Experiencing Southeast Asia with OdySEA 2012

In the spirit of Homer’s epic poem, the purpose of OdySEA is to give students an opportunity to undergo a journey, both intellectually and physically, and allowing them to establish a new sense of self in relation to the region. Jointly offered by FASS and the Faculty of Science, the inaugural OdySEA attracted 30 students from both faculties who spent six weeks in the Special Term reading modules centred on Southeast Asia. Between going for classes and finishing up on reports, they also spent two weeks in either Thailand or Philippines to do field work.

Read more about the experiences of three FASS students who embarked on OdySEA 2012!


Sarah Lim (Philippines)                                      Dean Wong & Jeremy Ho (Thailand)

Also check out the documentary on Thai social etiquette Why Wai by four students for OdySEA 2012. Filmed and produced by Jeremy Ho, Kenneth Poon, Teng Horm Earm & Dean Wong.

For more information on OdySEA, visit the Study Abroad @ FASS Summer Programmes page.

Lessons from South Africa – My International Internship Journey

By Timothy Siew

View while on an overnight hiking trip which brought me to Cape Point (the commonly believed meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic ocean) and the Cape of Good Hope (Southwestern most tip of the African continent).

Singapore is proudly a multiracial and multicultural society, boasting a low crime rate. We often dismiss this as government propaganda we are consistently fed to believe. However, there is a small minority who say we take what we have for granted. As the saying goes, “ignorance is bliss”. How true is all of this? As I sought to uncover the rough realities faced by others in this world, I chose to go where few Singaporeans have gone before, South Africa. It was a journey of discovery for me, to experience first hand pressing issues facing other far-flung societies.

Some questioned my decision to go to South Africa, which has the strongest economy in the African continent, asking what I can learn from living in such a rich country. Especially one, on the surface, is comparable to Singapore; well-leveled roads, clean water available throughout the country and built up cities. What I can say is that they cannot be more wrong. Beneath this beautiful city exists an ugly reality which needs all the help it can get. South Africa has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world (over 50 murders a day), high rates of HIV (10-11%), and an extremely racially charged society as a result of apartheid. It is by no means a safe country to live in. The Australian travel advisory gives the country a rating of “Exercise a high degree of caution”, the same rating as countries such as Burma, North Korea, East Timor, Rwanda and Uganda, just to name a few.

A typical black township. Some residents in the townships are the poorest amongst all South Africans and crime here is rife.

Apartheid is the forced segregation of people according to their skin color; White, Coloured and Black. As apartheid only ended 18 years ago, most of the adult population had grown up during the apartheid era and hatred between racial groups is still very prevalent. Even though apartheid had ended, racial groups still keep very much to themselves. There are coloured and black townships and schools are still predominately attended by children of a certain racial group.

I did my internship at the Cape Town Refugee Centre, serving arguably the most hated group in an extremely xenophobic country. My daily commute to and fro my workplace was laced with racism. It finally hit me – this is what we have been taking for granted in Singapore, racial tolerance. Asians in Cape Town are rare, and Chinese are an extremely tough find. Every day without fail, as I walk along the streets, I get taunted with the now familiar “Ching Chow Bong”, “China China”, “Chinaman” by random strangers. I’d get people jumping at me with Kung Fu poses and asking me if I know Kung Fu. In extreme cases, I get strangers coming up to my face with racist slurs, kicks that stop right at my face and challenges to fight on the streets. Through this very rough reception on the streets by strangers, I finally understood the undervalued concept of racial tolerance prevalent in Singapore. One aspect of life in Singapore that we take for granted was now staring me in the face. I was fortunate to receive only mild racial taunting as racial targeting there can turn violent very often.

