An adventure called Singapore

Mia Bilogrević is a third year student in Business Law and Economics. The Zagreb School of Economics and Management was her first and only choice at enrollment because she was able to recognize the need for modern employers to unite the two in their future careers. Although she has learned a lot from the theory, practice and various activities in which she participates, Mia has particularly enriched the experience of exchanging on a new continent unknown to her.

Hi Mia! Thank you for taking the time to talk, I know you are very busy. Given that you are quite active and involved in a lot of projects related to our college, how did you decide to exchange? And just that far?

I find that sharing is a unique opportunity to gain new experiences in an unfamiliar environment. In fact, my first idea was to go to Europe, more specifically to Switzerland. I considered Switzerland a small, beautiful and ideal country where I would like to spend at least a short part of my life, and the mitigating circumstance was that I had relatives living there so I would not be alone if it “went bust”. Given that I always have the opportunity to go there, I realized that it was a much better experience to go somewhere far, get out of my comfort zone, become independent and face my fears and new challenges. In the end the decision came down to going to Singapore and I never regretted it. In fact, if I could, I’d be back there tomorrow.

Bravo, that’s a great way to think! But you were a sophomore and alone in an unfamiliar environment, weren’t you scared?

In the beginning it is. Although, I would not call it fear, but rather some strange feeling. You do not know where you will come, who you will meet and what will happen to you all the way. While the classes were still not starting and until I found company I felt a little lost. But that changed quickly and I completely forgot about that first, uneasy feeling. I have met many different people from all parts of the world with whom I have lived these past few months, and for some of them I am sure they will remain friends for the rest of my life.

Did it make you more helpful in gaining friends, that is, in society or in the sense of independence you developed?

Both actually. For the most part, I hung out with students who also came to Singapore for an exchange because we all went through the same things and developed a sense of community. It later evolved into group learning, going out and traveling together to destinations such as Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and other destinations, which is a pity not to visit when you are already there. But when I got the feeling that I was finally completely independent, miles away from everything I knew, it was something special.

What was your life like on that campus? What were the conditions, did they differ much from the conditions for students here?

I was very pleased with my life on campus. I felt like I was in a college town. I lived with a roommate from Korea who was very neat, communicative and sweet and we quickly connected. Also, we had a lot of student restaurants with specialties from different countries, but after a while, my home-cooked food began to lack. If you live on campus, the cost of living is acceptable. But since Singapore is one of the most expensive countries in the world, off-campus living is quite expensive. What I think is worth investing in when you are there are definitely trips to the surrounding countries. Each is special in its own way. During the semester I spent in Singapore, I was able to visit as many as ten surrounding countries and carry unforgettable memories from each.

What was it like to live with a person from a completely different culture, with different habits and needs?

I was scared at first because I didn’t know how it would work, nor did I know what to expect. Having a roommate from Korea was a big challenge for me. We came from different continents, from a different culture, each with their own mother tongue and their own habits. Fortunately, we are both neat and love everything in place so there was no clutter in the room. In the end, I got closer to her and our differences were not obstacles but interesting ones. Also, during the class I had the opportunity to work in groups with students from different countries, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well we work when working in a team where everyone takes their role seriously.

Does that mean that there was a sense of community?

Well it really depended on the situation. Although we encouraged, assisted and advised each other in teamwork, when it came to individual work, things changed. The competitive spirit prevailed. I’m not saying this is bad, but some of the things we are used to in Croatia were almost unimaginable there. I found myself in a situation where I shared my scripts with local students as I do here with my classmates, but they were so surprised and grateful because this was not common with them. That’s where everyone works for themselves and stands behind their success.

Was that the only big difference or were there more?

She wasn’t the only one. Although the literature was almost the same as the one we study in Zagreb, in Singapore I did not have the opportunity to take courses through a midterm. During the semester we had presentations, assignments and seminars, but in fact it all depended on the last major exam that covered the entire semester. Also, there is a difference in the assessment criteria set by the student who would write the exam best, so that his / her grades were evaluated by others.

How did you handle it? Were you satisfied with your results?

At first, I panicked because I was not used to such a rating system, and I knew I had a lot of competition. Knowing that I am competing with local students who are generally very ambitious and competitive, I set myself high goals. In the end, I managed to do everything better than I had hoped. I returned to Zagreb with great results. It was a great challenge that I was able to overcome and I was able to prove that I could do anything if I persisted.

I see you were really impressed by the exchange, do you plan to repeat it?

Definitely! I want to take every opportunity that is offered to me and I plan on re-sharing at the fourth year. I have not yet decided on the exact destination, but I am very pleased to meet new people, perfect my language, travel and the fact that this time I am going with a previous experience that will help me in the situations that await me there.

Which students and why would you recommend the exchange?

I find the exchange a great opportunity for everyone. Although a big step when you have to break away from your life here for a while, family and friends, you get a life experience that is invaluable. In addition to studying at some of the world’s best colleges, you also learn a lot about yourself. Developing independence, traveling, meeting new people, cultures, and perfecting foreign languages ​​are some of the many benefits, one just has to dare and take the first step for a better future.

Thank you Mia! I believe this conversation and your positive experiences will inspire a lot of students to venture out and embark on an exchange adventure.