GRIP, Internships Abroad A Summer of Culture, Connections, and Growth
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September 18, 2023
Christine Kang, Huntsman '26
GRIP: KK Fund
Singapore, often described as a small island that can be traversed from one end to the other in just one hour, is a place that defies its size with an overflow of rich culture, vibrant colors, and an unmistakable raw energy. My adventure in this dynamic city-state was nothing short of transformative. From the moment I set foot on the island, I was swept away by a multitude of experiences that continue to resonate with me.
A Cozy Abode on Orchard Road
I lived with five other individuals in a co-living apartment– an eclectic group consisting of one other GRIP student, a British English teacher, a software engineer from Bangalore, a consultant from Tokyo, and an exchange student from Canada. Our motley crew found its home on the bustling Orchard Road, a lively shopping district near iconic attractions such as Marina Bay Sands and the Merlion Statue. The vibrancy of Orchard Road became an integral part of our daily lives, serving as a backdrop to countless memorable moments.
Building Bonds and Exploring Together
Despite not sharing a residence, I had the opportunity to go out for food and explore Singapore with fellow Penn students at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and in the Business Development cohort. One unforgettable highlight was visiting the NUS Engineering cohort at their campus dorms, exploring a new college campus and eating at their dining hall. I was very grateful that I could explore a completely new country along with friends from home.
The Heartwarming Hospitality of Singaporeans
One of the most memorable aspects of my Singaporean adventure was the genuine warmth of the native Singaporeans I met. Whether through work, cultural organizations, or even interactions with incoming Penn freshmen, I discovered that Singaporeans possess a unique hospitality culture. Their kindness and friendliness, extending from customer service encounters to conversations with Grab drivers and newfound friends, made me feel not just welcomed but truly embraced by the people and culture.
Food Adventures and Lasting Connections
Exploring Singapore's bustling night markets and indulging in local delights like satay, nasi lemak, and mangosteen juice for the first time was a culinary journey that I still long for even months later. These experiences gave me a profound connection to the region, enabling me to relate on a deeper level with Singaporeans and people from Southeast Asia. Living in Singapore for three months and fully immersing myself in the local way of life provided me with insights that allowed me to connect on a deeper level and bridge cultural gaps in ways I had never imagined.
People: The Heart of the Journey
While the food, sights, and experiences were undoubtedly phenomenal and eye-opening, my most cherished memories revolve around the people I encountered. The bonds formed with fellow GRIP students, nurtured through our shared experiences in a foreign land, the friendships with Singaporeans forged from poking fun about each other’s accents, and the personal growth stemming from navigating life abroad and learning from my mistakes—the connections are what made my experience in Singapore so special.
In essence, my summer in Singapore was not just a season of travel and tourism; it was a profound journey of self-discovery, cultural connection, and personal growth. It reinforced my belief in the transformative power of travel and the enduring connections that can emerge when we step out of our comfort zones. My time in Singapore was a testament to the idea that, in the end, it's the people we meet and the bonds we form that leave the most lasting impressions and shape us into better versions of ourselves.
The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce.