05 September 2016

Studying Abroad

to look back upon

It's been almost a year since I've been back from my student exchange programme at Keio University, Tokyo, Japan.
Right now, I'm already 8 months into working time, yup, time really flies. Looking back, SMU has given me many travelling opportunities, to see the world and to experience life overseas. Spending nearly half a year in Tokyo (aka the Paris of Asia) was a good getaway from life in Singapore. Really, I enjoy being in "my own world", literally.

Just gonna share about my experiences at Keio University and living in Tokyo in general.
To be honest, Tokyo is quite a live-able place, well, that's one of the reasons why I chose Tokyo in the first place. haha, versus Europe where I think it's better to just do a backpacking / holiday trip. It's more for travelling and touring the European states, not so much of staying in my opinion. So yup, living in Tokyo felt a lot like home, in fact, I don't really miss being home that much.

After 5 months, I've grown to be stronger. Mentally and Emotionally.

Besides that, I confidently took care of my needs, for example, learning to pay bills on time (for rent, and some compulsory health insurance, beats me?), settled things with the bank, do the laundry, clean the house, buying daily necessities and sometimes, cook when I feel like it. Okay actually not a big deal, because back in Singapore, I manage my own things in life too. Just that I feel a little more independent doing these things here because I'm alone in a foreign land. Oh, and did I mention, I did all the above without knowing how to speak Japanese! Yes, you can get by living in Japan without learning Japanese! If I survive, you can as well. Trust me on that, people here actually can speak a little amount of English... or at least some hand-sign non-verbal language.

I consider myself to be rather independent, especially in terms of being very comfortable being by myself. But, by now I have officially taken it to a whole new level. I am okay walking into a restaurant to dine alone, as loner as it sounds. Actually, no not really. Cause in Japan, generally it's a common culture to dine by yourself you know! Like when I walk into sushi belt restaurants or even ramen stores, individuals seat by the counter, order their food, finish eating and simply walk out. Well, monkey see monkey do. At first, it was quite awkward, but as time pass, I grew acquainted to it and thus, did the same. It was actually okay! Awkwardness is judged by yourself, honestly, no one else would be judging you please.

So yup, life goes on... happily to be exact!

Missing the hanami season, all the sakuras I could ever want - witnessing it's bloom from the beginning to its withering to the changing of seasons. Glad I managed to participate in an English camp for local children at the countryside area, serve in Hope Church Tokyo, kimono wearing, tea ceremony, local school festivals, and hunting down many many different types of Japanese food!!!

All in all,
I have grown to be more open to the different people around me, especially in terms of cultures. Don't compare, just understand and adapt.

I'll definitely want to be back. I'm sure it would be soon.

Till then, see you Tokyo!

15 January 2016

10 Things I find 'Strange' (but secretly lovin') about Japan!


Jan 16TH, 2016

This post has always been on my phone's note app for the longest time. While I was living in Japan, there were a couple of culturally strange things I face every few days, so after a few times, I decided to jot it down! Please note that, when I say STRANGE, I actually meant it in a good way.

you see...

1. Cashiers
When you buy something at the supermarket or convenient stores, basically anywhere that requires you to pay cash, the cashiers will actually COUNT the money for you in front of you before returning you your change. WOW. Honesty at its best. I love it actually because I'm the kind of customer who just shove the change directly into my wallet without counting. haha I'll be more focus at collecting my items and not hogging the queue behind me.

2. Queues
Japanese are either too patient or too free. I don't know, but somehow they LOVE TO/ARE WILLING to queue for novelty things! For example, opening of fashion stores, sales, new desserts or pancake places like Ice Monster, Eggs & Things, Bills and the newly opened Dominique Ansel. At anytime of the day, whoa, long queue everywhere!!! It's to the extend when I actually pass by my favourite Eggs & Things and see no queue, I would totally have that for brunch even though it wasn't planned. hahaha

3. Eating Alone
Somehow people find eating alone very acceptable. And, because I was roaming the streets of Japan often by myself, I am happy with such a culture. I find that when I'm in Singapore, I'm not used to eating alone haha but overseas... sure why not! Even in the famous Ramen chain store, Ichiran, they have one-seater booths. How considerate!

