Freshmen FAQ: What Some of Your Seniors Think

The transition to university life is a huge one, and there are many questions that you may have heard answers to, but you didn’t quite catch the meaning of them at that time. Here at Treehouse, we asked your seniors some of the questions that always come up during the first few weeks at school.

Do take note that these are the personal opinions of those who have been in residence one or two years or even longer. We provide them here for you to read and think about.

On a scale of apples to bananas, how important is CAP really? 

Benjamin: Oranges. Oranges because orange is one the unique words in the English vocabulary that does not rhyme. Similarly, the importance one places on one’s CAP is unique and different. No one can answer that for you. Only you can answer that for yourself.

Benjamin is now a Year 2 Business student planning to specialise in Finance. He likes dogs.

Su: I think it falls around the region of an orange…it’s not essential, but all that Vitamin C sure would help.

Su is a Year 4 Law student who loves cats.

How do I get back to studying after such a long break? 

Weidong: Start by being realistic: acknowledge that some difficulty will be involved in re-starting your brain post the holidays/NS stint. The brain is a machine which, when restarted, requires the overcoming of a certain bit of inertia. This is a simple law of physics that similarly applies to life.

Understand that you are unique: everybody is born with a different mental constitution. Understanding yourself will allow you to develop the most effective method for maximising your learning. Take some time off to reflect on how well your initial strategy is working to improve upon it.

Never stop working hard: always be willing to put in the effort to improve yourself. Hard work will bring you to a better place than you were at yesterday. This also means things will become easier with each passing day.

Weidong is in Year 2 civil engineering, and a proud member of Shan.

Wei Xiang: One thing that compounds this problem is the fact that many professors here teach in a way that is quite different from the style many students are used to, from say, their JC days. If there is only one lecturer then it really cannot be helped and you will just have to adjust slowly, and do your revision starting from the core concepts. However, there are some cases where there are multiple lecturers teaching different timeslots (for all you engineering students, this happens in MA1505 and MA1506). In which case, you may find that certain lecturers’ teaching style is more suitable for you, and you should definitely follow their lessons via webcast as well.

Wei Xiang is a Year 2 chemical engineering major. He’s a big fan of stand-up comedy.

What is the difference between the residential colleges and halls?

Jensen: While I have not experienced hall life for myself, the thing that stands out the most to me when I compare notes with friends in hall is the types of opportunities we get in the residential colleges. While I have yet to be graced by the likes of Dick Lee or Hossan Leong in our Masters Teas, there have been a fair share of heavyweights that have come to our college, including Minister Tan Chuan Jin. Events such as Elephant in the Room and Work in Progress also give us very good insights into happenings in and out of academia. Most memorably my favourite discussion was on the topic “Should women serve National Service?”

A second noticeable aspect would be the presence of the residential fellows who live amongst the student population. While regrettably I have not been able to engage with all of the residential fellows present in the college, the engagement that I have had, even through dinner conversations, has provided an interesting perspective on things (and this does not necessarily have to be related to academia or their field of study)

Jensen is in year 3, mechanical engineering, and is looking for people to play League with.

Michelle: I think the main difference between RCs and halls would probably be the fact that we take modules together with our college friends! It really epitomizes working hard and playing hard together. Additionally, unlike halls, students do not have to earn points in order to secure their stay for another year. This is because each college would usually have a fixed duration for their programs. This thus frees up a lot of time for us to explore our interests and come up with wacky and innovative ideas! RCs are also generally very supportive of student initiatives and appropriate funding would be provided for your ideas to become reality.

Michelle is in Year 2, majoring in English Language.

Mona: You’ve heard a lot about how residential colleges are the equivalent of staying in a hotel while halls are more like HDB flats. Truthfully, they’re more than that.

Halls are residences with a myriad of activities to allow you to try your hand at something new. Though often times it could be for hall points to stay on, you would never regret doing a new sport or joining a committee for the first time in your life. Residential Colleges on the other hand give you more freedom to nurture your interests. If that is trying your hand at something new, go for it! Or feel free to start your own initiatives – anything goes, really. So when choosing between these two accommodations, don’t worry so much about the “type” of people you will get to interact with but just choose it based on what feels right to you. Whatever your choice is, you can be sure it will be the right one.

Mona is a half-Egyptian Year 3 economics major who has lived in one of the halls before transferring to Tembusu.

Open mics are a common affair in Tembusu, such as this musical night hosted by Shan and Ora (Photo by Nguyen Manh Tri)

Since College of Alice and Peter Tan is associated with community service and Cinnamon College the University Scholars Programme, what is Tembusu’s identity? 

Amit: Haha, this is a popular question we get every year. While other colleges may brand themselves with a certain focus, Tembusu remains unique with her openness. However, one cannot confuse openness with lack of focus. I’ve seen individuals with diverse interests indulge in many activities during their time here. While some activities may seem to favor certain topics, the college generally encourages all interests and it is usually initiative-driven folks that do what they find worthwhile.

And so it’s important to remember that a concept of identity is fluid and changing with every fresh batch. Everyone should be able to contribute to that identity.

