Colleen in Singapore: Final Reflection

January 26, 2016

 

I cannot believe how quickly my abroad experience has flown by! After a 20 hour flight back home from Singapore, I am extremely jet-lagged but also excited to reunite with family and friends. After reflecting about my travels on my flight back home, I feel that I have grown both intellectually and emotionally in the past three months.

Last week, I travel to Myanmar with a few friends. We biked around the Inle Lake, rode motobikes in Bagan, and walked around the city of Yangon. The different landscapes were breathtaking. There was a combination of modern skyscrapers, colonial architecture, and Buddhist Pagodas, making it feel like a live history textbook. I felt like I could envision Myanmar at the time of Buddha, but also saw the modern world within the high rises strewn throughout the city. It was here that I reflected on the passage of time, an idea that has always been quite challenging for me to grasp. Yet, I saw this concept of time hidden in the various landscapes of Myanmar.

 

I am quite sad that my abroad experience has come to an end. I will miss the friendsly strangers that I to ta

I am quite sad that my abroad experience has come to an end. I will miss the friendly strangers that I talked to alongside street cafes, I will miss all the different cultures within Southeast Asia, I will miss the friends that I have made, I will miss the warm weather, and most of all I will miss the thrill of adventure.

 

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Even though I will miss my abroad experience in its entirety, I will cherish these moments for the rest of my life.

 

Before going abroad, I told myself to always keep an open mind. This helped to remind me to say yes to new adventures, and get to know people from around the world. At times, I was scared and uncertain, but it was in these moments that I learned that no matter how big and diverse the world may seem, we are connected in some way. I learned that, at the end of the day, no matter how different we may appear to each other, we all want quite similar things out of life.

 

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I know that his post does not do any justice to the feeling of gratitude I have for everyone who made this possible. Thank you to my family and friends who have supported me throughout this journey, and thank you to the University of Richmond Office of International Education for believing in and inspiring any student that walks through its doors.

 

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Colleen in Singapore: Myanmar

January 5, 2016
Over 2000 temples and pagodas cover the ancient grounds in Bagan. The hot air balloons took off just as the sun began to crawl its way out of the horizon. The combination of the balloons, the silhouettes of hundreds of pagodas, and the thin layer of mist that lurked over the land made it the most breathtaking sunrise I've ever seen.

Over 2000 temples and pagodas cover the ancient grounds in Bagan. The hot air balloons took off just as the sun began to crawl its way out of the horizon. The combination of the balloons, the silhouettes of hundreds of pagodas, and the thin layer of mist that lurked over the land made it the most breathtaking sunrise I’ve ever seen.

 

In the middle of Myanmar is Inle Lake, which is home to various tribes. Renting bikes and getting purposely lost was a great way to see the authentic lifestyle of the people of Inle Lake.

In the middle of Myanmar is Inle Lake, which is home to various tribes. Renting bikes and getting purposely lost was a great way to see the authentic lifestyle of the people of Inle Lake.

 

My friends and I rented a boat one day and set out to see the floating villages, markets, and craft/ specialty shops. One of the specialty shops we stopped at specialised in making handmade scarfs, blankets, and various garments. I was blown away when I learned it took two months to make one handmade scarf. Insane!

My friends and I rented a boat one day and set out to see the floating villages, markets, and craft/ specialty shops. One of the specialty shops we stopped at specialised in making handmade scarfs, blankets, and various garments. I was blown away when I learned it took two months to make one handmade scarf. Insane!

 

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The last stop of the Myanmar trip was Yangon. Although I didn’t care for this city, the Shwedagon Pagoda was the most impressive pagoda I’ve seen- and I’ve seen many, many pagodas here in Southeast Asia.

The last stop of the Myanmar trip was Yangon. Although I didn’t care for this city, the Shwedagon Pagoda was the most impressive pagoda I’ve seen- and I’ve seen many, many pagodas here in Southeast Asia.

 


Colleen in Singapore: Vietnam

January 5, 2016

Here’s another post about a trip to Vietnam:

 

From the mountains to the beaches and bustling cities, Vietnam is as beautiful as it is diverse. In Hanoi, I stayed in the Old Quarter, which seems to be the soul of the city.  I thought I would be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city, but, much to my surprise, Hanoi had a real charm to it. On Friday night, the streets of the Old Quarter were closed off to local traffic. Vendors, food stalls, and live music filled every street.

