On 4 December a group of 25 diverse Griffith University students embarked on a journey to Singapore to participate in a Common Purpose Study Abroad leadership program. Over the next four days we would be immersed into Singapore culture, challenge ourselves daily, improve our leadership skills, and develop our Cultural Intelligence (CQ) skills. Together with students from around Australia we worked on the concept of ‘Smart Cities’ and strived to develop real, workable plans that could improve the already smart city of Singapore in the future.
Arriving in Singapore we were awestruck. The airport is surrounded by beautiful greenery, which was just a glimpse of what we were to witness in days to come. Driving through the city to our accommodation at Nanyang Girls Boarding School we noticed how clean and well-kept the city appeared. Large apartment buildings and open garden spaces are prominent outside the CBD. As we edged closer to the city we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture and continued green spaces scattered throughout.
After checking into our hotel we launched straight into the Common Purpose experience. After an introduction and overview of the program, we got back onto our buses and headed to a local hawker (food market) to immerse ourselves in Singapore culture. It was a fantastic opportunity to share new experiences with students from La Trobe and Murdoch universities.
Day one focused heavily on leadership skills. We worked individually and in groups to develop a better understanding of ourselves and our leadership style. The central aim of the day was to challenge ourselves to take on a role that is out of our comfort zone. A range of activities helped us to understand whether we usually take the role of speaker, listener or observer in everyday life.
One of the more challenging tasks we faced was working in groups to discuss whether or not we agreed with controversial statements. This was quite an interesting task as we came to discover that while we may have different views we can still respect each other’s arguments and opinions without having to change our own. During the evening the group split into smaller groups to explore the city. I was lucky enough to walk through the city taking photos and visiting the famous Altitude Bar, which is known as the highest open rooftop bar in the world. It was certainly an amazing view for photos and to take in the city as a whole.
The second day of the Common Purpose Study Abroad was full of adventure as we made our way out into the city to talk with businesses and social enterprises about what makes a city smart. Among the great businesses we visited were GE Digital, Mangrove Learning, NParks, FWD Insurance and many more. It was inspiring listening to the different takes on a smart city and particularly, what makes Singapore a smart city and where can it be improved.
On completion of the day visits we debriefed with our small group about what we had learnt and began thinking about what we thought defines a smart city. We also began brainstorming about areas where we think Singapore could be improved. That evening some students and I took part in a night tour of Geylang, the red light district of Singapore. We had an excellent and knowledgeable tour guide who enlightened us on issues that the area faces and how is it often misunderstood and stereotyped by the Singapore population. We enjoyed some incredible food, visited a temple, smelt beautiful incense through the streets, and certainly came away with an increased understanding of Singapore culture.
Day three saw us developing ideas of how we could aid Singapore in its growth as a smart city. Over the past few days, we were able to listen to local speakers and business people which provided us with a great insight into the city and its people. It was time to condense all of this knowledge into one main issue that each group would like to address. Once we had decided on an issue we begin thinking of solutions. By the afternoon each group had established a solid solution for their problem.
After lunch, each group split up to take some time to visit other groups and find out what they were working on for the project. It was a great chance to gain feedback on our ideas in order to improve and develop them further.
Today was the last day to work on our smart city ideas before it was time to present our projects to the group and to some local experts. After a morning presentation of how to pitch, we went back into our groups to cement our solution. We then had an hour to turn our solution into a poster and a one-minute video explaining the concept. Teams worked frantically during this hour, but every single group soared through the challenge to generate creative posters and entertaining, yet informative videos.
Finally, it came time to present our concepts. Each groups presentation was astounding. In just four day’s students developed ideas such as learning systems for Singaporeans, apps to better connect the city, and elderly health care solutions. What I found most humbling is that each group saw the need for a smart city to start from the ground up. They saw that having a smart city isn’t just about technology or systems, but that it starts with the people and it is these people who make a city great.
The Common Purpose Study Abroad Singapore challenge was without a doubt one of the most enriching experiences I have enjoyed during my time at Griffith University. Not only was I able to explore the beautiful Singapore, its people, buildings and culture, but I was able to further develop my leadership and cultural intelligence skills while working on a real-world issue. As an added bonus I connected with diverse students from across Australia from who I was able to absorb so much and will continue to do so in the future.
If you ever have the chance to take part in a Study Abroad challenge or experience, I urge you to apply. It may just change your life.
Until next time – Hayley
Check out more photos from our adventure in the gallery below!