So the real question is what do you want the Tembusu identity to entail?

Amit is in Year 3 computer science and loves comedy.

Nisha: In my opinion, Tembusu’s identity is its individuality. Every Tembusian is very different from each other and they have their own interests and beliefs, which they channel out through the opportunities that are provided to us through the interest groups, teas, talks, forums, etc. So this individuality brings about diversity which exposes us to different thoughts and beliefs, making us more perceptive, accepting and tolerant to new ideas. So in my opinion, Tembusu’s identity is its individuality and its subsequent diversity!

Nisha is a Year 2 majoring in social work and minoring in psychology. If you ever challenge her to touch her nose with her tongue, she will win.

Showcasing the Tembusu pride on Open Day (Photo by Tania Cheong)

How do I score in my Tembusu modules?

Jensen: This question sometimes gets me irritated as I feel it’s the wrong approach towards the modules offered over here. While my modules were not graded and simply given S/U, future senior seminars will not have this ‘luxury’ (hopefully this increases the effort put into these classes). I took “Culture and Cognition” as my Junior Seminar and was treated with two amazing days of the week where I would go into class, learn and have a discussion facilitated by an expert in that field. It set me thinking and was a breath of fresh air from the lectures I had in engineering. If anything, the real take away from these modules should be the participation, not the grades. The same could be said about my senior seminars “Singapore as ‘Model’ City?” and “Climate Change”.

Wei Xiang: I would suspect that many people would initially get somewhat intimidated by seminar-style learning, due to the depth of subject matter, the intimacy of smaller classes, the challenge of writing papers, or any combination of these. The modules you take in Tembusu will require some serious critical thinking skills. The good news (and maybe also the bad news) is that critical thinking is not something you can mug from a textbook; it is something you must train yourself to do. When doing readings or contributing to in-class discussion, consider the topic from several angles. Ask yourself questions about the relevance or usefulness of the text provided, paying attention to contextual details such as when it was written, the author’s background, et cetera. Does this then make the source more/less relevant to say, modern Singapore? And so on. Call me naïve, but I believe that if you enjoy the process of asking and answering tough questions, you stand a much better chance of doing well.

Yinn Shan: Every professor is different and they each look out for different things! (Like the essay structure’s clarity, the logical flow of content or the linkages between body paragraphs, etc) So I think the key is to pay attention to what that particular professor likes to see in an essay.

Yinn Shan is a Year 2 geography major who loves to sing and travel the world.

I missed my Orientation camp! What now?

Alif: I’m guessing that from this question, one might have concerns about ‘implications’ from not having attended orientation camps. If you’re referring to faculty/department-level camps or orientation programmes, and you’re now a little afraid of not knowing of certain administrative details – I suggest simply dropping an email to the department. From my experience (of having to constantly communicate to 2 departments over the past 4 semesters), the people are always friendly and ready to help. If that’s not the issue, then I’m guessing you have some little questions you don’t think you should bother the department with – things like how the module is like, whether it’s difficult, etc. For this, the Internet is a great and wondrous resource. I was referred to when I asked a few seniors around for information on certain classes. That coupled with the integration of a module rating function to are good starting points to see how a module is like. Of course, you don’t get the full depth of how classes really are, and usually only the more popular/common modules are written about…but it’s better than nothing. Again, what you can do is to actually email the professor/lecturer to get more details and you can actually iron out some concerns you have. Yes people do do this.

The best way is to just ask around. But you’ll say “Bro I say liao I never go camp then you ask me go ask people but then I dunno anyone”. Ok ok ok. I’m guessing you’re in Tembusu if you’re reading this. Ask around – your neighbours, suite mates, house mates – to see if anyone can be of service to you. You’ll definitely find at least one person in Tembusu – if not, they’ll probably know of someone who does. Abuse moments such as TOW, house orientations, IG sessions, random dinners, SJIs to get to know WHATEVER you want to know about anything. God knows I did.

At this point, if you’re very against talking to people you live amongst then I don’t really know what to do lah hor.

Alif is a Year 3 double majoring in Southeast Asian Studies and History. He is also learning Thai.

Wu Yue: Even though freshman orientation is highly encouraged, if under unforeseen circumstances that you can’t make it, there is no biggie at all! After school officially starts, there will be another week of orientations for each and every house in the college, there may even be senior-junior bonding sessions depending on the course you are in! You can also take part in college activities such as joining clubs and societies, and attending Master’s Teas to get to know more fellow college mates and professors! Don’t be afraid to try out new activities, join or start new clubs and societies, to get a holistic and fulfilling college experience in your two years of stay!

Wu Yue is a Year 3 studying project and facilities management. Interesting fact: she’s a makeup artist!

Orientation this year (Photo by Calvin Chan)

Should I join an interest group? Which one should I join?

Danielle: Without IGs life in Tembusu would be a lot more boring. This is where you can make friends with the same interests as you, and where you can have fun. IGs range from the intellectually stimulating (Debate Society), to just creatively relaxing Yarn & Glue. I love to sing, so when I joined Tembusu I immediately auditioned for Tembusu Treblemakers. It was here that I found a great bunch of friends, and opportunities to perform on big stages like NUS 110 anniversary and caroling at Raffles City. In short, IGs are the antidote for any stressed out and bored college student.

