By Cian Weldon (Biomedical engineer)
Singapore is known as The Garden City, and not for no reason. With an area less than a third of my home county of Meath, and with a population of nearly six million, one million more than Ireland, crowded was the least I expected of this South East Asian city-state. I was wrong. As a country boy in Dublin, I often found myself missing some greenery, but not here in Singapore. Every street is lined with trees, and parks are abundant throughout the city. Even the highly developed business district, where skyscrapers rarely drop below fifty stories, is lush with greenery. Traffic congestion and its resulting fumes aren’t an issue here either as heavy taxation leads the price of a VW Golf to be a whopping S$120,000 (€75,000)! Such is the result of an incumbent, but democratically elected, interventionalist government party.
Singaporeans are a highly pragmatic people. When they first achieved independence from the British in 1963, they did not tear down statues of their colonial oppressors. Instead, they left the statues standing in the hope that the British would not see Singapore as a hostile nation and would continue to trade through them. There is also an intrinsic competitive drive within Singaporeans. For example, the entire education system is based off a bell curve. Exams are designed to be significantly easier than at home, the class average is typically over 90%. However, rather than being graded against the exam, you are graded solely on a bell curve against your peers. The idea being that only exceptional students should receive good grades, and not everyone can be exceptional. This is both a result and cause of the competitive nature of Singaporeans as a people.
Above: The SkyBridge on the volcanic island of Langkawi, Malaysia.
One of the great advantages of Singapore is the ease with which travel can be made. I have spent the first half of my semester exploring neighbouring Malaysia, from scuba diving the idyllic tropical islands of Langkawi and Tioman, to discovering the culture in the hip, up-and-coming cities of Malacca, and George Town, to sample the nightlife in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Future trips include a GAA tournament Bangkok, a possible trek in Sumatra, the last place where tigers, elephants, and rhinos exist together, and a pre-Christmas expedition including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. All in all, life could be worse out here.
Above: The tropical paradise of Tioman Island
Above: The skyline in Singapore’s Marina Bay
Below: Kuala Lumpur’s twin towers