From the mountains to the beaches and bustling cities, Vietnam is as beautiful as it is diverse. In Hanoi, I stayed in the Old Quarter, which seems to be the soul of the city. I thought I would be overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city, but, much to my surprise, Hanoi had a real charm to it. On Friday night, the streets of the Old Quarter were closed off to local traffic. Vendors, food stalls, and live music filled every street.

 

Sapa is a quaint town located in the northwest. The real charm, however, is the surrounding country side with lush mountains that are home to hillside tribes and unforgettable views.

Sapa is a quaint town located in the northwest. The real charm, however, is the surrounding country side with lush mountains that are home to hillside tribes and unforgettable views.

 

During our hike from the village to Pen's house, which took 2.5 hours, we ran into Pen's son and niece. They do this 2.5 hour walk every morning and afternoon to get to school--and it takes them about 45 minutes.

During our hike from the village to Pen’s house, which took 2.5 hours, we ran into Pen’s son and niece. They do this 2.5 hour walk every morning and afternoon to get to school–and it takes them about 45 minutes.

 

After taking the night train back to Hanoi and parting ways with my friends, I made my way to Halong Bay. I opted out of the notorious booze cruises and stayed on the island of Cat Ba, located a little further into the Bay.

After taking the night train back to Hanoi and parting ways with my friends, I made my way to Halong Bay. I opted out of the notorious booze cruises and stayed on the island of Cat Ba, located a little further into the Bay.

 

The last stop of the trip was Hoi An. The ancient town of Hoi An is a World Heritage Site, so the whole town is extremely well-preserved.

The last stop of the trip was Hoi An. The ancient town of Hoi An is a World Heritage Site, so the whole town is extremely well-preserved.


Colleen in Singapore: Northern Thailand

December 28, 2015

How lucky am I to have a mother that traveled halfway around the world to come visit during my recess week? Meet my mother, Patty. After giving her a tour of Singapore we made our way to the city of Chiang Mai, located in Northern Ireland.

 

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After flagging down a tuk-tuk at the airport, we made our way to our charming hotel, Tanita House. Tanita is a family-owned hotel, made up of a few wooden cabins with plenty of greenery. There is also a great little cafe on the hotel grounds. The almond iced coffee did not disappoint.

 

Patty and I decided to take a thai cooking class on Sunday. Before being taken to Thai Cooking School's organic farm for the class, we made a quick stop at a local market to learn about classic Thai ingredients.

Patty and I decided to take a thai cooking class on Sunday. Before being taken to Thai Cooking School’s organic farm for the class, we made a quick stop at a local market to learn about classic Thai ingredients.

 

The cooking class lasted for several hours, and I can confidently say that I ate more than any previous Thanksgiving dinner. It was cool to use ingredients straight from the farm (we handpicked them ourselves) and to see all of the ingredients come together to make delicious curry, stir fry, tom yum soup, pad thai, and mango sticky rice.

The cooking class lasted for several hours, and I can confidently say that I ate more than any previous Thanksgiving dinner. It was cool to use ingredients straight from the farm (we handpicked them ourselves) and to see all of the ingredients come together to make delicious curry, stir fry, tom yum soup, pad thai, and mango sticky rice.

 

The next morning, Patty and I had a full day tour of CHiang Mai. Our guide for the day, Tong, picked us up at Tanita early so we could make morning alms as offerings to the monks . After morning offerings, Tong gave us a tour of Doi Suthep, the most famout temple in Chiang Mai. Today, Doi Suthep is a Buddhist Monastery.

The next morning, Patty and I had a full day tour of CHiang Mai. Our guide for the day, Tong, picked us up at Tanita early so we could make morning alms as offerings to the monks . After morning offerings, Tong gave us a tour of Doi Suthep, the most famout temple in Chiang Mai. Today, Doi Suthep is a Buddhist Monastery.

 

After grabbing lunch at a local joint, Tong took us to visit the Karen Long Neck Hill Tribe. Here, we learned about the various traditions and culture of the tribe.

After grabbing lunch at a local joint, Tong took us to visit the Karen Long Neck Hill Tribe. Here, we learned about the various traditions and culture of the tribe.

