Staying in a residential hall/college during the semester is an option for students studying in NUS and NTU. NUS has six residential halls, two residential , and four residential colleges in their University Town. NTU offers at least 7 residential hostels. In this article, I will briefly discuss the pros and cons of staying in a residential hall while studying in a local uni. I will be using life in a NUS residential hall as the main focus (as I have stayed in one before), but I will also be referencing the experience of NTU residential hostels.
Meeting people, making friends
You get to meet people in an environment unlike regular school time in campus. Lectures and tutorials provide a limited time for social interaction, as students just attend class and leave for the next lesson. When staying in a hall, there are other students staying on the left and right of your room – you can go for meals together, hang out, chat, and arrange for meetings easily.
Meeting people in hall can help you discover people in similar interests, and you can develop a network of people that shares your interest (e.g. music, dance, design, photography, acting, sports, etc.)
CCAs are a central component of life in a residential hall. There are various clubs, societies, committees, and events you can participate or volunteer for. Joining these activities will help you discover what your interests are, and what you have an aptitude for. Halls organize various events in performing arts, and sports competitions. Staying in hall provides you with the avenue to participate in these events and gain exposure to such fields. Through these activities, you can also meet more friends with similar interests.
But note that you have to plan your time well, and allocate enough time to focus on your schoolwork as well (which may be overwhelming in the first semester of your studies).
More intimate experience of school environment
Staying in a hall allows you to actually stay in your school. This is the best way to fully immerse and experience your tertiary education. University is a different phase in life from secondary education, where we went to school and then went home. Staying on campus gives us more time and opportunity to explore the campus. You have worry less about catching the last bus or last train, and can stay behind in campus after hours to study.
You also get to spend time alone on your own, away from home. For many of us, it is a new experience staying away from our families and doing things on our own. You will need to do your own laundry, prepare your own meals or eat out on your own (some halls do not provide meal plans).
The most immediate concern about staying in a residential hall is the cost. Staying in a residential hall is expensive. In NUS, a week’s stay in hall costs at least $100, amounting up to over $2100 for a semester. The cost is even higher for residential parks and U-Town residences (for U-Town, it could go up to $3000 per semester). Staying during the vacation period between semesters will incur additional costs, as well as renting storage services for your items.
The cost is enough to convince most students to opt for travelling between school and home everyday, rather than staying. It is definitely more cost-effective for local students to stay at home, since travelling to school is still possible (albeit difficult and time-consuming for students staying on the other end of the island).
One can try applying for financial aid or scholarships. Eligible students will receive subsidies for their rental. However, students should have credible reasons to apply, as the decision is up to the Financial Aid departments in their respective schools. The subsidies will also not cover the costs entirely.
Time and Energy spent
As enriching as hall activities are, they take up a lot of time and energy. This is especially true for people participating in major performances, events, and sports competitions. The practice hours vary amongst activities, but active participation would inevitably mean less time for studying and for activities beyond those in hall. In addition, various residential halls require students to accumulate a minimum number of participation points in order to qualify for a place in the following academic year. There are residential hostels that do not require students to accumulate points, but they may cost more (or are just not as vibrant). If students are just looking to stay in campus to focus on studies, they can consider these.
Depending on the type of residential hall a student is staying in, they may have to commit a large portion of their time and energy to the activities and friends in the hostel. While it may be worthwhile, it definitely will reduce his or her availability beyond the confines of the hall environment.
Restricted social circle and activities
Because you’ll be spending a large part of time in hall, your social circle will be restricted to it. Majority of the people you interact with are those from the same hall. The more involved you are with hall activities, the less you will interact with people outside of hall. You will also have less time to join other CCAs outside of hall, and thus fewer opportunities to meet the rest of your batchmates.
How to maximize your stay
It is most important to manage your time and resources well, and to consider your capacities when joining activities in hall. First find out the coursework and workload for your classes, and then calculate the minimum amount of time you need to complete those tasks. Then look at the various activities in your hall, and see which are the ones that can fit into your schedule, without jeopardizing your studies – or your sleep.
Next, play on your strengths. If there is a skill you already have or a craft you are already good at, it will be advantageous to tap on them in hall. If you are good at a sport, make sure you go for the tryouts. If you have been learning dance since secondary school, audition for all the dance groups. If you are into photography or media design, volunteer your services. Join the things you are good at first, to establish an identity in the community.
Explore your interests. Use this chance to explore activities that you have always wanted to, but never had a chance to. If you have always been focusing on sports, try out for a dance event. If you have never touched a soccer ball before (or not often), go for the tryouts. If you want to be part of an extravagant procession, join the Chingay team.
Of course, there will be sleepless nights from dance practices, committee meetings, and HTHT sessions with your orientation group mates. It’s alright to stay up once in a while; after all, you are staying in a hall. Just make sure you don’t burn yourself out by taking on more responsibilities and activities than you can handle. If you arrange your time wisely, your stay in hall will be a fruitful and rewarding experience.