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'I'd grown complacent': 23-year-old Singaporean shares difficulties of living abroad in China alone

'I'd grown complacent': 23-year-old Singaporean shares difficulties of living abroad in China alone
Diave posing with the iconic Shanghai skyline.
PHOTO: Instagram/Diavkj

For the longest time, Diave Aw Kok Jun had wanted to get out of his comfort zone and try living outside of Singapore. 

So, when the opportunity to study in China was presented to him, he excitedly took it up. 

"I've always wanted to live abroad," the 23-year-old told AsiaOne. 

While he loves our little red dot, he was curious about what the rest of the world could offer him. 

"I'm very grateful to be born and bred in Singapore, I can't imagine living anywhere else. But I felt that Singapore was too small a country for me," he shared. 

"Over the years, I'd grown complacent and I wanted a different experience and to live in a big nation for me to learn and explore. So I chose to move out." 

Diave, who is a student at National University Singapore (NUS), explained that he was offered an opportunity to pursue two degrees within a period of four years under the Future Leaders Programme. 

During this, he shared that he would spend his first two years in NUS and the subsequent two in China's Peking University. 

"I think there's much to learn from China as it is a very big country, so I went ahead with the programme." 

He officially moved to China around the July to August period last year. 

While it is a daunting process, it helped that Diave has tried living and working remotely in Bali before for three to four weeks during one of his school holidays. 

He had done so because Bali had been quoted as the number one place for remote working and he wanted to experience it for himself. 

"People working and living there are very driven and ambitious. It's kind of the lifestyle that I am looking for," he said, adding that Bali was a "test bed" for future remote-living opportunities. 

Being alone in a foreign country 

While he is loving his life abroad, Diave admitted that moving to a foreign country alone was "a scary one". 

"I had to handle everything by myself when it comes to visa application, future planning, finding my own accommodation," he elaborated. 

While he has made a few friends there, he confessed that finding new people to get close to has been a challenge. 

He thinks it may be because Beijing is not as cosmopolitan as Shanghai in his view, so it's harder to break into a circle of Chinese friends. 

"Most of the Chinese, I would say, tend to be a bit more guarded and they already are comfortable with their own group of friends," he observed. 

Another issue Diave has had to grapple with was the weather, citing it as his "biggest challenge". 

Coming from Singapore, which is summer all-year round, Diave wasn't used to the "severe weather conditions". 

"For example, it was really hot yesterday, like 36 or 37 degrees Celsius. In a matter of time, it changed into a dust storm. And last night, there was a severe thunderstorm. The sky was yellow with lightning and it looked apocalyptic," Diave shared. 

He explained that the winters there are painfully cold, adding that this was his first-ever harsh winter. 

And on the other extreme, the summers are blistering hot. "The temperature [can go up] to 40-something degrees Celsius," he said.

On top of all that, Diave has to deal with the issue of air pollution. 

Because of these factors, he would fall sick quite often. 

And because he was living alone, he had to take care of himself as he had no family or friends to rely on. 

Though it has been difficult, Diave has taken it in his stride. 

"These are things you have to get adjusted to," he said. 

So, will he be moving back to Singapore after his time in China? He hasn't made a decision between the two yet but he can foresee himself still spending plenty of time living in both countries. 

ALSO READ: More Singaporeans heading to Japan, Germany, the Netherlands for further studies 

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