International School Community Blog

The Journey to School: Singapore American School

The journey to work is indeed an important one.  The journey though is not so clear for international school teachers when they are looking for jobs at schools in cities/countries to which they have never been.  So let’s share what we know!

One of our members, who works at the Singapore American School (Singapore), described her way to work there as follows:

The road to Singapore American School…

It is no accident that I wake up each morning to sweeping views of the rainforest. Like all SAS teachers new to Singapore, we had to decide if we would live near the school in Woodlands at the northernmost point of the island or commit to more of a commute by living away from campus.  While many teachers make this decision based on their interest in being closer to the city center, we were looking for the opposite!  My family and I decided early on in the relocation process that living close to some sort of green space was a must.  Finding just such a spot in densely populated Singapore which also had all the necessary transport options was a challenge, but not impossible. Though, we do feel a little like we hit the jackpot with our condo.

Singapore American School

The MRT (train system) in Singapore is known for being efficient and punctual, which in my experience is definitely true.  What many people don’t realize is that the bus system is equally so!  I was tipped off by a fellow expat, (thanks Mette) who encouraged us to venture further away from the MRT stations and look for housing with a great bus route.  We hit the jackpot there too! Before we signed the lease, we did a practice run to the school and were very relieved to discover it was easy peasy. We’ve been for a while now and have our commute down to a smooth routine.

Here is our journey to Singapore American School in numbers:

5:15: time the alarm goes off (for the first time)

6:35: time I have to leave in order to make it to school around 7am (nice and early to get a head start on the day)

> 3: number of apps available which track public transport services and tip me off to when my next bus will come by.  On a perfect day, I can leave our condo and stroll to the bus stop just in time to walk onto the bus.  On the less than perfect days, rarely more than 10 minutes passes between busses.

23: number of floors we ride the elevator down. We’re not alone in our highrise living.  According to 2014 Singapore Housing statistics, over 80% of island residents live in HDBs, while a further 13% live in apartments and condos.  This means that a full 93% of the country’s inhabitants live high above the ground.  In that way, we are definitely amongst the majority with our one-floor-shy-of-the-penthouse condo.

up to 2: minutes of elevator time. The bus stop in front of our condo is max 200 meter as the crow flies from our front door, but I inevitably underestimate the vertical commute! Luckily, when I step off the elevator I’m greeted with a lush pool area and I’m reminded of one of the many reasons we made this move.

Singapore American School

26-29: degrees Celsius, the temperature that greets me each early morning as I stroll through aforementioned pool area. The temperatures vary very little here, with an almost daily high of 33 and nighttime low of 26. It’s easy to dress knowing exactly what the weather will be like each day (just remember to pack an umbrella). I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to the constant gloss of sweat, though.

2: number of taps of my school ID card it takes to pay for the bus ride to school-one to get on and one to get off.

S$1.30: bus fare each way

70-80%: passengers sleeping on the bus, head nodded forward or leaned awkwardly against a window.  I’ve noticed sleeping on the bus is a ‘thing’ here.  The result is a truly quiet ride, perfect for getting into the mental zone of the day.

4: languages (Malay, Tamil, Mandarin and English) bus sign are written in which is reflective of the cultural mix on the island.

0: sips of coffee I’ve taken since getting on the bus. I’ll avoid the $500 fine, thank you! I do miss the option of bringing my mug and a snack on the days when I’m running late though.

12-15: total bus ride, in minutes.

4: times per hour the school shuttle departs from Marsiling MRT station to the campus in case you want to skip the…

8: minutes walk between Marsiling MRT and campus.

Approximately 2 out of 5: days in a work-week that I get to witness a beautiful sunrise from the top deck of the bus.  On the days when I’m a little behind schedule, nature reminds me to slow down and enjoy the ride with one of these:

Millions: trees and plants lining the roadside. Singapore prioritizes landscaping in any new building project, roads included. While the result is a very manicured landscape, it certainly beats the concrete jungle. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest and lived many years in Scandinavia, I do miss a good wild forest though.

Dozens:  motorcycles and scooters zooming by, weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes erratically.  

1*26’: distance of school from the equator. Because Singapore sits so close to the equator, the day is consistently 12hrs long: sun up 7:15ish, sundown 19:15ish.

At least 10: school busses backed up at the intersection leading to the school. Something like 80% of students arrive on school busses each morning. That requires dozens of busses and quite complex logistics. It works though, like a well-oiled machine.

7-8: security guards smiling, waving, standing watch at the school’s well-guarded main entrance.

S$2.50-4: price of a tasty Hawker Center meal. A bonus of the walk back to the bus stop from school in the afternoon is passing through the local Hawker Center where very inexpensive and tasty local food can be had.  Good for those late afternoons when the thought of cooking is just too much!

approx S$10: cost of a taxi home on the days that I can’t take the thought of an 8 minute walk to the bus stop after a loooong day. Taxis are relatively inexpensive here, especially compared to owning a car (astronomical, and purposely in order to keep the number of cars down). On taxi days, I’m home in less than 10 minutes.

There are days now and then when I wish we’d chosen to live in the neighborhood close to school. They are, however, far outnumbered by the days I look out over the jungle and am thankful that we stumbled upon this little gem. And, that all the numbers add up to a pleasant journey and a smooth start to our school day.


This Journey to School article was submitted to us by guest author and International School Community member.

What to know more what it is like to visit and live in Singapore?  Out of a total of 24 international schools we have listed in Singapore, 13 that have had comments submitted on them. Here are just a few:

EtonHouse International School (Singapore) (Singapore, Singapore)30 Comments

International School Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)17 Comments

Nexus International School (Singapore, Singapore)22 Comments

One World International School (Singapore, Singapore)16 Comments

Overseas Family School Singapore (Singapore, Singapore)26 Comments

Singapore American School (Singapore, Singapore)38 Comments

Stamford American International School (Singapore, Singapore)40 Comments

So what is your journey to the international school you work at?  Earn one year free of premium membership to our website if you participate in this blog series – ‘The Journey to School’.  Email us here if you are interested.