S UTD, a school established in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, prides itself in its research-based,multi-disciplinary curriculum and training of technically-savvy leaders. Second year Architecture and Sustainable Design student, Stella Loo, tells us how SUTD’s unique education system has exceeded her expectations and provided her with opportunities more than she could ever imagine.
WHAT DREW YOU TO SUTD?
Stella Loo: What drew me to SUTD was not only its hands-on approach to active learning, but also its school spirit. Not only do SUTD professors work hand- in-hand with students to enable our learning and development, but students also come together as a closely knit community of friends – regardless of the course of study. This is particularly important for those choosing to do architecture, as the rigour of the course requires a very strong support system between fellow students.
Loo Yi Ning, Stella
Architecture and Sustainable Design
(Sophomore, Year 2 student)
TELL US SOMETHING UNIQUE ABOUT THE SUTD CURRICULUM
Stella: SUTD’s unique curriculum designates “Fifth Row” as a time for holistic development. Fifth Row refers to CCAs, where we get our Wednesday and Friday afternoons off to do the things we love, be it rock climbing, beat boxing, ballroom dancing or Gundam model-making. This serves as a “fifth subject” that flexes our muscles in fields other than just academics.
For example, one of the Fifth Rows I am most active in is the University Ambassadors (UAs). As a member of UA, I have been helping out as a host for school events and this has really honed my oratorical skills and my ability to think on my feet. Apart from that, I am also a member of SUTDio. Here, I have been given the opportunity to build a life- sized “Gyrados” as part of Parking Day, as well as to work on other 3D Pokémon chalk drawings.
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE MEMORIES IN SUTD?
Stella: Apart from our curriculum, a huge developmental opportunity we have at SUTD is our Summer Programmes – where students can either go for an overseas exchange or internship. Last summer, I was lucky enough to be offered the Asian Leadership Programme, which involved a fully sponsored trip to Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China for 15 weeks.
This was an extremely significant milestone in my life. I took up a course on landscape architecture while I was there and gained more insights into what it entails, even before I attended the core Architecture modules at school.
Even more importantly, the classes we had at Zhejiang University brought out aspects of our local built environment we would have simply glazed over ourselves. Finally, I am certain my Mandarin improved greatly over the course of the 3 months I spent in Hangzhou!
SHARE WITH US ABOUT A CLASS IN WHICH YOU HAVE LEARNED THE MOST.
Stella: One of my favourite modules in SUTD is the “Introduction to Design Computation” module. This module equipped us with computation skills to write our own code and model our ideas in 3D.
By the end of our first few lessons, we were already writing our own codes and creating simple structures with the Computer Aided Drawing software.
Through this course, we learnt to use various technical tools to better communicate our ideas. Also as most of us come into SUTD knowing nothing about coding, it was great that the faculty was very patient and helpful in guiding us along the way.
HOW HAS SUTD HELPED EQUIP YOU WITH THE SKILLS FOR YOUR FUTURE?
Stella: All SUTD undergraduates have the opportunity to participate in research projects led by the school’s professors. The two main platforms to take part in research projects are through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme and the Student Helper Scheme.
I joined the SUTD Advanced Architecture Laboratory as a Student Helper in my first year and was quickly involved in planning and setting up of pavilions, lighting installations, CNC-milling and concrete spraying. These opportunities gave me a chance to observe what architects in Singapore do other than building construction, as well as how they manage the numerous projects on their plate all at once.
Also, in my architecture modules, we had out-of-classroom lessons where we get to cast concrete, visit construction sites and do site analysis. These invaluable hands-on lessons contributed greatly to gearing us up for the future. They also take us away from working hard all day in our studios, and refresh us with new inspirations.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR FUTURE SUTD STUDENTS?
Stella: Many of my seniors warned me that architecture students tend to “have no life”, but I beg to disagree! I still have a life - I am able to go rock climbing and swimming occasionally, and I was also part of the group of students who started the Drama Club at SUTD. The main takeaway from being so involved in all these activities has to be time-management - which is something you cannot learn from a textbook.
Nothing is ever easy. There will of course, be times in SUTD when you feel that the task given to you is difficult or the challenge insurmountable. Cliché as it sounds, challenges really do make you stronger. Just keep an open mind, manage your time well, and let SUTD’s well-planned curriculum lead you to your goals!