BES Weird Modules

The NUS Bachelor of Environmental Studies publicity team has compiled a list of interesting Unrestricted Electives that are not usually taken up by BES students. Hopefully, this list will inspire more BES students to take up modules not from our home faculties (Science and Geography), and venture into the unknown!


Hui Xin – GE2218  [Leisure, Recreation and Tourism]

Workload & Lesson:

I think [the workload] really not that heavy. As for the group project, your group mates are assigned so you gotta cross your fingers for that part. Regarding the actual report for the project, one tip would be to provide clear definitions of the concepts taught in class + link them to your choice of tourist destination. For my project, the professor found our explanations to be slightly vague so that’s one aspect to take note of.  The workload is quite spread out but may be busy during Week 11-13 when all the other assignments from other modules are due.

Exam questions were quite broad so you’ll need to know some examples of the various concepts taught in the module, but [it’s] manageable as long as you do (most of) the readings diligently and you’ll be fine. The lecturer (Dr Gillen) is really entertaining and also open to different views/responses from the students.

Individual essay about any type of tourism taught in the module – 25%
Group project about the authenticity of a tourist destination in Singapore – 15%
Tutorial Attendance – 10%
Final Exam – 50%

Why & How:

I think the module is a good break from all the biology/geography modules that BES students are exposed to.

Survival Tips:

[The tips is to] be open-minded about learning because it’s definitely something quite different from what we do in BES. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on certain geography concepts/terms from your other geography project mates. And go for lectures although they’re webcasted.



Jit Yee – LAJ1201  [Japanese 1]

Workload & Lesson:

The busy period spans across the whole semester, with midterms and end of the year being the busiest. Tutors and lecturers are very knowledgeable and helpful. You will definitely learn a lot if you are consistent. We have spelling test and oral practice each week. Midterms in the midterms week and oral exam, written exam near the end of the semester will be the busiest peaks. We have 2-hour lecture once a week and 2-hour tutorial twice a week (total contact time of 6 hours). Lectures involve little student-teacher interaction, but tutorials are highly interactive (we are all expected to speak).


Why & How:

I am genuinely interested in learning a new language so i chose this module. It doesn’t exactly relate to BES, but if students continue to higher level, it will be useful in the workforce when dealing with Japanese companies or people.


Rating & Recommendation:

10 out of 10, especially if you are already interested in Japanese culture.



Mi Jin – JS3230 [Men and Women in Modern Japanese Literature]

Workload & Lesson:

The workload was okay for me but I have heard from literature majors that there are more assigned text than a literature core module. You need to finish an entire book every week (long ones the professor will split into half), and some very short secondary readings. You must read the book or else you won’t be able to answer the short writing exercise (graded) before the start of every class, where she asks a question for you to answer in 10 minutes (just to check that you did your readings). Also, class parts are graded. You must voice out opinions in class.

There is only ONE class per week, 2.5 hours long, in a seminar style. The professor will not do much talking other than the introduction and leading some discussion. The professor, Professor Deborah Shamoon, is a Japanese Studies professor with backgrounds in gender studies, literature and popular culture. She is no-nonsense, and she will not spoon feed you. She will lay out her expectations very clearly for you and will expect you to follow. She expects you to write clearly and cite in MLA (not something BES students are used to), and WILL CHECK YOUR CITATIONS.

The first close reading paper is due after the recess week so it is manageable. As with most literature modules, the hell week starts around week 12 and 13, where you need to submit a 3000-word final paper. I would say for a bio or geog students, this period is not the busiest.

Exam & Scope:

It’s closed book exam! (Sorry) you need to memorise the title, author and year that the books were written. There were about 4 questions, which were not difficult to answer (given that you have been consistently putting in work).

You are also tested on secondary readings, which cover very difficult topics (feminist theory, psychoanalysis etc).


