expat life

People throwing up graduation hats in sunset

Advantages and disadvantages to doing a PhD abroad (Outside the USA)

Although American universities are some of the best in the world, there are plenty of good ones around the world too. I’ve had the benefit of doing my PhD jointly at 2 top universities on 2 different continents: National University of Singapore (NUS, ranked 24th) in Asia, and Imperial College London (ranked 8th) in Europe. I’ll go over some of the benefits of doing a PhD abroad in Europe or Asia based on my experiences.

I spent most of my first 2 years in Singapore, and the last 2 in London. It’s a long enough time in each place to get past the honeymoon period. You’ll be forced to adjust and learn about the culture in each place. It’s not a vacation, and it’s definitely not a semester abroad kind of experience. You become an “expat” of sorts, and have to figure out a lot on your own.
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What should the next theme be? #morethemeparties

It’s that feeling of things aren’t quite right. It’s not hard to live in Singapore, but it isn’t perfect. You’re not exactly depressed, but you can’t call it happiness either. I’m calling it the Singapore Slump.

Why is this happening to us?

My friends and I have narrowed down some of the reasons to be the price of alcohol and the incessant heat and humidity. It isn’t a city that is very friendly to people without very much money, which I’ll discuss in more detail in an upcoming post. We’re trying to make the most of it by working hard when we need to, and then getting creative with more theme parties. Otherwise, it is easy to fall into a state of routine where your mood is at a constant low.
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Hug deprived in Singapore

Me and my roomie hugging at our '60s party

Me and my roomie hugging at our ’60s party

Hugs are great! Give me hugs!!

More hugs please!

One thing I wish was different about Singapore is that friends hugged each other more often. This is just part of Singapore culture. When I went back to the USA for 3 months earlier this year, I really liked hugging friends again, either when we first saw each other or when we’re parting ways. It isn’t a big deal, but no one does that in Singapore.
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Art display at the Esplanade in Singapore

Dear Charmaine…your email was not spelled correctly

Hi Charmaine,

The email address you entered was not going through, so I hope you see this! This is in response to the questions you sent through the contact me page. I still wanted to answer your questions, so I’m putting it all in this post! Continue Reading

On not freaking out when all your friends are getting engaged or having babies

I’m a few short years away from turning 30, and it seems I’ve entered the time span where all my Facebook feed seems to be dominated by is posts about engagements, weddings and babies. It has been like this for probably a year or more, but wasn’t so apparent until a few months ago when at least 5 or 6 people got engaged within about a 2 week period.

With this, I’ve come to realize that I’m not that close to contributing to Facebook feeds of my friends in this fashion, and I’m ok with that. I’m better than ok; I’m pretty good! My life is not devoid of happy events and especially not jewelry which I don’t care to wear. I’m in no way less “complete” and don’t feel like I’m “behind” in any way. Life events aren’t necessarily following a particular sequence (except for getting older and other time related phenomena). Continue Reading

The communal cats of Singapore

Many apartment complexes in Singapore have communal cats that are fed by people who live in the various buildings. You’ll often find residents sitting at tables with benches in the open air communal areas on the ground level, feeding the cats and playing with them. These are the communal cats of Singapore.

How this cat hides from sun

It gets warm and sunny in Singapore, and the communal cats have a few favorite spots around the apartment complexes. On my morning commute which takes me through the parking lot to the bus stops on the other side of the road, I usually see this cat curled up in the shade of some motorebikes.
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Leaving Sakaerat today…and some thoughts on meeting Americans abroad

Chewy in Sakaerat

I’m leaving Sakaerat today! I’m a bit sad to go, definitely because the people here have been great and the nature and wildlife have been amazing. I wish I could come back, and I’m glad that I came. The colleague I came to visit has some really impressive research going on here, and I’m glad that I got to go out and search for her study species (Chiromantis hansenae) with her field team.
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Moving to Singapore from USA: general tips and best/worst

Moving to Singapore from USA was a big deal for me, since the climate is so tropical and it is really far from home! Here are some general tips and my list of best/worst decisions I made when making the move. Hopefully they’ll be helpful for your move if you are planning one! You can find more resources on this page. (Updated 09 November 2016)

If you are instead interested in moving to the USA, check out my other post on that topic. You’ll also find more general tips on my resources page for moving to Singapore. Continue Reading