5 Things I wish I knew as a Freshman

  1. Those camps could’ve done you good
    I spent most of my post-JC days working instead of messing around in Uni orientation camps. Yes, those same camps that went under rapid media fire over the past 2 years or so. I chose not to sign up for my faculty camps because I wanted to spend my time earning money instead. I figured that camps were not one expensive (I think they cost anything between 50 to 100 bucks) but also consisted of forced socialisation that I didn’t need. I only signed up for the final orientation camp, held towards the start of the semester. That camp is O week and it’s known to be the most boring orientation camp in NUS but also (surprise surprise) the most informative. There are allocated slots in the camp for talks about module bidding, campus programmes, student conduct codes, briefings and the likes. It’s funny because these boring activities were precisely the reason why I signed up for O week. I only wanted to know what I deemed important. I sure am starting to sound like quite a machine but hey, 4 years down the road and I reflect on this very decision. It may not have been the absolute worst one, since the money I earned from that job paid for my education, but it is definitely far from the best.What I noticed is that camps form the initial bonds between uni mates and these bonds are lasting ones. We don’t have fixed class groups throughout our year or our years in school so the luxury of sitting beside familiar faces on a daily basis becomes a thing of the past. And it turns out, making lasting friends in university sure is an uphill task. Now that I’m 4 years into it, I can’t say those camps would’ve made a notable difference in my social life today.

    Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor
    One of the rare photos of me in a camp and this doesn’t even look like a camp photo

    On the flip side, it may be a tad narrow-minded to solely attribute the lack of companionship to the absence from camps. There are a multitude of reasons but that doesn’t leave us wondering if that one thing would’ve made it all different.

  2. You didn’t have to stay in hall
    Hall is a cute little playground where some crowds flourish and others, not so much. I just sat beside a group of year 2s having a heated 45-minute discussion about who they think might be able to stay on in hall next year.
    “I’m not sure about Calvin… He only joined DP, not sure if he can stay.”
    “How people in steppers stay on is that they join one other sport.”
    “The maximum points you can get from KRaphics is only 17!” *general gasp*I spent 1.5 year living on campus, 1 of which was spent in a hall. It took my Y1S2 and Y2S1 in the hall before realizing it wasn’t quite worth the politics. Hall was interesting because it contained the competitive energy of a selectively filtered out alphas who spent hours of their days rushing from sport to practice to event, in between the intensive, 24/7 socialisation. None of these activities were bad, but the lifestyle that it promoted was definitely not meant for everyone.Don’t get me wrong though, I had a fantastic year living on campus. I loved staying on my own and I love having my cosy room (it was truly the most amazing, I have picture proof). The main reason why I left was that the value from hall < the financial cost. I really do appreciate all the friendliness during my stay, it was a daily routine of cheerful hellos and greetings. But you never really know people. I was reading an article about a senior from my hall, and they quoted “Whether it’s school or hall or whichever CCAs I did, these were mostly straight activities and I was never able to fit in.” I found this quote interesting because when I lived in the same block as he did, I could never tell he didn’t feel like he belonged. He was always cheerful, and he even joined in the active socialisation (in the rare occasions that I was there). Good to hear his opinion, though, and I’m glad he found his space beyond the hall.
  3. Exchange students are going to be a pain in the ass
    You’d think you’d be quite prepared for this one, since every single senior you meet will tell you exactly this- Don’t form groups with exchangers, they will mess up your grade real good. It becomes your mantra, avoid foreigners (in academic contexts) at all costs. And you’re so sure you won’t slip! So very sure, until your prof tells you that you need a minimum of 2 exchange students in your group. What now.
    You rapidly scan the classroom for promising looking individuals. Ones that may take shorter vacations or would need to bring their grade back to their home country. But who are we kidding, it’s 100% a gamble.
    But hey, relax, sit back and expect disaster from them. You’ll be fine, its just 70% of your Marketing grade and 0% of theirs. You’re at the losing end either way so stay zen, lads. Hear it from my feisty little exchanger himself: Capture.PNG
  4. Module mapping is a thing. An important thing. 
    Module mapping? What is that? I speak from the perspective of an NUS Business School undergrad, I’m not sure how the system would work for other schools or faculties but I reckon it would be similar.
    In my school, we can graduate with either a general degree or a degree with a specialisation. A specialisation is a particular field of study in either marketing, finance, management, business analytics or operations. The NUS Business School (we are in dire need of a cooler name, like Mochtar Riady Business School) opened up specialisations in business economics and innovation and entrepreneurship very recently. Too recent a development for me to benefit from, but a development nonetheless. Each specialisation requires the student to enrol into a fixed number of area-specific modules, which is where the planning comes into play. The 2 key choices regarding the direction of your Business degree would be; first, are you taking an honours degree and second, what is your specialisation. Here’s the run-down of the honours graduation requirement:
    The challenge arises when you don’t even know what you want to specialise in, or even a step back, you don’t even know if you want an honours degree or not. And because of this lack of clarity, planning does not become a focus.
    I previously mentioned in point 1 about my work-centric attitude. Fortunately or unfortunately (you tell me), I carried this attitude into my first 2 years of university and my grades took a hit. But apart from my grades, my general awareness about school took a huge hit. I had a lack of interest in school-oriented activities and programs and I did not know much about specialisations or planning my modules. Standing back and reflecting on this decision as a year 4, I’m glad to say that I was lucky enough to have my modules play out favourably for me. And although this unfolded well for me, it made me realise how important it was to first and foremost, PLAN.
  5. School is a bubble, and being a freshman is sitting right smack in the middle of that bubble
    I was quick to identify the stark difference between schooling and working, mainly because I bounced right into the latter a couple of years sooner than my peers. I didn’t deep-dive into it, for sure, but I definitely was exposed to enough of reality to understand that there are no grades in the world beyond school. No strict, outlined rubric, no grading guide, no certainty. While I enjoyed the perks that came with this fluidity I also endured the struggle.
    I understand (and easily so) that many students focus on achieving the best possible grade and the best possible CAP. There’s a respectable competitiveness that students adopt in order to attain that grade and number. But my conversations and interactions have steered me to believe that there is little reason behind this pursuit. I connect this phenomenon to herd behaviour and I am too, an occasional follower of this very observation. Anyway, back to my point, the institution alone protects students from reality because almost nothing in school is real. Everything is contextual and hypothetical. If you make a mistake, there are no real repercussions, you learn, pick up, and move on. People say freshman year is like the honeymoon phase a newly formed couple would enjoy and at this point of my university life, I couldn’t agree more. So enjoy it while you can, its only 4 years.



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