By Cassidy Shi, Summer Times Staff Writer
The Phillips Exeter Academy summer program, with a history of more than 100 years, is one of the finest. Every year, it hosts over 780 students from 40 different states and 45 foreign countries around the world. I came from one of these 45 countries: a tiny city-state in South-East Asia off the Malacca Strait. Singapore. I am not personally from Singapore, but I do have second-hand knowledge from the few years I’ve spent within this tiny island nation. Here’s my experience.
Many of you might have heard of the country from the news, or even the recent movie that sparked global attention, “Crazy Rich Asians.” But what is the true life of people living in Singapore? To begin with, the Republic of Singapore is a city-state located at the edge of mainland Asia. It has a population of 5.4 million people sitting on an area of only 722.5 km^2 /279 mi^2. Its population density is ranked second in the world, trailing only slightly behind Monaco. Singapore is also a very diverse nation with four national languages: English, Malay, Chinese, and Tamil. Around 40% of the population are foreign nationals, including those with permanent residence. Singapore was once a British Colony, and acted as a trading post of the British East India Company and later the British Raj. Singapore later gained independence from the British Empire during 1963 by joining Malaysia, but later separated two years later due to ideological differences and became a sovereign state in 1965.
Singapore managed to thrive through its early years. The first Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee even described it as “From Third World to First.” The country is located in the key centre of the Malacca Strait, where 40% of the maritime trade passes through. The port of Singapore is one of the largest in the world; this port contributes to a large percentage of Singapore’s GDP. The country welcomes foreign trade and investment, which gives incentives to multinationals to invest in a large number of assets. Singapore is also a global hub for education, finance, entertainment, healthcare, and innovation. The country is considered to have the best education system in the world—schools and students are heavily supported by endorsed by the government.
Life in Singapore is incredible! The Singaporean government heavily encourages the use of public transportation in an attempt to combat pollution. The city contains an advanced set-up of Metro Trains (MRT) and buses—I’ve seen myself a drastic decrease in usage of cars when I moved here four years ago from Canada. It is a perfect substitute to cars. If you move to Singapore, you will realize that everyone here is also very disciplined, minding their own business. The country has many strict laws in place, and the government takes cleanliness very seriously. Singapore even has a law that banned the use of chewing gum. Tourists are allowed to bring two packs per person, but any more than that can lead to the suspicion of “gum smuggling” leading to absurd fines. If one is caught littering, fines can go as high as $500. There are even laws against “unflushed” toilets which can lead to a $150 fine. The purpose is to maintain the country’s reputation of being impeccably clean. The country is so clean that despite Singapore’s tropical weather, mosquitos are rarely found.
The country may be small, but tourists attractions are everywhere to be found. Entertainment, nature, Singapore has it all! For example: the Marina Bay Sand, one of the largest casino hotels in the world, with a long stretch of shopping malls, parks, museums and restaurants at the bottom. The building is known for its design, with a unique shaped rooftop hosting an infinity pool and restaurants. The hotel has a panoramic view of the ocean and the downtown financial centre of Singapore, and it is freely accessible for all. Singapore loves to invest heavily on tourism activities—the sector itself accounts for more than 8% of the nations GDP.
One of the most obvious attractions is the airport itself, Changi International Airport. The airport is considered the best in the world. Recently, the airport underwent a massive upgrade in improving the welcome environment by adding malls and urban parks with its iconic waterfall. The airport gives an impression of Singapore, the nation’s technological advancement over the years, and its adaptivity to all cultures and religions.
Surprisingly, Singapore has an extensive amount of nature preserves, with its unique ecosystem. The famous Botanic Garden, home to a variety of faunas and floras, is a 200 acres tropical garden located in the center of Singapore. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the garden hosts 4.5 million annual visitors and is one of the most protected and well-maintained gardens in the world. The garden fits for all ages, and hosts frequent music and art shows that are free of charge
I recommend that you take a trip yourself to uncover this incredible city-state, with its unique environment and community that will be a spectacular present waiting for you to unfold.
Singapore welcomes you!