 

The last activity of the day was elephant riding at a local elephant conservatory. We took a bamboo raft to get there, passing many elephants on the way.

The last activity of the day was elephant riding at a local elephant conservatory. We took a bamboo raft to get there, passing many elephants on the way.


Colleen in Singapore: Student Life at SMU

November 5, 2015

Hi everyone! Although I have been posting a lot about my travels while abroad, I promise that yes, classes, group meetings, projects, and exams are very much prevalent in my day-to-day life here in Singapore. That’s why this post will be dedicated to my experience thus far at Singapore Management University.

 

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SMU’s campus is smack in the middle of the city. Campus is made up of six schools: School of Accountancy, School of Business, School of Economics, School of Information Systems, School of Law, and School of Social Sciences. There is also an administration building and a library on campus.

 

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The layout of SMU classrooms is quite similar to Richmond. While students are graded on participation, classes are more lecture-based than discussion-based. Each class is three hours and fifteen minutes, which does take some getting used to. Luckily, teachers give fifteen minute breaks in the middle of class. My biggest class size is 45 students.

The layout of SMU classrooms is quite similar to Richmond. While students are graded on participation, classes are more lecture-based than discussion-based. Each class is three hours and fifteen minutes, which does take some getting used to. Luckily, teachers give fifteen minute breaks in the middle of class. My biggest class size is 45 students.

 

All of SMU's Buildings, with the exception of the administration building, are connected by an underground walkway. This makes getting around campus a breeze, especially on those hot Singaporean afternoons. The underground walkway is also connected to the MRT station, so getting to school is as quick as three stops on the metro.

All of SMU’s Buildings, with the exception of the administration building, are connected by an underground walkway. This makes getting around campus a breeze, especially on those hot Singaporean afternoons. The underground walkway is also connected to the MRT station, so getting to school is as quick as three stops on the metro.

 

SMU has a rigorous academic schedule, one that is similar to Richmond. However, grades are heavily rooted in midterms and final exams, as there is not much homework assigned. Right now, the semester is coming to an end, and the work load is definitely picking up. The last week of classes consists of many group presentations, and the following week will be final exams. I really can’t believe that my time here at SMU is coming to a close!

 

A panorama of SMU's campus. This photo was taken from Wikipedia.

A panorama of SMU’s campus. This photo was taken from Wikipedia.

 


Colleen in Singapore: Bali

October 14, 2015

Hi everyone! I wanted to share my recent trip to Bali to visit two fellow Richmond students, Nicole and Dalyan. The trip was truly amazing, and it’s safe to say that Bali is my favorite place that I’ve traveled to thus far.

 

We began the weekend in Ubud. If I had to describe Ubud in one word, I would choose enchanted. The houses and shops that line the narrow, hilly roads look more like ancient ruins. At night, local artisan shops close their doors as cozy, bohemian restaurants turn on their tree-lanterns, welcoming the night crowd. Despite Ubud being a popular tourist destination, Balinese traditions and customs are very much alive.

We began the weekend in Ubud. If I had to describe Ubud in one word, I would choose enchanted. The houses and shops that line the narrow, hilly roads look more like ancient ruins. At night, local artisan shops close their doors as cozy, bohemian restaurants turn on their tree-lanterns, welcoming the night crowd. Despite Ubud being a popular tourist destination, Balinese traditions and customs are very much alive.

 

Nicole, Dalyan, and I stayed at Puri Saraswati Bungalows, which were connected to Ubud Palace.

Nicole, Dalyan, and I stayed at Puri Saraswati Bungalows, which were connected to Ubud Palace.

 

Even though we were in the heart of Ubud, the bungalows provided a peaceful and unique ambience.

Even though we were in the heart of Ubud, the bungalows provided a peaceful and unique ambience.

 

In the afternoon, we made our way to Monkey Forest. These little guys were quite entertaining, and everyone seemed to be giggling at their antics.

In the afternoon, we made our way to Monkey Forest. These little guys were quite entertaining, and everyone seemed to be giggling at their antics.

 

No monkeys jumped on us, but we did witness one man get bit by a mother monkey due to the fact that he was holding her baby.

No monkeys jumped on us, but we did witness one man get bit by a mother monkey due to the fact that he was holding her baby.