The low crime rate in Singapore is something we often take for granted, it never occurs to us in Singapore to carry a weapon to defend yourself, but it could be something essential in more dangerous cities. While Cape Town city centre has a significantly lower crime rate, my work often took me to poor townships where crime is rife and at any moment things might take a turn for the worse. Even a local policeman told me to thank God for everyday I am alive in Cape Town as I may just die anytime on the streets. Hearing horror stories of friends I know being beaten up and robbed was something I had grown accustomed to. Seeing with my own eyes people getting roughly manhandled and robbed violently by those who seem to have no humanity left in them was no longer shocking to me. My roommate had been smashed against a fence and robbed by three men with knives just outside our apartment in broad daylight on the main street. I even had someone pulling a knife on me, demanding I hand over my money. Learning how to look out for myself and to be extremely aware of my surroundings, sometimes to the point of paranoia, became a norm for me.

It finally occurred to me that we often take our safety for granted. Being able to live in a society that I do not fear for my safety or face open racism is a huge blessing. These two issues were the most glaring things that I feel many Singaporeans take for granted.

South Africa takes in tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from all around Africa each year. Doing an internship at the Cape Town Refugee Centre allowed me to come into contact with those that were in dire situations. What really struck me was that some of the refugees seeking help at the centre are people my age, or even younger. It made me reflect on how fortunate I am to be born in Singapore, and how the situation could have been so vastly different had I been born in another part of this world. In addition, the flair and passion for some to further their education made me realize how lucky I am to be able to afford education.

A traditional South African band playing tribal music at the Mama Africa restaurant in Long Street, Cape Town.

My overseas internship to South Africa was truly an eye opener that gave me the opportunity peek out of the well I have lived in all my life. Living and working overseas is a totally different experience from that of going overseas for a holiday. Residing in a country for a lengthy period allowed me to soak in the culture and better understand the problems that are faced by other societies. This is especially so for issues which have never been a problem for us in Singapore. It was an incredible journey which I do not regret embarking on.


Click here if you can’t see the video above.


Timothy Siew is a Year 2 Sociology Major who decided to take the path less travelled and went to South Africa on a two-month internship instead of heading off to U.C. Berkeley on a summer school programme. While looking at the choices available to students with the NUS International Relations Office (IRO), he came across an internship/volunteer programme in South Africa and acted upon his desire to do something in making a difference where help was needed the most. Despite strong objections from his parents and his own personal fears (try google-ing crime in South Africa), Timothy knew he could not let the opportunity pass him by.

The inaugural FASS Student Leadership Camp 2012

The inaugural FASS Student Leadership Camp 2012 (FSLC) was jointly organised by the FASS Dean’s Office and the Office of Student Affairs (OSA). Participants hailed from various leadership positions of the Communications and New Media (CNM) Society, Economics Society (ENS), FASS Club, Geography Society, German Society, Malay Studies Society and Sociology Society.  26 FASS student leaders spent 13-15 Jan 2012 challenging ourselves, amplifying our inner leaders, making new friends, and opening doors for inter-society partnerships.

1: Leaders at Kota Rainforest Resort
Upon arrival at the resort, we were briefed about the objectives of the camp (keep a positive attitude, be considerate, be sensitive, and refrain from smoking and consuming intoxicating beverages) and broken up into two groups for games the next day. After a home-cooked supper by chefs at the resort, we checked into our rooms, which were satisfactorily equipped with air-conditioning and water heaters. Five almost-strangers would step out of their shared room two days later, friends
2: A lost sole
Games the next day were not to be trifled with. Many of us suffered battle wounds in the form of detached shoe soles, but none of us were deterred from pushing our limits through abseiling, flying fox, and rock wall climbing. Cheers for teammates abounded, especially when Lok Liang Xun, Freshmen Immersion Camp Project Director of the Geography Society and Kelvin Poh, President of the Sociology Society, battled the rock wall blindfolded to gain bonus points for their respective teams.
Before lunch that day, we were asked to rate our groups. Siti Zakiyyah Bte Kamaruddin from the Cultural Affairs Team of Malay Studies gave her team a seven, for she felt that the unfamiliarity between leaders from different societies had led to cliques forming.
3: The swimming pool challenge

The swimming pool challenge, Indiana Jones, was a wake-up call to us. Each team was provided with a plank and two poles to transport members to the middle of the pool to retrieve balls. The teams worked separately and though we managed to collect all the balls, it was with much difficulty. During a camp instructor’s debrief, we were told that the task would have been completed more efficiently should the teams had combined their resources to form a stronger structure. With cooperation in mind, the teams breezed through a second round of Indiana Jones. Of course, strong arms and terrific balancing skills of some leaders helped too.

