With the second week of tutorials well on its way, I’m sure you, dear freshman, would have made some progress in the field of social interaction. Hopefully that progress extends equally to the amount of workload you have accomplished so far. If your readings list seem to only exponentially grow rather than reduce, take assurance in the fact that your peers are with you in this constant struggle. We ended off last week with five hopefully useful tips about navigating the treacherous slopes of social interaction. Here’s your dearest author bringing you five more to last you through the semester.
- Know thy neighbours
This rule is slightly more applicable if you reside in a hostel or a residential college. NUS has plenty of residence options, depending on how deep you would want to dig into your pockets, and with residences come the unavoidable issue of neighbours. There will be inevitable nights where your boisterous neighbour with a much more happening social life will inspire equal amounts of jealousy and ire in you. There will also be days where you hate her for having her boyfriend over for so long (and maybe wished the walls could be slightly thicker – you’re getting tired of hearing them play the same rock song again and again.) But yet day after day, you would maintain the relationship regardless, irrespective of your true feelings for your neighbour.
Let’s look at the bigger picture and you’d realise the rule applies just as much to all of us. In the same way that Singapore and Malaysia keep up a forced relationship of amicability, Yale-NUS and NUS do put up a good show of coexisting as well. Of course, YNC happens to be the rare Pokémon whom you would have to catch at specific poke stops. You will often see them sprawled all over Town Green in the evenings, engaged in whatever the elite game of choice for that day may be. (It is often Frisbee.) Other times, they remain safely protected in their fortress, sheltered from the world around them.
There are other friendlier neighbours that you ought to be acquainted to, simply because they would go a long way in bettering your university experience. If you have not discovered the food stretch along Kent Ridge Terrace, you have not yet met our friendliest neighbours of all. They are the ones who appear as saviours in the middle of the night, when your stomach growls incessantly for something that is not another stingy cup of pathetic noodles. Making friends with them will only help you further your friendships and add on to your waistline – after all, there is always a trade-off for friendship.
- Picking your fights
We are only but human and must learn to take on enemies whom we can put up a good fight against. That 8am lecture your bright eyes had so eagerly swept over? Those grand ambitions of perhaps squeezing in a workout before breakfast and a quick ride to your LT? Give up, naïve child, for this is a fight a university student will never win. Attempting to squeeze onto A1 at 9:56 in the morning so that you can maybe make it to lecture on time? Let it go, as the great Elsa once wisely proclaimed. And that reading you really should have done before the lecture? Do not fret, young one, procrastination is trademark of geniuses. Other fights that you should never start include: conversation with YNC students about the library, conversations with Art Students about fashion and usage of “I” and “Me”, the challenge of finding a seat at Starbucks during the afternoon hours, the walk from the UTown bus stop to RC4, getting Science students to wear something that is neither dri-fit nor a school shirt and trying out the Japanese stall at the Deck. You have been duly warned.
- Blowing your trumpet
Every NUS student has different bragging rights, depending on which faculty we call home. Biz kids regularly crow about their exam free modules while Arts kids have a relatively easier first half of the semester.
But perhaps the one universal bragging right that we throw around so easily is that of sleep. Or rather, the sheer lack of. You are not a university student until you partake in an intense discussion of how little sleep you had gotten and arguing about who is more exhausted. In fact, there’s a myth that the number of hour of sleep is inversely proportional to your CAP. The Anti-Sleep Spirit is only one of the gods we pray to apart from the Bell Curve God and the Overpriced Coffee Deity.
Some of you might have different bragging rights – the more academically skilled side, that is. Your CAP is your shield, your armour, your soul. You brandish it like a protective talisman, as if you are attempting to exorcise unworthy demons with the mellifluous sound of your perfect CAP. You post screen captures of your CAP on every imaginable social media platform because everyone’s life can only be further enriched by the privileged sighting of your perfect five As. Do not hold yourself back, o Einstein in the making, for your intellect is one that should be displayed to the world. The world (of social media) is your oyster. Own it.
- Budgeting skills
It’s now close to 8. Your stomach is churning from equal parts pressure and equal parts hunger. You stare at the now condensed Starbucks cup in front of you and the small pool it stands in the middle of simply adds on to your realisation of what a bad decision it was. You’re exhausted and craving pizza but you know very well your wallet will let out a silent scream of death if you’re even headed anywhere near it. You resign yourself to the cheapest cup noodles available in the back row of FairPrice.
Welcome to university – you’ve officially made it.
You’re not a freshman until you experience the misery of digging through whatever possible coins you may have in your bag. It’s a point of worry of course if it happened continuously but it’s a turmoil that you’re bound to face repeatedly throughout your tenure as a university student. Sometimes it happens due to unforeseen circumstances – textbooks and printing fees you’ve had to unwillingly fork out money for, that really close friend’s 21st birthday which you’ll end up spending an extravagant amount of money for, those late night suppers that you get coerced into because come on, everyone’s getting something. But yet other decisions are made in moments of weakness. That Starbucks venti you could have totally lived without, that overpriced lunch at Sappore you genuinely could have skipped, the second Iced Milo which was destined to become tasteless slush anyway, the overpriced dinner your friends barely had to convince you for, that bag you bought from the CLB/UTown sale which was really a spur of the moment decision.
But after all, we’re only young once. Money hardly follows us to our grave and we can only spend it while it stays in our hands. So don’t think twice about it, you do deserve that pricey set at Hwangs’ after the exhausting day you’ve had. Go ahead, add a drink to that supper you were planning to order from Ameen’s.
- Secure your rightful place
Perhaps the most invaluable tip out of all would be to learn the art of reserving your own space, whether it be that much needed space at the Deck during lunch hour, or the table with the actual working chargers at UTown. It’s a skill that everyone learns eventually and then will go on to perfect it to the art of choping tables during your lunch hour with an unassuming pack of tissue paper. Finally! A skill you learn in university that might come in handy in the real world!
There is only one tactic to securing your place that one has to know inside out – master the intricate art of choping, the very exclusive skill that everyone covets but yet very few are able to skilfully deliver. That expensive laptop of yours that you spent two years saving for? Let it lie there. I assure you, no one would even lay a hand on it. A university student understands that art must be respected and will never disrespect such a bold move.
What is the trick to mastering all of these you may ask? Utter shamelessness of course. Along with your sleep cycle, your sanity and your hopes and dreams for the future, shame is something you lose along the way as well. Trust me when I say it’s an important step of becoming a full-fledged NUS student.
Regardless, university is an important juncture in all of our lives. Some of us may not be as well suited for it as we had assumed and that’s all right because we’ll have our batch mates and friends to pull us along the ride. Some of us may be better than expected and find ourselves in a better position to help out others. Whichever boat you’re in, I hope your ride doesn’t get too choppy and that the scenery along the way is worth the ride. Till next time!