Okay I have my placement offer…. So what do I do now?
To start with I will give a summary of my placement opportunity. I will be working with the international NGO Save the Children that works towards supporting the wellbeing of children globally. Previously I worked with the organisation in Bangkok in summer 2015 as a research intern to help develop a child drowning prevention program. I found the whole experience as an intern really rewarding especially since I was producing tangible results in the form of a research report on how best to approach a drowning prevention program. However, as I am studying International Politics and Security Studies I thought it would be better to find a placement opportunity this year that was more relevant to my degree. So I took the initiative and contacted the Regional Security Director for Asia at Save the Children and queried whether he would consider taking an intern for 3 months over the summer period. After a few email exchanges and a Skype conversation I was given an offer to work under both the Regional Security Director and the Counter Fraud Asia Directors whereby my main roles would be to monitor information, data, news and legal development related to Safety & Security across Asia and support the review of safety and security studies for the protection of Save the Children staff and the children they serve.
Once I had the placement opportunity offer I had to start preparing for the basics of moving to Singapore. I thought ensuring my work visa was the most important first step to focus on and my employer found that it would be more suitable for me to apply for Singapore’s Work Holiday Program. This visa program is aimed at students looking to live and explore Singapore for a few months while getting work experience. I was keen to submit my application swiftly as the number of passes issued cannot reach above 2000 and the summer months when most interns would be applying for the pass were fast approaching. The initial application process involved submitting my academic records and passport which has resulted in receiving an in-principal approval for the Work Holiday Pass. The in-principal approval is essentially an initial approval of the Work Holiday Pass prior to arrival in Singapore without the Singapore government being able to know exactly how many work holiday passes will have been issued by the time of arrival and thus cannot guarantee a pass based on the pass issuance limit. The next step will need to be completed upon arrival whereby an appointment at the Ministry of Manpower will need to be scheduled to finalise and submit the remaining documents (such as plane tickets out of Singapore) to ensure the issuance of the pass).
Secondly, I had to find accommodation. From previous information, especially on a recent article by the Economist on why they nominated Singapore as the most expensive city in the world to live I knew that the cost of accommodation would be high. When I lived in Bangkok, Thailand during secondary school and my previous internship I had signed up to various Facebook groups for expatriates and remembered the many posts I saw regarding various flats, condos, and individual rooms for rent. Therefore I looked up and found roommate and tenant searching Facebook groups and continuously monitored them over a few weeks. I had to find a place which was within my budget range, had other similar flatmates, with no owner staying and within a reasonable distance to my office. I finally found a house that largely fit those criteria though admittedly on the top end of my budget (1000 SGD per month). The house is in the Centre of Singapore and near the Botanical Gardens just 20 minutes away from Orchard and half an hour from Tanglin, my place of work.
Thirdly, I have had to start considering the documents needed for setting up a bank account. As I assume there are limitations on sending wages into foreign bank accounts Save the Children have asked me to set up a local bank account. For this I have begun collecting the various documents which include a credit reference from my current (foreign) bank Santander, visa and a utility bill for my new address in Singapore addressed to my name (which might be harder to obtain given that I will only be on a short-term tenancy).
Fourthly, I had to ensure I could actually arrive in Singapore. This meant I needed to find the cheapest air travel tickets I could find. After scouring through the many flights search engines such as Kayak, Momondo and Skyscanner (which tends to have the best deals) I stumbled upon a £388 flight by Air France, which was not only more affordable but also eligible for Flying Blue air-miles awards scheme that I have been using since I was a toddler.
Finally, while I admit this might seem a bit keen, I have started reading up on Singapore, such as, its history especially with regards to cultural diversity, its cuisine and various things to do and see while there. It was also recommended to me by a friend to read up on a few of the laws that I might not be accustomed to, such the chewing gum restrictions, and mandatory urinal flushing laws.
The history of the country was particularly interesting from a political standpoint. Singapore was transformed from a small city-state and colonial trading post upon independence in 1965 to a financial and trading powerhouse under the pragmatic leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. While some point to the sterile, regimented environment of modern Singapore, I am prepared, however, to find a 21st century cosmopolitan metropolis where different cultures, religions and ethnicities (Chinese, Indian and Malay; Buddist, Hindu and Islam) have co-existed in harmony for many years thanks to the careful planning of an incorruptible civil service. This harmonious relationship has resulted in the interesting mix of both the old colonial legacy and the gleaming skyscrapers and efficient public transportation that define a modern metropolis.
All in all, while the preparation process has been relatively difficult especially since most of it was done in the weeks often named “essay-season” with a large amount of course work due and exam preparation in full force, I am still incredibly excited and feel very lucky to be able to get this opportunity. Especially considering the bursary award I have received from the University to support my placement, which will allow me to both immerse myself in an unfamiliar South-East-Asian country and get insight into the inner workings of a regional security team in an international NGO. I hope this first post might act as a initial guide to how I approached preparing for my foreign placement and I hope in my future posts to reflect on things I should have done differently.