4. Wet Tissues
I'm an avid fan of supermarkets and convenient stores. One thing I noticed is the cashiers put wet tissue in the plastic bags regardless of what I buy. Be it a small chocolate bar or a bento set. I find that really thoughtful! I thought that it was for us to clean our hands after meals, but my Japanese friend told me she thinks it's for us to use before meals, to ensure cleanliness. hahaha whatever it is for, whether before or after, I still think it's quite awesome! I always appreciated it!

5. Dressing Rooms
I love shopping! DUH! And, there was once I wanted to try on some clothes. The lady at the dressing room handed me a dust-like face mask. I had no idea what it is for until my Japanese friend explained to me! So apparently it's for us to put on so that our make up and hairdo will not be 'destroyed' when trying on clothes! At the same time, it prevents us from dirtying the shop's clothes with makeup smearing etc. Wow, such geniuses!

Another thing is, they encourage you to put ur shoes outside the dressing cubicle. So normally my shoes will face head-in right? When I stepped out, my shoes were facing me! Meaning, the lady at the dressing room took the initiative to turn it around just to make life easier for me... like I could just slip it on without my feet touching the floor and leave the dressing room conveniently!

6. Shopping
Foreign stores like H&M and F21 are way cheaper in Japan compared to Singapore. Forever having sale, big slash sales! In fact, these stores are also cheaper than their own local stores like those located at Shibuya 109. To be honest, the stuffs at Shibuya 109 are very trendy and pretty but prices are steep and there was once, I actually found a same piece triple the price of what I got in Hong Kong!

7. Powder Rooms
It is not common that ladies washroom have an extra area cordon off just to create space for a legit powder room. Shows the Japanese culture of ladies who typically dress up, puts effect into making up and definitely, always looking their best.

8. Dustbins
or rather, the lack of dustbins. Among the whole list, this is probably the only one I don't like! It is very inconvenient to eat on the streets and find a proper dustbin. Having said that, you don't see much litter on the floor. Reason? Japanese find it rude to eat and walk or even eat in public areas. Even if you still do so, they believe that you can store the litter in your bag and go home to throw instead of throwing away in public dustbins. Beats me, I don't know why. All I know is IF Singapore doesn't have dustbins conveniently placed around, everyone will probably start littering. I don't want that to happen so I really thank god for public dustbins, regardless of their size.

9. Wifi
There's lack of wifi. Anywhere. Yes really, you better buy a 3G SIM-data card upon arrival in Japan. They have this 14 day visitor are where you can get at BIC electronics! On a brighter note, it's not that bad... Starbucks and Family Mart has wifi but you have to sign in with troublesome steps. Oh shopping malls may have but you have to get password from the info counter. JR platforms have as well but you have to sign in too. Generally on the streets, it's hard to get wifi with the exception of Ginza shopping street!

10. Visitor-Friendly
How ironic! It is a country that I felt treated its visitors better than citizens or people on long-term visa. Why? Only tourists can buy the JR pass!!! Also, when shopping at malls or even on the long, crowded and very fashionable Harajuku streets, you get tax-free (yes save $$$) if you present your passports. Citizens do not have such privilege so I always make sure to bring my passport along if I know I'm heading down for a shopping spree.

02 January 2016


fresh new start

In previous years, I tend to jump on the bandwagon of writing my new year's resolution. This year, I decided not to. Kinda. I have some plans for myself in the upcoming year, well... as per every year... But, one thing different this year is I want to leave my plans to God. I know that he has the best plans for me. See, in 2015 I didn't have any resolutions, and it turned out well.

 2015 was a pretty good year for me. So much travelling, at least to 10 countries, some of which are my first times. I could compile some representative photos and make a grid out of them, but I was too lazy. haha. Anyways, 2015 was significant because I stayed 6 months in Tokyo, did lots of travelling within Japan, made many new friends, graduated from SMU (ended my 16.5 years of formal education), successfully found a job.

