By Ng Ashley
Do you remember the first time you stepped into NTU? Surrounded by a new environment, new faces, new professors, new things to learn. Being lost in the huge campus, learning how to bid for your modules during STAR Wars, making friends, worrying about your GPA…
All these moments – big or small – add up to a bittersweet, memorable chapter in our lives.
Fast forward four years later and many final year students will be graduating. After meeting all sorts of different people, going on internships, staying in hall and embarking on exchange, their journey in NTU will inevitably come to a close.
As a freshman, my journey has just begun. Yet, a batch of seniors will be stepping into the working world at the end of the upcoming semester. This makes me curious about how life has been like for them in the past four years. More pointedly, I wanted to find out if they had any advice on things they would have done differently.
Hence, I spoke to a few seniors and consolidated six pieces of advice they shared.
Put Yourself Out There and Be Involved
Be brave. Join CCAs. Try new things! From the wise words of Denise Khng, a final year student from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI), it’s your last chance to be a student, so make the most out of it!
While it is important to contemplate your career options, don’t spend so much time being stressed about adulting that you forget to live your life. Breathe and try to be present in the moment instead of worrying excessively about the future. After all, you’re going to spend a lot of time on work after graduation while your university experience is comparatively fleeting.
Admittedly, not everything you participate in will entail a pleasant and rosy experience, but what’s the harm in trying?
After all, even bad experiences can help us to figure out more about ourselves, such as our likes and dislikes.
Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out for Help
It is normal to feel confused and lost at times, but the only way around it is to be proactive and ask for help. There are tons of resources available and most of the time, they’re just a Google search away!
Khng reflected, “I would have done university a lot differently if I had approached more seniors [or] gone to a career coach earlier [or…] make more informed decisions overall.”
For instance, NTU’s Career & Attachment Office offers career advice and coaching for all students. These sessions are meant to address whatever career concerns you may have. Rest assured that this information will be kept confidential between you and your career coach. If you have not already done so, you can schedule your appointment soon!
Learning More About a Potential Career
Be it through taking modules, joining competitions or Professional Internship (PI), it might be useful to have a career goal in mind.
This allows you to be more strategic in how you allocate your time to different commitments while learning about your prospective career. It is also a great way to discover if these opportunities will eventually lead you to a fulfilling career you enjoy.
Some seniors I interviewed regretted not attending career talks earlier in their university days.
Pro tip: pay attention to your Outlook emails – they sometimes offer information about rare and interesting internship openings or seminars that may be beneficial to your prospective career!
Balance School and Social Life
A few other seniors recounted that they were quite busy with school and hustling, sacrificing time to hang out and bond with friends. They were putting so much pressure on themselves to excel in school work that they neglected their friends and family.
Take More Fun Modules
On the topic of Unrestricted Electives (UEs), one of them thought it was a shame that she did not take up fun and interesting NIE modules, such as drama, performance or language courses. As a result, she felt that she did not make the most out of her time in NTU.
A Year 4 Psychology student who did not wish to be named said, “Reflecting on my university journey, I thought it was quite a waste that my concern with getting good grades led me to take fewer classes and choose easy modules that weren’t that beneficial or interesting to me.”
She advised juniors to reflect on what they wanted out of their university experience, and then actively pursue these goals without letting uncertainty get in the way.
Focus More on Skills Instead of Only GPA
While there is always pressure on you to focus on gaining a degree or achieving a high Grade Point Average (GPA), university is much more than that. One senior claimed it is more important to focus on getting a job. Beyond scoring a decent GPA and securing a degree, it is important to build transferable soft-skills.
Osmond Chia, a Year 4 student from WKWSCI said that at first, he selectively took modules that he was more confident of scoring in, but soon realised that it was not the most fulfilling path.
“Many times I avoided modules just because I thought I would not be any good. Strangely, these are the modules I gained the most from and regardless of the grade, I have a new set of skills to bring to the working world,” Chia reflected.
So, do take the time to step out of your comfort zone, tread unfamiliar grounds and develop new skills.
While I’m still a Year 1 student, I look forward to the exciting semesters that lie ahead of me. This advice will definitely help me navigate through university and I hope that regardless of whatever year you are in, some of it has helped you, too!
When writing this piece, I realised that university is not only about attaining a good GPA, but also about developing skills and having fun with our friends.
I’ll be sure to put myself out there more and mingle with people from different walks of life, striding forward in my university adventure with a sense of optimism.