STUDENTS@EVONIK BLOG: PHILIPP IN SINGAPORE
#1 – Asian culture mix with a western touch
After a 13-hour flight with a stopover in Dubai, I arrived in Singapore on a Sunday morning, tired but full of anticipation for what laid ahead. As part of my dual ‘International Business and Information Technology’ (IMBIT) study course, I’d been given the opportunity to work as an intern at Evonik in Singapore for two months.
As I left the plane, a taxi was already waiting to take me to my new home in the city. In contrast to my predecessors, I was the only one doing my internship in Singapore and would not be sharing the apartment with anyone else. Even though I was keen to have a look at the city, I was very tired from the trip and needed a rest. The heat in Singapore takes some getting used to. By the evening, I had recovered enough to check out the neighborhood and do some basic shopping. The key items included a Singaporean SIM card, an MRT card to pay for public transport, and of course something to eat. Once you’ve got the SIM card, it’s very easy to find your way around in Singapore as all public transport modes are maintained in Google Maps.
On the next morning, my first working day, I headed off to the office – by bus and tram of course. I soon learned that the time required for small trips in Singapore is very different to what we are used to in Germany. For the six-kilometer trip from my apartment to the office, I needed 40 minutes and the same again in the evening. And to cross the entire city of Singapore with public transport, I would need approximately three hours. Evonik has four sites in Singapore, two of these are production sites and two are offices. The IT department of the APAC (Asia Pacific) region is based primarily in the Nordic European Center – and that’s where I was headed. But more about my first day at work: I was given a very warm welcome by my new team and had a quick tour of the office to meet my new colleagues. Most of the office space in the Nordic European Center has been designed as an open space office, very few people sit in traditional single-person offices. This meant that I was able to get to know a lot of people very quickly.
Most of my new colleagues were Asian. It was a challenge at first to remember their nationalities because they came from so many different countries (for example, China, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia, …). The European staff members were all expats who were assigned to the Singapore sites for a period and most of them could speak German. The working language in the office was 90% English which certainly made it very convenient for me. Even though I’d been studying Chinese for four semesters, I found it very difficult to put the language to practical use. Every now and then, however, I was able to recognize individual words and I usually managed to say “Hello, how are you?” in Chinese. I spent most of my workdays in Singapore working on the switch to Windows 10. Although the project team in Germany is managing the task, the colleagues in Asia have to adapt the concept to the APAC region. Many of them spend their entire afternoons in Skype conferences as this is when the local time zone overlaps with Germany.
If you wanted to get to know traditional Asia, then Singapore would not be the best place to visit. The city itself has a strong western influence and, for those who can’t get along without them, you’ll find the likes of Nutella and Ristorante frozen pizzas in the supermarkets. One of the favorite pastimes of Singaporeans is dining out. Despite the strong western influence, you can learn a lot in Singapore about Asian food culture. On every corner, you’ll find a food court and a hawker center where you can choose from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and Indian food. The selection is huge and the prices very reasonable.
During my stay, I was lucky enough to experience the Singapore national holiday, which was also the city’s 53rd birthday. This is one of the city-state’s largest events and is celebrated with a huge show, military parades and lots more. Although very many of the inhabitants were not born in Singapore, as the country is relatively young, they share a strong feeling of solidarity and togetherness. Compared to Germany, Singapore has a large number of expatriates who are living in Singapore for a short period of time.
Overall, I had a wonderful and eventful stay in Singapore. I had the opportunity to learn a lot about the country and the various Asian cultures. I gained a great insight into the work that Evonik is doing in Singapore. In addition to international internships for students, Evonik also sponsors the “International Program for Apprentices”. I can fully recommend the experience for any future trainees or interns. There’s only one thing left for me to say: Get your applications in!
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