Contributed in April, 2010
It was the month of February when I arrived at Changi International Airport from Niigata where some snow still remained. The first thought that came to my mind was “it’s hot!”
I hastily took off my jacket and realized acutely that I had landed on Singapore soil.
My participation in the “Dispatch Programme for Young Administrative Officers” by Niigata University” offered me the opportunity to visit Singapore. This programme allowed young officers to participate as learners in short-term study abroad programmes which were designed for students. This was the third time that the programme was conducted.
I am working as a librarian in the Library of Niigata University. In our library, there are not many librarians who can speak English, and one of my concerns is whether our library can sufficiently serve foreign students who came from abroad. I wanted to be able to provide library services for them without the help of those who can speak English. I was always hesitant and was not confident in the English language, hence I wanted to overcome this feeling by placing myself in an environment where I had to speak it.This is the very reason why I participated in the programme.
English lessons were held at NUS Extension during weekday mornings. At first, I was worried about keeping up with the lessons, but as the teachers were considerate enough to use simple English so that we could all understand, I encountered no problems understanding the lessons. Each lesson was divided into two parts, namely phonics and oral communications. I had never attended pronunciation lessons, hence I hesitated to pronounce words and I was very conscious of my mouth and the placement of my tongue. It was an eye-opening experience indeed. The oral communication was also a good practice for me to compose questions by myself and to share my answers to questions asked by others. The lessons were totally different from classes I had attended during my high school days, which focused mainly on grammar. In Japan, I had no chance to speak in English, hence I did not use the language after graduating from university. However in Singapore, there were many chances to speak English such as when I ate at the restaurants, went shopping, watched TV, etc.
At tea break between lessons, my classmates and I enjoyed chatting and eating delicious sweets (sometimes, some of us were even late for lessons!). Time went by fast at NUS Extension. I missed Japan, but at the same time, I wanted to stay in Singapore a little longer. I had mixed feelings inside of me.
Other than English classes, I enjoyed visiting Arab Street, Merlion Park, Chinatown (it was during the Chinese New Year and the illuminations were fascinating at night!), cruising at Clarke Quay and other places. I think one attractive quality of Singapore is the fact that we can enjoy different cultures in this city state. At the same time, the attitude of Singaporeans mutually respecting each of the cultures belonging to the different ethnicities is something which Japan should learn.
I was also amazed by the excellent cultural facilities here. The Singapore National Museum opens public areas such as its corridors for free, and hence people who visit the near by park can go through the museum to access to Orchard area. This made a lot of people visit the museum. Admission is free at the Singapore Art Museum after 6pm every Friday and once, I visited on a Friday night and participated in the museum tour by a volunteer guide. I could only understand half of what the guide was explaining, but it was fine because it’s art!! I truly appreciated the artworks.
Through this study tour, did I acquire a sufficient English ability to provide library services to foreign students at my library? Well, I don’t think so. However, I think my feeling of hesitancy toward English has decreased. It is not that important to speak it perfectly. However, trying to understand each other is most important. If I saw foreign students who were in trouble, I would take the initiative to speak to them.
Although it was a short one week stay, I became very fond of Singapore - warm climate all-year-round, friendly Singaporeans and delicious local food. Yes, for a person like me who loves eating, Singapore is the best country in terms of food. Chicken rice, Laksa and Bah Ku Teh,,,, one week is not enough!
I would like to convey my gratitude to Niigata University which provided me this opportunity to participate in the programme, the kind teachers at NUS and everyone whom I met in Singapore.
I would very much like to visit Singapore again with my friends. Please welcome us warmly.