Many may find it hard to believe but DIGITAL SPACE can make many dreams come true!
Tomorrow’s India had held a contest on their Facebook Page asking the youth to reason why would a trip to SINGAPORE change their lives? This question was related to a student’s point of view for growing their business in the future as an entrepreneur. I answered pertaining to that and guess what? I was one of the chosen winners who won a fully sponsored trip to Singapore for Tomorrow’s India First Inaugural Meet!

My parents got my passport made when I turned 18 and since then I had yet not got any opportunity to travel out of India. I would flip the pages of my passport and utter names of countries that I wished to visit whilst my friends had already flown to foreign lands for further studies or to travel. I waited patiently for my international get-away!

Being a 22 year old I cannot expect to make foreign trips as impromptu as ordering a pizza. I have to keep the budget as my first priority. Also earning in rupees doesn’t make you feel any rich when it comes to international trips. The flight cost itself rips you off. Also, I do not like asking my parents for a penny because it’s as good as asking them to sacrifice their wishes for mine which would be really selfish on my part. However, I do wish I was really rich but I ain’t and so I patiently waited and meanwhile kept working hard, taking one day at a time.

My stars finally aligned perfectly and now I am no longer the woman with a blank passport. 

Our tickets were given just two days before we were to fly and I was still unsure of the whole thing. You know how such things could be a scam or it could just get canceled. It kept me worried until I got my tickets. A fellow winner, Saoumya Sharma got in touch with me regarding the trip. We were both flying out from Mumbai and so decided to meet once we reached the airport. She is such a bubbly and fun loving girl that my trip was absolute fun because of her.

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We were student representatives and hence were accommodated at Temasek Polytechnic University, Singapore. I have never been to a University hostel and this was the best first time experience. The apartment we were given was huge! It comprised of 3 bedrooms, two washrooms, a kitchen, a living room with a balcony and an extra empty room as well. Every room had an air conditioner and was very well furnished too. The washrooms were very neat and the security system was incredible. A student can never doubt their safety once they are on the campus. They had their own cafe below and the campus was beautiful and super clean too.

 

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I also had a good chat with the security guard during her night shift. She was an unmarried Malaysian lady who loved her job and passed the night by binge watching movies. She also told me that Singapore is the safest country even at night and on her word I did venture out late at night around the vicinity.

The first night in Singapore we indulged in networking, dinner and cocktails. All the students were taken to Shangri La Hotels and on the way we gained acquaintance with fellow students from various Delhi Universities. The place that was booked for us was filled with corporate people sipping on drinks and chatting over new technologies and inventions and also promoting their business and building their networks. We as students did feel a bit out of place but then we were interviewed by Simon from a local Singapore news portal SIX-SIX News whilst I was surviving on non-alcoholic desserts and veg-food because the chefs had no idea if the chicken was halal.

Did you know? Everything in Singapore is imported from other countries including drinking water! You can read more about their history and present day water usage here.

The next day we had to attend the inaugural ceremony at Marina Bay Sands that went very well with the presence of Her Excellency Ms. Vijay Thakur Singh, High Commissioner of India (in Singapore), High Commission of Singapore, Gopinath Pillai, Ambassador-at-large and Chairman – Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) and HP Singh the Founder of Tomorrow’s India. Some of us did skip few sessions towards the end that did not interest us and strolled around the huge mall and on the outside!

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After our little touristy getaway we headed back inside Marina Bay Sands for lunch and were thereafter taken to ACE : Action Community for Entrepreneurship, Singapore. This space is provided to entrepreneurs to turn their business ideas into reality. ACE helps them step by step in all aspects of building one’s business. Few of the entrepreneurs who are now very successful in their business came over and shared their experiences and the challenges they faced. It was an inspirational, motivating and extremely knowledgeable session. I noticed that “entrepreneurship” has risen not only in India but also in Singapore to a great extent.

After this TI wanted to pump us more with an amazing musical night OORJA at the Drama Centre which is in the National Library Building, Singapore. OORJA was the best musical concert I have ever experienced. The fusion of cultural music was insane and we were all amazed by Karthick Iyer‘s band and the Singapore-based pianist Sam Bedi along with his ensemble of outstanding musicians from Singapore. They deserved a standing ovation and that’s what we gave them! Watch it down below and you might envy me for witnessing it LIVE 😉

Education and entertainment were achieved in just a day and now our hungry stomach needed some orgasmic food that was relished at Myra’s at Fort Canning Arts Centre. The food was the best I ate in Singapore. As I mentioned earlier I was satiating my hunger with veg food and desserts or just fruits as most of the non-veg meal were not classified as halal and being a Muslim I am cautious about such things. But at Myra’s the veg food itself was so delicious that I enjoyed eating my meal. Loved the rustic, low lighted ambiance with stylish seating inside and outside.

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The third day in Singapore we celebrated our Republic Day at the Indian High Commission, Singapore as it was the 26th of January. It was an amazing feeling watching our flag being hoisted in a foreign land and watching little Indian kids sing and dance to patriotic songs with much pride.

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Thereafter we headed to Nanyang Technological University (NTU) where we were introduced to their entrepreneurship courses that actually taught one how to build their own business in their field of expertise. We also visited this huge and beautiful architectural structure called THE HIVE in their campus where students could get their laptops, use the WiFi and discuss on ideas for their projects and also eat there too. The importance that they gave to creativity, innovations and  an open environment was indeed very impressive.

As Saoumya and I were from Mumbai and were merely contest winners, we had to head back to Mumbai with the Mumbai delegates by the evening flight. We did miss visiting National University of Singapore (NUS) and the sight-seeing in Singapore and that did break our hearts. Moreover we didn’t like the goodbye part. A few of us became friends in these three days and it was nice to know each one of them.

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Thank you, Singapore Airlines for this treat!

This trip was a great experience as I got to interact with many new people. Rupali, Shivam, Ashish, Rhythm, Divya, Saoumya & Seah Jo Lyn were the ones I did connect with even after this trip and these guys were such fun! Also a special thanks to Anisha and Madhur from TI’s team who did take care of us during the trip. I got the opportunity to travel abroad and although I couldn’t explore Singapore to the fullest I got to visit the best of universities and other places that a normal tourist wouldn’t. If I had known of such programs earlier I would have chosen a completely different educational path. Singapore may be a small country but it has way too much for everyone! I explored the possibilities and learned that the world does have everything to offer you, you only need to seek it.

P.S. My trip was indeed fully sponsored but this post isn’t. It’s an honest overview of my experience.

-Zainab Attari