For some reason, university students in Singapore seem to take a strange delight in touting how boring and uninspired they are. When asked about their university plans, we often hear replies like, “I’m just going to study,” or “I’ll do what I’ve always been doing.” It gets even more obvious when we speak to scholars, who often tell us, “I have to work for my GPA, so I don’t have time for anything else.”
If you’re into intellectual speculation, these responses are a reflection of our modest and polite society where no one wants to stand out or make themselves sound over-bearing or frivolous.
Or there could be a simpler, and more devastating truth behind them – university first-years simply don’t have any idea what to do.
After all, a university degree is characterised by its level of freedom. You can pick what classes you want, when you want, and as long as you’re keeping your grades steady the rest of your time is your own. If you’re studying overseas, you have even less restrictions as your life is now free of hovering parents and you may do exactly as you wish with your time.
So, before you decide that the best response to all this freedom is to hole up in your room alternatively studying and sleeping, try these activities for size and broaden your mind:
1. Study something interesting
As scholars are expected to maintain high grades, sometimes it can be tempting to take “easier” modules to score an A or two. Examples include subjects studied previously at polytechnic or JC level, a language you already speak, or a pass/fail course consisting mainly of lectures and no assignments.
The problem with this approach is, you’d be wasting your valuable time and money. After all that effort to score a scholarship and attend university, do you really want to spend it on things you already know?
If you are wrestling with a full courseload and don’t want to add to your stress, we recommend taking interesting “out of the way” modules instead. Many science students take arts modules to broaden their understanding and see the world a new way. Arts students, in turn, opt for experiential studies like learning a new instrument or studying painting or sculpture.
Who knows, one of these “random” choices may be your new passion!
2. Join a club
Graduating students often regret not getting involved in campus activities. Indeed, clubs and societies are one of the defining points of a university education as students get to be involved, experience new things and reach for self-defined goals.
You may wish to go ahead and follow through on your passions in university, such as a mountain climber who joins the related club, or explore something completely new. Universities tend to have a much wider range of clubs than JC or polytechnic, so make sure you explore thoroughly during O-Week and apply for the clubs that catch your eye!
Scholars often tell us about how their club activities enriched their university life and taught them valuable skills such as effective communication and empathy. In other cases, competing for a championship helped them sharpen their wits and get engaged.
Whatever the path, pick a club that suits you and remain committed!
3. Gain work experience
There is a general misconception that universities are academically-oriented, and you won’t get any “real-world” experience until you actually go to work. To combat this, many universities offer internship or work experience programmes. Often, they are in partnership with leading companies in their fields, making for a great chance to get your feet wet.
For example, SIT is proud of its mandatory Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), a distinctive feature of SIT's degree programmes. IWSP provides students with the opportunity to undertake real work, allowing them to integrate theory and practice and develop deep specialist skills in their chosen field. As SIT Mid-Term Scholar, Yap Sune Aik, said, “I chose SIT because the university emphasises a hands-on learning approach instead of textbook learning. Applied learning allows students to brainstorm and create solutions to solve real-life problems.”
Get out there and participate!
4. Volunteer and help out
Another way to get involved is to help others. Check out the student union or other resources about volunteering options, or start on a cause of your own. Volunteer work is always the easiest, but it is uplifting and empowering. Not many derive meaning and joy in contributing their efforts to outcomes that are oftentimes non-tangible. You might also be able to discover new interests or strengths within you and feel empowered to take on greater, more fulfilling projects.
Volunteering also challenges you to develop time-management skills. You will be juggling your volunteering efforts with all your other university commitments, so you’ll learn how to do that effectively. Time management skills are always useful, and directly applicable to any job you may hold in the future.
Wherever you volunteer, your beneficiaries will not be the only ones to benefit. You will, too!
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