Singaporeans love travelling overseas. We have led the Asia-Pacific region for overseas travel with an impressive propensity index score of 67.9 points, 6.5 points higher than the global average of 61.4 points .
Whether just to see picturesque mountains and rivers that are almost always accompanied by complimentary blue skies,
or long walls that stretch as far as the distant past,
or simply to see the now very cliché Christmas lights ,
we all just want to go somewhere we can experience something different from the hectic lives that we are so used to.
However, most of us, myself especially, simply do not have enough money; I cannot even afford a visit to Gardens by the Bay, let alone finance a half year long exchange programme in another country. Accommodation, the single most deadly strain on one’s wallet, is enough to extinguish all hope of reliving seniors’ enticing, and possibly instagram-ed, Facebook photos of their exchange experience. At the exchange programme briefing, I remember hearing a still voice in my head scoff, “May the odds be ever in your favour”.
However, someone in the auditorium soon said something that shocked everyone and made my heart skip a beat; there may be a solution…
Before I carry on, let me just deal with some preliminary questions that surfaced on Whatsapp, Twitter, and face-to-face conversations with family and friends. They can be answered by the three following statements.
1) Fact: It is isnt always hotter in India than in Singapore.
2) Fact: You may or may not get diarrhoea … but look forward to these!
3) Fact: It is illegal to knock down a cow. A corollary of this fact is that cows can roam the streets.
With those often-asked questions answered, it is apposite at this juncture to underscore the very important fact that an exchange programme is as much a school term as it is a 4-6 month vacation. Studying is to be expected. Admittedly, I think I am justified in not have photos of anything related to studying but here is a link that sums up one of the courses you may be able to take as well:
Try and find our school in there.
But once you are done, do visit the ruins in Hampi, the mountains and backwaters in Kerala, the deserts in Jaisalmer and much more! Ride horses, camels and elephants with friendly local students! Eat all you can and still lose weight with fellow exchange students! Eat butter chicken with butter naan, downing it all with butter milk! Watch Bollywood movies, ride autorickshaws, traverse local markets (with Google Maps IOS 5 for iphones users, trust me please), and visit huge colossal Hindu temples!
Alternatively, volunteer at the nearest women’s or children’s home to help the less fortunate. Hear their struggles and hopes, impart skills to them while learning from them at the same time. One smile from these kids can teach thousands the value of a thankful heart.
But why stop there? Do a mandatory internship in one of the world’s fastest growing economies that is reputed to rival that of existing superpowers in the near future. Hone your Manupatra skills and interact with future leaders of India in the intern room over chai (Indian tea).
All these can be done for less than 4 months worth of internship allowance . Additionally, every year, Temasek Foundation gives out scholarships for exchange students who are going to Asian countries. Do apply for this as it helps significantly. If you are interested, please click: http://www.nus.edu.sg/iro/opps/others/out/tflearn/index.html. Do not miss out all these amazing once in a lifetime experiences just because you feel that it would be too costly. Talk to your nearest senior to find out more.
Mark Twain once mentioned that India is the “one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined” . And in the eternal words of Guowei, a current 4th year, I hope you guys can also “live like kings!”
 Actually, the photo is not really related to Christmas. But that was what my friend remarked when she saw the Mysore Palace.
 I am referring to the commonly given rate by most firms.
Mark Twain, Following the Equator (1897), Ch. XXXVIII; available at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2895/2895-h/2895-h.htm#ch38