Looking back on my years in NTU philosophy, what is most memorable, apart from exchange, are the random fun UEs that I took. As a humanities student, I had 33 UEs, which means 11 random courses that I could take!
I feel quite fortunate that I didn’t just have 9 UEs like students in some other courses.
Now, I understand that some people are high achievers and focused on getting good grades, so they might generally be inclined to take modules they can score As in. That’s nice.
Personally, though, I was never so grade-focused and was pretty happy being chill. So, I pretty much went with the flow and did whatever I felt like for my assignments. And in the meantime, I naturally went for whatever modules seemed fun.
Disclaimer: Of course, I maintained a certain standard!
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Here are some of the UEs that I took back then.
1: Introduction to Creative Writing
I took this module during my very first semester. Most people were dipping their toes into university and playing it safe but who cares? I simply took six modules, going for the maximum number of AUs we could take for the semester.
As far as I remember, there were three parts to creative writing: fiction, poetry and a final presentation. For fiction, I wrote a story about some students trapped in our university upon a zombie outbreak. It was from the first-person perspective and in present tense just the way I like it and ended with the main character turning into a zombie. I quite liked that story although I’m not sure it scored very well.
I’m not all that into poetry and I found it quite troublesome because of rules and whatnot, so let’s skip it. I still remember the presentation. Almost everyone else seemed to have prepared long and hard for their presentation but I just happily performed an ad-lib. It was a commander role-play in a zombie apocalypse but let’s just leave it at that.
2: Introduction to Theatre Studies
I took this module during my second semester. It was fun and memorable.
This module has both practical and theory segments. We always started our classes with warm-ups, which included games. The games were fun, but I only have vague impressions of them remaining. What is definite, though, is that it was probably the single most fun class I had that semester. We had these weekly reflection journals but to humanities students, that’s basically like drinking water already.
A highlight of the module was that we had to watch a live play at some theatre and then write an essay of it. I do remember that the one I watched was called ‘In the silence of your heart’. As far as I remember, it was a silent play and some NTU girl was starring in it. I finished that essay like a week early but then proceeded to forget to hand it in. Luckily, the teacher accepted that I did it on time.
The uncontested best part of the module was obviously none other than acting in a play. We did an adapted version of Hand to God. I acted as Jason and Tyrone. It’s simple. Basically, Jason was the guy’s name while Tyrone was his puppet’s name. Demonic Tyrone came to life on Jason’s hand one day. So, I basically voiced two characters in two voices having a back-and-forth with each other. Loved the evil cackling.
3: Translation: Histories, Theories and Principles
Well, the translation module was not all that fun per se but was definitely quite chill. Now, the backstory behind this is that I became a webnovel translator the year I started university. So, since rendering Chinese to English was quite effortless, basically I thought well why not. This was my third semester.
I remember that we also had to watch movies for this module. One was the quite aptly named Lost in Translation. Scarlett Johansson starred in it. There was also another movie which was quite literary. If I remember correctly, part of it was set somewhere in the Middle East and there were possibly two parallel plotlines. An adolescent boy shot a bullet and it killed someone on a bus. We wrote an essay.
There was also a presentation that we did. I remember that I just re-translated the names of the streets around the general vicinity of my home into English and presented that. Renamed Ho Ching Road, Yuan Ching Road, Tao Ching Road…
The thing that left the greatest impression on me was the exam where I had to translate from English to Chinese. Now, that’s not my default option, but I just performed it clinically. Then there was also an essay question, which I could basically just cruise along with and spend less time on.
In the very same semester, I took Tennis with a friend. Now, the backstory behind this is that we had learnt a bit of Tennis before. At least I wasn’t very good, though. But I was in it for the fun, not the grade.
Now, this lesson was set at an unusual time. Yes, there were morning slots for this module too, but ours was at like 6-9pm. By default in NTU, it’s like most lessons will end at probably 5.30. Still, if you can have fun, who cares about the time?
The vast majority of the time in this module was spent playing tennis. Some of the other students were those sporty NIE kids who got to take it as a PE rather than a UE. There was also an exchange student from Korea, but I digress. Naturally, the class was partly graded through actual tennis matches. I’m the kind who randomly swings however I feel like it, so I was inconsistent, sometimes good but mostly bad.
There was one small theory test that we had in the computer lab. I know that quite a few people googled the answers online while doing this test. Personally, my friend and I didn’t do so. I didn’t really study much for that test and definitely did poorly compared to everybody else, but I didn’t really care either way.
5: Topics in Military History
I took this in my fourth semester, which was my worst ever NTU semester. This was another NIE module like Introduction to Theatre Studies and Tennis. I’d say it was a fun and chill class.
