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Glimpse 2020 with Rtr. Rochelle Silva

The very first edition of Glimpse 2020 features the experience of Rtr. Rochelle Silva, joining from Singapore.

Rtr. Rochelle Silva graduated from the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Moratuwa. She started her new life, a new journey as an expat in 2019 when she moved to Singapore for her higher studies. So, let’s see her life experience as an expat, which she shared with the Rotaract Alumni Mora with great pleasure.

Q: Hello Rtr. Rochelle! Before starting to share your experience, can you please briefly tell us who you are?

Currently, I am a Graduate student at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore since January 2019, and a graduate from the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Moratuwa. I was a lecturer (contract basis) at UoM. Moreover, I was involved with the Gavel Club, Rotaract Club, Chemical Engineering Students’ Society (ChESS), IEEE Women in Engineering Affinity Group and Catholic Students Movement during undergraduate days…

Q: As a past Rotaractor, you may have held positions at the Rotaract Mora as well as the Alumni Club. So let us hear what you were as a Rotaractor.

  • Member of Rotaract Mora since 2015
  • Director – International Service of Rotaract Alumni Mora 2017/18

Q: Since you were a long-term and an active member of the Rotaract Club, you may have been involved with many projects. What were the most memorable projects that you got involved in as a Rotaractor.

I wrote a feature article for the blog some time back… Rotaract year 2017/18 was full of memorable projects and you can get a glimpse from this article  I simply can’t pick out a few projects!

Q: Any awards/recognitions you have gained from the Rotaract Club?

During my tenure, the projects “Singaract” and “Rotaractors for Global Goals” were initiated. “Singaract” was recognized as the “Most Outstanding International Service Project (Gold award)” and “Rotaractors for Global Goals” was recognized as the “Most Outstanding Special Project for Rotaract Golden Jubilee Celebrations (Silver award)” at the 28th Rotaract District Assembly of RID 3220.

Spirit of Service Award (Rotaract year 2017/18) from RID 3220 – Sri Lanka & Maldives

Rotaractor of the Third Quarter of Rotaract year 2017/18 – awarded at the  27th Rotaract District Conference of RID 3220 – Sri Lanka & Maldives

Q: It’s rather a challenging decision to make when choosing a country for your higher studies. What made you choose Singapore?

I applied to many universities at the start of my search for higher education opportunities but I finally chose Singapore because it has a good environment to conduct research. NTU is ranked 11th in the world according to the QS rankings.

Q: Though Singapore is not very far from Sri Lanka, still it is further away from your home. Can you tell us how you managed to make up your mind for moving to a new country and the major reason behind it?

To put it simply, I wanted to broaden my horizons and seek out new experiences away from my comfort zone.

Q: What were your expectations when you were making this decision?

Big hopes and dreams; just like any other starry-eyed fresh graduate! I did expect many changes to my lifestyle and surroundings.

Q: Living away from home, away from your family might have led you to many challenges. What were your biggest challenges and how did you face those challenges as an expat?

Staying away from family and friends is one of the biggest challenges. I used to go home every weekend even when I was studying/working at University of Moratuwa. Switching from that to a situation where I could go home only once or twice a year is a nerve wracking experience. Also Singapore is an expensive country to live in, and unless we consciously make an effort to control the expenses, it can be quite difficult to survive. However, they say that “necessity is the mother of invention”; so I found myself cooking a few meals here and there, recycling, looking out for discounts etc. A PhD is more self-driven than the type of education that I’m used to; so keeping up my motivation levels is challenging at times…

Q: Each country has their own unique style of living. How did you manage to adapt to the new lifestyle?

I would say that I’m still adapting! The first few months were especially tough. But the experiences that I have had from participating in different activities in Sri Lanka gave me confidence to move on.

Regarding food: names may change but some things remain the same. Faluda turned out to be “bandung”. Noodle soup turned out to be “ramen”. Milk tea turned out to be “Teh tarik”. Kottu turned out to be “kothu prata”.  And the list goes on… You can even find some Sri Lankan delicacies since there’s a big Sri Lankan community here.

While visiting Gardens by the Bay - one of the popular attractions in Singapore
While visiting Gardens by the Bay – one of the popular attractions in Singapore

Q: As an active and a forward character, we know for sure that you have a lot of friends in Sri Lanka, and you can’t keep in touch with them like you used to do. So, how and how well could you manage old friendships along with the new ones?

Thank goodness that we have social media and messaging apps to take care of that aspect! Yet, meeting friends face to face beats all of that, and I try to meet up with friends when I go home for vacation.

Q: Though Singapore is an Asian country like Sri Lanka, there might be some cultural difference as well. So how do you value those cultural changes?

I think there are some cultural changes that I admire; though there are certain moments when I experience what most would label as “culture shock”. Punctuality, attention to detail, and taking good care of public spaces are admirable characteristics that I have observed in many residents…

Q: There are times that we are in need of a helping hand. So, how did the new community help you when you were in need?

I’m really grateful to the seniors from Sri Lanka who are studying in Singapore. They treated me like their own little sister and helped me to adjust to the new surroundings. The new friends from different parts of the world like India, China,Vietnam, Italy, Nigeria, Philippines, etc and of course Singapore, also help me out.

Q: Let me ask the above question the other way round. As a Rotaractor and an expat living away from home, how are YOU lending your helping hand to the community?

I try to take part in Rotaract events held nearby. For example, I could attend the Janitor Appreciation Project and the Rotaract Week celebrations conducted by the Rotaract Club of NTU. Apart from that, I try to help out juniors who contact me regarding the questions they have about applying for higher studies, planning their career etc. I may not have as much time to help the community as I did when I was an undergraduate, but I make an effort when I can.

At the World Rotaract week celebrations conducted by Rotaract Club of NTU
At the World Rotaract week celebrations conducted by Rotaract Club of NTU

Q: There may be many other Rotaractors who are willing to make the same decision as you did. Do you have any message you want to share with your fellow Rotaractors as an expat?

Like I mentioned in the previous question; life as an expat is comparatively more complex than life as an undergraduate; so take part in volunteering activities at the university. Apart from serving the needy, you will build your soft skills and widen your network.

To my fellow expat Rotaractors or soon-to-be expats; keep in touch with family and friends whom you can count on. Always remember that you have people who love you for who you are… Take care of your physical, mental and social well-being. This would make you face the challenges with a fresh perspective.

Q: You have wonderful experiences to share with your fellow Rotaractors. And I thank you for your valuable time given to us. Let me ask one last question before we wrap up. What do you think about this project Glimpse?

It’s a great way to connect with alumni members who are now living in different parts of the world. I remember reading the previous Glimpse posts at a time when I was quite nervous about my overseas endeavors. It was inspiring to read how my fellow Rotaract friends had overcome challenges and found their footing in an unknown country. I hope this post will also be helpful to those who are nervous about saying “yes” to new adventures.

By: Rtr. Sajeewa Jayarathne

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