Ask Audrey: Taking Advantage Of Studying Abroad

Singapore’s famed Merlion Lion Fountain

The weather has turned cold in Ann Arbor and the last scantrons have been turned in. In the rush, students crowd in the Ross School’s Winter Garden to say goodbye to their friends as they leave for winter break. Among them, a group of junior students, have something else on their mind, aware their goodbyes will have to last longer than a winter break. In a month, they will participate in the long-term Ross Study Abroad Experience carved out in the second-semester curriculum for 3rd-year students.

I had heard about this iconic semester since I was a freshman, from the spontaneous nights in Europe to students enjoying the northern lights in Iceland. So when it finally came time for my heart-felt farewell to my peers and friends, I walked out of the Ross School of Business more than enthused for my next adventure

Audrey among the clouds during her study abroad program last spring

Question is, how does one choose which adventure to take?


When evaluating countries to prioritize on my application, I considered the basics: location, temperature, weather, student life, and academics. Since Ross has excellent partnerships with top universities worldwide, I didn’t worry about rigorous academics. I defined my biggest goal as experiencing self-growth through learning in an environment outside of my comfort zone.

This is how I landed in Singapore.

Singapore offered me a multicultural experience, with its primary cultures being Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Western (British). I researched its fantastic architecture, beautiful wildlife, and (most importantly) its centrality to the rest of Southeast Asia. Along with its reputation for being a safe community, these qualities led me to choose enthusiastically this beautiful country.

As I am a 21-year-old who just wrapped up a two-year quarantine, you may be curious why I did not choose a more romanticized destination like the streets of Paris or scenic views of Italy. Just as I promised myself to sing and dance during my abroad experience, I also decided to push myself past what I expected and what felt comfortable.  So, I traveled 9,000 miles away to a country I had only seen in movies, to a school ranked No. 2 in Asia, to make myself uncomfortable.


During the weekdays, I would study various economics and business topics, lectured by esteemed professors whose research had been published in CNN and the Oxford Journal. However, my most memorable (and favorite) class was the one I thought I would fail: Seminars in Business Economics. On the first day, I noticed two things. First, I was one of five exchange students in the class of accomplished local students aged 20-25. Second, this was a very advanced trade economics class. I hadn’t taken an econ class since my first year (during COVID, I may add) and was lined up to take my Business Econ application course at Ross the following semester. Either way, saying I was a bit out of my element was an understatement.

Audrey taking a selfie during her study abroad experience

When I first sat down, the student next to me turned and introduced himself to me, and so did the four other students around me. They were all from Singapore, so I had trouble at first understanding ‘Singlish’. Still, we quickly connected and  I became excited to return to the class to see my new friends.

These five students became my project team, “Team Bugs Bunny,” and would work on assignments together each week. Our studies covered topics such as US interest rates compared to Europe and Singapore’s globalization. We spent time together studying and just laughed about our lives. They wanted to ensure I was experiencing Singapore outside of class, so they took me to a Mookata dinner, where we ate delicious meat and ramen. They even snuck me into the special National University of Singapore events so that I could get free food and merchandise!

As the weeks went by, my project team was my saving grace, and we all did great on our final project about the Korea-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. I was genuinely sad to leave my friends that last day and my professor was kind enough to take us out that evening to a famous Paratha restaurant. Here, we cheered our milo dinosaur drinks to a great semester (yes, we all passed). We wished each other the best of luck with many students graduating and embarking on new life adventures. The night ended with me vowing to return in time for my one friend’s wedding and my failure to convince everyone to visit me in New York City (for now…).


The beauty of Singapore is that no matter how late I was studying or out with friends downtown, we could feel safe commuting home using Grab. So, when I was not studying free trade agreements, you could always find me hopping onto the bus stop right outside my dorm. I would listen to podcasts or chat with my friends as we took the circle line to explore the country. Among my trips, I learned the resilient history of Singapore at the National Art History Museum. I also met with other Ross students to do a nature walk to the tip of Singapore, where we could see Maylasia across the ocean while accompanied by monkeys and Komodo dragons. My favorite part was finding the best food spots. My friends and I routinely ate satay (stall 8 has the best!) at Lau Pa Sat every Wednesday and hit Adams Food Center by the Botanical Gardens on the weekdays. My top lunch recommendation is Komalas Vilas in Little India. I have gotten their masala Dosa more than I would care to admit.

Audrey checking out the sites with a friend

Because of Singapore’s centrality to the rest of Asia, I could also explore Southeast Asia. It started with one trip to Thailand, with friends from five different countries, riding around in a Tuk Tuk and giving showers to elephants at an elephant sanctuary. Due to the US dollar’s strength, we traveled on budget in more ways than one. For my final journey, I spent three weeks traveling with four of my close friends. We saw Buddhas Tooth Relic in Kandy, Sri Lanka; devoured Dim Sum in Wanchai, Hong Kong; explored the ancient royal palace in Bangkok; Thailand; took an amazing tour of the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and even went to the most popular beach of global surf competitions in Bali, Indonesia. At every turn, we were met with kindness and found joy in meeting so many beautiful strangers.

On my last day, my friends, who felt like family, waited alongside me at the bus stop that would be my first stop on my adventure back home. We cried so hard because our crazy journey had finally ended, but we all smiled one last time because we knew our friendship would last until our next.


Returning to U-M this fall, no time has seemingly passed in Ann Arbor. I am excited to enhance my community with the insights I gained abroad. Not only did I push my learning skills outside of my comfort zone, but I also had an unforgettable adventure exploring Singapore. I was able to sing and dance around Marina Bay with my new friends numerous times and explore other countries in Southeast Asia. If you have yet to go abroad, I want to highlight that you can have the best of both worlds abroad: a fantastic academic experience and an unforgettable adventure. It does not matter where you go, but you must stay open to unexpected adventures, friendships, and knowledge to have a treasured study abroad experience.


Audrey Thedford is a rising BBA Senior at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Over her three years at the University, she has been highly involved in the undergraduate business community. She has served as DEI Chair of Phi Chi Theta Professional Business Fraternity, Project Manager in BOND Consulting Club, and a Ross Student Ambassador. In the greater Michigan community, she serves as an undergraduate representative on the Regional Program Committee of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. She will be pursuing a career in management consulting post-graduation.

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