I have come to the end of the second week of this academic year. Having been away from a school setting for the past 2 years has clearly affected my adaptability. I have seemingly forgotten how tedious being a student can be – it’s a full time job that transcends ‘working hours’. It’s only the end of week two and I already have numerous readings back logged.
Oh, how I miss the tranquility of bumming around. Now, I have to juggle school, co-curricular activities and trainings. I’m so exhausted by the end of the day that having a (social) life appears to be frivolous. This would explain the little or sporadic posts I have published on this blog over the past couple of weeks. I am also seriously wondering if I would even be able to find the time for any creative writing at all.
Anyhow, more on my university education. I’m a freshman from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Background on NUS:
On their website, they claim themselves to be a ‘leading global university, centred in Asia’. Well, yeah, sort of. Perhaps ‘one of the leading global universities in Asia’ would have been more apt. According to the Times Higher Institution, NUS is ranked 2nd in Asia and 26th in the World.
Background on FASS:
The Arts and Social Sciences offers a unique programme (in relation to the other local universities). In the first semester (or year) freshmen will be able to explore the various humanities and social sciences departments, before eventually deciding on their concentration to major in. At the end of the programme students will either receive a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Social Science (BSocSci), depending on their majors.
- NM1101E: Communications, New Media and Society [Communications]
- GL1101E: Global Issues [Global Studies]
- SC1101E: Making Sense of Society [Sociology]
- GEK1000: Introduction to Literary Studies [Literature]
- MNO1001X: Management and Organisation [Business]
I am taking these 5 modules this semester. I am relieved that I have friends with common modules (all except for Sociology). I should also mention that I am doing the Global Studies module with my older sister, who is currently in her fourth and final year. So, that’s pretty cool.
And as of now, I am deliberating between majoring in either Communications or Global Studies. Communications seem like the more practical option, but it appears to be more technical and has elements of statistics (aka the dreaded numbers). Global Studies, on the other hand, looks really fun! I get to choose a single theme (like International Communications or even Global Public Policy) and a specific region in the world to focus my studies on. However, I also have to master a foreign language over 2 years – which is not only demanding but very time consuming. I am really sceptical of my ability to cope with a foreign language. I studied Tamil as a second language for a good 10 years of my life and I am still terrible at it!
I guess I will ultimately decide my major at the end of this semester when I compare my grades between my Communications and Global Studies module.
The NUS Way
I am quite lucky because I was already quite familiar with the university processes given that both my sisters were/are from FASS as well. In this day and age of modern technology, almost everything is online – and so are the (painful) NUS processes.
In order to register for your preferred modules, you have to log into an online platform, named Centralised Online Registration System (CORS). In there, you are allocated a total of 1000 points each semester to bid for the modules you want. Yes, market forces do apply. I was outdone in a bidding war for a Communications module I really wanted to take (the lowest winning bid was 560 points). Also, the highest ‘price’ I paid was for my Global Studies module –which costed me a 200 points! CORS is infamous for being complexed and cut-throat much to woes of many. I even found a hilarious youtube video ridiculing the whole system.
I should also mention that tutorial slots for each module must be balloted for at CORS as well. You rank your preferred slots from 1 to at most 20. And magically the system will tell you whether or not you are allocated that slot. How exactly the ballot works? We have no idea (less the fact that there is an algorithm). Luckily enough, I was allocated all the modules I wanted this semester.
The Integrated Virtual Learning Environment (IVLE) is essentially an online portal for everything module related. The website will be your sole companion for the entire course of the semester. In this portal, your lecturers/tutors will upload their course description, the syllabus, the lesson plan, the lecture slides, the assignments, the additional readings, general announcements, and –if you’re lucky– webcasts of lectures. It is also the destination for you to upload your term assignments and partake in the course forums.
Every student is assigned an official email account with NUS. Get ready for the deluge of school-related advertisements and garbage. Along with that, you get announcements from your lecturers. Every now and then, you will get really useful information on free courses that you can sign up for. There was once I tried registering for a really useful course on designing effective presentations, but the slots were fully taken up. I checked the timestamp, and the registration email was sent about 5 minutes prior to that. Welcome to University life – campus full of opportunists (myself included).
With my Integrated Student Information System, I get the one-stop information about myself. My personal data, my course records, examination results, and even my tuition fees/bill can be found on this separate –rarely visited– platform.
5. The Mobile Apps
I literally had to create a folder on my iPhone just to centralise all my NUS apps. I have the IVLE app which is basically the mobile application for the aforementioned online platform. There is an app called NUS Carparks, where I get live updates of the nearest car park from my location and the lot availability. The ever so useful Around NUS app for the lost soul – this app is the one-stop navigation tool to get you anywhere you want within the campus. I’ve also downloaded an the NUSCap app, where I can track my Cumulative Average Point (CAP) to avoid being kicked out of school or to ensure that I can qualify for the honours track. And these are just the ones I downloaded!
On a serious note, it’s really amazing how technology has taken over our lives. Evidently, they add to the efficiency of life. I can’t even begin to fathom the life of a university student during the pre-internet era. On the other hand, it begs the question of the institution’s survivability in the event of the internet crashing.P/S: You are now aware of the Singaporeans’ unadulterated love for acronyms.