SINGAPORE 2019 – A fairytale in the Garden City

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to live in the future? Perhaps you can visualize a city among a garden? In the winter vacation of 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to a country that most other nations consider as the ‘model city’ – Singapore – an enchanting modern metropolis. A city planned 50 years in the future, and I did not believe that myself until I saw it with my own eyes.

Combine this with the opportunity to study an exchange at one of the world’s best universities, the renowned Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and this trip was even more amazing. Over the 4 weeks in June-July, my 5 friends and I from UTS embarked on a trip of a lifetime, discovering every aspect the tiny nation of Singapore had to offer.

NTU has one of the best campuses of any University, it has its own residential dorms, bus lines, gyms, pools and fast food joints like McDonald’s, KFC, Starbucks etc. It was also an incredible learning opportunity to be taught by professors with over 30 years of experience in their respective fields of Cyber Security and Project Management.

One of the most interesting aspects of Singapore was the food. Delicious, cheap, abundant and diverse. It makes me wonder how a country with no agricultural space, hot-humid annual weather and a huge population can have such a huge variety and seemingly endless supply of food. I also got to try the highly anticipated Chili Crab but was left a little disappointed.

Travelling was a breeze. Singapore has developed one of the world’s most technologically advanced and efficient infrastructure for the Metro system (MRT), public buses and ride sharing services – GRAB. Automated trains run from sunrise to midnight at an amazing frequency of 3 mins and buses are not a minute late. Singapore may be small but it is hugely dynamic and fluid.

Singapore does not have the natural beauty that many other countries in the world are gifted with, but oh boy do they impress with their modern architecture. Singapore has a vast indoor, underground and vertical infrastructure rivaled by few cities. One of their most magnificent structures and landmarks is the Marina Bay Sands hotel in the heart of the bay.  The huge towers are a symbol of prosperity, art and affluence. At night, water shows, and light shows in the neighboring Gardens by the Bay bring the city to life. It was here I spent a majority of my time exploring and admiring the city. We also spent a lot of our time enjoying the cooler climate in the many shopping complexes around the city which are open till 10pm daily! One of my most favourite shopping destinations were the famous Orchard Road and Jewel at Changi, a new entertainment hub recently inaugurated.

Singapore also has some unique natural attractions to offer such as Sentosa Island and Henderson’s Waves. It was fun to visit the Southernmost part of continental Asia, visiting the largest Merlion on the island and riding on the Luge with friends at Sentosa.

Singapore has a rich history and it was humbling to learn about the birth of a nation through my visit to the National Art Gallery, National Museum and visiting several heritage places such as the Supreme Court, Pulau Ubin, Haji Lane, Little India, Chinese Gardens and so on.

Whether it was attending 8-hour lectures, exploring the city in 35C heat, playing Uno on campus with friends or relaxing at Marina Lighthouse and seeing the city at night, Singapore was a truly fairytale experience and one to cherish for many, many years to come.

If you get the opportunity, do not miss a chance to visit the Garden City yourself!

– Ahnaf Rahman
Bachelor of Information Technology Co-op

A Village Amongst Mountains

Incredible India. The slogan of a nation. But why is that descriptor globally accepted as means to define such a diverse society of people? In the month leading up to my BUILD Abroad experience, I travelled across four different states of India, in constant awe of the changing landscape, culture and people.

Being the child of new immigrant parents in Australia, I always struggled to correlate my identity with the view of my birth country, and my place in the world. I am Fiji-Indian, neither Fijian or Indian -nor Australian in a whole- but rather crescents of each fitted to make a circle. Without getting too philosophical, I was disorientated about who I am, and what that meant for who I want to be.

In some ways I saw my first ever trip to India as a salvation, an opportunity to discover some underlying truth left by my ancestors. Yet what I was met with was so many different Indian people identifying within their states, alongside their heritage.

It slowly dawned on me that the question I’ve been trying to answer was inside me all along. The revelation that I could create my own private, personal traditions was alleviating. That the dhal bhat in me could coexist alongside the sausage sizzle (a weird analogy, I know).

This understanding can be encapsulated no better than during my time in a rural Maharastran village, a place surrounded by mountains that held stories of roaming tigers and leopards, Sonoshi.

Sonoshi is a tribal village with some of the most extraordinary people I will ever meet. I can’t think of how to describe them but strong. Intrinsically and extrinsically, true strength was shown within every single family in countless forms.

A grandmother carrying a pail of water even as her walking stick falters, a mother carrying her child up and down a mountain, a father working from dusk to dawn farming, a teenager travelling for two hours by foot just to get to school or a child learning schoolwork in Marathi and English.

In every aspect of their corner of the world I was met with an inspiring resilience that I never could have expected.

My preconceptions about what a rural village would be like was absolutely blown away by the women of Sonoshi. With agriculture being the predominant profession for livelihood, the women raised entire families whilst working hard in the farming months, conducting their own businesses or even studying for a higher education.

Their roles as mother, wife, sister and daughter impacted me greatly, and I was touched by the close relationships found between neighbours. I observed a keen sense of inherent womanhood at the forefront of their identity, showing itself through constant laughter and love, flowing through these women to each other.

The people of Sonoshi have a firm belief in their tribal customs and culture, with a connection to the land that has religious ties. Exploring their tribal Hinduism was intensely interesting, and we were lucky enough to be in the village for the festival, Makar Sankranti, which with colours, sweets and many nights of singing, gave us a glimpse into their wonderful sense of community.

It was fulfilling to be amongst people who held their religion and culture so dear to them, and their openness to sharing their stories and knowledge with hospitality has genuinely taught me to be a better person.

