Visiting the Marine Lab and Duke Alumni… in Singapore

Today was unique in that we it was the first day we had to buy food the night before for lunch. We started the day by going to the marina on the south-east portion of the country via the train (the MRT). The trains, being fully automated and driverless, ended up closing its doors before our whole group could make it on the train, and we all arrived in one piece—albeit in two groups.

Once at the Marine Lab, we were given a presentation by Serena Lay Ming Teo on the Marine Lab and on her work in studying invasive species. We then had lunch, which we brought with us since there aren’t any food facilities on the island. After that, we had time to explore the island, some people going back to pet the cats while others sat in the sand on a beach nearby. I sat for about 15 minutes trying to take photos of birds in the trees, as Sek Chuan said that there were Kingfishers on the island. Sadly, while I saw some birds high up in the trees, I wasn’t able to focus on them with my camera in time before they flew away.

Our next stop was on the nearby island of Kusu. In Chinese, Kusu means “Tortoise Island,” and is named for the tortoise sanctuary which used to be housed there. There are no more tortoises on the island, but there are quite a few turtles instead. Additionally, the island boasts two religious sites: a Chinese temple and a Malay shrine.  The Malay shrine was especially interesting because it was unlike any of the places we visited during out temple crawl a few days before. The shrine, located on the tallest hill on the island, was completely yellow save for the what tourists have written on the walls leading up to the main room. There, tourists write down what they wish for, whether it be happiness for themselves and their family or simply to do well in school—the visitors didn’t hold back! You could additionally write your wish on a yellow ribbon and tie it to a basket on the temple as well. The island was such a cool place, but we sadly weren’t able to spend that much time on it. Before we knew it, we were back on the boat to Marina South Pier, were we found ourselves racing back to the hotel before our final event of the night: the Alumni Happy Hour.

We had our event with the Singapore Alumni chapter at the Kinki Bar and Restaurant, which overlooks Marina Bay. It was a really fun event—about 6 alumni showed up and talked to us over appetizers and shared stories of their Duke experiences and what they’ve been doing post-Duke. I talked to a former grad student who studied global health and who worked for 6 months in Singapore for her program before deciding to work there after graduation. I also talked to a professor who teaches at Duke-NUS, a collaborative program between Duke and the National University of Singapore. I think what I enjoyed about it the most is how the Duke community stays connected even after graduation.

Today was a really hectic day: running to catch trains, viewing museum exhibits, traveling to two different islands and back, while still making it in time for dinner with the alumni. But while it was hectic, it was incredible, and I’m looking forward to another wonderful day tomorrow!