Why & How:

I took this module to fulfil my minor in Japanese Studies which requires one module that is 3k or higher. I think it was a new perspective of human geography for me. Japanese literature really highlights the hegemonic gender structures and geographies of home and workplace. This module is designed to make you question the existing gender structure and roles in our society. Also, there are skills such as close reading that you can pick up.

Rating & Recommendation:

My rating is 10/10!! The professor is extremely helpful and encouraging, as well as knowledgeable in her field. I overloaded to take this module and it was well worth it. I did my readings on the way to school and between studying other modules (as they are mostly books) so I loved studying for it! I also made really great friends in class, and compiled notes together before the exam, which really helped.

I was afraid of taking this module as the only science student in class amidst literature and japanese studies students, but since the classes are small (mine was 10), there are no bell curves and you settle into this cooperative learning mode. No competition, only learning for fun and knowledge!!!

I recommend this to anyone interested in Japanese culture. You will learn the sociocultural background of Japan from pre-Meiji period to about 1990s through literature. Also, being an avid book lover would help!

I DO NOT recommend this module to those that are easily disturbed or uncomfortable with the topic of sex, rape, violence and gore. Some scenes in the books are quite graphic or sexual.

Primary texts:
What the seasons brought the almanac maker
Spring coloured plum calendar
Warbler in the grove
Child’s play
School of freedom
Confessions of a mask
The apprenticeship of big toe P



Elysia – TR2201 [Entrepreneurial Marketing]

Workload & Lesson:

This module for the aspiring entrepreneur, or anyone who wants a small taste of what the Business school in NUS offers. The topics center around starting your own business, and the professor teaches everything from building your own brand, to franchising, to managing finances.

Being a module in Business school, the participation proportion is significantly higher than in Science or Geography. You won’t have to fight to answer, but as participation is a large part of your grade, you are expected to answer some of the Professor’s questions. This module relies heavily on the textbook, which is not difficult to read or understand. A large part of this module also relies on group projects, but don’t be afraid to work with people outside of BES as their expertise (such as that of the business students’) will come in handy when dealing in certain topics like finance. The final exam consists of MCQs and a few SAQs that will test how well you remember certain concepts.

Why & How:

I was seriously considering a minor in Business, and this module gave me a mini crash course of everything they taught in Business School as well as what I need to know if I wanted to start my own business.

Rating & Recommendations:

9/10. Docking one point off because I hated travelling to Business school (i think it’s just me LOL) but the module is very eye-opening and interesting. It may also help you in the future if you join corporate, to know how businesses work.



Xiao Tong – CL2281  [Translation and Interpretation]

Workload & Lesson:

[The workload is] very manageable, actually it requires you to stay updated with current affairs (in both English and Chinese). Assignments given are usually given to rehearse real-life scenarios where translation is required. It is a very practical-based module and everything learnt is very applicable. The busier period is towards the end of semester [since it is] 50% finals, 50% presentation.

The lecturer works as an interpreter for many of Singapore – China agreements and he used to work as a parliament interpreter. His content is very practical instead of theory which makes content a lot easier to grasp and apply. The finals isn’t open book. During the semester I took it, he allowed students to bring in dictionary (non-electronic) into the exam hall because many students feedback that they don’t know how to write the Chinese words. The paper is split into 2 main portions: translation of terms (e.g. HDB, budget deficit) and translation of a speech (usually budget speech or speech from some international symposium). For both portions, equal marks are allocated to translating from English to Chinese and Chinese to English.


Why & How:

Translation and interpretation is a useful life skill that we subconsciously apply in our everyday lives. It’s not directly related to BES mods but knowing the environmental related terms in Chinese (and vice versa) can help a lot during outreach activities to enable the education of a greater crowd.


Rating & Recommendation:

10/10. The lecturer is really very understanding and helpful. He has a lot of passion of his topic and his lectures are one of the best that I have attended. The class generally have a very good grasp of the Chinese language so it will be advantages if you have a good command of Chinese. Read the papers frequently during the module and you should be fine!


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