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A Heartfelt Letter to Fellow International Students in Singapore

Dear International Students,

Staying away from home has not been easy. It is mentally draining to be apart from our loved ones and to lead an isolated life, even if for a short while. This may seem like a terrible thing, and it is, but there is so much good that can come out of this. Perspective is crucial in times like these, and I hope to offer you a different one today – a shining light amidst the doom and gloom.

When the news broke out that classes were shifting online, most international students took the first flight back home. Those of us who stayed then found it nearly impossible to go back due to the travel restrictions. Even if that option was available, we were uncertain if we would make it back in time for the next semester. A nagging thought remains: nearly everybody I know has gone back, why am I still here?

Hindsight is Always 20/20

All things considered, this phrase has probably never been more apt. It has been more than 6 months since Singapore’s circuit breaker began. Remove yourself from the situation and think objectively — if you could turn back time, would you really have changed your decision? Has the experience truly been that bad?

Personally, deciding to stay in Singapore for the summer was the best decision I made. It gave me the chance to grow, mature and to explore myself as an adult. In hindsight, I realised that if I had gone back, I would have been restricted to the confines of my home and probably would have wasted away my entire summer too. The freedom that Singapore has offered in Phase 2 has been a luxury compared to many other countries.

If you have friends in Singapore at the moment, why not take the time to get to know them better? If not, what is stopping you from making new ones in the digital age? Take the time and find the courage to explore the city with them, and find the little picturesque, less-discovered nooks and crannies that speak to you.

Tips from an Introvert

As someone who innately prefers the indoors, I can vouch for the fact that you do not need to go anywhere to be happy. Host (5-pax) karaoke sessions, movie nights, or even learn how to bake — there is a multitude of things that you can do within the four walls of your home. Remember the book that’s been gathering dust on the shelf? Yes, now is the time.

There is also the opportunity to transform into a fitness junkie just like I have… if going for a run once counts as much. I’ve also learnt video editing, cooking, and babysitting – they’re not the most complementary set of skills, but I feel that living without the few people who you always used to depend upon for these skills is refreshing and teaches you to be self-reliant.

For those who are used to the hustle, it’ll take some time to adjust yourself to the new norm of spending time indoors. The key is acting on your impulses to learn a new skill or try out new hobby the minute the opportunity presents itself!

What I Have Learnt

That brings me to the fact that I have learnt so much more about myself than I ever thought possible. Daily chores seem to take up the whole day, and that is only once you get into the groove of doing them. The initial days seemed like torture, juggling things as trivial as washing a bottle to cooking, cleaning, laundry and especially, managing your finances. But what I know now is that we are stronger than we believe, and we can successfully overcome a lot more than we could have thought of – as long as we set our mind to it.

It is definitely not easy to be away from loved ones for such a long period of time and, as testament to that, I applaud you on how far you have managed to come. Not only do you constantly worry about the safety of your family back home, but also about what your day is going to look like. I don’t think anybody knows what they are getting into when they set foot into the big unknown to ‘fend for yourself.’ But we got through unscathed and armed with the spirit that we can tackle almost everything that comes our way – and that is all that matters now.

So, if you are struggling, think of how you survived the rest of the summer and use that as fuel to push you on. Whether you know it or not, you are definitely not alone. We are all in this together. Stay positive and you will notice that things always work out for the best. Be happy that you stayed, because our reinvented selves are ready to take on everything in stride.

Sincerely, A Fellow International Student

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