Thoughts on living abroad - summer in Boston

Authored By:

Eugene F.

Hi there, here's a short intro for my first post.

About me

I’m currently a fourth-year Bioengineering undergraduate/ Technology Management graduate student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. I grew up in Singapore and the US has been my home for the past ten months. The last two semesters were spent on exchange at the University of California, Berkeley where I had a really great time. Today, I’m writing from the other end of the US, in Boston , where I’m doing a summer internship at a Medical Device Startup which saves babies. Yay!

Time flies, last month here!

As I approach the final mile of this year-long journey, I want to take some time to pen down my thoughts and reflect upon the wonderful time I spent here in Boston (also in the US). Today I'll be sharing 2 big differences I felt living here compared to back home - being lonely and being positive.

Creating a new social circle

Firstly, I felt lonelier when I got to Boston because I only had a handful of friends around. As a working adult in Boston for only three months, it was challenging to connect meaningfully with new people. Thoughts like "Where do I find people with common interests as me?" and "How much time can I actually afford to spend with this group of people?" etc. were frequent. I understood how those living in the US must feel, as relocation for work or school is common here. To experience being part of the ethnic minority could've also contributed to this feeling (Singapore is 76% Chinese). Hats off to my dad who's been working overseas alone for more than a decade.

To give you some context, Singapore is a city-state i.e. wherever you go, your friends and family are no more than an hour or two away (on public transport). Depending on how you see it, it may or may not be a good thing...

Where's Singapore?

I now find myself appreciating diversity more than before. I started off trying to find a community in Boston that I would be easier to relate to, such as Singaporeans and other Asians. However, being blessed with the opportunity to be here also made me think "why not take the opportunity to get to know people who are different?". I started to attend more social events, network, go out to play pick-up at the basketball court, etc. This allowed me to meet a more diverse group of people with interesting experiences to share. And instead of treating it as a "hi-bye" meeting, I started to treat it more like the start of a long friendship. It made connecting with others a lot more meaningful. Life is more exciting when you get to exchange experiences with people around you.

American optimism

Another big difference from living back home is that people are a lot more positive here (or seemingly). While I identify as an optimist (by Asian standards of course), I still found it funny how everyone here has a great day every day. At work, even when giving updates on setbacks and daunting tasks, my colleagues would still keep calm and say "everything is well". Whereas back home, we always describe things as being "not bad or ok" i.e. "not bad or ok = good". As a Singaporean, I am used to getting critical feedback, which I've not experienced much here, even in situations where work quality was mediocre.

Being curious, I googled and it seems like some researchers agree with me as well (I've also added where I thought Singapore should be). However, having been to some of these Asian countries before, I find that people are still generally happy and positive. Most people are certainly not "depressed", I would say they don't express their positivity in the same way. What's important is to learn that we don't have to live life being too critical of ourselves.

It's nice that people in the US are so positive
Analysis of data from Pew Research Centre

Ending off on a positive note

It has been an amazing experience in the US so far, and I've gotten to do many things that I wouldn't have had opportunities to back home, and I'm very grateful for that. These are just little bits from my time here. There are many other great things in the US that I like such as the appreciation for nature, sports culture, arts scene and many more. Let me know if you want some recommendations on things to do or where to meet people. Stay tuned to hear more.