I will always consider my time in Sonoshi to be a privilege, and I still don’t feel quite right about leaving it behind. I was exposed to such a different way of life, and was taught how to be empathetic and open to each new experience and connection with the Drishtee Immersion program.

As part of an ongoing initiative, I worked on an education program around water safety, that touched close to home for me. I remember a poignant moment where I was delivering the presentation that we had been culminating over the prior days, to a family and their children. These were the kids that had come to our home every day and made origami with me. Had put up with my broken Hindi and even worse Marathi to ask me questions and get to know me. We had played musical chairs, helped them with homework and braided each other’s hair.

So seeing them in front of me at that moment, showing them the diseases existing within the water that they were drinking everyday, and being able to provide a real, safe alternative was monumental.

The Drishtee Immersion covered so much ground with the three week program, I simply cannot do it any form of justice. The team makes real efforts to understand perspectives and use that create improvements for the quality of life of thousands of people. Being a part of that has truly enhanced my worldview for good, and I will be forever grateful for it.

So thank you to the Drishtee Immersion, and the people of Sonoshi, you are all who make India incredible.

By Jenivy Sewak.


The Best of America’s Modern Architecture

January – February 2019

Hello! Here I am, back in Sydney after a month-long whirlwind of a trip to the other side of the world. Travelling to the United States, I was one of 28 people who undertook a subject which saw us visit architecture by the likes of Mies Van Der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid.

Starting off our journey in New York City, we were given the opportunity to roam free in the Big City. Loosely planning our days based on a list of buildings given to us in the subject outline, I think it is safe to say that NYC provided us with days jam packed full of fun, adventure and exploration. Getting around on the Subway made us immediately feel like New-Yorkers and let us get from A to B with ease. Not only is the subway cheap, it is also full of surprises – including some of the best buskers I have ever heard. While in New York we visited Central Park, the Met, MoMa, the Guggenheim, SANAA’s New Museum, The Statue of Liberty (via the Staten Island Ferry), the Oculus by Calatrava, the 9/11 Memorial Pools and Museum, One World Trade Centre, Time’s Square… the list goes on. I think its safe to say that there is always something to do in NYC.

Top of the Rock
Top of the Rock – New York City
The Guggenheim – New York City

A couple of other highlights included going to an NBA game at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. A NY derby saw the New York Knicks play against the Brooklyn Nets, and boy did they put on a show! When in New York be sure to get to a basketball or ice hockey game… the hype is something not to be missed. Another highlight was dollar pizza… I mean who doesn’t love pizza, especially when it costs only one dollar?!! We went to 2 Bros pizza on 8th Ave. It was fresh, hot and deliciously cheesy… and crazy cheap of course! My final favourite NYC moment was visiting the High Line. If you love architecture, cute dogs or just seeing cool stuff you must take a walk along the High Line. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the High Line is an elevated walkway that has repurposed a derelict metro line into a corridor of green space. Approximately 3 miles long, the High Line is surrounded by projects from the likes of Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and Jeanne Gang. Walking along, I couldn’t help but take way too many photographs. It is pretty much architectural heaven.

The Oculus
The Oculus – World Trade Center, New York City

Moving on to Chicago, we touched down on the tarmac hours before the Polar Vortex hit. With temperatures dropping to -35 degrees, -45 degrees with wind chill, I had never been so cold in my entire life. It was reported as the coldest day in Chicago since 1985 and hit temperatures below the North Pole AND Antarctica. All this crazy weather meant that our first day in Chicago was cancelled, but there was nothing stopping us from visiting the Farnsworth House the following morning.

Despite the crippling cold, the Farnsworth House was utterly incredible. Surrounded by almost 4 feet of snow, Mies’ glass masterpiece was an incredible sight. Despite the subzero conditions outside, inside the Farnsworth House was warm and cozy. This was quite shocking given that the house is made entirely from single-pane glass and structural steel.

Farnsworth House
Farnsworth House – Chicago
Farnsworth House
Farnsworth House – Chicago

Other highlights from Chicago included Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Frank Gehry’s Pritzker Pavilion, The Bean (CloudArch), The Sullivan Centre, The Monadnock Building (featuring the first Chicago Bay Window), and Jeanne Gang’s Aqua Tower. Overall, I totally loved Chicago and would love to go back when the weather is warmer!

The Bean
The Bean (CloudArch) – Chicago

We then made our way to Los Angeles for the final leg of the trip. It was a welcome relief to strip some of our winter layers and enjoy warmer temperatures. Checking in at a beachy Santa Monica hotel, we started off our LA leg with a free weekend. Exploring Third Street Promenade, it was nice have a day to do a bit of relaxed shopping and looking around.

Some highlights included a trip to San Diego where we visited the Neurosciences Institute and Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute. A trip to downtown LA included a visit to Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall, the Broad and the Bradbury Building. We were also given the incredible opportunity to spend a day at Frank Gehry’s architecture firm which left everyone mind-blown. The Sheats-Goldstein residence was another stand out project we visited. With a multi-million dollar view of LA and a private nightclub for Mr Goldstein’s events and parties, this house had everyone in awe. With crazy architectural complexity and attention to detail this house was almost too much to take in!

The Broad
The Broad – Downtown LA
The Neurosciences Institute
The Neurosciences Institute – La Jolla, San Diego
Sheats-Goldstein Residence – Hollywood Hills, LA
Disney Concert Hall
Disney Concert Hall – Downtown LA
Gehry Partners
Gehry Partners – LA
Stahl House
Stahl House – Hollywood Hills, LA

All in all, our trip to the US was packed full of experiences that I will never forget. It was a great way to meet new people, learn about both myself and my profession, and see things that I will never see again. A trip of a lifetime.

– Hannah Hill-Wade