Something happened in year three

We cupped our ears and squinted our eyes; the horrendous din was reminiscent of a ghoulish scene from Dante’s Inferno

That’s what it felt like as my friends and I returned to NTU to do some admin work after our graduation in August. We looked at the freshmen in their camps and had this moment of sage-like wisdom: “Ah freshmen, how little they know…” Then it dawned on us: four years ago we were in those same freshmen camps.

Something happens as you transition from being a freshman to a sophomore (year two) then a junior (year three) and finally a senior student (year four).

Suddenly, what used to fascinate you as freshman or sophomore doesn’t intrigue you anymore. Other things become more interesting and you find that freshmen start to look at you like some wise, old person. Secretly, behind your wizened demeanour, you marvel at how they can stay up till 4am and not be absolutely burned out the next day. You are amazed at how they can shout and scream and run and still have so much energy. You are amazed at the muscle-ripping figures they have, and wonder whether you ever looked that ripped in your prime. Don’t look as if you don’t know what I mean (especially the guys)! By year three or four you probably started building a tummy pillow around your waist, which I’ve always had. Well, at least I maintained the rest of my figure.

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The day I entered Miss Singapore World


I never imagined myself in that world of big smiles, perfect hair and tiaras – let alone one of Singapore’s “Big 4” pageants – but this September I found myself in a neat line of girls in gowns, on that very stage, at Miss Singapore World.

It still feels a little surreal. I’d woken up one morning to a Facebook message inviting me to join Miss Singapore World. It was one of those “What if?” moments – they had already completed a pre-judging segment, and the night itself was only a few weeks away, but I decided to go with a “Why not!” and put my best stiletto-ed foot forward.  Continue reading

From undergrad to full prof

OAS Academic Council Meeting n Professor Installation Ceremony 075pa
This is an excerpt of a speech I delivered at NTU’s Academic Council Meeting on 28 August 2014, where I was installed as a full professor.

In 1992, a shy young man walked into Lecture Theatre 1 for his first lesson at NTU. After running around in the jungle with his M16 rifle for two and a half years, he wondered if he could cope with his studies as an engineering freshman. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life then. Well, that young man was me.

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NTU President gives his thoughts on university education


I have been in Singapore for seven years and there’s one thing that never fails to amaze me. Singaporeans are passionate about education, especially the education of their children. That’s a good thing. Singaporeans should be happy that they are well served by an education system that is simply world-class.

As I am a beneficiary of education myself, I believe in and appreciate the value of education. I’m the only one among my relatives with a degree. When I was young, my parents never encouraged me to study. I did it myself.

Singaporeans should be proud to have two world ranked universities here, NTU and NUS. I am asked everywhere I go at various international conferences the reasons for NTU’s rapid growth. It is precisely because of the Singapore Government’s belief and investment in universities that a young university like NTU can make big leaps internationally in such a short time.  Continue reading

Learning to learn

Break’s out, school’s in and it’s time to start studying again.

Do I hear groans?

This post is going to be for those of you who want to learn how to study smart. I’m going to take it for granted that you’re in university and want good grades.

In a previous post, I mentioned about having no regrets and not working too hard, but that doesn’t mean your grades shouldn’t matter. So, assuming you want to be able to get good grades and fully immerse yourself in the NTU experience, what exactly do you do?

Here’s what I’ve learnt about learning over the last few years. Continue reading

It’s philosophy, not chim-o-nology

‘By Michael Biech (Philosophy) / Wikimedia Commons’

Philosophy is often misunderstood. Many NTU students tend to see philosophy as a chim (profound) subject because when they think of philosophy, they think of or remember how difficult philosophical text can be to understand. For example, here’s a quote from the French philosopher, Jacques Derrida in his essay, Différance: Continue reading

Prof CN Yang: Life’s going to get more interesting (and difficult)

All I knew about Prof CN Yang, I learnt from a 20-second glance at his Wikipedia entry before my CN Yang Scholars Programme admission interview.

Fast forward a year and an email arrives in my inbox, saying that Prof Yang is going to be in Singapore for a conference and that an informal discussion will be arranged for students from the CN Yang Scholars Programme.

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Overweight luggage? Check. Missed the bus? Check.

Post-exchange travel rarely happens smoothly, especially if it’s also your first time travelling alone, like it was for me. All sorts of problems can materialise: delayed flights, missing an interstate bus, leaving something behind, overweight luggage… the list is endless. For me, my constant worry was about luggage weight or missing an interstate bus or flight.

While travelling in the United States after my exchange at the University of Missouri-Columbia, I mainly rode the interstate bus, Megabus, from state to state. Besides the lower cost, it’s better than flying as you get to admire the scenery zooming past. Like planes though, interstate buses in the US have weight limits on luggage, set at 50lbs (about 23kg). Because I had just spent a semester on exchange in Missouri and accumulated a pile of school notes, university merchandise and band T-shirts from metal concerts that I attended, I constantly worried about being denied entry when boarding the bus.

My dorm room the night before I left the University of Missouri-Columbia. Notice the remaining items that still need to be packed into the almost-full suitcase. Continue reading