Singapore Trip

This summer, Keshav Rastogi, Jilly Mehlman, and I travelled across the world with history teacher Mr. Healy. We voyaged to Singapore, via Hong Kong, to represent Scarsdale at the annual Hwa Chong Asia Pacific Young Leaders Summit. Along with Staples High School (in Connecticut), and Dominion High School (in Virginia), we made up the United States delegation. 14 countries were represented at the summit: the USA, China, Japan, Malaysia, SingaSingapore Favorite #2pore, Korea, Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, India, Oman, France, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
After almost 24 hours of traveling, we arrived at Singapore’s Changi Airport and were greeted by our “facilitator.” The “facilitators” were high school students from the Hwa Chong school, but seemed to be many years our senior, as they ran the whole summit with such ease and enthusiasm. On our drive to the school, we saw the streets of Singapore in all their immaculate glory. There was no litter on the roads, and all the buildings were sleek and modern. Singapore is an island nation of around 5 million people located just south of Malaysia, and has three major ethnic groups: Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian. However, the official language and most common language is English. Just like other English-speaking countries, there is a very distinct Singaporean accent-lah. (“Lah” is a common word that is often frivolously put at the end of sentences there.) For the next 9 days, we stayed in the dorms at the Hwa Chong School, which is one of the nicest schools in the country. Filled with tropical plants and an artificial river through the grounds, the school was breathtaking—not to mention their stellar cafeteria filled with stations of a variety of cuisines.
Much of our time spent at the school involved preparing for our three presentations. As part of the summit, we were required to make a booth for the opening ceremony showcasing our country’s culture and food. We also had to make a slideshow presentation discussing a prominent dilemma that currently faces the world. Each student “country” group was assigned a different topic and had to give a presentation in front of the rest of the students and teachers. The USA’s topic was “A Call for Tech Intelligence: Security vs. Privacy.” After presenting, we would break up into international discussion groups and debate the issues raised from the 3 or 4 presentations from the day. The other academic portion of the trip was the “Summit Dialogues” in which prominent figures from Singaporean industries and government came to deliver speeches, followed by Q&A sessions.
The final presentation we were required to do was a cultural performance. As true Americans, we put on a well-rehearsed show consisting of dancing and singing to some of the most well known pop songs. We started off the show by rapping to Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass,” followed by dancing to Hotline Bling, Cotton Eye Joe, Party in the USA, Single Ladies, and finally Party Rock Anthem. After the routine finished, we formed a circle and ended on a jovial note, with a loud “USA” chant.
While we did not get much time on the trip to go out and explore Singapore on our own—aside from our additional free day spent in Singapore after the Summit’s culmination— we spent the majority of our day touring ministries and infrastructural headquarters all around the island-nation. We were heavily immersed in the workings of the country, and how they had managed to transform themselves into such a well-functioning utopia. While it is true that their seamless public transportation and elaborate city planning would not work on a large scale, in older, more established cities, it works excellently on the Singaporean scale.
More than anything, however, this trip provided a lifetime of memories. In addition to getting close with the delegates from Scarsdale and the other two schools from the USA, I was given the awesome opportunity to make friends with people from all over the world. Although all the delegates were from completely different regions of the world, it was not hard at all to relate to everyone. It just required going out of our comfort zones a little. The end result was phenomenal and extremely rewarding. It is really a great feeling to know that I have a home to stay at, and people to visit, in almost every corner of the globe. I still keep in touch with my friends from the summit, and even visited one from Japan, when he came to New York for the first time.

by: Rohan Gharekhan