8 April 2022

Six months in Singapore

Alumni Stories

Hugh Holland undertook a semester exchange at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore in 2017. Hugh shares the key insights he learned about the ASEAN region, and how they will help him in his future career.

Image above: Hugh (centre) visiting friends from NTU in Taipei, Taiwan.

The campus at NTU is truly amazing and the facilities are something to behold. I enrolled in classes at Nanyang Business School (NBS) and the school of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). While there were a few language barriers initially, I learned early on that I would need to speak slower – though at times my professors still struggled with my accent.

Outside of classes, I played hockey in the Singaporean National Hockey League, which enabled me to meet new people and stay healthy. I loved getting to know my teammates, although playing in the 40-degree heat with 100% humidity was torturous at times!

My biggest highlight abroad was taking part in FINEX, a financial competition crossed with the amazing race. I teamed up with two other exchange students to undertake finance-related challenges at locations throughout Singapore and we were fortunate enough to finish runners-up! The competition was a great introduction to Singapore and was an excellent opportunity to meet local students and learn more about the Lion City.

Singapore is a diverse, modern, multi-cultural hub of the ASEAN bloc and was an ideal place to become accustomed to Singaporean, Indonesian, Malay, Indian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese practices first-hand. I gained invaluable exposure to a diverse group of people while on exchange. I became close friends with my Chinese roommate and even learned Mandarin from him.

I travelled extensively throughout most of North and Southeast Asia, visiting friends and immersing myself in their different languages and cultures. Being able to experience these environments first-hand was incredible, and I developed a greater appreciation for a wide array of cultures, customs, traditions and etiquettes. It highlighted the need to be tolerant, patient and respectful of distinct ethnicities and their customs – traits that will prove invaluable for me going forward in both my personal and professional endeavours.

Hugh at the Bagan Archaeological Zone, Mandalay, Myanmar.

I now feel more comfortable making connections with people from Asia as I have had the opportunity to develop extensive knowledge of the region. Trade and business prospects between New Zealand and ASEAN nations are extremely promising. However, my experience taught me that these economic relationships must be accompanied by education and an adequate understanding of the cultural dynamics underpinning them. It is so important to approach different cultures, traditions and practices with respect and an open mind. If we are able to do that, New Zealand’s relationship with Asian nations will grow remarkably.

While I learnt a lot about the places I travelled to while abroad, I also learnt a lot about myself. I feel my exchange made me more well-rounded and receptive to others and their ideas. I also feel more driven and motivated to get up each day and make a meaningful difference. My experiences abroad made me realise how fortunate we are in New Zealand and the extent to which we can both learn from and give back to our neighbours in Asia.

I cannot express how grateful I am for the opportunities this award has presented me. The PMSA is a tremendous scheme and I am so appreciative for being given such a great head start.

Hugh at The Bund, Shanghai, China.

This story was first published on enz.govt.nz on 23 February 2018.

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