I had started this piece hoping to make it a light-hearted one, but as the interviews went on, a lot of the replies became somewhat melancholic. Not in a depressive manner, but rather they had a more mature tone. The weekend to me is a place of respite away from social interaction.
I guess it is one of the unspoken rules about university life. The social interaction will tire you out — even for the best of extroverts. There is much romanticisation that comes with the freshman experience: the 3am suppers, the fertile love-ground (I suppose you really can find love in a hopeless place — check the Rihanna reference) and the camaraderie between friends. There are little caveats that come with each of these things, but I have chosen to focus on one of the greater romanticisation that revolves around the community experience; the social condition that comes with the contract of community life.
“I do feel a bit left out from the family, I do not get many updates first-hand from them. So, I do get a bit lonely at times, but there are advantages because I have more freedom to do what I like, but that also means I have to be more disciplined.”
Do not get me wrong here, I love staying in Tembusu. I have a bunch of friends that will study with me through the night and hear my complaints as I gripe about transferring out. But constantly being around people tires me. You see, I started this article intending to write about the “Tembusu weekend”. I always had a peaceful zen-ness that would follow me into the weekend — that was what first sparked my interest. I figure it is that you get a chance to hide away into the weekend — free from the worry of lectures and tutorials. Going further, I began to understand how this supposed zen-ness plays out, and how the weekend plays a part in it.
“I love being on campus and interacting with people and I am really thankful for this opportunity. Just sometimes you are always out interacting with people and you do not have that downtime alone. Sometimes I need that downtime and time to spend time with my family — the people who know you for who you are. I do not have to worry about engaging in a proper conversation with someone and can just really chill out.”
I was very surprised when I found that many thought about the weekend the same way I did. Amongst the interviews conducted, Lynn Ho’s input was very enlightening: she discussed how community life meant constantly existing outside the context of a family member. Eunice Tan was pretty cool about how she only realised her own introvert aspect in Tembusu.
“It is definitely quieter. In a way, I do like the quietness. I get very awkward very easily engaging in small talk, so if there are a lot of people around, I am kind of forced to make conversation and sometimes, I want my downtime. So quieter weekends are very nice for me just to… stone and be by myself. I think that is different in a way — you do get more of a sense of space. You do not get obstructed by people, you get to see the place for its glory. The landscape is blocked by people, so you actually see the field. The background of the tree against the field is a lot more serene. If you really take a walk, there is that feeling of a path, of walking a journey, instead of just people.”
How true this might be for you could have a lot to do with how far you swing between the Introvert-Extrovert System. For many, it at least explains why you might still feel enclosed in a social bubble while in your own room. You see, introversion and extroversion is a mere spectrum on its own. No one is purely an introvert or extrovert. Most of us tend somewhere in the middle. Hence this is what I mean when I say that even for the ‘best’ of extroverts, social interaction will still tire you out to some extent.
“It was not as lonely as there were a lot of activities to do. Now that there is a lot more free time, it does get a bit lonely. But it’s okay… I get a break from all the people.”
Community life magnifies this further. It plays a big part, because when you move into residential life, it means moving away from the family unit. For the first time in your life you are constantly, always seen in the context of a singular person. In the social context, you are always a ‘friend’ and no longer the ‘family member’. While it can be very fun to live together, have late night talks and mugging sessions at your convenience, alone-time becomes more difficult. And your quiet time gets harder because it is literally difficult to be away from people when you are in Tembusu (especially if you do not like staying in your own room like myself). In the midst of it all, many people end up suffocating from the constant social interaction. This is why some feel the longing to go back to their physical homes, because home means switching back into the context of a family member — a personality you have been conditioned to in at least 18 years.
On weekday vs weekend difference
“Personally, I feel like there’s no difference. The first time I had a full weekend here, I came to the dining hall for breakfast, I went up to do some work, and then I went to the Stephen Riady Centre to swim. It is kind of like I’m just here alone, get some alone time, and swim. You have that privilege where you have the good common facilities and when you come to Tembusu, you have that smallness and quietness.”
This was what the Tembusu weekend meant to most people. The college takes on a very different face when it transits into the lazy Saturday afternoon. Most of us are probably studying away. But the knowledge that people are away, and that the place is more vacated helps make even studying itself helpful. On the weekends, that cloud of need to socialise is slightly less prominent because the people themselves are gone. You could think of it like the cloud being away on a rainy day.
When you do get tired from studying however, going out for a bit helps too. I come from Shan, so occasionally there are dinner jios at Wah Chee or a trip down to Clementi on Saturday evenings. (I love it when people buy me Koi.) And because so few stay in on the weekends, the groups become more comfortable for the less crowd-inclined. I personally feel there is greater space for more substantial and meaningful interactions. Not that it is not possible on the regular weekday but the smaller groups and nua weekend really help make conversation easier.
“I used to stay at a dorm in high school. It was not really different but the whole school had to stay and then we could choose whether we wanted to stay on weekends. I just stayed in every weekend to study. The atmosphere here is really different. I like how some people just text you to come out on the weekend to do sports and all. Sometimes the dodgeball team. We met once this weekend.”
I guess that is what the weekend will mean to us all, is it not? There are many questions about the Tembusu weekend: “How is the weekend here in Tembusu?”, “How does the Tembusian choose to explore his/ her weekend?” or maybe plainly just “How is the weekender to Tembusu?’ But at the end of it all, whatever your interpretation of The Tembusu Weekend, the common denominator for all of us is how it has become a time and space for us to take a break. With that, I hope you find heart in this Tembusu weekend too.
Photography by Marshall Too.
About the Author
Asking me to choose my favourite bubble tea is like asking me to choose my favourite child. In which case, I pick Koi. Biz admin kid that gets a bit too excited about food.