By Cheong Sheng, Undergraduate, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business
I will boldly say this: Student Exchange is the most memorable experience and a definite highlight in my University life. Point blank and period.
Through this experience, I had learnt to live independently, forged friendships from all over the globe, gained a global perspective and appreciation for culture, commerce, and last but not least had a great ton of fun.
SMU offers a diverse selection of partner universities to choose from, across every continent and spanning many different specialities. An entrepreneurship and marketing major myself, I chose Babson College in Boston, Massachusetts which is the number one institution for entrepreneurship in the United States. (Fun Fact: SMU is the first university to offer an Entrepreneurship major in Singapore!) Boasting a curriculum and environment iron-focused on entrepreneurship, coupled with an international cohort and faculty that embraces diversity and creativity, Babson College is definitely top of the list for a student exchange if starting a business is your thing.
The US is definitely a popular choice amongst many, and the best part about going for an exchange in America is being able to embark on short road trips even if it’s just over the weekends. It is a fun, budget-friendly experience, especially for Singaporeans who are probably more familiar with day trips to Johor.
In this write-up, I will be sharing with you the highlights of my favourite road trips from Massachusetts that you can do over the weekend, outside of the usual New York City or Washington DC. Whether you have already decided to go to the States, are considering an exchange programme, or even if you’re still deciding whether SMU is the right choice for you, it is never too early to plan for a fun time and imagine what could be!
Travel Tip: The most popular way that exchange students travel in the US is via ZipCar, which is a car-sharing platform that charges you by the hour or day (Similar to BluSG). However, I would strongly recommend an application called “Turro”, which, simply put, is an Airbnb for cars. You can rent from a wide variety of cars that are competitively priced, much better maintained and allows you to live out your “fancy car” fantasies which would otherwise be too expensive in Singapore.
The allure of Maine truly begins with the drive itself. Travelling across one of America’s most scenic highways, the journey towards Maine is quite the experience. En route, stop by White Mountain National Forest, home to one of America’s tallest peaks, Mount Washington. During the winter seasons, consider going for an adventure on a snowmobile. It is easy to pick up and, not to mention, a fun and adrenaline-pumping experience as you feel the refreshing rush of snow against your face.
You definitely cannot miss out on Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. Catch the mesmerising sunset at Otter’s point, where the sun recedes behind the grandiose expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean before you. Indulge in nature’s rhythm as the waves break against the rocky shore, topped with lush pine trees and a dusting of snow. A sensory meld of brilliant colours, soothing sounds and earthy smells, Otter’s Point is a panorama of nature’s finest.
Connecticut and Rhode Island
While travelling towards Connecticut, make a breakfast pit-stop at the Traveler Restaurant. True to its description of being “The Food and Book Place”, this a quaint café offers a mini library of pre-loved books ranging from Twilight to vintage titles. Order any breakfast item (which are very reasonably priced) and you have entitled any three books of your choice—undeniably a steal, I must say.
Hartford, Connecticut does not have much to offer, but a visit to the Mark Twain House is certainly a must for literary fans. Live a day in his shoes by going on an immersive tour of his house, complete with original furnishings and valuable first-edition works.
Newport is a picture of crystalline waves set against stunning cliffs and awe-inspiring mansions. Admire the architectural styles of America through the passage of time dating back to the 17th century, from colonial aesthetics to the Gothic Revival. A morning stroll along Cliff Walk is the best way to soak in everything Newport has to offer. It beholds many grand and ornate mansions (The Breakers, Marble House, etc.) which take you back to the illustrious lives of America’s richest and most prominent families of the past, while offering a breath-taking view of the ocean crashing below. Driving through the Ocean Drive Historic District is another splendid way to experience the grandeur of Newport.
Endearingly named the Queen of America’s lakes, Lake George is definitely all that and more. A watercolour of nirvana, allow nature’s blessings of calm and peace wash over you as you soak in the serenity of Lake George. Experience the lake in all its glory by paddle-boarding and kayaking in its vast waters, as you gaze out towards the lush islands set against a backdrop of stunning peaks.
Abound with numerous hiking trails, I would recommend catching the mesmerising sunset atop Pilot Knob. Featuring a gazebo at the top complete with breath-taking vantage views of Lake George, we even hiked up with a box of pizza just to be extra fancy. Safe to say it was the most memorable slice of pizza in my life.
Should a quieter, scenic drive interest you, an unexpected surprise was Brant Lake. Though less impressive in size, a ride along Route 8 allows you to drive right by the lake, allowing you to experience its beauty from the comfort of your car. Another surprise was Shelving Rock Falls—splendid in character and reachable by an easy walk.
Also, take the opportunity to visit Manchester, Vermont en route to Lake George from Massachusetts and Albany, New York, on your way back.
Cape Cod is renowned as the National Shoreline of America, and when you are there it is easy to see why. Miles of pristine white beaches stretch endlessly before you, coupled with the lapping of waves blanketing the shoreline in a glistening sheen. While away your time hunting for sea glass—pieces of glass beautifully coated in salt over years in the ocean that have been washed up to shore.
Vintage shops mark the entire route along Cape Cod. Shop for special, pre-loved finds at amazing prices while doing good (proceeds from thrift stores often go to charity). Also, stop by the White Cedar Trail along Cape Cod. Cedar trees grow on moss-covered “bumps” on the ground surrounded by deeply-coloured water, giving the illusion of multiple islands dotting the landscape and creating an intense yet strangely whimsical atmosphere.
Drive all the way to the tip of Cape Cod where you will discover the charming Provincetown. The longest surviving artist colony in America and an abode for the LGBTQ+ community, Provincetown is a haven of diversity and brimming with creativity. Boasting inspiring art galleries, chic cafes and countless water activities, there is something for everyone.
Explore the dramatic landscapes of Provincetown by biking on Provinceland Trail. Witness the scenery evolve from flourishing greenery to desert dunes to a stunning seascape all in a matter of seconds. With a different view at every corner, this bike-ride is not to be missed.
Every adventure is a journey for the soul. What will yours have in store?