Exploring Singapore Expat Living With – Emily Arler

About 3 days before school started, I was blessed enough to be able to take photos of a new student to SAS and to Singapore, Emily Arler. About a week later, I talked with a veteran of Singapore and of SAS, who was born and raised in Singapore and lived here their whole life, to see their own personal perspectives on Singapore and SAS. Talking with both of these people not only brought on conversations about the reality of Singapore and SAS but also how time can change the meaning of a place.

While Emily posed around Singapore, I conducted a little interview with her, asking her questions about her family connections, friends, academic success, and overall transition into SAS and Singapore. This is her story through words and photos. 

“In Sweden, I was really close with my brother because my Dad and Mom were always traveling, but now, in Singapore, my brother is gone to college.

Emily’s family dynamic was created from the original connection between her and her brother, Jacob, in Sweden. Now with her new move to Singapore, Emily is with her mother in a 2 bedroom apartment.  “In Sweden, I was really close with my brother because my Dad and Mom were always traveling, but now in Singapore, my brother is gone to college.” Even though Emily now misses her brother, house hunting has brought her some joy. “I never used to have a say in finding a house and now that I do have that say…it is interesting.” The new family dynamic has been a change for Emily, but it is slowly coming together and coming to be something that she will be able to enjoy.

 Not only has Emily’s family dynamic changed, her social dynamic involving her friends has drastically changed. “Everyday after school, I would go out to dinner with my friends. Every weekend we would go to parties. They were like my family.”

She describes the social dynamic of making friends as “very hard” in SAS and has even been excluded or “blacklisted” from parties. “I used to be very outgoing but now I stay in during the weekends. Finding friends has been a struggle, but being able to understand the curriculum has been harder. I am a student that writes long essays and am able to write thousands of words in little time. But I have never done an FAQ and SAQ or any multiple choice.”

Working towards success in a new school system, Emily has had to deal with stress and has been struggling to understand the way SAS education works. 

“When we looked at the first house it really hit that this is real, that I really was living in Singapore”.

With the help of her three best friends, myself, Fuzzy, and Sasha, Emily has been able to cope with the difficulty of Singapore. Her first experience in discovering Singapore was a photo shoot with myself and traveling around doing something she loves—posing for pictures. Emily and I went to an underground skate park Scape at 313 at Somerset, and walked around Orchard, talking and looking around this big brand new city.

The first picture show here is Emily walking on Orchard. We were talking about the fashion in Singapore and how it’s different from the US. I said her pants looked like candy canes and she cracked a smile.


Similar to the first picture, the second picture is when Emily and I were walking next to Ion Orchard, talking about how Singapore has some of the biggest malls in the world. I asked her to pose and sit on the steps even though she fought with me about it.   DSC_0039.jpg

“I never thought a rundown skate park could look so pretty.”

The third picture displays the underground Skate Park called Scape. “I never thought a rundown skate park could look so pretty.”, Emily said in disbelief as she posed stunningly in the hot weather. 


The final picture is on our way back to her temporary apartment when she mentioned to me that she felt more at home after traveling around and snapping pictures with me. DSC_0053.jpg

Some students who have chosen to be anonymous, describe SAS in the same way as Emily does. They think of it as a clique system and a lot of them feel enormous amounts of stress put on their family, social, and academic life.

And while Emily has some unpopular opinions about Singapore and SAS, an anonymous student who has been at SAS and in Singapore for 12 years describes Singapore as their home. “I have always thought of Singapore as my only home. I have been all over the world but I always find myself coming back to this place.”

In conclusion, if you know someone or if you yourself feel overwhelmed and scared of a new family, friends, and academic life, come to meet and talk with me and you will see that taking pictures around Singapore helps you feel right at home, just as Emily did.

Author: Will Staley

Will Staley is currently a senior and this is his second year working for the Eye. This is also his second year living in Singapore, having moved from St. Louis, Missouri USA. Will enjoys photography and has a photography website (willstaleyphotography.com). He hopes to pursue photography and journalism for his college and career, while being involved in his passion of politics and humanitarian work. He can be contacted at staley774011@sas.edu.sg.

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