Things I Wish I Had Said To The Prospective Tembusian

“I heard from my friend that Tembusu people are a bit snobbish and arrogant. I mean I’m coming to RC for the college life la, so college culture is very important to me. Should I go CAPT instead?”

You strike me as an intelligent person. And like most intelligent people, you’re sceptical. That’s good, don’t change. People like me (informal ambassadors of Tembusu) have a tough time with sceptical people; we’re in a bit of a pickle you see.

Because I could tell you about the hilarious suite steamboat I had recently or I could tell you about the time all of us stayed up to help my suite mate build his models (everyone knows that architects have it the hardest here). I could also tell you about how my professor never fails to address me by name, asking me how I am every time I see him or I could tell you about the time I had dinner with an actual Jordanian who explained how ISIS changed the Middle East. But these will not quell your questions.

The truth is, you’re shopping around. You’re looking for something that fits you, a culture that you like. There’s nothing wrong with that. At this point, it’s my word against anything you’ve heard. I can only offer you anecdotes (subjective, unconvincing) and affirmations (pleasant but useless).  These will do little to convince you.

I will, however, say this.

Whatever I may think of Tembusu is irrelevant. My experiences will never apply to you. Because culture comes from people and the people in Tembusu change from semester to semester. That means culture too, changes every semester. This is true for Tembusu but also for CAPT and any other college you care to name; the CAPT culture you buy today, may not be the one you receive tomorrow.

Sure there are snobs in Tembusu here but from my experience, arrogance too, is universal. One need not look hard to find conceit, whether it is in CAPT, Tembusu or Cinnamon. Looking for a culture that you like and shopping for something so intangible is ultimately a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction. The only thing that you can guarantee in any college you go to is yourself. That is, what you hope to bring and what sort of network you wish to build around you. I know it’s hard to believe, but half of any cultural experience is you. The culture that you like is the culture that you make.

I admit, what I’ve said can sound too idealistic or too confrontational (depending on how sceptical you are). But the essence of confrontation or idealism is independence. And really, if you think about it, university life in general is an independent affair. You will have an unprecedented amount of freedom to do anything you want. From how you dress to what you eat and what lessons you pick or what lectures you skip; the choices will spoil you.

But choice is a funny thing. People often speak of the quality of the choice but the truth is, there is no such thing. There is no bad or good choice, any more than there are bad or good colours. A colour is only as good as the way it is used. Even infamous colours are capable of beauty and even popular colours have potential for abuse. Whether your choice attracts envy or pity is entirely a matter of how you exercise that choice. And I believe the same applies for a Residential College too. I’d venture to say that Tembusu, in my experience, is the most colourful of them all.

Images by Calvin Chan and Ruth Anne Keh

About the Author

Bumsoo is occasionally Korean when it suits his purposes or his punchlines. So yes, he’s heard of Big Bang; no, he hates Kimchi and for Pete’s sake, stop asking him to “say this in Korean for me can?”