Finally Settled In

Time certainly has a way of slipping through your fingers when you travel.

I’m finally, finally sitting down to write, after several weeks spent hopping between four very different countries (with more than 50 hours of that time spent on airplanes, all told). I intended to begin blogging well before I arrived at my final destination here in Singapore, but with all that has transpired since I left home on 26 December I’m quite relieved I let go of the sense of obligation I felt to do so; as is the case with excessive fixation on capturing a beautiful location in a photograph, I think that any serious attempt to blog concurrently with such condensed adventures would have compromised the quality of both my writing and my experience of the places I visited. Instead, I took notes and voice memos in my few moments of rest, and will over the next few months unpack the stories I have gathered, and post them here.  I will be sharing many of these thoughts on the University of Washington travel blog as well, but knowing my penchant for excessive digression I think it best to also have a little corner of the interwebs that is all my own.

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All this space is belong to me! All of it!

I’ve finally conceded to the fact that there’s no way my posts are going to be chronologically accurate. I mean, seriously—it’s been less than a month, and I already cannot keep track of the thousands of things I want to say.  Every day there is something new and exciting going on and every day, even as seek pause to document my experiences, I am invariably swept back up into the cataracts of activity that have had me going-going-going since I first left home the day after Christmas. Also, there’s no way that torrent’s stopping any time soon; five days after arriving at NUS, I booked my flights for my 11-day recess that’s coming up at the end of February. I’m having to actively remind myself, “Zoë, you’re at school. And not just any school, one of the best universities in the world. There’s work to do”.  And there is work to do. Actually quite a bit of it, I’m imagining.

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I snapped this yesterday on the MRT. I don’t think I need say anything else.

Which brings me this point: if you are studying abroad, be very cautious if you decide, like I did, to travel beforehand.

Don’t get me wrong, were I to do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing–well, except I will never, never again fly on Xiamen or China Eastern airlines, but that’s another story). It was chaotic and thrilling and nerve-wracking in the best sort of way, and for the two weeks it took me to get to school I don’t think my resting heart rate ever got too far below 100 BPM. Even as I write this, I am fully aware that I’m still being driven by that same epinephrine rush, and that one of these days I may well crash and burn a little bit when the lack of sleep and total change of lifestyle catches up with me. Well, I’ll deal with that when it comes to pass.

Still, I know that sort of whirlwind certainly doesn’t befit everyone. I’ve had several other exchangers tell me already I’m so wild for taking off by myself to Korea and Cambodia and accidentally briefly Xiamen before getting here the day before term commenced, and in some ways I do sort of agree with them a bit. There are definitely pros to adventuring before hand, though, like:

  • You come in with fresh, fun stories that have you totally amped for the rest of the semester.
  • When school starts, you’re the only exchanger who’s not jet-lagged. I cannot emphasize enough how relieving that is.
  • You’re too busy and excited to feel homesick or question your decision-making skills.
  • It’s freer than putzing around during mid-term recess, because nothing has started yet and you [ideally] don’t yet feel the weight of due-dates smothering your soul.
  • You can get an idea of places you might like to return to after study abroad and before returning home.
  • It’s astoundingly fun.

And then there are the more challenging things, which of course are far more easy to rattle off:

  • You’re juggling preparations for more than one destination, so it’s easy to make silly little mistakes like not bringing the required documents to immigration, or under-booking your hotel stay. Of course, *ahem*, I didn’t do those things.
  • You may have to pack for multiple climates, which takes a lot of space, and if you’re also planning on shopping you may end up hauling three jam-packed suitcases to your final destination.
  • You will likely not sleep, nor feel truly clean, for the majority of that period, which is not necessarily the best way to ensure confidence upon arrival.
  • The sheer number of stimuli is enough to totally numb your brain.
  • You’ve changed time zones so many times, the temporal world has entirely ceased to exist.
  • It’s really, really, REALLY hard to switch from yoloswag/carpe diem/treat yo-self mode into buckle-down-and-work mode.

Honestly, by the time I deplaned at Changi I was so bloody exhausted that the thought of dealing with moving into a dorm, late student registration, class registration, a new transit system, a new campus, new people, new culture, new language, new weather, immigration authorities, shopping for forgotten essentials, setting up doctor’s appointments, etcetera, etcerta, was enough to just about bring tears to my eyes. Never mind actually starting classes. Health concerns are an issue I try my best to blatantly ignore, but when I sat down on my new, sheet-less bed and took off my shoes, my left foot was terribly swollen and bruised and blistered (was that a broken toe??), and the sock I was wearing was sticky with blood. TMI? Totes.

I’ll be a bit more cautious about the physical side of things as I move forward, but even as I labour to pace myself a bit my mind is running wild with thoughts of the things I want to say and see and do. For now, though, it’s after 2300 on Sunday and time for me to say goodnight. Stay posted, if thou wilt, for future commentaries on Chinese immigration and Xiamen, Seoul, Siem Reap, NUS, and my incredibly odd introduction to the Traditional Chinese Medicine community of Singapore.

There’s plenty more to come.

Follow my personal blog here.

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