What brought it up to a ten, among many other tens from fellow teammates as shared in the final debrief, was the finale challenge the next day – rafting. Points accumulated from previous games were converted into “currency”, which were used to “purchase” materials such as barrels, poles and rope to create one raft per team. The rafts were to be manoeuvred in a lake, each time bringing a maximum of four balls back. Though each team was allocated a ball colour, teams helped each other by collecting balls nearer to them, regardless of colour. Ties were not only strengthened within the teams through the constructing, rowing and repairing of the rafts, but also between teams.

6: Falling with smiles7: Legs: the human motor

7: Legs: the human motor
8: A/P Vincent Ooi, Assistant Dean (External Relations and Student Life)
A/P Vincent Ooi, Assistant Dean (External Relations and Student Life), shared with us on how the idea of the camp came about, “I was told that the societies would never interact much with one another.” Indeed, the lack of interaction opportunities prior to FSLC resulted in societies being strangers to one another despite most society rooms located together on the 2nd Level of Blk ADM. However, by the end of the camp, the critics would have been silenced. As Zakiyyah concluded her rating, “now, we’re just perfect.”
By Stephanie Yeo, Honorary General Secretary, 32nd Management Committee, NUS Students’ Arts and Social Sciences Club

NUS Hosts MTI Dialogue 2011

Mr S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry speaking at the MTI Dialogue 2011 held at NUS.

20 October 2011 was a special occasion for all students studying Economics, as it was the day the 4th Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) Dialogue session was held. Since its official inauguration in 2008, the MTI dialogue session has been an annual joint collaboration between the National University of Singapore (NUS) and MTI, with the aim of recognising the top economics students from the three local universities. The MTI Academic Awards, with a cash prize of $2,000, were given to the best 3rd year economics student from each university (the MTI Book Prize), as well as the student with the best 4th year economics thesis from each university (the MTI Best Thesis Award).

The event also served as a platform for students to air their views on significant economic challenges faced by Singapore today, as well as clarify government policies from an economical standpoint. The theme of this year’s dialogue was “Promoting Inclusive Growth in Singapore”, covered in the keynote speech given by Mr S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade & Industry.

“The Government has not pursued growth at all costs”, said Mr S Iswaran, stressing the point that the government’s aim has always been to build a better life for all Singaporeans, dispelling the myth that the government prioritises economic growth over the welfare of its citizens.

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Fifteen Flying Fijians have Fantastic Fun in Fiji

“Where is Fiji?”
“What do they look like?”
“What do they speak?”
“How does it look like?”

These were the initial reaction of friends and family when we first told them that we were going to Fiji and occasionally, there would be well-meaning chimes of, “Oh, have fun in Japan!”

Sent on a mission to discover the answers to all the questions and (secretly) super proud to be the first 15 NUS Geography Majors to step foot on Fiji, we packed our bags and set off for a ten-day fieldtrip to the South Pacific island from the 15th to 26th of September.

Otherwise known as Big Fiji, the island of Viti Levu has an area that is slightly more than ten times the size of Singapore, but hosts ten times less the population. While there, we had the privilege to be part of a joint Geography expedition with the University of the South Pacific (USP). 70 Geography students accompanied Dr Mark Stephens from the School of Geography, Earth Science and Environment at USP. Our group of 15 Physical Geography students was led by Assoc Prof James Terry from FASS and Adjunct Prof at USP.

When we got there, we were greeted with friendly calls of “bula” (“hello” in Fijian) wherever we went. We probably did look queer to them, standing out as a conspicuous bunch on the streets with our fair skins and surprisingly fluent English. We were also mistaken as Japanese tourists so many times!

