Traveling to Singapore

Guest Post By: Sophomore studying Accounting, Hallie Chen. During UW’s Winter & Spring Quarters 2022, Hallie studied abroad on the Foster Exchange with the National University of Singapore.

Hello! I’m Hallie, one of three UW exchangers at the National University of Singapore this Winter and Spring quarter. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned while studying abroad has been adapting to unforeseen circumstances. While I tried and have continued trying to plan out every moment, studying abroad during a pandemic means that very few things actually go according to plan.

(from left to right) Kevin, me, and Lynn exploring Singapore’s Chinatown.

Lucky for me, I’ve become good friends with the other two UW exchangers in Singapore: Lynn and Kevin. Together, we’ve been able to figure some crazy situations. These experiences are always incredibly rewarding, and below is the story of our first one: traveling to Singapore.

December 1 to December 31, 2021

  • Most of the weeks leading up to our departure are spent researching. Studying abroad requires careful planning, and COVID restrictions make everything a bit more complicated. The three of us work together to schedule pre-departure COVID tests, book special quarantine-free flights, and fill out many, many forms. It doesn’t help when a massive snowstorm hits Seattle, and everything from flights to COVID tests get canceled.
  • Eventually, together, we figure everything out, and we’re ready to go. Of course, that’s when the real stress begins.

January 1st, 2022

12:00 am

  • It’s the day of our departure for Singapore. In a couple hours, Kevin and I will fly down to Los Angeles, where Lynn is already staying. Then, tonight, we’ll all take our flight to Singapore together.
  • As the clock strikes midnight, the three of us text Happy New Year greetings and tell each other to not stay up too late. I take the advice to heart and jump into bed, which turns out to be a big mistake.

12:18 am

  • Alaska Airlines texts Kevin and I:  “We’re sorry—your flight to LAX is canceled due to inclement weather in the Pacific Northwest.” By then, of course, I’m already sound asleep.

12:18 to 6:00 am

  • Over the course of the next six hours, I continue sleeping like the dead while Lynn and Kevin call me about ten times each. Kevin books another flight, hops on the plane, and only then do I wake up.
  • It takes me a minute to understand the situation. Our flight to Singapore leaves at 10 pm tonight from LA. If I miss it, I might not be able to make it to Singapore at all because of COVID restrictions. I have sixteen hours to get to Southern California, and I’m still freaking out in my pajamas in Washington.
  • The worst thing is that there’s no more planes from Seattle to LA. Everything’s either been canceled because of the weather or is already sold out. The only possible route left is if I drive to Portland and then catch a plane from there. So I book a flight, grab my stuff, and start zooming down I-5.

6:00 am to 12:00 pm

  • Over the next couple hours, we’re spread out almost evenly along the West Coast. I make it to Portland and run to catch my flight to LA. Kevin arrives in San Francisco and transfers to his own LA flight. Already in LA, lucky Lynn wakes up and goes sightseeing.

12:00 to 5:00 pm

  • Eventually, Kevin makes it to Los Angeles, where he’s promptly told to exit the airport and walk a mile outside to the international terminal. I arrive a couple hours later and do the same thing. After all we’ve been through today, you can probably guess how much we enjoy this impromptu 400-meter event.
  • Inside the very far-away international terminal, Kevin and I Google it to find out that LAX is ranked as the worst airport in the world, while Singapore’s Changi airport is the best. Well, at least we’ll have something to look forward to.

5:00 to 10:00 pm

  • For the first time today, I get to relax. I’m actually forced to relax. Kevin and I are so early for our flight to Singapore that we can’t even check-in. The irony.
  • I use the time to think of some fun facts:
    • By this point, I’ve only been awake for 12 hours, and this is the third state I’ve been in.
    • By this point, Kevin’s been awake for more than 36 hours, and this will be his third flight.
    • By this point, Lynn’s been awake for around five hours, and she’s still having a great time exploring LA. We are very jealous.

10:00 pm

  • 15 minutes before the boarding door closes, Lynn arrives at our gate. We’ve all finally made it. This is actually only the second time we’ve met in person, but we’ve been through so much that it feels like we’ve known each other for years. Together, we finally board our plane to Singapore, take some melatonin, and settle in for a long seventeen-hour flight.

First look at Singapore!

Looking back, I realize that this trip set the tone well for the rest of my exchange. It taught me early on that things wouldn’t always go my way, but that they would still work out in the end. Kevin, Lynn, and I still laugh about that day, and it stands as of my favorite memories from my exchange. I’ve learned to be more flexible, see the humor in every failed situation, and enjoy the chaos of 2022.

The past few months haven’t always been smooth sailing, and that’s why they have been some of the most rewarding months of my life. I am extremely grateful to Foster Study Abroad for giving me the opportunity to study abroad in Singapore.