Something memorable about this class was that we played military games. One that I remember had British, German and French troops — I think it was supposed to be a simulation of Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo or something like that. It was a strategy game, obviously. Um, I have no idea who won, though.
At some point in time, we had to do individual presentations. Now some people are like gun addicts or whatever, but the romanticist in me made me choose something more on the classical side. I presented on the Battle of the Hydaspes, something to do with Alexander the Great and the Macedonians. An interesting fact is that other than infantry and cavalry, there were also elephants trampling people in that battle. This was worth 25%.
For the final assignment, I wrote a critical review about the military revolution. I remember that it was pretty uneventful. It was worth 35%. Other than that, there was also a field trip that along with our tutorial discussion accounted for 20% of our grade. Hmm, it’s kind of like the most relaxing way to get a grade in NTU.
6: Voice Studies and Production
In the same semester, I took… yes, yet another NIE course, because why not. Just another weekly journal to do!
Something interesting we did in this class was humming. We would lie down on the floor and do humming exercises, humming from different parts of our bodies. Like ‘ohmmm’ and stuff. It was pretty cool, though I have to admit I don’t really retain knowledge of it. All I remember is like how fun and random it was. Sorry, professor.
Naturally, that class again did not have a final examination component. Instead it was graded through a whole lot of presentations. Now, speaking of presentations, there was a group presentation and a final solo presentation. I went in for the first one, unfortunately, with my mind totally blank…
Anyway, it was totally cool and all, because I was supposed to be mimicking Donald Trump in that presentation. Like, with how incoherent he is and all, whatever I said, I was also not going to completely flunk it? Whatever. Anyway, I properly memorised and prepared for the final presentation, and I had fun, and I think I did quite ok there.
7: Writing for Cinema and TV
I took this module in my sixth semester, aka the semester the coronavirus came. My fifth semester was spent on exchange at Kyoto University and it overlapped like three weeks into the sixth semester. So, I managed to skip three whole weeks of classes with an official reason!! Yay! It was only in Week 4 that I started attending this module, which was under the communications school.
This was a 4 AU module rather than 3 but who cares, it seemed fun. Most of the people were Communications students who were super into movies and stuff but lady luck struck. Something super cool about that semester was the free unlimited S/Us! I’d randomly spent all of mine long ago and had zero left, so it was a beautiful gift as I basically S/Ued every single one of my modules that semester. Disclaimer: this is in no way whatsoever saying the virus was a good thing!
Anyway, this was another writing module. We learnt about stuff like intro, build-up, climax etcetera. We had something like impromptu acting things in classes too. A person would have an intention, whereas someone else would have an opposing intention. Basically, the two parties would wind up interacting, different purposes fuelling their behaviour. See, people don’t chill in movies. They follow intentions.
The final assignment was writing the script for a short film. I had no inspiration for anything, actually. Maybe because I was a philosophy student, I wrote some tale about two men and a buried body. They didn’t really seem to like it though. Well, that’s perfectly fine though, because it didn’t drag down my GPA.
8: Japanese Level X
Honestly, the reason why there are not 11 different modules here is that I took 4 Japanese modules. I took the first two in NTU in my first two years. Then, on the next, fifth semester, I went for exchange and took a Japanese module at Kyoto University. On my seventh and final semester back in NTU, I had fun in using splendidly that last UE quota on… Japanese again! (Like, I graduated early…)
The most fun thing we did in that Japanese module was news reporting. We filmed videos with one another reporting on stuff. In our group of four, me and the other guy reported about the coronavirus. The two girls reported about places and food, stuff like that. I think the other groups memorised the script and took live videos, but we actually just used Zoom and read from the screen. Oh well.
Another fun thing was the blog. We got to write blog posts and read one another’s blog posts. Mine was on virtual reality games. Aforementioned guy’s one was about the book Ningen Shikkaku (unqualified human being). Some girl talked about origami or something. Overall, it was pretty interesting, and most fun was the grand reveal on the last week of class as to who wrote what.
Most memorable was none other than the Japanese oral test. It was my last ever day at NTU, I think. I was so excited the night before, unable to sleep, simulating conversation non-stop in my head. Incidentally, I also spoke in Japanese with an actual Japanese guy via a language app to help practise. I wouldn’t say I’m good. But I have a decent grasp thanks to my exchange… That day, I bid NTU goodbye.
When I think back on my time in NTU philosophy, the first thing that comes to mind are the fun UEs I took. These spiced up my life nicely, making my university experience a memorable one.
Naturally, I get that many people are high achievers and proud of it. That’s nice. However, let’s say you have S/Us to spare? Well then, by all means, take some fun UEs too!