Some of us having dinner at a pizza place in Nadi Town
Some of us having dinner at a pizza place in Nadi Town

At our first stop in Nadi, Assoc Prof Terry was featured in a public lecture organised by USP’s Lautoka Campus. He shared about investigating a number of recent and historical tropical cyclones and the nature of their physical consequences for island environments in the South Pacific and beyond. Before joining the USP students on the 19th, we also had the chance to visit several key sights such as the Valley of the Sleeping Giant in Nadi and Lautoka town.

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The Chinese (Film) Revolution: The Rise of Independent Filmmaking in China

By Delle Chan

IMG_1319On the morning of the 23rd of August 2011, Professor Paul G Pickowicz, a Visiting Distinguished Scholar at NUS, gave a lively and intellectually stimulating presentation entitled “The Dynamics of Independent Filmmaking in China.” His talk, which attracted a substantial audience, is part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ ongoing “Distinguished Leaders in Asian Studies Speaker Series.”

The jovial and fluently multilingual Professor Pickowicz commenced his talk by sharing how the liberation of the Chinese film movement runs the entire gamut, percolating down to even underground amateurs. He then went on to suggest that this is but an unapologetic reflection of the increasing democratisation of culture in modern China. Indeed, the subjects explored in these independent films are, by and large, starkly anti-conformist, centering on issues that the state sector refuses to address. They often focus on the savagery of the human condition and the gritty underbelly of society, foregrounding an array of topics such as environmental degradation, corruption, organised crime, all aspects of human sexuality, prostitution, gang violence and drug abuse.

Professor Pickowicz then proceeded to show to the engrossed audience some clips from various independent Chinese films – some humorous, some graphically explicit, but all undeniably and incredibly raw and illuminating. One of the more memorable clips, from the controversial (and de facto banned) film Summer Palace by Lou Ye, reenacts the brutality of the Tiannanmen Square protests of 1989. Another clip, from a documentary entitled A Day to Remember, showcases amusing yet poignant footage of civilians refusing, point-blank, to discuss the said protests on camera. Yet another clip, from the film These Dogs Belong to all of Us, cleverly employs dogfights as a metaphor for human savagery.

After screening the various clips, Professor Pickowicz moved on to assert that these independent filmmakers do not actually see themselves as dissidents, thereby dismantling the popular binary assumption that pits so-called courageous rebels against a repressive state. Instead, he posits that such filmmakers should be seen as being involved in an elaborate dance of sorts with the state, using subtle methods to foreground the aforementioned taboo topics and pique societal conscience.

He then summed up his engaging presentation by concluding that independent filmmaking in China is indeed a labour of love; it demonstrates the filmmakers’ artistic license and genius, as well as their heroic attempts to underscore the multifarious aspects of human society. Furthermore, he confidently announced that independent filmmaking is here to stay, what with such films receiving increasingly more attention from scholars, as well as a growing domestic and foreign audience. Indeed, in the wake of his stimulating talk, independent Chinese filmmaking may just have won over quite a few more fans!

About the Man

Professor Paul G Pickowicz is a Distinguished Professor of History and Chinese Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and the inaugural holder of UC San Diego Modern Chinese History Endowed Chair. His books include Chinese Village, Socialist State (Yale, 1991), New Chinese Cinemas (Cambridge, 1994), Revolution, Resistance and Reform in Village China (Yale, 2005), The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History (Stanford, 2006), Dilemmas of Victory (Harvard, 2007), and China on the Margins (Cornell, 2010). Moreover, he has won three distinguished teaching awards, namely, the UC San Diego Alumni Association (1998), Chancellor’s Associates (2003), and Academic Senate (2009).

The talk in question is just one of the many items on Professor Pickowicz’s agenda during his term at FASS. Besides this talk, he also hopes to complete some work on a new book entitled China on Screen: A Century of Exploration, Confrontation and Controversy, as well as begin a conference paper entitled “What’s so Funny? Cyber Humor in Contemporary China.” Together with Dr Nicolai Volland of the Department of Chinese Studies, he will also co-chair a four-part workshop on Chinese filmmaking in Shanghai during the War Years (1938-1945).

About the FASS’ Distinguished Leaders in Asian Studies Speaker Series

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ Distinguished Leaders in Asian Studies speaker series presents cutting-edge research by top international scholars in Asian Studies. The FASS’s research agenda in Asian Studies emphasises comparative and inter-Asia studies drawing on strong located knowledge in the regions of South, Southeast and East Asia in particular. The special series capitalises on FASS’s extensive research networks to publicise the work of top international scholars in Asian Studies.

A Special Celebration for Chinese Studies Graduating Class of 2011

Speech by A/P Lee Cher Leng, Deputy Head

10th July 2011 was indeed a special day for the graduating students of the Department of Chinese Studies. After the Commencement ceremony in the morning, many packed LT10 in the afternoon for a special celebration organised by the department. This is the second year that Chinese Studies is organising the event which seeks to further strengthen the relationship with our alumni, and more importantly, to provide a platform for them to express their gratitude to their loved ones, especially parents. The intimate and cozy atmosphere of our graduate, major, and double-major students and their guests created a familial closeness that was uniquely different from the carnival-like atmosphere of the commencement ceremony. The different feel and texture of the two events made graduation even more memorable to all.

Opening Address by Dr Koh Khee Heong, organiser of the event

After a simple and touching speech by A/P Lee Cher Leng, every graduate received souvenirs and a special congratulatory letter from the department. Representatives from the undergraduate cohort, the graduating major students’ cohort and the Masters/PhD cohort shared their thoughts and appreciation with the guests.

The highlight of the event was the PowerPoint presentation filled with words of gratitude and photographs of great sentimental value done by the graduates. As the slides ran through the pictures and appreciation messages, there was silence in the lecture theatre as the heartwarming love from the graduates reached the heart of their loved-ones.  Some parents (and even grandparents) were quietly wiping their tears as they read the content. For some shy graduates who wished to show their appreciation in another way, they prepared hand-made cards and presented them to their teachers and loved-ones.

One of the many touching moments of the day

Later, as the participants enjoyed the scrumptious buffet spread, they exchanged words of gratitude and took numerous photos before heading back home. It may have been just a two-hour event, but we believe that all members of the “Chinese Studies family”, including professors, alumni, and parents, will definitely remember the meaningful moments. We wish all graduating students all the best in their future endeavors!

Complex emotions

– By Yap Chew Swee

Spicing up your student life!

By: Thng Wen You






School work, projects, assignments, readings, labs and exams are the norm.

Having been a student for years can make one a bit tired of the routine.
Losing your motivation for school work can be detrimental to our precious CAP scores.

Here’s what I did to spice up my student life in NUS. I had literally spiced it up by signing up for the NOC program to India.

Number of student for my intake: 8

Number of months in India: 6

Number of times I had to gulp lots of water to dampen the flavour on my tongue? Countless

Why India? The most frequent question I hear when I told people about my choice.
Parents knit their brows in worry and while some think that I have gone crazy.

I quote a friend who has aptly said that “India is a beautiful mess.”
I agree completely.

India is chaotic with its sheer number of people moving to the cities. Just try taking a train in Mumbai, what you experience on MRT is a piece of cake compared to the trains here (just check out the video at 3 mins and you’ll see what it’s like). Whilst the crowd may be daunting, India is bursting with its vibrancy and life! While many countries like Japan & Singapore are facing the problem of an aging population, India has her median age at 25 years old (The World Factbook, 2010).

This means that India has the most energetic people who are striving to make a mark in the world. Key focuses of its people are on innovation and enterprise or as the locals say “Jugaad” – meaning an innovative fix.

The people here are an inspiration. Aspirations here are not just about making big bucks here. Social entrepreneurship in India is pushing the frontiers. This should come as no surprise as the Ashoka’s First Fellow was in India in 1981 elected by Bill Drayton. Since then the social enterprise scene in India has evolved greatly to make vast and lasting impact on the social fabric of India. Even President Obama has acknowledged that “India is not simply emerging; India has emerged.”

