Sunday, June 05, 2005

SB Reflections

I was requested to write a bit about my exchange experience at UCSB by the geography department in NUS for their annual geography handbook.

After much procrastinating, I got my lazy ass to work.

Here's an extract:

Santa Barbara, the American Riviera, home to University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), the oldest environmental studies undergraduate program in the United States, where mountains and the Pacific Ocean are conveniently located in your backyard and the wine country setting for the academy award-winning movie “Sideways”. It is also home to the Channel Islands, an area of high marine biodiversity in the world where whales swim by in their merry way from Baja California, Mexico to Alaska.

Right... where is it again?

Most people have never heard of Santa Barbara or UCSB and I surely never heard of it even by reputation. It wasn’t even my first choice when I first applied to go on the Student Exchange Program (SEP)! I was absolutely upset when I got posted to this godforsaken place. Lo and behold, I begin to learn more and more about the place prior to departure that got me rather excited. For one thing, just before departing for USA in December, watching the Nobel Prize laureates on television, I found out that 2 of the winners – one in physics and one in economics – are current UCSB faculty members!


My time here in Santa Barbara has been the most amazing time of my life. I have never been more independent and more productive while learning the most amazing thing academically and about life at the same time. I met the most amazing group of people, made incredible connections with a wide range of people from world renowned professors to the most dedicated community members and it is almost excruciating painful right now to say my goodbyes. I managed to travel and see a lot of California, a landscape that is so unfamiliar to the girl who came from a tropical island where the highest point is no more than a molehill to these people here. I built my first snowman and saw my first whale. Best of all, I took 11 classes in the time of "one NUS semester" – a feat I would never be able to physically reenact again – while finding the time to pick up a new sport of tennis and earn credits for it! I even found time to publish a transportation alternative newsletter inspired by the relative excellence in transportation in Singapore as compared to California - the land of cars. There is time to work 18 hours a week and still go hiking every Friday, explore a new city every Saturday and visit the farmer’s market every Sunday. Every day seems endless – but it’s probably just daylight saving time “causing” the sun to set only after 8pm.


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