Written by: Vanessa Nah
Edited by: Neo Shi Wei
Photographs by: Ong Yong Jia
As the final examinations approach, the project deadlines loom and the stress mounts ever higher, we all need some time to wind down and catch up with our friends. We all could use some EWP: Eat. Work. Prlay – an event more formally known as the NTU-USP’s Exam Welfare Pack giveaway!
Held in the Crescent and Pioneer function hall on 22 March 2017, NTU-USP’s exam welfare pack giveaway event gave our students a well-deserved break from the daily grind. The night began with a modest buffet dinner which our hungry students gratefully attacked, before finding a cosy spot on the floor to sit, eat and catch up. Looking around at the scene of friends sprawling out and chowing down in front of me, it was hard to believe this was our function hall and not some grassy picnic field under a cheerful midday sun. In fact, the specially-made photo booth perpetuated this Easter-egg-picnic-ground theme. Featuring a beautiful pastel blue sky backdrop, brilliant green grass and pretty pink and white daisies scattered over the picturesque scene – our photo booth was, in the words of its proud creators, “handmade with love”. The event’s theme was titled “Eat. Worry. Prlay.”, and it was displayed in bold, handwritten letters on top of the backdrop. Hang on…”prlay“? Was that a typo? Puzzled and curious, I sought out one of the event organizers for an explanation.
“The word ‘prlay’ is a combination of ‘pray’ and ‘play,’ ” Siow Yu Jin, Year 1 Economics student, explained. “Pray because it’s near finals and we are all praying to the bell curve god, but play because this event gives NTU-USP students something to play for too!” she chuckled.
And play, we did. A total of 4 station games were planned for attendees, in which participants had to battle against the station masters from the Arts, Culture and Student Affairs (ACSA) committee. The first was “Sau-sa-ge Twister”, a competitive tongue twisting game that involves taking turns with the station master to say the next syllable, such that the word “sausage” is repeatedly pronounced as “saw-say-gee”, with each syllable alternating between the station master and the participants. For example, the station master might start with “saw”, you say “say”, your opponent says “gee”, and so on and so forth. The game gets increasingly faster and ends when one person stumbles, either failing to say the next syllable or giving the wrong one. Uncontrolled laughter often issued from this station, hands flying to mouths as errant syllables escaped from them.
The second station game was simpler in game-play, but not in difficulty. U Solve Problems gave students math problems to solve – some were algebra, some were just equations to solve that tested mental sums and your knowledge of the order of operations. Faces screwed up and eyebrows knitted as participants tried their best to work the numbers out in their heads. I’ll confess as a Linguistics student, crunching numbers has never been my forte. Even after the game masters mercifully gave me supposedly easy questions, I took a good number of tries just to solve one!
While the first game challenged one’s tongue’s flexibility, and the second the mind’s flexibility, the third game tested just plain physical flexibility. Called U Scissors Paper Stone, players stood facing each other with one leg forward, toes touching. They then played a normal game of scissors-paper-stone, the winner of which would move his front foot behind his second and make the opponent step forward with his front foot, effectively lowering his body into the humble beginnings of a split. Laughter and jokes abounded as the distance between players after several rounds grew large enough to make the loser go all out in (trying to do) a full split.
The final game was a a simple game of ‘category’ disguised under the name “Are you smarter than ACSA?”. In this game, participants have to name as many items that belong to a given category as they can. Taking turns to shout out an item, the first team that is unable to come up with one new item loses the game. ACSA personalised this theme for NTU-USP – including categories such as “USP Electives” or “USP events” – that unearthed past obscure USP courses or happenings only the seniors had heard about.
While the games were certainly a laugh a minute, NTU-USP’s EWP event was not one lacking in some quiet downtime. Taking the mike were several talented musicians amongst us. They included Year 1 Communication Studies (CS) major Justin Yeo playing the guitar, Vernette Chia from Year 1 CS and Rhonda Toh from Year 1 Sociology on vocals. They brought us through the mellow sounds of Colbie Caillat’s Bubbly and Ed Sheeran’s Photograph. Next, Year 2 CS student Ng Xinyu and Year 3 CS student Nigel Lim took over to bring us tunes from timeless classics like Extreme’s More than Words to the more modern Like I’m Gonna Lose You by Meghan Trainor. In no time at all, they had attendees standing up and singing along, swaying gently to the beat with their hands in the air. However, my fondest memory of the night with regards to the music was when Justin paused in between songs and declared: “So because my good friend Eugene is here today, and he’s a big fan of 90s boy bands like Boyzone–” Justin didn’t need to complete his sentence, because the crowd had already understood and erupted into cheer. The friend in question, a Year 1 Accounting and Business undergraduate, buried his face in his hands and tried to hide, but the loud repeated chants of his name eventually brought him forward.
“Hope y’all are having a good night, because this is the end of it,” Eugene joked as soon as he took the mike and sat down next to Justin. “I have many talents, but singing is not one of them!”
As soon as Eugene’s untrained singing joined Justin’s silky smooth vocals, the crowd erupted into unprecedented cheering and laughter. His singing wasn’t the best, but the heart and soul Eugene put into the song and how he sportingly took the microphone won the hearts of everyone present that night. One of his close friends in the crowd jokingly threw a styrofoam Easter egg at our first-time singer – paying tribute to the traditional throwing of eggs onto the stage for performances of terrible quality. But once again, it was all in jest and good fun. In fact, it garnered even more favourable reactions from both the enraptured, amused audience and our singing duo. I’ll always remember this entertaining scene for showing qualities I think are at the heart of NTU-USP: spontaneity, enthusiasm and friendship.
The night drew to a close with the welfare pack giveaway itself. Even as the crowds slowly fell into a snaking queue, the chatter, laughter and even singing – both bad and good – didn’t stop. Amidst the cheerful banter and entertainment, time passed quickly. All too soon it was time to leave, time to go back and get some rest before work and study preparations began afresh the following day.
“It was an excellent opportunity to catch up with everyone before we head into the last few weeks of school and get busy preparing for exams.” Tat Chong, a Year 2 Accounting and Business student, reflected.
Others expressed deep appreciation for both the bonding time and the welfare pack. “I can’t stress how much I’m so thankful for our business managers,” Vernette said.
“When I lugged the huge welfare pack back to my room, I was thinking wow, they really put so much effort into getting everything for us! Really grateful for our USP community!”