STEP Reflection Arts & Creative Endeavor Individualized Study Abroad in Singapore

STEP Reflection
Arts & Creative Endeavor Individualized Study Abroad in Singapore
Pallavi Keole

My STEP project was a combination of the Artistic and Creative Endeavor, Study Abroad, and Independent Choice categories. This project centered on self-planning a trip to Singapore with my roommate to experience the arts and cultures the city-state had to offer.
During this project, my roommate and I planned this trip on our own with the help of some relatives and online resources. This was the first time either of us had travelled abroad on our own on a schedule that we organized ourselves. This is something I consider to be a huge milestone in my life as it was time first time that I had to take mature and proactive decisions for something that I was creating on my own. Normally Study Abroad options have an itinerary planned out and most of the accommodations are taken care of. When actually arriving in Singapore and having to make on-the-spot decisions in a foreign country on the other side of the planet required skills and maturity that I had never experienced before but am extremely glad and satisfied that I was able to exercise and hone those skills before leaving the college environment and entering the “adult” world.
This international individually-designed STEP project comprised of a number of various aspects that led to it being a much more full-filling experience that I could have ever imagined it to be. There was a lot of planning that took place before arriving on the island nation of Singapore: researching the culture of the country, figuring out how to experience the native culture of the country in the short amount of time. During our sophomore year, we spent a large portion of our time talking with our STEP contact, Ola Ahlqvist. Learning how to get a proposal written and approved while having to contact different faculty members to get this trip approved was a learning experience it since this individualized trip was “off the beaten path”.
Once all of the accommodations were completed for leaving for the trip, the next hurdle was the plane ride itself, as Singapore is located on the exact opposite part of the world, with a 12 hour time difference. Once my roommate and I arrived in Singapore, we were in awe, trying to slowly take in all the different sights and smells that we encountered on our first day there. This country is one that I have a hard time finding one that could be as diverse as this one. The streets are crowded with a mixture of Eastern and Western ethnicities. All the signs were written in four different languages: English, Mandarin, Tamil, and Malay. Along with the intense diversity came the blends of foods and cultures. As you walk down a common street, there would be food stalls serving every time of food imaginable: Chinese, Indonesian, Malaysian, Indian, Russian, Italian, American, you name it. All of these restaurants were locations that people went to on a daily basis, nothing out of the ordinary to any of them. Just being in a culture where so many different cultures blended so seamlessly together was inspiring and gave me a whole new perspective since it the demographics were very different from what someone experiences here in Ohio. As Singapore is known for its diversity, we were able to visit the different pockets that exuded a certain culture in the full. There was Arab Street, Little India and Chinatown to name a couple. In each of these places, there weren’t only the cultures that they were named after but influences of the other cultures that have previously mentioned.
To document our daily adventures, we kept a blog ( As a Chemical Engineer, I did not have previous experience in the field of photo journalism and photography. During this trip I was able to learn how to handle a blog and practice using a DSLR camera with instructions from my roommate, who is majoring in journalism. It was refreshing to add an art and design angle to my perspective on life since most of my course work had been centered round core math and science classes. I believe it is important as any type of science and engineering major to have some exposure to the arts portion of our society as aesthetics of a project are somethings equally as important as the functionality of a product. Being able to connect what I had experienced through this trip to my daily life and potentially future career what something I was very happy to have gained from this experience.
Along with gaining some multicultural journalism exposure from the trip to Singapore, I was able to share my expanded horizon experience with my managers at my internship this summer. This past summer I interned at Procter and Gamble’s Beauty Research and Development function. During my first week there, I was introduced to numerous colleagues who were from P&G Singapore as it so happens that one of P&G Cincinnati’s “sister” branch is located in Singapore. I was able to connect and work seamlessly with someone from a foreign country and it felt so wonderful to able to share my experience with someone from the country. There were several instances during my internship that Manager and Director would come talk to me about my travels to Singapore and how I managed going there and what I thought of the country. Having exposure to one of the most commercially and technologically advanced and integrated companies, along displaying my initiative to create and try someone of my own helped me stand out amongst my peers when during my interviews as I was able to give a very genuine response on what I believed being culturally diverse and appreciating it meant.
Overall, this trip was unbelievable and I am so happy that I was able to get such a wonderful opportunity through the university to allow for me to expand my horizon through my own means. Being adventurous and building mental strength to be able to make quick decisions when own your is a key attribute that will allow for me to experience new things and build a strong lifestyle as I grow up and enter the world after college.