story Ezekiel Berdral
It’s been almost a year at Yale-NUS College and I can honestly say that moving here was one of the best decisions I ever made. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but after the school flew me to Singapore for free and students showed me around Holland Village, Sentosa Cove and Marina Bay Sands, I knew I had found one of the best places on earth.
Living in such a super exotic country in Southeast Asia, you’d be surprised that almost everyone knows English. Sometimes the old people try to speak Chinese to me, but I just have to be like, “Um, what? I’m not Chinese,” and they’ll switch over. It’s a great compromise—while I’m able to eat exotic foods like Indian curry, Thai curry, and Japanese curry every day, I don’t have to struggle through communicating with locals 24/7.
Living in University Town (UTown) at Yale-NUS is also wonderful. It’s like a little piece from an American college campus has been inserted into a super quaint area of West Singapore. Sometimes when I get homesick, I avoid leaving campus and just go to the food court in the Stephen Riady Centre to hang out with the ang moh exchange students. If you go to the infinity pool on the floor above, you’ll only see pink-faced ang mohs trying to get a tan. It’s almost like being in America again! But when I want to venture out of my comfort zone, I take a shuttle bus to the Kent Ridge Campus of the National University of Singapore.
Missing out on an American school’s social scene was a really big concern of mine when I made the move here but it’s been so worth it. Because my classes are easy, I’m able to club maybe one or two times a week. Clubs almost never charge cover and are always giving out free drinks so you don’t have to deal with trying to pitch for a keg with stingy college mates. Even better is the drinking age—it’s eighteen! Not only do I not have to pay for drinks in Singapore, I don’t have to worry about getting charged with underage drinking!
Now, I know that all sounds like fun and games, but I do participate in an important part of the school’s extracurricular activities. In high school I used to work for a Equal Rights organization, but because I’m an international student I can’t protest in Singapore, lest I get deported. While this was initially an issue for me, I realized that the restrictions on speech and protesting lifted the burden off my shoulders to keep in touch with world news and issues. I am now able to dedicate my time to my Underwater Basketweaving club.
Having grown up in a big city in the United States, my parents were always wary about letting me out into the world all alone. When they learned about Singapore’s crime (or lack thereof) statistics, they immediately said I could come. Once, while I was taking the MRT trains to go to Orchard, my now go-to hangout spot, someone actually bothered to advise me to zip up my purse so I won’t get robbed! I am able to walk around freely in any neighborhood at any time of the day. I sometimes feel as if I don’t even need to exercise common sense while living here because people have such strong moral compasses and are so thoughtful. Friends back home ask, “don’t you live in that Chinese dictatorship country-city thing?” but what they don’t understand is that I am truly free in this Little Red Dot.
Freedom is the ability to walk around safely at any time of day, freedom is the ability to not worry about avoiding bad neighborhoods, drugs, and vicious gunmen who run the streets of other countries. Freedom is being free from having to think. Life is about having fun and being happy, and I’m so grateful I can do both while being liberated from the worries of everyday life. I can have my little piece of America in UTown, but still get pieces of China and India in Chinatown and Little India, all wrapped up in this beautiful country called Singapore.
This article was part of our April 1st, 2015, satire issue. Individuals, statements and opinions in this issue are purely fictional and not representative of any real-world entities.