 

Friday, we made our way to Telaga Waja River for some white water rafting. The pre-rafting safety talk was almost comical; the only words I managed to gather from our guide's speech was "boom boom". With a mutual understanding that we had no idea what was said, we all hopped into the raft and made our way down the river. Turns out that "boom boom" means we're about to collide into a rock/boulder. There were many, many "boom boom"-s.

Friday, we made our way to Telaga Waja River for some white water rafting. The pre-rafting safety talk was almost comical; the only words I managed to gather from our guide’s speech was “boom boom”. With a mutual understanding that we had no idea what was said, we all hopped into the raft and made our way down the river. Turns out that “boom boom” means we’re about to collide into a rock/boulder. There were many, many boom booms.

 

The rafting experience had beautiful views of the lush, green forests and rice paddies, and we even got to hang out in a waterfall for a bit.

The rafting experience had beautiful views of the lush, green forests and rice paddies, and we even got to hang out in a waterfall for a bit.

 

Saturday morning we made our way to Mayong Village, a hilltop town located about two hours north of Ubud.

Saturday morning we made our way to Mayong Village, a hilltop town located about two hours north of Ubud.

 

There, we did the Mayong Village Track, led by a man named Artana and his wife, Ria.

There, we did the Mayong Village Track, led by a man named Artana and his wife, Ria.

 

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During the track, we stopped at a local farmer's home for some fresh coconut and fried bananas.

During the track, we stopped at a local farmer’s home for some fresh coconut and fried bananas.

 

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Sunday was spent in Seminyak, a popular beach town in southern Bali. We spend all day on the beach, soaking up the sun and attempting to learn how to surf. Dalyon got the hang of it, while my surfing career was only 1.5 minutes long.

Sunday was spent in Seminyak, a popular beach town in southern Bali. We spend all day on the beach, soaking up the sun and attempting to learn how to surf. Dalyon got the hang of it, while my surfing career was only 1.5 minutes long.

 

The day was wrapped up in shades of orange, purple, and blue as we watched the sun set on the beach.

The day was wrapped up in shades of orange, purple, and blue as we watched the sun set on the beach.

 

Our final hours in Bali were spent watching the sun set at the renowned Tanah Lot Temple.

Our final hours in Bali were spent watching the sun set at the renowned Tanah Lot Temple.


Colleen in Singapore: Coasting Around Cambodia

September 17, 2015

Nicole and I are currently on a bus ride to Phnom Phen for our departing flight back to Singapore. In the past four days, we have been on two planes, one overnight bus, two regular buses, two ferry rides, and several tuk tuks. The title of this post is deceiving.

 

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Friday, we flew into the Siem Reap and took a tuk tuk directly to Angkor Wat to see the temples. Our tuk tuk driver ended up taking us around the temples, which was great because we didn’t have enough time to walk around the whole area (and because we were so hot and sweaty, it looked like we had just gotten out of the shower). However, we did get out for about an hour and a half to walk around Angkor Wat, which is the main temple that most people know of.

 

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The travelers we met later that night gave us a tough time for only spending a few hours at the temples, claiming it was “such an American thing to do”. But for me, a few hours was perfect and definitely enough.

 

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Upon entering the temple grounds, a man came up to us asking if we would like a guided tour. We said sure, wanting to get the most out of the experience by knowing the history behind the temple. I think the only English this man spoke was “bad man,” “king,” and “yes.” He loved to say yes. After every incomprehensible sentence, he would finish with “yes, yes.” I was so deranged from the heat I just smiled, nodded, and continued to snap some pictures while taking in the temple’s wonder with a sense of awe and amazement.

 

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After touring Angkor Wat, Nicole and I headed to our night bus, which took us to the beach town of Sihounkville. Upon arrival in Sihounkville we took a ferry to the island of Koh Rong, where we stayed in a bungalow right on the white sand beach.

 

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Roh Kong is a backpacker’s heaven. A row of cheap yet charming bars, restaurants, dorms and mini villas hug the coast. Locals enjoy games of beach volleyball as their children test the patience of the island dogs. There were dogs everywhere, but they didn’t bother anyone, not even for food.

 

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If you’ve ever heard of someone saying, “I’m going to quit my job and become a bartender on some island in Southeast Asia,” I imagine they would end up in some place like Koh Rong.

 

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