OWEN GARVEY is a 17-year-old student at Singapore American School. Here he reflects on what it’s like being a teenager in Singapore, and some of his favourite things about living here.
My entire life I have been a Third Culture Kid, from my early childhood spent in Shanghai to my older years here in Singapore. When I first moved to Singapore I was fascinated by the beautiful architecture and the many cultures together in such a small area. But, as the years went on and I grew up, my fascination quickly changed. I began valuing my friends, my grades (and my progress on video games!). As I went into High School, I began to truly experience the pros and cons of being a teenager in Singapore. All of these positives and negatives fell into four main themes.
#1 Expectations of living in Singapore
As a teenager, school takes up most of my time – it is, according to my parents, my only concern. Singapore is home to some of the best international schools, which is one of the big positives. But with this positive comes the pressures and expectations of excelling in school.
Many of students at these international schools, including myself, feel the constant stress of needing to be perfect in everything. At first, this can be a concern, but I’ve come to accept it. Because of these pressures, I have had to lean on others and have made some amazing friends. The communities in Singapore are very welcoming and understanding, allowing everyone to find friends. The good thing is that since the schools are amazing they provide an adequate amount of support to allow everyone to excel in their studies.
#2 Transient Nature
Singapore is home to many expats, as you probably know! With this comes the possibility of moving at any time. Being an expat comes with these challenges and I’m sorry to say but it’s inevitable that you will lose a friend over the years of living in Singapore. For the last three years, I’ve had a friend move every year.
Instead of focusing on the negatives though, it’s better to look at the positives. Singapore’s transient nature allows for variety and change. Many of my friends in the United States have lived in the same place their entire life and claim there is nothing new or interesting anymore. This will never be the case for someone living in Singapore.
For the friend aspect, It allows you to meet new people all the time and become friends with people different from yourself. This aspect has allowed me to learn about new cultures, including picking up those quirky phrases or actions from different cultures (saying “can” or “lah” after many of my phrases is a good example!).
The next aspect is food – and this is arguably the best part of Singapore, in my opinion. Due to Singapore’s competitive market, food places are always moving in and out. This leads to the opportunity to go to a new restaurant every week. This is important to me because my friends and I really love food, so when we go out, we kill two birds with one stone by trying new food places and spending time with each other.
This quality is the same with experiences. There is always something new to do, whether it’s biking around the East Coast or going to the many pop-up activities around Singapore.
Singapore at first glance may look small and boring, but if you truly look around you’ll find that there are endless options of things to do.
#3 Sports in Singapore
Singapore is home to many sports clubs. The sports here range from soccer to paintball. I think it’s fair to say there are a lot of sports to pick from, and you can join these clubs pretty easily. But there is a downside: Singapore sports are not cheap. The positive is that with the large price tag comes the opportunity to travel with your team to play in other countries.
I remember when I was in my first year of High School, I went to Hong Kong and Australia for sports and It was one of the coolest experiences of my high school life. I had the opportunity to meet different kids from other countries who I keep in touch with to this day. All in all, Singapore is a really cool place to play sports due to its many opportunities.
Being a teen in Singapore is pretty exciting especially due to the travel opportunities. My school, Singapore American School, allows students to go on a trip once a year to a country outside of Singapore. I’m really excited because this year I chose to go skiing with my friends in Niseko, Japan.
Regardless of whether or not you travel with your school, being in Singapore gives you the opportunity to be able to travel to other countries effortlessly. I remember one weekend my friends and I wanted to go play golf, so we bought ferry tickets to Bintan and played golf for the day and then went back home. This opportunity is amazing and is one of the things I love about being a teenager in Singapore.
Whoever it is that might be reading this, Singapore is a great place to be as a teenager. It is ignorant to say that there are no negatives because there are, but the positives are amazing and make the negatives worth enduring. So if you’re a teenager that already here or you’re moving here, I wish you the best of luck. Singapore is home to many opportunities so it’s your turn to take control and make your balance of life enjoyable and memorable.