Not Your Usual Term Break: An Undergrad’s Journey Through India’s Major Cities


Soon Qiao Ying, 24
Insurance Specialist at Prudential Insurance

Interviewed by: Melissa Chia

“I thought it would be interesting to go to an emerging market for a change, to see how their economy functions…”

Qiao Ying got her firsthand taste of India at the age of 21. It was 2009 during the month-long period between semesters that the then-final year Banking and Finance major decided to pack her bags and embark on the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Global Discovery Programme to India.

The month-long programme took her to three Indian cities – New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune where she went on a series of site visits to companies, visited the Taj Mahal and encountered a few eye-opening surprises.

What made you decide to go to India for an exchange?

I thought it would be interesting for a change and a good experience to go to an emerging market to see how their economy functions and how the people live.

Did you consider doing an exchange in any other regions?

I applied for the exchange programme and was offered an exchange opportunity to China. However, I did not want to go to China on a semester-long exchange programme.

So you chose India over China?

I think it was because I had no plans for the month-long break, so I decided to participate in the programme to India. Furthermore, the exchange programme that NTU has with China is in a rural part of the country and it was 6-months long, I didn’t think I would be able to cope with staying in a rural area for that long.

Oh so you went to the India programme, which was located in cities?

Yes, and it was only for a month. So, the level of commitment required from me was lesser.

How did you find the overall experience?

I enjoyed my experience. It was different from living in Singapore. You actually get to see and experience a lot more.

Tell us some surprising things about India that you probably would not have known about if you hadn’t been there.

They don’t have prata. [laughs]. They have something called paratha, which is more like naan than the prata that we have in Singapore. Erm,there can be elephants and cows on the road, alongside cars. I’ve seen 12 people squeeze into a tuk-tuk type of bike and, they [the people] really do hang outside the trains.

Were there any incidences with the locals that were particularly memorable?

There was one that I wouldn’t say it was ‘memorable’ but rather a scary part of the trip. There was once this guy followed us out of the train station. And it was very scary because both of us were girls and we were in a very local spot in town. And none of us could speak Hindi at all.

So, how did you all get help in the end?

In the end, a lady helped us out. She was very nice and she could speak English fluently, so we told her that we think a person was following us, so she brought us out to the main road and she flagged down a tuk-tuk (motorbike taxi) and told the driver in Hindi to bring us back to our hotel.

Would you consider working or pursuing your further studies in India?

I wouldn’t consider pursuing my further studies over there because the education system is not as good as in other developed countries, but I will consider working there because they have big MNCs there.

Having been to India, do you find yourself actively looking out for India in the news in Singapore?

Yes, for awhile. Having been there, I am more open to the idea of working there nonetheless.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about the three cities you have been to?

The three cities are very diverse and very different from one another. New Delhi and Mumbai are probably more similar while Pune is very different.  I guess it’s because New Delhi and Mumbai are urban cities and therefore, more developed in a sense. Whereas Pune was less urbanized and has an industrial town feel to it with many windmills.

Photos of India