The perfect exchange: Jeff Repko in Singapore

IMG_3536 “My name is Jeff Repko, I am a last year IBA student and currently I am looking for an internship. Last year I was on exchange in Singapore .” Jeff explained to me afterwards that Singapore was not necessarily his first choice: “I had a dilemma, actually, because I doubted between America and Singapore. I wanted to go to America, and leaned towards America, because I have been around Americans my whole life and I went to an American school. Still, Singapore offered more; it was out of my comfort zone and my family pointed out to me that the chances of ever going to Singapore were much less than the chances of going to America. So, in the end, I wanted to go on exchange in Singapore so badly that I only filled in two out of three options and I was selected out of a few to go.” Jeff pointed out that the hardest thing to take care of when going on exchange in Singapore was accommodation. “I went to Singapore Management University and there was no on-campus-accommodation there. The university worked together with a sort of hostel, but I wanted to live in an apartment with the people I wanted to be surrounded with. We ended up taking a real risk, because due to the high competitiveness we booked a six-person apartment with only three people to live in at that point. I paid 700 euros a month, which is quite expensive, but this included a pool, a gym and a perfect location close to the beach and the biggest shopping mall over there.” Even though Singapore is quite westernized compared to the other Asian cities, Jeff noticed some cultural differences: “It is a completely different continent, obviously. The thing that surprised me was the fact that the local students I knew over there would just ask me about my love life. I did not expect that; beforehand I was also told not to be too direct with the natives regarding sensitive matters like politics. It surprised me that they were far more open sometimes.” “The education there is really good. I went to a rather young university, 12 years old, but it already received several awardIMG_6627s, so they have a very promising future.” Jeff said. “The classes, though, are exhausting compared to the classes here in The Netherlands.” He told me that lectures were three hours with a 15min break after the first 1.5 hour. The other striking thing that Jeff shared was that the teachers actually knew the names of the students after a while. “First we used name tags, but after some time those tags were not even needed anymore. The teacher would just ask me: ‘Jeff, what do you think?’ and that during a normal lecture.” Then Jeff told me about his daily life on exchange in Singapore. He would normally sleep in, since he had no classes that started before three o’clock and he only had four a week. Then there was a problem concerning breakfast since Jeff did not like the sight of spicy noodles and rice after having been drinking all night. Not quite the hangover food and since bread and cheese was extremely expensive over there, they had to find another way. “There are two options when wanting to eat in Singapore. You can go the hawker centre or to the food courts. My first time at a hawker centre was not that successful. We got a bowl of soup and without knowing if it was sweet, salty or spicy; we decided to add some spice to the soup. Big mistake! The locals kept on telling us that we needed to stir the soup to make it less spicy.” But Jeff was beyond saving. This memory made us both laugh for a while and he added: “I did a lot of subway eating back then.” The day mostly ended in a party somewhere. IMG_3449“Wednesday was always ladies night and the ladies got free drinks till 1 o’ clock, which was nice. Most parties had guest lists, but the security was never that strict. You could easily repeat a random name you heard before and get in. Bringing blond European girls was a plus as well, because Asians just love blond girls.” However it appeared that not only blond girls were popular, because Jeff told me that he occasionally was asked to take a picture with some local girls. “We normally ended the night by taking a cab home, since it was so cheap there, around two dollars a person for a cab ride, so we took a cab to and a cab from.” Now, it is time for some juicy stories. Jeff said that there were rumours going around about the apartment they were staying in. “It was said to be known for drama, but the students in that apartment would also be the only exchange students who’d actually throw parties and would be known around campus. This all happened again when our group went to Singapore. We threw some amazing parties, with free drinks, which was not cheap. Imagine paying 60 euros for a bottle of vodka and when going out it was 14 dollars for a beer (and not even an exclusive one) and 15 dollars for a gin-tonic.” Guess what Jeff chose! “We also had a lot of drama in that house. There was someone living with us, twenty years old, who was engaged and during this exchange this engagement almost came to a break up. Secondly, there was a Polish model, who was also our roommate and who cheated on her boyfriend back home in Poland. It even came that far that she met a guy in Singapore who was in the Finance sector and she ended up being engaged with him, while telling her boyfriend back home nothing about this. Her parents even had to come to Singapore to support the marriage, since she was too young to get married in Singapore, but in the end she broke it off. Meanwhile she had told her boyfriend back home that she was planning on staying in Singapore and finding a job there. In the end, her boyfriend decided to pack his things and join her in Singapore, but by that time she had already called of the wedding and went back to him in Poland. What happens in Singapore; will eventually be told by me!” Jeff also admitted to almost having a romance going on in Singapore, but the girl, sadly enough, turned out to be unreachable for him. Thinking back of all the things made him sentimental, he told me, and it was clearly visible on his face. Still he wanted to give this advice: “You have to go out there, enjoy yourself, find closure and come back. Many people miss the experience of the exchange so much, that they go back with high expectations due to the previous experience. This is why these second trips turn out to be such a disappointment for them.” IMG_3442 Finally, I loved it when Jeff said: “Many people are stressed about the destinations of their exchange, but people, be happy that you get the chance of going on exchange. Every exchange is perfect, because you make it that way. No matter where you go, I believe that it is going to be perfect, as perfect as it is going to get in this life.”

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