I am not getting any modular credits for my 6 months internship here but the experience here has been worth much more than that. The friends and bonds created will last even after I leave India. There’s more to life! Live it! Come join NOC India!


To read more about what Wen You experienced in India read her blog here. Be warned, she has been told that she is a lousy blogger. She is not very regular with her updates. One good thing about her blog is the recipe for Indian Styled Potato (also known as Aloo) Wedges.

About Graduate Studies @ FASS

Graduate study at FASS is priceless, simply because it does not revolve around the search for answers. This will seem a peculiar, almost contentious, statement to make – more so in a contemporary global milieu that emphasises creative responses and innovative solutions to a whole myriad of social, economic and political puzzles. Let me suggest however that an intellectual orientation merely trained to “solve problems” or “get results” often cannot help but fall into the trap of treating the conditions of the predicament as fixed, as parameters that must simply be worked with. This is where FASS, I have found, distinguishes itself most clearly. By actively cultivating a disposition that is focused on asking rigorous questions, interrogating issues and imagining possibilities, FASS undoubtedly sets its students apart.

Let me draw on my recent experience to offer just a glimpse of this. For the past year, my graduate work has converged on the issue of educational inequality in Singapore. In particular, I am interested in elite schools. My main concern when I began was how elite schools entrenched unequal educational opportunity. Alternatively, how could the educational landscape in Singapore be made more equitable? Convinced that my questions were important (as most graduate students are), I was confident (again, as most graduate students are—at the beginning at least) that I would produce “groundbreaking” work in this area. Yet, I quickly found myself stumped (as most graduate students often eventually find themselves). How was I even going to begin?

I decided to enroll in classes in Sociology, History and Political Science, in an attempt to frame my research in broader and possibly inter-disciplinary terms. Looking back, it is precisely these possibilities for interactions with graduate students from diverse backgrounds—not only through classes but through seminars and workshops—that have impacted my scholarly development the most; and this, in my opinion, must surely be FASS’s greatest offering. Soon, through debate and discussion with professors and peers I began to realise that tracing the historical formation of elite schools in Singapore would provide me with the crucial insights I needed to better engage my original concerns. My point here is basically that this is a line of inquiry I would never have reached on my own accord.

Still, why is this relevant? Put simply, this process has taught me skills that I believe will be invaluable not only for my remaining time in graduate school but also in my future endeavors. Let me conclude by mentioning just three. First, I have come to realise that thinking critically does not just involve the ability to consider multiple perspectives. It also means learning to convincingly defend and justify the merits of the framework one decides to employ. Next, I have learnt that the ability to effectively communicate ideas is often more valuable than the ideas themselves. Frequent interaction with faculty and students of similar as well as different disciplinary backgrounds has forced me to refine my skills in this area. Finally, I am convinced that the future will be increasingly shaped by collaborative endeavors rather than individual forays to understand and explain the world. Graduate studies at FASS will certainly have provided me with a critical foundation for my participation in that future.

By Christopher Navarajan S/O Selva Raj
Teaching Assistant at the Department of Sociology

FASS, The Right Choice!

Joefe Santarita

Joefe B. Santarita

PhD Candidate

South Asian Studies Programme, FASS, NUS


The rise of India in the 1990s has once more called the attention of the University of the Philippines (UP) to review its program by resuscitating its focus on South Asia particularly India.

To address this concern, the administration decided to develop faculty members specialising in one of the South Asian countries with India as a start. I was then encouraged to go to New Delhi on the notion that to be an expert on India, one must study in that country.

On that account, I conditioned myself to set off to India. Fortunately, a convincing chat with a prolific intellectual whom I met in an international seminar-workshop in Singapore and later became my supervisor changed the entire academic trajectory. In short, I applied in the National University of Singapore (NUS) for a doctoral course on South Asian Studies beginning 2007 and fortunately was accepted. At this time also, the letter of acceptance from a prestigious university in New Delhi arrived almost simultaneously with the NUS’ offer letter. This temporarily gave me a dilemma. Which one? Both are excellent universities and also offered generous financial support. In the end, I chose NUS, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) in particular. The following points helped in convincing myself as well as my superiors of my coming to Singapore instead of India.

