with fellow Ambassador Niraj Shah while abroad. When Niraj came to Singapore, Charles and I took him out to one of Singapore’s famous hawker centers and shared a great meal together. The Phillips Ambassador program made my time in Bangkok even more special because I knew Niraj. Not only did he let us stay with him and act as a great tour guide, but he also had local friends that could speak to the Tuk tuk drivers in Thai – which certainly helped us avoid what could have been the most confusing and frustrating miscommunications.
The NUS-UNC network and the Phillips Ambassador program gave me incredible opportunities to learn and grow as person. Through the scholarship, I was able to attend one of the premier universities of the world and partake in an educational environment very different from UNC. The people, places, and experiences are forever etched on my heart. There were so many times that I thought to myself “this is what it truly means to be alive.” Exploring the Indonesian countryside from a sidecar on a motorcycle, chatting with a Singaporean cab driver about the politics of Singapore and the United States, and hearing Cambodian kids talk about their daily lives are just a few examples of how beautiful and meaningful my time abroad was. For these, and all the other amazing times I had while abroad, I am forever grateful for the Phillips Ambassador Scholarship program.