Currently on Secondment to Ministry of National Development
Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (Hons Class I), University New South Wales, 2012
~Worlds beyond, worlds within~
How would you describe a well spent 5 months? For me, that came in the form of spending a semester studying abroad at Pennsylvania State University last year (2010). During that time, I gleaned so much that it is certainly hard to find a single word that can aptly sum up my experience; after all, as I look back, it is its mosaic nature of events and people that quilted together a cohesive blanket of colourful memories for me.
It was a challenge initially to get used to a totally different teaching style in studios while attempting to make new friends. But once I got over my initial apprehensions, the plethora of insights followed soon after. On my frequent school field trips, I found myself thrusted into landscapes that I had only had the privilege to admire through the lens of others on paper, designed by architects that I had always admired. A first hand and refreshing experience indeed.
Being able to see with my own eyes how landscape designs can not only bring social and economic development to those in need but also achieve very simple yet essential things like bringing a smile to an average Joe using the site makes me love what I am doing even more, and I am more excited than ever to explore ways in which I can do the same in Singapore with the skills I am taught to improve the quality of lives of many.
Over one of the weekends in October, I attended SingSem, a seminar / dialogue session regarding current affairs and issues concerning Singapore for local public scholars.
Being a designer, I was particularly interested in the arts and culture scene in Singapore; after all, if developed effectively, it had the potential to catapult the nation into international recognition, not only as an economic success but also as a representation of democracy and happiness. As such, I attended the talk given by Dr Lily Kong to get a better understanding of the challenges and concerns that Singapore is currently dealing with in this aspect.
Though none of the concerns raised were solved there and then, the lively session was certainly helpful in providing suggestions on future directions that I might consider pursuing, bringing a realistic perspective to my primarily theoretical academic studies.
Being a larger college (almost double the size of UNSW), Penn State University offered a lot more opportunities for students to be involved in interest groups outside the classroom. Not only could I embark on adventurous caving, kayaking trips, I also picked up swing dancing, singing and was even involved in a theatre production.
On college life
Fun aside, this gave me a lot of chances to meet people from all walks of life,developing not only better communication skills but also learning to appreciate the diversity in our increasingly globalised world.
Through the several activities I participated in and the conversations I had, it started to dawn upon me why students in Penn State University were so much more active in community work (A good example of this is THON which stands for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. It is basically a student-initiated fund raising program to fight against pediatric cancer. This is the world’s largest studentrun philanthropy effort.) Clearly, education cannot merely be for education’s sake alone.
If students do not realise the rationale behind their education, it becomes a mindless activity, a self serving pursuit (of better CVs) at best. Public scholarship is not just about academia, or even the extracurricular activity. Such a focus will lead to volunteerism, rather than a realisation of one’s inherent responsibility to his community, of which the latter naturally leads to higher student participation in community development schemes. This certainly struck a chord within me, not only shaping the way I now view my education but also as I ponder on how I might share this new perception and contribute in developing the future of Singapore.
Being on exchange enabled me to go on weekend trips out of college. If there was one thing I took away from all my travels, it was the realisation of the immensity of the world and the minuteness of mankind.
While that was certainly very humbling to acknowledge, it did open my eyes to appreciate all that this world has to offer, be it through nature or the cosmopolitian cities, be it the tiny detail of the number of spots of a ladybird or the breathtaking sights of vistas. Because of this, i never fail to return from each trip, feeling more illuminated through these sights and sounds that fill my senses.
I certainly had a time of my life during this five months on exchange and I would not have changed a moment of it. After all, as with all patchworks, the overall blanket just would not be the same if just one piece is altered.