Beyond everything else, I am thankful for the lessons learnt, countless blessings received and being a blessing to others. Anticipating 2016 because I finally am stepping into the corporate world - being able to embark on my full time career after closing this chapter on school. Am grateful for the things and people around me.

I have faith that 2016 will be awesome.
Thank God!

03 December 2015

Turning 23

december 2015


Every year, I like to churn out a birthday post. To celebrate the year that has past and the year ahead with God's abundant blessings. And since my birthday is in December (my favourite month obviously!), the post doubles up as my new year resolutions kinda post too.

2015 has been really... awesome! Because, I spent more than half the year out of Singapore, travelling to more than 10 countries altogether. God brought me to places I always wanted to be, I never thought I could be, and allowed me to experience things I never expected to. I've learned and I've lived. It has been a year of independence and uncertainties but knowing God is always there for me at the end of the day. Just enjoy the thrill while it lasts. Indeed, it's been the year I have been longing for, time flies, now that this chapter is almost over, I guess next year is the start of my 9-6pm work life. A part of me doesn't want to settle down YET, but the other part of me wants to settle... only willing if it's a job I really love and am willing to sacrifice my travelling itch for. It goes the same for any relationship, isn't it? Well, it would be awesome if job and travel can complement each other, just pray!

This year also marks my final year of formal education. After 16.5years, omg finally no more Singapore's rote learning education system! Learning is a life-long thing, I love learning but my way of learning is very disadvantaged in Singapore - I can't memorize things well for nuts! I remember things only by understanding then internalising them. But anyways, I'm glad I survived and I can officially say GRADUATE LO!!!

Sorry for the lack of updates, I just got back from Cambodia. It was really sunny but fun. Can't wait to blog about it! On another note, it's the start of December and after you turn 21, no more big parties but rather I like to officially give myself a birthday week. So it started on Monday and I have a whole week of dining and outing plans with my beloved group of family and friends. So blessed to be alive.

15 November 2015

Tokyo Dreams

So I spent a good 5 months in the land of the rising sun...

march-aug 2015

Tokyo is a place that many dream of travelling to, I am blessed to be able to live here for a couple of months and it has proven to be more than just a dream.

Just 5 months ago, I set foot on this seemingly foreign land of cherry blossoms. It was the annual hanami season where people go chasing sakuras, everything seems so magical and it's amazing how I can now call it my second home, a place that I have grown to live and to love. It was here, that I found another side of me (that I always had but probably never had a chance to surface). It was here, that I found joy in solitude. It was here, that I realised how I am able to be so independent by myself. It was here, that I travelled on many solo trips. It was here, that I met the nicest and most genuine people ever. It was here, that I have become more trusting of others (even strangers) restoring faith in humanity. It was here, I am become so comfortable with despite it all. All I can say is Japan, is a city, where twenty years down the road, I would be looking back and commending myself for being so adventurous, discovering the path less travelled or perhaps even little things like roaming the streets alone. 

Some things, you do it young, you don't want to live with regrets not doing eventually...

Nothing is ever a dream. I quote Disney, "If you can dream it, you can do it".

So with the experience of living abroad, here's a list of little things I want to tell my future self...
or for those going for an adventure to explore

1. Don't say you "Can't" even before trying
Many a times, people end up not doing something not because they don't have time or they don't want to. But rather, it's because they tell themselves "uh but that's not my cup of tea, that's not me, I can't do it... it's too tough/not beyond my means". YEAH, if that's what you think, YOU ARE NEVER EVER GONNA DO IT. Well, you see, the things is... how do you know you can't do it without even trying? I used to be a victim of this, but you know, that's why the word CHALLENGE exist. Challenge yourself, do something you wouldn't think of yourself doing. Okay enough said. I hiked up a mountain (well I wouldn't have thought of it because I'm not an adventurous person by nature) and if that's not challenging enough, I did it alone! Looking back, I'm glad I did it, now I have a motivating story to share. Believe in yourself, tell yourself you can do it. Even if you don't like it, at least you can say "I've done it", or rather "I've tried".

