Senior separation anxiety: leaving the Lion City

While this past semester has been a slightly chaotic one for all high school students, it has been particularly eventful for the senior students. With college acceptances, the battle against Senioritis and the countdown to spring break, seniors have felt the full range of emotions that come with the last year of high school – including apprehension towards their fast-approaching graduation.

While this day will be a pivotal moment for all seniors, some may view this transition to college as a move just like any other in their lives. Others, however, may not find it so simple. For those who have spent their entire lives in Singapore, letting go of the city may be one of the hardest things they will have to do.

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The Orchard MRT Station is bustling every day with citizens, residents, and tourists alike. Creative Commons License

These students see Singapore as home and know all the benefits that come with it: a remarkably clean environment, an extensive public transport system, and an exceptionally safe environment.

“Living in Singapore made my life so much easier than it could have been – the convenience, the safety, the proximity of everything,” said senior HD Cha, who has lived in Singapore for 13 years.

Senior Jeane Khang, also a 13-year resident of Singapore, said that she couldn’t imagine being as comfortable anywhere else as she is in Singapore. To her, the small city-state is home.

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Senior Jeane Khang at Botanical Gardens. Photo by Janna Agustin

“Singapore pretty much defined all aspects of my childhood – from the year-round summer weather to the busy city environment to the friends I made,” she said.

More than that, Jeane feels as if she was exposed to much more of the world than she could have expected living on such a small island. A cultural melting pot, Singapore is inherently diverse – a trait Jeane benefitted from growing up. Immersing herself in multinational communities, both in and out of school, taught her about tolerance and the world around her.

At the same time, both HD and Jeane acknowledged that Singapore also has its fair share of flaws – the largest being its sheltered, bubble-like nature.

For any student growing up in Singapore, the ease of transportation, work life, education, living, and safety overall may depict an unrealistic image of life in other countries. With an effortless expat life handed to students, it’s easy to be ignorant of matters that may be seen as concerns in most other counties. This could be a potential disadvantage for students heading to college outside of Singapore.

Alum Fiona Galey experienced this disadvantage when she returned to the U.S. last year. She realized that among the many things she took for granted when living in Singapore, one of the biggest was its public transport.

Fellow alum Justin Peterson agreed, stating that he “didn’t realize what an amazing place it was to grow up until [he] left.” For him, all of Singapore was taken for granted –  “the drinking age, malls, McDonald’s (there’s no McSpicy here), the nightlife, close proximity to amazing vacation spots (Bali), safety, houses/apartments, the American Club, bubble tea, 24/7 tanning weather, having a yaya, McDelivery (THERE’S NO MCDELIVERY HERE), and taxis.”

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Shophouses on Keong Saik Street in Chinatown. Creative Commons License

Generally, it is rare that third-culture kids, like those at SAS, find a place they can confidently call their home. But I’m not surprised that so many of us have found a home in Singapore. Whether it has been for two years or 12, each student at SAS has experienced a life in a truly unique city, and for that, we are more than privileged.

As someone who has grown up in Singapore, I know that leaving this country will be one of the hardest things I will have to do. I won’t just be leaving the famous chilli crab, Marina Bay Sands, and Orchard Road; I’ll also be leaving my daily rides on bus 912. I’ll be leaving the oddly indecisive weather, the hospitality of the taxi-driving uncles, the catchy “Singlish” slang, the nooks and crannies of quiet streets, and the countless memories I have made.

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Singapore’s famous Chinatown: one of the many areas students frequently visit (Creative Commons License).

The 11 years of experiences I had in Singapore, both good and bad, are ones that I will keep with me in my final few months at SAS, past graduation, and for the rest of my life. As ready as I am to experience more of the world, I may not be as ready to let go of the life I have now. All I know is that years from now, Singapore will still remain a home for me to return to. As for now, it’s time for us to cherish our final few months, knowing that these experiences will never be replicated.

SAS alumni understand firsthand this pain of leaving a place they call home. Here are a few pieces of advice for seniors from former students:

Alumni Moriah Stuart (Photo courtesy of Moriah).

Moriah Stuart: My only piece of advice would be this: spend time reflecting on your time in Singapore. Many of you have moved before and might be looking at college as just another move. For the lucky few, that will be true. However, this transition is not as easy as it looks. You’ll change in ways you never thought you would. Spend some time with yourself before you leave Singapore and really take in the city. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world.

Alumni Justin Peterson (Photo courtesy of Justin).

Justin Peterson: You’re right, college is going to be crazy fun, but don’t get so ready to leave that you forget about the incredible country you are in right now. You won’t realize how special it is, nor how amazing the people with are until they are gone.

Alumni Fiona Galey (Photo courtesy of Fiona).

Fiona Galey: Realize that you’re in one of the most unique, genuinely interesting places in the world—get out and explore. Don’t wait until you’re abroad and have left to realize what an insanely cool place Singapore is; it’s really one of a kind. Whenever you have the chance, go to a restaurant or street you haven’t been to, take it all in before you have no time left. 


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