Vanessa Romano

BSc student, Health Sciences
Vanessa Romano


BSc, Health Sciences (Co-op)

Study abroad

Singapore Management University, Singapore

What made you want to do a study abroad term?

I am a huge travel fiend! Growing up I’ve had the privilege of travelling a lot with my parents, we visited Hong Kong regularly to see my extended family. Whenever we’d travel to Hong Kong, we would often take side trips to other countries like Thailand and Singapore! After visiting Singapore in 2019 for 4 short days, I knew I had just scratched the surface of its captivating culture, vibrant city, and endless options for amazing food! I was determined to find my way back some day. During periods of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic I felt especially stuck and in a rut. I was craving a drastic change and that itch to travel became all consuming. I had decided with one of my best friends that we would plan an international study abroad term together and travel as soon as we could! 

What did you enjoy the most about the study abroad?

I think what I enjoyed most about my study abroad term was truly immersing myself in the culture! Singapore has such a diverse population of Expats, East and Southeast Asians. It’s a melting pot of many different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, which is something I was so fortunate enough to be able to experience. I did my best to eat as much local food as possible, learn the local slang, and try to live out the true Singaporean experience! Every day was a new day to explore the city and discover hidden gems to make memories in.

What was the process for preparing for an study abroad?

My journey to planning my study abroad term was definitely very different than how it normally goes. First and foremost, you must attend a mandatory information session to learn all about the application process and answer any questions you may have. Then you have to do A LOT of research. Figuring out what countries interest you, what schools are available to attend based on a list of partnerships Waterloo has with other host schools, and what courses you can take that will be transferable to give you a credit here at Waterloo. Once you’ve narrowed down your top 4 options, you then rank them and have the possibility of being matched with any of the four schools you chose.

Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go my way when submitting my top 4 choices because I didn’t get matched with anyone! However, I was determined not to give up and I was certain that I would find my own way to get to Singapore, study, and receive credits to go towards my degree. I found a local school that offered a “Visiting Student Experience” and I was able to apply externally, directly to the school, to attend, take courses and fill out a letter of permission to have my courses transfer back. Planning to study abroad is definitely a long strenuous process, on average I would say it can take about a year of preparation. Especially with spontaneous changes of COVID-19 restrictions, this made my planning experience especially long and I had to be extremely patient, but it was all worth it in the end!

After you’ve matched there are another series of steps that need to be taken to ensure you have everything you need to go abroad. This includes things like applying for a study visa, securing housing, purchasing flights, and completing mandatory pre-departure training. Overall, I have to say that I am so grateful for the flexibility of the Health Sciences program at Waterloo, because of this I was able to change my term schedule to accommodate my study abroad experience. I am also especially grateful for the School of Public Health Sciences (SPHS) academic advisors for their guidance and patience in helping me find a way to study in Singapore.

What advice do you have for others who are thinking about doing an study abroad?

My study abroad term was truly an eye opening and life changing experience. If you’re even thinking about the possibility of wanting to study abroad, you should absolutely take a chance! It sounds scary to be on your own in a new place, but it will push you out of your comfort zone in the best ways and make you learn so much about yourself. My advice would be to say “Yes!”, make a commitment to yourself, and don’t be afraid to try and fail! Planning my study abroad term was definitely not a smooth process, but I knew if I didn’t keep trying, I would watch other people live out my experience and I would be watching them wishing that were me. Take the jump!