A/P Cecilia Lim, Dept of Philosophy, joined the new programme as first-time host and was enriched by the experience.
After I had agreed rather impulsively to ‘host’ a foreign student for the programme, I was initially beset by doubts – the role of ‘host’ was new to me, I was unsure how to proceed, I did not know if I could find the time. But much of this concern evaporated at the FASS-organised dinner where I met Hong Phu, the student from Vietnam I was supposed to ‘take under my wing’. The gathering itself was small and cheery, with good food, the sharing of experiences and hopes, a sing-along session and an inspirational video. Phu herself turned out to be warm and chatty, with an admirable ‘can-do’ spirit. She spoke candidly about her new life as a hostelite at PGP, about her family in Vietnam, her impressions of Singapore.
As I spoke to Phu, I realised that I had a great deal to learn from her – not just about her earlier life in a different place, but her very different perspective of Singapore. What is quotidian to me is fresh and significant to her; she is acquainted with some aspects of Singapore I never knew about. I realised that I needed to re-conceive my role in relation to Phu. I am not a ‘mentor’ or ‘guide’ to Phu. Rather, we both have much to learn from each other in our future exploration of what will be ‘home’ to her for the next few years. I hope that each of us will enrich the basket of life-experiences of the other.
Freshmen Nguyen Thi Hong Phu shares:
“Being a freshman experiencing the first time of being overseas does not always bring me a great pleasure. Loneliness and homesickness are two challenges that I experience constantly. When those feelings come, the memories of happy times help me to be stronger to move forward. The FASS host-family programme has brought me moments of happiness – the moments of feeling at home.
Let me share with you the words that my host wrote in her letter:
“May the window catch the sun
And its doors be open wide
To friends and loved ones…”
What impresses me is the phrase “its door be open wide”. NUS is a big house with numerous doors that I am opening and discovering days with joys coming from the studying and new relationships. I am not alone when opening every door in this university because I have my family and my friends beside me. More importantly, I have my FASS family to share with me both the excitement of new experiences, as well as the solace for unexpected things.
Although I just spent one occasion with FASS family members at the dinner gathering, I know that they will be my moral support, not only for the moments when not-so-good things happen to me, but also for the moments of my happiness. It is because the gathering was filled with many meaningful activities which made me feel how much I was taken care of. At that meeting, I had the chance to have dinner with my host, alumni, professors and new friends from over the world. I also had the chance to come to know my host well when we shared our letters to each other. That was the first time I wrote a letter to a foreigner, a Professor in NUS, and received her letter with sincere words.
The FASS Host-Family Programme has provided a warm hand to guide me through my life at NUS, and I hope that some day, I am able to help other FASS students the same way, that is to host new students and show them the meaningful life at NUS.”