By Tan Yi Shuen Merlene
I recall keeping my eyes glued to my laptop a few months back, anxiously looking out for updates on matriculation and orientation. Starting university seemed exciting yet daunting at the same time. After spending a whole semester here at NTU, I guess it’s about time to reflect on my experiences so far.
The highlight of starting university was meeting new people.
“After weeks of isolation in the Circuit Breaker period, a novel online orientation at the beginning of the school term piqued my interest and helped satisfy my love for getting to know new people. Those orientation mates then grew to become close company, standing beside me as I adapted to the ‘new normal’ of university education,” commented Xaiver Goh, 21, a Year 1 Economics and Public Policy & Global Affairs student.
As for myself, I was concerned about whether I would be able to make friends over a Microsoft Teams call. I fondly remember mustering up the courage to send a direct message to my course mate, Lim Enchi, 19, in my orientation group.
Alas, I accidentally pressed the ‘call button’ instead! Frantically ending the call, I received a text from Enchi moments later.
“Hello! Did you call?”
We then shared a rather awkward conversation that we still reminisce about (and laugh at) today. Despite the embarrassing ‘fat fingers’ moment, I am still grateful for that fateful meeting with her. We developed a closer relationship from then on – the blunder was truly a blessing in disguise!
In my opinion, it really is important to be brave enough to forge new friendships, especially when you embark on a completely new journey in an unfamiliar environment.
University might also be the first time many of us are treated as mature adults, living independently in one of the halls of residence. I’m sure we all have our own fair share of stories trying to adjust to this new living arrangement.
However, while local students can still visit relatives on the island and rely on them to a certain extent, international freshmen have to manage being alone. This less-than-ideal situation is compounded by the fact that they are not used to Singapore and hence, struggle to adapt to local conditions.
For Sui Xinge, 18, a Year 1 Chinese Studies student, Singapore’s climate presented a hefty challenge.
“The most challenging thing for me is the insects. Since my hometown is cold and dry, it’s hard to see any insects except for mosquitoes in summer. However, there are so many sundry insects here, and sometimes they come into my room, or even climb on my bed. They make me so nervous.”
Living apart from our parents also means that we have to be more financially independent. Managing our own tuition fees and expenses might be unfamiliar to many – a sentiment shared by our in-house writer Ong Zhi Yi. If you are interested, check out her article on Financial Literacy here.
While forging friendships and dealing with newfound independence are major aspects of university life, ultimately, most things still revolve around academics. Before entering university, I often heard my seniors discussing about the academic rigour.
Comments such as “the workload of one module is the same as one GCE A-Level subject”, or “it is impossible to finish your readings” made me rather nervous before starting the academic year. However, after completing one semester, I realised that things were not bad as they initially seemed.
Su Wenxin, 20, a Year 1 Linguistics and Multilingual Studies student, agreed. She said: “As I grew more accustomed to university life, the stress of adapting to new studying methods and classroom environments naturally faded away.”
“While it is true that tertiary education is intense, I found myself enjoying the benefits of a more flexible study regime, which helped me to manage my stress better,” she added.
Academic help is readily available too. As my professors often say, they’d always be there to answer any questions. If you find yourself struggling to keep up, consider arranging for a consultation with them, or approach your peers and seniors for advice. I am sure they’d be willing to extend a helping hand.
Most importantly, persevere, take breaks, and have faith in yourself. If you wish to speak to someone, you may also look for your academic mentor or counsellor at the University Wellbeing Centre.
The end of a semester is just the beginning of a new chapter. We still have many academic years in front of us for new experiences in university.
Despite the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic, I believe all of us managed to make the most out of our first semester here at NTU. NTUSU wishes all freshmen a fulfilling journey ahead!