What backpacking taught me about joining a club in University ?

While on exchange in US a few months ago, I went backpacking in San Francisco in my bid to challenge myself. Being a student on budget, I searched for the cheapest hostel on the internet and booked it. Upon arriving at the hostel, I was flabbergasted by what I saw.   It was rundown and dirty, even worse than an army camp. I told myself I would leave.


The funny thing  is that while travelling the next day, I came across a hostel with a pleasant living environment charging just $5 more a night, I started rationalizing. It was a no-brainer for me, but somehow I came out with opposing reasons. “You know, the current hostel is not that bad. Even though there is no sink, hook and mirror in the toilet, at least there is a toilet bowl. lol” ( okay, that’s quite ridiculous)

I was in fact getting comfortable with living in an adverse environment.  You could say that I was lazy to move.

The potential benefit of staying in the new hostel greatly outweighs the costs of additional $5 a night. (we are talking about writing more high-quality blog posts in a conducive environment for your reading pleasure. ) Yet, I chose to stay because of the uncertainties enshrouding me: the fear that I could not make any friends there, the fear that the bed will be uncomfortable. Sure, some of the fears are real, but many of them are fabricated by me.

I could see the parallel between this seemingly small incident and my life in university& polytechnic.

When I was in Singapore polytechnic, I wanted to join the Current affairs and debating club because I was interested in current affairs ? That’s a liar, its because my friends told me that I could meet many members of the opposite there. Don’t laugh, that’s huge for someone studying in an engineering course.

Yet I pushed it back time and again. I had irrational fears holding me back. There were little voices telling me that I would disgrace myself there with my knowledge of current affairs that does not go beyond my secondary school social studies textbook. Also, I couldn’t find my friends to accompany me.  I told myself someday I would join. Well, that someday didn’t come. And I graduated from polytechnic.

Luckily, with a decent GPA, it means that I have a second chance at tertiary life, Wohooo! I went to Nanyang Technological University.  To what course? Business, of course ! No more engineering. And as they said, the rest is history.

The important thing is that university life(or life, in general) is short, grab whatever opportunities you can find. Not everyone has a second chance( or even 1st ) to go through tertiary education.

These are some of the things I would encourage you to do in University:

  • Fly away

Whether it is for community service, internship or semester studies, just fly away from Singapore, for goodness sake.

  • Be outrageous

Not in your attitude, but in your choice of electives and programs. As a business student, I took creative writing, philosophy, religions, surfing and you bet I had a lot of fun. Just don’t be too safe. Well-behaved women(and men) rarely make history. And you paid your school fees already, isn’t it ? Go ahead and exploit their resources.

  • Join whatever **** u want to join

Whether its because you have a genuine interest in current affairs (do you really exist?) or because you just want to increase your chances of you-know-what, just join it.

  • Be Bill Gates

Oh yes, quit school now.

Wait! Think about it. Being in school is the best time for starting something, and it doesn’t have to be a business. You can start a new CCA, an event or a movement in school, as long as it is fun for you. Do you know that in Yale-NUS, almost all the students start their own CCA and initiatives? What’s more, with government encouraging innovation, the school provides tremendous support for enterprising students like you. There’s incubation centre in NTU & NUS for budding entrepreneurs.

Check out stories of fellow undergrads here who have all tried something outside of academics.

This senior started a website that provides entertainment for students. Even though it is not an ATM, it brings tremendous satisfaction when you see other people enjoying your creation. Find out why the process of starting matters more than the results: Try something different even if there are no tangible benefits

Li Tying hails from SMU but pursues the unlikely path of bakery as her career. She confesses that she had to deal with the fear of failure and disappointments, but shared how changing perspective has empowered her with the courage to conquer her fears: Confessions of a bakerholic  

Not everyone knows what they want to do. Yet you will never know if you don’t try different things. Brian gave himself a chance and went for dancing audition, even though he is a nerd. Find out his roller coaster journey and the unbelievable rewards he reaped thereafter: Unleashing your inner beast.

These are stories of everyday undergrads, not unstoppable and unreachable college geniuses like Mark Zuckerburg or Bill Gates. We celebrate their successes because they followed their hearts and stayed true to themselves. They have showed us that ordinary people can also indulge in our own little delights.

You may say that these people are good at dancing, baking and creating websites, that’s why they have the courage to do what they did.

No. Every master was once a disaster. Billionaire investor, Warren Buffett was “terrified” of public speaking. He was so nervous, in fact, that he would arrange and choose his college classes to avoid having to get up in front of people. His breakthrough in career came when he finally confronted his fear of public speaking by attending a public speaking course.

Oftentimes, we overestimate other people’s abilities and underestimate their fears. Everyone is just as self-conscious as you. And no worries, they care so much about how they appear in front of everyone else for them to take note of the mismatch in color between your shoe and your t-shirt.

Granted, there will be little voices inside you telling you why you shouldn’t do it. Just like me and other students above, you may be telling yourself how untalented you are, how busy you are, how nerdy you are.  But the story you tell yourself of why you can’t do it is typically what stops you from doing it.



Everyone experiences self-talk, to different degrees. The trick is to learn to shut off the derogatory little voice talking down on ourselves, just like John Nash in the video. Otherwise, we can never live our life to the fullest. Recognize that fear is all bark and no bite. Things are often not as bad and difficult as it seems. You never know until you give it a shot.


Nelson Mandela


Coming back to my story in San Francisco, I eventually moved. Yay! But that was after 2 more days of procrastination, agony and suffering in a refugee camp-like hostel.  The moment I shifted, I began to wonder why I did not take the plunge much earlier. It was so enjoyable.  But hey,  that’s life.

Is there something you want to do in university and are still procrastinating?

I want to warn you against doing something for fear of losing out. I have seen so many peers who go for an activity just to beef up their resume, a phenomenon especially common in Singapore.

Whichever activity you want to embark on has to be what you really want for yourself, not because your friends or family members psycho you to do it. In the latter, your motivation to stay in the activity will dry out very fast and you will suck at the very act. On the contrary, by following your heart and not your ‘kiasuism’, you will truly enjoy the experience and flourish blissfully.

Time and tide waits for no man(and woman). Go and do it now !



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