Danielle is a Year 3 Southeast Asian studies major, English Literature minor. She likes cats. And wants you to know that ‘carrot cake is to die for’.

Fedeline: Although it is not necessary to join an interest group, I’d encourage freshmen to join one that they are interested in because really, there is nothing to lose, if anything, you get to meet more people (ie. new friends), maybe pick up new skills, etc. And that was exactly what I did three years ago and I’m so glad I chose to join the IG even though I didn’t have the necessary skills then. As to which IG to join, I’d say, join something you’re truly interested in. Can’t tell you which is the best IG to join, of course! J

Fedeline is a Year 4 Life Science major specialising in Environmental Biology. If you ever speak to her, you can try guessing where she’s from. (It’s hard.)

Reynard: Well, in NUS and Tembusu most of us embark on this stage of life with the hopes of forming true friendships, exploring new worlds, seeking out epiphanies and ultimately creating something that is personal to us. I found all this and more with Filmbusu – our window to the world in the comfort of our Atlas screening room. This is the place where on a weekly basis we discover films not just for you or me but for everyone. tStudios also gave me the freedom to explore new perspectives with the guidance of some truly talented peers!

Reynard is a Year 2 communications major. This is a pretty useless fact but he once won a drinking game against an American by naming all 48 contiguous states of America, which he has never been to.

How do I get the most out of my Tembusu experience?

Jensen: For me it’s actively using the space provided to explore and experiment with various things. While I am currently a game commentator for Garena, I actually started out in a college event that I intend to continue hosting. This college carries the tagline of the home of possibilities and I would believe most would agree with me on this. There are various projects floating around and giving a shoutout to find people with similar interests on the unofficial Facebook page can go a long way.

Jensen is in year 3, mechanical engineering, and is looking for people to play League with.

Moazzam: By making friends and living in a community. Get to know as many people as possible. Make friends, and life in Tembusu and NUS would not only be enjoyable but much easier.

Moazzam is in Year 3 Computer Science. He was born in Pakistan and now lives in UAE, but he’s Singaporean.

Jia Rong: Don’t be a hermit, get out there to meet people over house or college events. Hang out in lounges or even master the art of small talk along corridors. See everyone as your equal and it’ll help eradicate the senior-junior, prof-student mindset that often hinders quality interaction.

Jia Rong is in Year 4, Business Admin (specialising in Marketing and Technopreneurship). To relieve stress she likes to cut hair, including her own.

The people driving the performing arts scene in Tembusu had the opportunity of meeting with Professor Tommy Koh and Ms Kathy Lai (CEO of the National Arts Council) last year (Photo by Tania Cheong)

I love it here! How will I be able to secure a third year stay?

Marcus: I think a better question to consider is: Why am I here in Tembusu? If you are too preoccupied with the notion of getting graded for another year’s stay, then wouldn’t it be difficult to fully enjoy the various programs and opportunities Tembusu has to offer?

Marcus is in Year 3, Computing (Information Systems). He is a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) enthusiast and freelance designer.

Hui Chee: I didn’t apply for a third year stay, but I would believe it’s important for a resident to prove his worth in his first 2 years in the college in order to secure a third year stay. Hence, the selection committee is probably looking at qualities such as leadership, commitment and passion towards the Tembusu community.

Hui Chee is a Year 4 accountancy student. She wants you to know that ketchup was once used as medicine, many years ago.

Pavan: Be a good citizen of the college, and contribute in your own way, in the various areas and opportunities that are available. But places are limited so only a small number can be retained – that’s just the way it is.

Pavan is a Year 3 double majoring in English language and European studies. He firmly believes good wine is essential before writing.

Why is the Tembusu cat so cute?!!?

If you have not already heard of Misty, find out more about him in this photo essay by Gerald Mui.

Haiin: Let’s see…

1. It’s a CAT

2. It’s FAT

3. It’s beautiful grey- not the most common coloured cat you see around

4. Its cuteness grows based on the love Tembusians give it, which is PLENTY in amount

(5. Cuteness is an evolutionary advantage. Eg. The cuter the cat, the more food people feed it)

Haiin is in Year 2 Business, planning to specialise in Marketing. She loves Tembusu so much that she lives here throughout the holidays too.

Thumbnail image by Lynn Ho, header image by Calvin Chan.

Conceptualised by Jensen Goh, compiled and edited by Alison Chew.

About the Authors
As a competitive gamer, Jensen’s personal field is the study of winning. As a Shoutcaster for Garena League of Legends, Jensen loves to discuss the E-sports industry: how is it perceived? And how does it interact with our society? He is also a firm believer that competitive gaming will be recognized in the future. Trust him, he’s an engineer.

Enthusiastic about all things artsy-fartsy, Alison is rightly enrolled in FASS. She also happens to be an awkward turtle who prefers to listen to the music and people-watch during barbeques, although she has been known to sing and play the ukulele on stage. It is rumoured that you can never take the psychologist out of Alison. Even when she’s drunk.