When I have discussions about local universities with friends or older peers, whenever NTU came up, the top comment would be, “Don’t you mean ‘Pulau’ NTU?” It’s a pity that the ‘P’- word seems to be quite a common deal breaker for many of us when we are choosing between universities.I had a fulfilling year here, and a wonderful time meeting and reuniting with lovely people.
After spending two full semesters here in NTU, here are some special moments I’d like to share about my experience. They say that there’s a first time for everything. But, when it comes to your time in university, you will realise that’s a very, very gross understatement.
1. Having beautiful toned legs.
I have zero sense of direction. To make things worse, I am also very slow when it comes to learning it.
It was inevitable. There would be unfortunate times when I had to navigate around the campus on my own without friends. I have never walked so much in my life, as much as my first month of school. However, I realised the stairs and slopes could have been avoided with an adequate understanding of the school shuttle bus system, hitting up the location on the interactive online school map the night before and most importantly, paying extra attention to learn the way when I’m with my friends. I learnt my lesson the hard way. But I was rewarded with a balanced regimen of good exercise and beautiful greenery every day.
2. Witnessing wildlife in my backyard.
I love nature, and I imagine how awesome it is my friends who stay in hall to wake up to these adorable creatures everyday.
I was genuinely in awe when I spotted them when I was visiting my friend’s hall. I just stood there and watched them for a good 10 minutes. This happened in my first week of school. It was a totally different experience than a visit to the zoo or watching National Geographic.
3. Gaining a sense of belonging to huge social groups.
I have so much to say about this point. NTU’s kampong spirit is very strong. There are so many ways here to forge close friendships. I myself was surprised because I thought this was something I willingly decided to forego when I chose not to stay in hall. Being an introvert my entire life, I never thought I would say this but it is very easy to make friends here.
Coming here has placed me in many situations where I had to put myself out there. I tried everything—from a foreign language, talking to boys (not kidding here), public speaking, volunteering to sports. For every experience you open yourself up to, you gain a new circle of close friends. This was something that took me 12 years of schooling to realise. I have retold this story to my friends many times, but sadly I failed to impress most of them. Maybe it will be different this time.
I had my first friendly encounter with strangers back in Semester 1. I was queuing up behind three people at a vending machine near Canteen B at South Spine. It turned out that the machine was not working, even though one person already tossed in his coins. No matter how hard they tried, it wasn’t dispensing the coins back out either. Frustrated, they settled for something else from another functioning one beside it.
Being the unsure, blur and shy freshman I was back then, I kept a subtle yet safe distance from them—just to be safe. These people I dismissed as “rowdy boys” turned around and made an unexpectedly kind gesture. They told me, “the machine was spoilt, so don’t buy from that one.” There was no hint of any frustration which I observed from before. They also provided an excellent analysis out of the three vending machines standing, which was working and which was not.
I would think most people would just walk off after getting their drink, no? So, no matter how unimpressed my friends are, I am convinced that this was one of those moments of a display of NTU’s kampong spirit. And I know my friends who stay in hall would be happy to share many more heartwarming stories of their own too.
4. Talking to friends in Chinese.
To be more precise, this is the first time I have had the chance to converse with my peers in my mother tongue since primary school. It feels like home to me especially, as I grew up in a mandarin-speaking family. It’s a good feeling to meet people like me and to know that other than elderly neighbours, “cai png” aunties and my family, there are many people here in NTU who are happy to chitchat with me in a language that’s very close to my heart.
I remember how in primary school, by the time we hit upper primary, everyone naturally grew out of conversing in Chinese. I have never thought about it too much. For years, I speak English outside. And Chinese is strictly, for family.
But NTU has blurred the lines for me; now Chinese is for friends too. And many times, I have difficulty trying to tell them apart from family.
5. Not knowing what to do with this newfound freedom.
A wise man once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” University life is all about freedom. However, the terms and conditions of enjoying it are often written in fine print. We have to be independent and responsible for our own actions and decisions.
The school now treats us as adults, to prepare us for the real world out there waiting for us. Gone are the days where teachers nag at you for skipping class and lectures. There is also no need to justify missing school with an MC. Those days are gone.
It is up to us to keep our grades satisfactory and to keep ourselves enrolled in the school. When I do decide to skip a class, I have considered the ease of self-learning the content and class participation percentages. I have to constantly remind myself to be disciplined in keeping up with my schoolwork, and proactively seek help from professors when in doubt. Now I find myself looking back fondly at those times because no matter how overbearing or annoying they were, at least there were a lot more people looking out for you back then.
Some experiences are shared among university students in general. A fulfilling life in university has much more to do with the student than the school itself. I am not a believer in school rankings because I find them too unpredictable, much less predicting the reputation of a school four years into the future! However, I personally recommend taking a leap of faith in your decision.
To those out there thinking of joining me here in NTU, yes, Pulau NTU is worth the climb.