Singapore! ♫♫♫

My name is Huong Nguyen and I am here at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore for my internship. I will be assisting Professor Amitav Acharya on his book project on Nationalist leaders of Asia. I enjoy writing on this blog because it allows me to share with you some reflection on my experience abroad and hopefully it will ignite your own interests and lead you to new adventures.

Why Singapore?

A graduate student from the School of International Service at American University in Washington DC, I am originally from Vietnam. This trip actually brings me closer to home, as Singapore is only a 3-and-a-half-hour flight from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Try to get this straight- while Singapore is a truly Asian country for its history, culture and social composition, the business working style is very Western and the structure of society, in terms of legal system and urban planning, has been a result of visionary and conscious leadership. As a hub-and-spoke of ASEAN dialogue (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Singapore plays a major role in coordinating cooperation efforts among the diversities of Asian cultures, languages, religions, systems of governance and economies.

ISEAS is a leading think-tank in research and publication of writings on the interaction among ASEAN members as well as the organization’s relations to nation states in South Asia, Northeast Asia and the Pacific. It has hosted renowned scholars and research fellows from all over the world on a year-round basis to come, research and write. Most understandably, Professor Amitav Acharya worked with this prestigious institution in his early scholar and professorial career.

Singapore also carries personal memories. I first visited the city-state in 2003 and 2005 for summer vacations with my friends. Going on typical tourist prowl, we only surfed on the very surface of its society, although brief talks with university friends and the trying of new delicacy did leave insightful thoughts. That was when I got the first dip of Singapore. Not until 5 years later when Hanoi has become so heavily polluted with its significant imports of cars and the overall industrial changes, did I come back to a green and fresh Singaporean air to appreciate it profoundly. The 3.5-hour flight did take you to a different world, so to speak.

I really believe this is a good place to be this summer, for my continued study about Southeast Asia, its leaders and its people, its economies and its environment, urban infrastructure- what worked and what failed, ethnic minorities and culinary, youth and lifestyle, and probably everything in between.

Huong Nguyen