Foremost, NUS at that time was ranked as one of the top 30 best universities in the world and top ten in Asia. The university also fared better in the social science cluster which continuously maintained until today. At the onset, I was already convinced that the FASS or NUS’ international standing as well as branding will value-add the degree that I will be bringing back to the Philippines after four years.

Secondly, NUS also provides considerable logistical supports ranging from wide collection of library materials, printed and online sources, availability of various expertise in different fields and from reputable international talents as well as provision of financial assistance to conduct research and represent FASS in international conferences outside Singapore among others.

Thirdly, I am also attracted to work directly with a supervisor. Being familiar with the Philippine educational system, I believed that having this set-up will lessen some distractions in finishing my degree the soonest. This system, however, was modified in the process. Nonetheless, I am fortunate to have a supervisor who worked with me in my most challenging and inspiring days in the university.

Fourthly, the South Asian Studies Programme (SASP), I assumed, is the only graduate degree granting institution on South Asia in Southeast Asia. I felt that this is the perfect place to pursue my research on the recent relations between India and the Philippines with closer proximity to major institutions that are also working on regional interactions between India and Southeast Asia.

Lastly, Singapore is geographically strategic to me. It is just few hours away from the Philippines and is comfortably nearer to India. It is also a multi-racial nation with a big number of residents having South Asian origins. Interacting with them will give me the opportunity to feel the pulse of the region.

Given all these reasons in mind, I pursued my post graduate studies in FASS. The experiences and opportunities I gained through the years while in NUS assured me that I made the right decision. The initial and continuous interactions with colleagues and mentors in SASP already sufficed my understanding as well as appreciation of the currents and undercurrents of South Asian region. With the abovementioned facilities provided by NUS, I can now challenge the notion that to be an Indian expert, one must stay in India. With confidence, I can say now that I do not need to stay in India for long to understand that country well. The revolution since the last decade of the 20th Century in the field of technology, information and transportation already addressed such gaps. Information can be gathered online and interviews can be conducted through phone and internet facilities. In case these activities are not enough, NUS has provided enough funds for a short research visit in India.

Currently, I am working on my dissertation that attempts to ascertain the current state of India’s Look East Policy, a regionalist initiative of India to actively interact with the countries in Southeast and East Asia since its inception after the Cold War. The bilateral relations between India and the Philippines in particular are being examined in this undertaking as a case study. Through this research, I hope to contribute in the scarce literature on the Philippine ties with South Asian countries as well as in the formulation of appropriate policies to enhance the dynamic interactions of key players of regionalism and regionalisation.

Moreover, living to its aim of being a global university, it is also worthy to mention that FASS and NUS in general provided good avenues to work with intellectuals of different backgrounds and expertise, interact to students from different countries and learn from mentors of high caliber.

The opportunity to serve as tutor in various Singapore-South Asian modules also balanced my academic well-being in the university. I was able to interact with young minds and share the joys of learning. In the process, I earned a sense of satisfaction as well as recognition as one of the recipients of the inaugural FASS’ Graduate Student Teaching Award for 2010. Other than the award, the most important thing I gained in this activity is the knowledge not only about South Asia but also Singapore in the process.

Finally, I fervently hope that the degree that I will be earning in the FASS will usher brighter future for me and my family. To start with, the diploma from NUS as mentioned earlier will improve my career path as a faculty and researcher. It will also boost my confidence to participate in various national and international as well as academic and bureaucratic undertakings.

Most importantly, the knowledge I learned and the experience I earned through the years in NUS will better equip me to share these to my future students in understanding better South Asia and in effect promote better interaction between Filipinos and South Asians. Hopefully, this will inspire at least some of them to pursue their post graduate studies about the region. In due time, I trust that they will also follow my choice.