Global Research & Internship Program (GRIP): Research at the National University of Singapore
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My experience abroad was unique because I was perfectly in between living as a student and as an adult. Conducting research meant going into the lab every morning at a specified time and leaving when the work was done. My relaxed schedule allowed me to develop my planning skills and a sense of adventure, so I wouldn't waste the gift of time that I was given. Typically, students abroad have a more rigid schedule that wouldn't allow the copious amount of exploring I had the opportunity of partaking in. Therefore, I've become an expert in finding the best places to go to (touristy and hidden gems), managing your time well to perfectly balance fun and relaxation, and accepting that solo outings are fun and necessary.
My Experience Abroad:
In the summer of 2019, I had the opportunity to conduct research in the materials science engineering department at the National University of Singapore. Currently, at Penn I am a chemical and biomolecular engineering major, so the research I participated in was similar but not exactly in my field of study. Despite that, I frequently drew on the knowledge I gained at Penn to help me understand the background of my project. For example, I learned many concepts about the structure of materials based on their chemical compositions in Chem 101. The information I studied directly carried over to my research and helped me write an in-depth characterization of the material that I synthesized in the lab. Through my interactions with chemical engineering friends I met abroad, I also had the opportunity to learn more about the type of research I could participate in within my major back at Penn.
Being in Singapore allowed me to travel to other countries in Southeast Asia. I've always wanted to go to Bangkok, Thailand to try the amazing Thai food that I fell in love with in the United States. My dream became a reality, and I pulled off a packed weekend trip to Bangkok that was filled with food and sightseeing. I had the chance to eat red curry, pineapple fried rice in a pineapple, and countless sticks of satay. I explored night markets, the biggest weekend market, temples, and palaces. With a backpack full of elephant souvenirs, I came back to Singapore wanting to explore the rest of Thailand in the future.
In addition to Bangkok, I traveled to Penang, Malaysia for a weekend as well. I've never had plans to see Malaysia, but Penang truly was a fantastic experience. Known for their delicious food that I saw in my favorite food vlog, I had second, third, and fourth dinner in order to try to eat everything I could. I went to the Kek Lok Si Temple, which had the most stunning views of the city. I climbed up 500 steps to reach the Waterfall Temple that was prominently featured in an old Bollywood movie. I ran around on gravel roads looking at the street art displayed on the walls. I left Penang content and truly satisfied.
The friends I met in Singapore were one of the highlights of the trip. Through random encounters and coincidental meetings, I've made friends for life. They journeyed with me across the country and into others. We would spontaneously decide to jump on the subway and head to a hawker stall to eat our hearts out and then lay down on a couch in Ikea. We've spent hours walking through and taking scenic pictures of the botanic gardens under the blaring sun. We talked about our lives and backgrounds, and I appreciate the relationships I've made through this experience.
A general highlight was the spontaneity and surprise that followed me throughout my time abroad. With vague plans in mind, my friends and I would end up biking on muddy roads through beautiful lush greenery. A monkey would suddenly jump on my bike as I screamed my way down a hill. We've found beautiful empty beaches with the bluest water and the Singapore skyline in the background. We stumbled across a tall building that had a rooftop garden where you could see the entirety of the country. We discovered delicious food everywhere we went and topped off many meals with the best boba the world could offer.