2. I can live by myself
Nope, I don't wanna sound like a loner. haha, many what I meant is, so long I have a bed, showing facilities, wifi, plug and food, I am able to survive well. Okay fine, after typing that, it sounded quite duh. But what I really meant is I proved my hypothesis of being rather independent to be true. Maybe cause I'm a well-trained only child, coming home to an empty house is something that I'm used to. I never had doubts or fears of staying by myself in a foreign land. So yes, after these few months, I confirmed this. Actually since young I've thought to myself that I'm happy to live by myself (okay fine, and hopefully with my future husband & cute little kids) in a studio loft apartment. These few months have made my dream come true, well, kinda...

3. Don't always depend on others when it comes to travelling
If you want to get something done, do it yourself. It depends on how much you really want it. For me, being the determined little girl I am, when I say I want to go to a place, I really get it done. I book my flight, my accommodation, do up a rough itinerary and travel. Easy. I don't want to be the type of person that just do the paper talk, "yeah I wanna visit this place that place..." but never does anything to make it happen. So you see, the problem about depending on others, especially when it comes to travelling in big groups and you only have a short-term stay in a country is that you have to go through the process of group-thinking, accommodate to everyone else's timetables and travelling needs. Sometimes, it's never going to happen, or by the time it happens, flight and hotel prices would have gone way up. So I've always done this - search for a flight, tell others you are booking it and invite others to join you. Then book it. Whether they come or not doesn't matter because I'm okay with doing solo trips.

4. Exchange of Cultures
On exchange and while travelling, you meet all sorts of people. Come out of your comfort zone, don't always stick with people you are familiar with. Some seniors gave me the advice of "Don't always stick with Singaporeans, go hang out with other exchange students". I took that with a pinch of salt, but I guess it's quite true. First of all, there are not many Singaporeans who chose Japan as their exchange destination, so I have a limited pool of Singaporean friends abroad with me. But that's not the point. I've met other international students in school through projects and working together with them always taught me that we have to be sensitive to each individual's culture, and working styles whether you like it or not. You cannot force others to be similar to you That, I guess, is the art of tolerance, not something that can be taught to you like ABCs or 123s, but through interactions and understanding (and the grace of God) of people overtime, you will learn to find beauty in different cultures coming together and eventually always see the good side of others when you meet someone new. Of course, others are learning to accept you too, so give everyone some time.

5. Taking Independence to a new high
For paying bills, rents, taking care of my expenses, food, administrative stuffs, making travelling plans, being comfortable with being yourself, having meals alone, etc. In times like that when you are alone, you face everyday with your own will, strength and independence, because you HAVE to. You cannot be blur, you just cannot afford to. You need to face everything smartly, think before you act or say. Don't make others clean up your mess after you. Like what my secondary school teacher once said "Don't make your carelessness my problem". Now, I truly understand. On this matter, probably nothing much changed, but indeed I proved myself right - that I am able to deal with all these things myself as a grown up young adult. Of course, my strength comes from God. All credits go to him!

 6. You have to stand up for yourself
Being alone in a foreign land, means you have to stand up for yourself. I remember my first day of school when I didn't get the module that I needed to do so that I can map it back to my home university. I was desperate because I had to do the particular module, therefore, I went up to my admin officer to tell her. But Japanese universities being Japanese, are very strict on rules and they will never bend them. She told me that she cannot change the module for me, even the lecturers were not on my side. I felt that there was no one would understood my desperate situation. But, they key is I never gave up! I bravely told them all that rules are rules and adding an extra student wouldn't make a difference in the class, well I mean, the lecturer still does his teachings as per normal right... eventually, after all that mess, the lecturer decided to take me in, and I am grateful to him.

Having said that, believe that there will be angels to help you, but when the world is against you, remember, you only have God. Pray, don't worry, always tell yourself that God will make a way.

7. Backpack travelling doesn't mean living like a "pauper"
For a few solo trips I made, I live out of a backpack. I'm not like a typical girl when it comes to bringing a lot of "crap" in my bag... my philosophy when travelling is to travel light. Be realistic, I'm petite I cannot carry too much things or too heavy things. So yup, I managed to survive out normal-sized bag packs, thank god. Anything that you missed out on bringing, you can always buy. whatever. Yup, backpack travelling is fun and many times, people who are on backpacking trips tend to live out of a tight budget. Budget is important, but it doesn't mean not spending on accommodation and food. Don't end up in super dirty budget hostels with weird strangers. That's just risking and like what my dad would say "penny wise, pound fully'. I'm not saying to splurge but spend smart and wisely. Also, don't save too much on travelling and on food. Like what my mum would say "spend so much money to come all the way here and you want to save on food?!?" haha thinking back on her words, true that, if you want to go on a trip, go on a good one. If you don't have the means to, then wait and save up first till you have the money to experience the full thing. "Want to do it something, do it to the best, if not don't do it" - that's my philosophy in life.

8. Alone Time is Essential
That is so true.
You need some time away from everything else, every one and every thing. I managed to get this when I'm abroad, being in my own "zone". I'm happy and I relish in taking walks to explore the neighbourhood, bringing my laptop to a nice quaint cafe to watch videos or do work over lunch or tea break. Wow, I really cannot emphasise how essential it is to have your alone times. Spend it with God, do something for yourself, brainwash yourself tell yourself everything will be fine.

9. Exchange is not only about travelling
Despite my constant desire to travel, I actually did make a conscious decision to not plan anymore big trips for awhile, yup, I actually do enjoy living like a local instead of a tourist. For the last one or two months in Tokyo, I take joy in staying home... maybe also because of the rain. But it was good while it lasted. Whether it's preparing breakfast food art, cooking meals or simply doing work on my laptop, moments like this can be rather therapeutic actually. It's not everyday that I find time to do this, it is rare, so I take joy in even the simplest of things like cleaning up my room or pouring myself a juice. Oh and besides, I took the initiative to google things I could do to help the community, and of course, it's back to my love of children. Yup, so I found a English camp that I could be useful for, and signed up as a volunteer. It was one of the break and most fruitful weekends I had, spending it with the little children and other like-minded volunteers, of whom are also very international.

10. Language is not a Barrier
k, in Japan, it probably is.
But, the point is, never let language barriers get you down! I can confidently tell you that I survived well in Japan even without knowing Japanese. Yes, I admit knowing the language will make life in Japan easier, but I guess just being here, things like asking for directions and all, it should be fine. People in Tokyo can speak some form of English, don't belittle them, haha and in terms of directions, they are so nice that they actually do walk me all the way to my destination. I am eternally grateful. Also, through interactions with other Japanese people around me, I've managed to pick up some conversational Japanese, but honestly, Japanese language (Nihongo) is without doubt, one of the most complicated languages. To learn in just a mere four to five months stay, it's really quite impossible, unless you have a flair for languages? There are like what, three forms of the language itself - kanji (those with Chinese characters), hiragana and katakana. Goshhh, I don't even know where to start learning from when I had the intention to learn. I would say, to be able to fluently and effectively communicate with someone, 3 to 5 years of intensive Japanese classes are necessary. And once you learnt it, it will be a very useful life-long skill.

11. Singapore is really Home
Being here, I read an article about "things you learn when you have been in Singapore for too long"  -dwayne's fb msg. I love Japan, I am able to stay here for a long period of time. Perhaps, Japan is rather like Singapore? I don't know, but anyways, being Singaporean, Singapore is still home to me. Never take for granted that you are Singaporean.

12. Remember this adventure you set out for
Everything happens for a reason. Everyone you met is not by chance. Learn from all your encounters, even the little ones - they may jollywell turn out to be the most amazing ones or at least, they would def prove to be useful in the many years to come.

13. If all else fails, there's always God!
I am thankful for the church community I have here in Tokyo. Though it was a short few months stay on my exchange, but they were more than welcoming and lovely towards me which made me feel at home every Sunday. I felt so belonged and it just felt like I was worshipping God in Singapore. Remember this, on nights you feel very lonely, God is always there for you. Take out your bible, read his word. Go to sleep. Tomorrow will definitely be a better day.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain