The Global Honors College: Waseda Global Seminar on Sustainability 2010

By Vanessa Lim Huimin and Amanda Fay Tan May Wern, Amanda Fay (both Year 4 Geography Majors)

In August 2010, two FASS students (Honours level Geography students) were among four undergraduates who represented NUS at the Waseda Global Seminar on Sustainability 2010. They recount their eye-opening experiences here.


“The future is yet to be determined.” –X CLAMP, Japanese animation series (1996)

For better or for worse, the sustainability debate will rage on. The professors guiding us through the Waseda Global Seminar on Sustainability 2010, which commenced on 2nd August till 21st August 2010, made it clear that the purpose of the seminar was not to paint a hopeful or bleak image of the future. Neither was its purpose to convert us into tree huggers or skeptics. Instead, it was a seminar aimed at opening our eyes to the possibilities that the future holds—with the hope that we will all be able to make informed decisions about sustainability in our lives.

While the seminar was premised on the notion of sustainability with a special focus on biodiversity, we were encouraged to use an interdisciplinary approach to think about the complexities of sustainable development. The Global Seminar on Sustainability was developed by Waseda University in order to form a Global Honors College (GHC), in collaboration with its eight partner universities from around the world: Columbia University, Harvard University, Korea University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, NUS, Peking University, University of Washington and Yale University. Participants were purposefully picked from a wide variety of academic disciplines (ranging even from seemingly dichotomized fields such as Biology and Comparative Literature) to reflect on the interdisciplinary nature of the protean word ‘sustainability’. The seminar therefore comprised of an interesting assemblage of students from diverse international and academic backgrounds, making the experience a refreshing one. Although we recognise that a college comprising universities from Asia and the U.S.A. alone does not exactly qualify as “global”, the dynamism of working (and playing) with accomplished students from such a diversity of backgrounds was indeed a valuable exposure to international collaborations.

Lessons and reflections

The seminar was split into two parts. The first was an online phase carried out from 1st June till 30th July 2010, where lessons were conducted using some of the most cutting-edge distance-learning tools such as Mendeley, Wikischolars and VoiceThread. During the online phase, we had to submit reports on a weekly basis, and use the discussion platforms to critically engage with fellow participants on contentious issues. The programme was taught in four parts—Terrestrial Biology, Comparative Literature, Marine Biology and Environmental Economics—by professors from Columbia University, Harvard University, Peking University, and NUS. We were particularly impressed with the technologies used to encourage our participation and engagement with one another, for beforehand, we had not come across these online educational tools. These online platforms were laudably effective in arousing interest, and generating responses.

The second phase was an intensive on-site learning phase, where we attended field trips, lectures and worked on projects to elucidate the intricacies of sustainability, and how biodiversity is compromised in mankind’s quest for development. Field trips were taken within and outside of Tokyo, to explore how sustainability has been achieved in certain contained systems, provoking us to consider about how traditional methods may be useful in promoting sustainability in the modern world. Guest lectures were also a prominent feature of the programme, where professors and government officials from the environmental department delivered lectures on related topics.

For our on-site projects, we were deliberately given tasks that were unrelated to our various disciplines. As such, we were forcefully taken out of our “comfort zones”. However, we found it slightly disappointing that while the GHC emphasised its interdisciplinary approach to the discipline, we did not get the chance to apply our knowledge and skill sets to our projects. While we certainly learnt a lot from other disciplines, we felt that the course was veering into a collection of “1101” classes, rather than an in-depth sharing from each of our fields of expertise to gain further insights on the important considerations of other fields. Perhaps, that is something that can be improved in future years.

Yet, attending the GHC was not without its other privileges – we certainly received first rate treatment from Waseda University. Apart from Waseda University bearing all our programme, accommodation and insurance costs, the GHC also provided us unprecedented opportunities that we were pleasantly surprised with. For instance, the college secured exclusive front-row seats (Photograph 1) for GHC participants when the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, visited Japan and delivered a speech at Waseda University.

Photograph 1. The “Grobal Honors College” (sic) got front row seats to see UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-Moon (on the podium), speak on Peace and Disarmament in Waseda University, August 4, 2010.

We also received the unique opportunity to meet and interact (in a small classroom setting) with Mr. Parag Khanna, an international relations expert who is also current Director of the Washington D.C. based think tank, Global Governance Initiative of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. While sustainability might seem like a far-removed subject from the expertise of Mr. Ban Ki-Moon and Mr. Parag Khanna, we were made to think about the implications of global politics in relation to the possibilities of sustainable development.

More than just classes…

While the seminar was the focal point of our trip to Japan, we definitely did not spend all our time there studying and doing research! Part of the objectives of the programme was also to give us cultural exposure. We spent a good deal of time getting to know the fellow participants and exploring the vastly fascinating city of Tokyo. By the end of our three weeks in Tokyo, we were intimately familiar with the boisterously crowded cityscape. It was especially exciting being there in the summer, as it was the season where Japanese wore their traditional summer garbs, the Yukatas (for females) and Jinbeis (males) to attend weekly summer festivals. Our Japanese friends got us well acquainted with the delicious food, festivities, and of course, the commercial culture of Tokyo (Photographs 2 and 3).

Photograph 2. GHC participants in exceptionally high spirits, while shopping in Ginza, the upscale commercial district of Tokyo (despite not being able to afford any of the luxury goods there).







Photograph 3. Vanessa (right) and a GHC friend attending a summer festival in Tokyo, dressed in the traditional Japanese summer wear.









In particular, Amanda grabbed the opportunity of her lifetime to climb Mount Fuji (it was such a challenge that she will probably never do it again) with a handful of students from the GHC. She scaled the mountain over-night to reach the summit just before dawn. The break of dawn was momentous, as they watched an epic sunrise from a view that they will never forget after the daunting challenge of Mount Fuji.

Photograph 4. Amanda, (far right, second row) and a group of GHC participants on the summit of Mount Fuji, shortly after the break of dawn.









And so, after three intense, eye-opening weeks, we returned to Singapore with ‘sustainability’ dawning on our minds. There are many experiences that we label ‘once in a lifetime’ and ‘unforgettable’ and this is definitely one of them. We felt that the period of three weeks was just about enough for us to enrich our minds as we consider seriously the importance of biodiversity and sustainability for the future, and at the same time, gain ample experiences that fuelled our personal growth.

For more information, please go here or here.

Theory at Work : Text, History and Culture International Conference

Theory at Work: Text, History and Culture International Conference

November 9-11, 2010

Department of English, Banaras Hindu University,

Vanarasi, India


From 9-11 November 2010, I attended the Theory at Work: Text, History and Culture International Conference which was held in Vanarasi and organized by the Department of English of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). Organized in collaboration with Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi) and the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (New Delhi), the conference brought together scholars from different regions of India and international scholars from renowned institutions including; King’s College (London), Macquarie University (Australia), University of Pisa (Italy) and Deakin University (Australia) amongst others. Focusing on the interplay between theory, textuality, history and culture, the conference provided for a meaningful and informative interdisciplinary dialogue on the development and deployment of theories with regards to the major fields and themes of literary studies, social and intellectual history, gender studies, anthropology and philosophy. My own research paper presentation, entitled “Mapping the Unknown: Empire, Gender and the Oriental ‘Other’ in Women’s Travel Narratives of Colonial Southeast Asiaanalyzed the visual and textual cultural representations of the people, places and cultures of Southeast Asia in women’s travel writing by exploring the nexus between race, gender, empire and the politics of narration.


Ranked Number One this year on a survey of the top universities of India by India Today Magazine, the effort and work put in by BHU and the conference organizers to ensure the conference was an engaging and successful one for participants is testament to their dedication towards academia and the arts. Participants were treated to a theatre performance of Bhisham Sahni’s acclaimed play Madhavi, staged by students of the department. The play was first translated from Hindi to English by Prof. Alok Bhalla of the department and revolves around the human desire to achieve fame, recognition and its tragic consequences when pursued ruthlessly. The city of Vanarasi itself was a delight to explore; from a panoramic boat ride down the Ganges river, to the 110 feet tall Dhammekha Stupa at Sarnath where Buddha preached his first sermon, to the colorful busy bazaars and temples and the winding maze of serpentine alleys that make up the city. Held in a historical and legendary centre of learning which combines a picturesque, yet, apt blend of the spiritual, commercial, mystical and modern, the conference was a truly enriching experience.


Sheena Kumari

M.A Student

Department of History

National University of Singapore

Plenary Session 1: Keynote Address and Open Lecture by Prof. Amitav Roy,Head, Dept of English, chaired by Malcolm Voyce, Macquarie University, Australia
Plenary Session 1: Keynote Address and Open Lecture by Prof. Amitav Roy,Head, Dept of English, chaired by Malcolm Voyce, Macquarie University, Australia
Students of the Dept of English : Main leads of Bhisham Sahni’s play Madhavi
Students of the Dept of English : Main leads of Bhisham Sahni’s play Madhavi
Students of the Dept of English : Staging of Bhisham Sahni’s play Madhavi
Students of the Dept of English : Staging of Bhisham Sahni’s play MadhaviFaculty of Arts Building, Banaras Hindu University
Ganges River: Funeral Rites and the Burning of Corpses along the ghats
Ganges River: Funeral Rites and the Burning of Corpses along the ghatsScene along the Ganges River: A majestic royal ghat
Colourful Scene along the Ganges River: Devotees, Pilgrims and Tourist Boats
Colourful Scene along the Ganges River: Devotees, Pilgrims and Tourist BoatsSarnath-An Important Buddhist Site: 110 feet tall Dhammekha StupaSarnath-An Important Buddhist Site: 110 feet tall Dhammekha Stupa
Sarnath-An Important Buddhist Site: 110 feet tall Dhammekha Stupa
Sarnath-An Important Buddhist Site: 110 feet tall Dhammekha Stupa

NUS hosts inaugural CSDA-PAVe Symposium on family violence

By Student Blogger Ian Goh

pave-logo-by-georginagray1The Centre for Social Development Asia (CSDA, NUS) and the Centre for Promoting Alternatives to Violence (PAVe) held their inaugural joint-symposium last Thursday, on the 21st of October, entitled “Emerging Trends of Family Violence in Singapore: Reflecting, Connecting, Paving New Frontiers”.

Over 200 guests and dignitaries from the Singapore Police Force, the Ministry of Community Development, various hospitals, community hubs and volunteer organisations gathered at the NUS Shaw Foundation Alumni House to discuss the prevalence of domestic family violence—a rising issue within the local community.

Among those in attendance was Guest of Honour, Dr Maliki Osman, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of National Development, and also Honorary Advisor to PAVe’s Managing Committee.

“[This symposium] provides a platform for professionals in health-care, social, and government services, to share, consolidate, and learn from one other’s experiences in managing and preventing family violence,” he said in his opening address.

PAVe, a joint-organiser of the Symposium, reflected on a decade of their history and operations, which include preventive and developmental programmes to discourage violence at home, together with public education of both parents and their children, in dealing with these issues.

In a 2002 World Health Organization (WHO) report, over 199,000 youths were killed in cases of interpersonal disputes. In Singapore, the incidents of child abuse (aged 0-4 years old) have also steadily increased in the years 2006 to 2009, as shared by Dr Angelina Chan, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Changi General Hospital, and one of three speakers who presented their findings at the symposium.

Paper topics also included “Breaking Barriers: Understanding Immigrants Affected by Domestic Violence in Singapore”, as well as a paper presentation by our Faculty’s own Dr Sudha Nair, Deputy Head of the Department of Social Work in NUS, whose paper titled “Bridging Troubled Waters: The Case for Community Cooperation”, spoke on the need for greater coordination and communication between members of the community of care-givers.

“CSDA’s mandate is to work with the community. The involvement with PAVe was our first with a voluntary welfare organisation. And yes, we do hope to develop more links and projects together,” she shared, on the Department’s long history with community organisations like PAVe.

Finally, members of the audience then signed up for one of three Break-Out Groups—or discussion groups, where they shared about their experiences in the industry, some of the challenges they faced, and how the lessons from the Symposium that day benefited their line of work.

Furthermore, over 15 NUS students from the Department of Social Work and other faculties had the opportunity to rub shoulders with these health-care professionals, while engaging in discussion on the rising trend of domestic violence in Singapore.

Says Deborah Yap, an undergraduate minor-ing in Social Work, “I think it’s very important that this issue be made known to the public—perhaps it can be prevented in that way.”

When asked on her thoughts on the Symposium, she reflected, “It raises awareness of what was taught in our various classes, and it really inspires us to see all these professionals already passionately working in the field. Overall it was a meaningful event, and I’m glad I came down.”

Why Oh Gee?

By Student Blogger Choong Jia Xin


Opportunity is NO Where?

I dare say ‘Opportunity is NOW Here!’

Workforce accreditation pass for volunteers to access their sport venues.
Workforce accreditation pass for volunteers to access their sport venues

The Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) was definitely an unforgettable experience that I will cherish. I always believe that we should live life to the fullest and I felt that sense of fulfillment as I volunteered in the Youth Olympic News Service (YONS) for the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC).

Based at the International Convention Centre (ICC) to cover sports like Fencing and Handball, YOG was indeed an eye-opener and I had an amazing journey. It was most interesting to work and befriend people on the YOG workforce from different parts of the world.

I was excited to find out that the Infostrada Sports news service team, known for their coverage of the Olympics e.g.  Beijing 2008, Torino 2006 and Athens 2004, would be the

Last training session at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee Centre at 1 Kay Siang Road
Last training session at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee Centre at 1 Kay Siang Road

official news service team for YOG. I was in the good hands of friendly senior reporters ever ready to guide me in my volunteer work as an enthusiastic junior reporter.

Initially, I was worried as I had limited knowledge in the field of news reporting. However, after going through the interview for YONS, excitement overcame concerns as I felt better prepared after taking the Communications and New Media (CNM) course, Introduction to Media Writing. I was exposed to terms and styles frequently used in media writing and this was vital as YONS has a high standard of professionalism to maintain when it comes to publishing news to the media. The SYOGOC also conducted two-hour weekly training sessions for six weeks before the Games started. This helped to ensure that YONS reporters would be well-equipped with knowledge on the Games as well as our jobs.

Last day of volunteer at the Culture and Education Programme (Singapore 2010 Friendship Fabric) in Suntec City
Last day of volunteer at the Culture and Education Programme (Singapore 2010 Friendship Fabric) in Suntec City

During the Games, there were definitely moments that I would like to relive. One of those moments was when I had the chance to interview China fencer, Lin Sheng, who emerged the winner of YOG’s Cadet Female Individual Epee Gold Medal Match. Fencing is a European dominated sport and I was filled with pride as I saw her strike for her final score. It was a great moment for all Asians, not just the Chinese. Furthermore, during the interview, I was very surprised by how humble and selfless she was about her success. It surprised me even more to know that she is only 16 years old. Lin Sheng is indeed a unique character whom I am so glad to have been acquainted with during YOG.

All in all, I think YOG has been a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to learn, practice journalism hands on, meet new friends and grow as an individual.

A Uniquely Singapore Experience

By Student Blogger Lim Shi Yun

The Olympic experience is one that is truly unforgettable, regardless of whether one had participated in the Games as an athlete, worked in the organising committee or helped out as a volunteer. This August, I had the chance to gain an insight into this experience through the perspective of being a Media Communications Assistant (MCA) volunteer at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

The first thing people always ask me whenever I mentioned that I was volunteering at YOG was about the quality of the food. Thankfully, the problems regarding the quality of the meals for volunteers did not concern me. I was lucky to be helping out at the main media centre, located at the Marina Bay Sands Centre, where the staff and volunteers were able to help themselves to meals buffet-style, with the choices being rotated around a ten-day schedule. 


Dining Area at Marina Bay Sands - Photo by Daniel Lee
Dining Area at Marina Bay Sands - Photo by Daniel LeeEmpty plates waiting to be filled – Photo by Daniel Lee

In my opinion, the food was good and I always looked forward to the meals during my duties. One of my lecturers commented that when a big event like the YOG was given negative press coverage on its food quality issues, it really drains the tremendous effort that people have put into planning the event. It reminded me that while it is important to report on stories that have news value, it is imperative that one should not forget to be empathetic towards the people involved in the stories.



Youth athletes using filters at one of the exhibits at Marina Barrage-- SYOGOC Photo: Genevieve Marie Goh
Youth athletes using filters at one of the exhibits at Marina Barrage-- SYOGOC Photo: Genevieve Marie Goh

The highlight of my stint as a volunteer was when we had to accompany the media on an Exploration Journey to Marina Barrage as one of the Culture & Education Programme (CEP) activities for the youth athletes. The athletes were able to participate in interactive activities at Marina Barrage, which allowed them to learn about sustainable water management. It was especially heart-warming to see foreign youth athletes interacting and playing Frisbee with Singaporean youth at the roof garden, which just shows how sports can bring people together. I will never forget the scene of that leisurely evening, where people of all nationalities had fun together against the backdrop of the mesmerizing view of Singapore’s city skyline.

Trying their best to look serious – Photo by Syahmi
Trying their best to look serious – Photo by Syahmi

In addition, I attended a press conference, which happened to feature diving heartthrob, Tom Daley. I remember thinking to myself about the kind of pressure and scrutiny that the YOG athletes must be facing, given their age and knowing that what they said could be headline news the next day. Of course, the conference went smoothly and it occurred to me that the youth athletes truly embodied the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect. 

The cosy Media Workroom – Photo by Daniel Lee
The cosy Media Workroom – Photo by Daniel Lee


One of the more exciting aspects of being a MCA volunteer was that I was able to meet
Media help desk at Marina Bay Sands – Photo by Syahmi
Media help desk at Marina Bay Sands – Photo by Syahmi

some prominent figures in Singapore. On the days where I had roving duty at different events around Singapore, I saw Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and a few local celebrities. It was fun to see local celebrities with their families who were there to support them as they ran for the torch relay. One of my friends, who was also a volunteer, was even photographed in a picture that the media had taken of Joanne Peh. It was a mix of amusement and fascination to watch an interview on television, knowing that you were just out of the camera’s view. As the torch relay continued around the heartlands of Singapore, it was heartening to see everyone getting more excited and involved in the days leading up to the opening of the Games.

Cars stopped to watch the passing over of the torch – Photo by Lim Shi Yun
Cars stopped to watch the passing over of the torch – Photo by Lim Shi Yun

I feel proud to have been part of such a historic event in Singapore, which Olympics chief Jacques Rogge called a “resounding success”. Being able to help out as a MCA gave me the opportunity to get behind the scenes and learn about the efforts that go into planning an international event. It has, indeed, proven to be a fruitful and once-in-a-lifetime experience! I would just like to end with this quote from minister Vivian Balakrishnan that made me feel volunteering for the nation is an invaluable involvement.

He said: “They are the real stars of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. I think when all this is over and people have gone home, the enduring memory will be of our volunteers – how they got together, how they delivered. And it is this legacy that will come to define the inaugural Youth Olympics.”

One Word: Awesome!

By Student Blogger Muriel Amable
At the Herbs & Spice Station with fellow volunteers (:
At the Herbs & Spice Station with fellow volunteers (:

Upon realizing that 14th to 26th of August will be during the second and third academic week, I reconsidered my hankering for a volunteer role in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). As much as I didn’t mind committing many hours, there are seminars and lectures to take into consideration – especially since I’m on my final year. So when there was a recruitment session in school, I was really hoping I could find a part that would have a more accommodating schedule. After speaking to the very friendly Venue Manager and much deliberation, I signed up to be a Culture & Education Programme (CEP) Station Host for Hort Park along with two good friends. I was also offered a leadership opportunity, which I gladly accepted.

In that CEP venue, the educational theme of social responsibility was emphasized, touching on environmental issues, sustainable development and ultimately creating awareness and inspiring young athletes to play active roles in their communities.  

Time quickly flew by, with trainings and briefings I unexpectedly enjoyed (to be honest, reminders for whole day trainings very rarely evoke positive emotions). I met new like-minded and really awesome people – fellow volunteers and SYOGOC members alike, and was guided by encouraging trainers to prepare us to be in tiptop condition for THE day. Before we knew it, we were watching the Opening Ceremony and the excitement mixed with a heap of nervousness could not be contained any longer.

Selecting the most creative terrarium in progress (:
Selecting the most creative terrarium in progress (:
With one of the athletes (the flower on my hair was from one of the Samoan athletes) (:
With one of the athletes (the flower on my hair was from one of the Samoan athletes) (:

The terrarium workshop by the Hort Park staff was also conducted in the MPH and so I had the chance to help the

With the super tall Russian volleyball players, translators and facilitators
With the super tall Russian volleyball players, translators and facilitators

athletes in making their terrariums. When they finished making their terrariums much faster than they ought to, some of the talented athletes showed some dandy moves, performed dances or even lip-synced to their favorite songs – whatever it was, everyone surely enjoyed and was clearly entertained. The part of my duty that I loved the most will have to be the mini-awarding ceremony at the end of the day. No matter how tired the athletes were, they always had the energy to shout their group numbers when I ask them who they think is the overall winner was.

Needless to say, I really enjoyed the time I spent mingling with the athletes, coaches, Athlete Role Models (ARM), facilitators, SYOGOC staff, translators, Hort Park staff and all those who made the whole experience wonderful and awesome. I reckon every person involved in YOG has a different story to tell – a beautiful and memorable story one would not trade anything in the world for! (:

 Last but not the least, I was also given the chance to be part of the first Youth Olympic Flame’s journey as a torchbearer. And for that, I can only say that IT WAS THE MOST STRESSFUL BUT EXCITING 100m OF MY LIFE! 😀

I think I couldn’t contain my excitement anymore
I think I couldn’t contain my excitement anymore!

Working hard in the US

By Student Blogger Ian Goh

Shafiqah Song Xiuhua, or just Nadiah, as she doesn’t mind being called, rushes over to shake my hand in the Yusof Ishak House canteen. It’s clear that she’s one busy woman, having rushed over from an MOE attachment and having to rush off once again soon after, giving us only about half-an-hour to chat. She greets me with a wide smile, apologises for being late, and we immediately begin our interview.


Shafiqah, an English Literature Major in FASS, was only in her first year of NUS when she decided to apply for the UNC-NUS Joint Degree Programme, a prestigious partnership between the National University of Singapore and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Come July 2010, she will be part of the pioneering batch of students graduating from both universities, after completing a four-year course both locally and overseas, a feat she only imagined as challenging the first time she heard about it.


“Maybe I was young back then, and thought I would just try for it. I remember they called us all down for a briefing on the programme requirements—there were over a hundred students in the room, all interested in signing up! The tension only increased when one of the professors announced that only about 10 students will be eventually accepted,” Shafiqah exclaimed.


When asked why she signed up for the programme, Shafiqah merely smiled and answered, “I’ve always just wanted to visit the United States and see how life would be like.”


And visit the United States she did—Shafiqah was eventually accepted into the programme and departed for Chapel Hill in 2007, deciding to stay for a total of four semesters on the UNC campus, returning in May 2009.


“It was intimidating at first, definitely, adjusting to the life there. But after the first year, you get used to it, and you just want to make the most of the entire experience.”


She goes on to describe two of her most memorable experiences in UNC: from witnessing the university winning the 2009 National Basketball Championships and thereafter watching the students take to the streets to celebrate—by drinking booze and climbing up lamp-posts; to more personal moments like driving out to a beach with a close-friend she made whilst overseas.


Her most frustrating experience? Having to spend Hari Raya away from her family, she exclaims, and missing her family’s home-cooked food. She remembers breaking fast one day at a friend’s house—having her friend’s Egyptian food for dinner was the closest alternative to her home-cooked food in a long while, and it almost brought her to tears remembering her family.


Nevertheless, she describes the students of Chapel Hill as incredibly friendly and open, the campus-culture as both liberal and conservative at the same time, and Chapel Hill County as a lovely place to visit. But of course, her life overseas was also a combination of work and play, and Shafiqah admits that she had to work extremely hard to maintain her grades over there.


“Your grades matter. That’s what they told us from the beginning,” Shafiqah said, when I compared the joint-degree programme to other overseas student exchange programmes in NUS, like the Student Exchange Program (SEP), which in most cases only continued for two semesters at a time.


She recalls times where being overseas did not feel like being on holiday at all. For example, there were nights where she considered just taking time off to unwind and have fun in town, and there were certainly opportunities for her to do so—but in the end her studies always came first. At UNC, Shafiqah took many interesting modules in English Literature, such as Asian-American studies.


“At UNC, I guess you feel the pressure to perform.”


It seems that the pressure eventually paid off. As a result of her hard work, Shafiqah graduates this year a proud owner of two undergraduate degrees from both universities, with overall first-class honours. I ask her if it was all worth it in the end?


She laughs and answers, “Yes, it was. It was competitive and quite scary at times, intimidating even. But overall, it was an exciting four years. I would recommend other students to sign up for the program in the future.”


Shafiqah is looking forward to enrolling in the National Institute of Education (NIE) this September. She hopes to become a teacher in English Literature in the future.

FASS Creativity & Hardwork Shines at NUSSU Rag & Flag

By NUS Students’ Arts and Social Sciences Club


Compared to our thriving camp culture, the NUSSU Rag & Flag had taken a back seat in recent years in terms of importance and reach. The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) event was, in our eyes, ideal for reviving and promoting the faculty identity. The Rag organizing committee knew that it was a make or break year, as such, we started collecting materials very early on in the year.

We originally planned to do a Moulin Rouge theme, which is similar to previous themes that the Arts Club had done, where we presented a simple story; star crossed lovers meeting and falling in love, only to be torn apart by a jealous suitor. The hero would eventually defeat this villain and rescue his lady fair. However, we decided that it was too clichéd and went with the intention of entertaining the spectators instead.

We thought it through and decided on the circus theme. Our main float was eventually modelled after Komali, the oldest elephant in the Singapore Zoo. We also produced an ornamental cannon, that we named Oscar, as well as a cage to complement Komali. The dancers were split into three groups, namely the clowns, the acrobats and the animals, with each segment headed by a ringmaster.

The amount of Yakult bottles, aluminium drink cans and other assorted materials started building up steadily as Rag season approached. The plans from both of our design heads, Woon Kai for “hard tech”and Jia Li for “soft tech”, became more comprehensive with each passing day. We all swung into action the moment our final examination ended in early May.

There was work done on all fronts. Woon Kai and his team were finalizing the calculations of how each part of the metal 40393_10150244216865080_630200079_14108418_5252160_nframe, that was to become our Elephant, would come together. Jia Li was on her drawing board daily, churning out new ideas inspired by all the raw materials scrounged from our various “karang guni” runs. Rachel and Red were busy gathering dancers and choreographing moves that would be in sync with how our float would turn out to be. The buzz was accumulating steadily as seniors started returning to chip in, either financially or in the float building effort. Freshmen also started streaming in with their groups of friends right after Arts Camp. We never looked back after that.

On 6th August 2010, we brought the win back to Arts in a sea of Arts students dressed in our faculty green.


After Rag & Flag 2010 had become but a memory, Professor Brenda Yeoh and Professor T C Chang kindly consented to our request to preserve Oscar within FASS as a mini monument for remembrance. Look out for Oscar on campus!

Highlights of the Performance at NUSSU Rag & Flag 2010!

Where arts and social sciences come alive

by Student Blogger Denise Lee

How will you shape your future? This was the overarching theme of the FASS Open House talks, its focus to introduce fresh A level and poly graduates the importance and relevance of an FASS education and invite them on an exciting and rewarding journey at FASS. Before an eager audience of prospective university students, FASS Dean Professor Brenda Yeoh shared a broad overview of what FASS has to offer, which runs the gamut from a wide spectrum of courses to overseas programmes and award-winning teaching staff. During the talk, Professor Yeoh introduced each FASS department and outlined its scope of study, highlighting the possible job prospects for students majoring in that subject.

This year’s FASS Open House featured theme-based talks conducted by each department, a refreshing departure from the usual approach of a direct introduction for each discipline.  Designed to be engaging and effective, the talks bore catchy titles like ‘Stork and Cupid out to Lunch’ (Sociology) and ‘Showdown! The Little Nyonya v. Emily of Emerald Hill’ (Theatre Studies). The use of themes was to enable each department to present not just its field of study but its application in the real world too. In ‘Stork and Cupid out to Lunch’, Professor Paulin Straughan discussed the kinds of research and methodologies engaged in Sociology, drawing from her pet researches examples of pressing social issues like low fertility rates and presenting its implications on Singaporean society.

Livening up the programme of talks was a lineup of special performances that displayed the vibrancy and diversity of FASS. The audience was treated to Thai music performances, serenaded by a student vocal group and invited to participate in quizzes on history and South Asia. FASS undergraduates gave out course brochures and enthusiastically shared their learning experience first-hand with inquisitive students. Over free popcorn and cupcakes, prospective students visited the various course booths, made enquiries about course details and conversed about university life.

Based on the feedback gathered, most students were drawn to FASS for its wide academic offerings.
Student Sabrina Tong, who intends to major in Communications and New Media, shared: “FASS is a very diverse faculty which offers many opportunities to students to expose themselves to different perspectives from different fields of thought.” The broad range of languages offered counts as another attractive factor, especially for student Adrian Ng, who considers learning a foreign language a useful advantage. When asked about his overall impression of FASS, he chirped: “FASS has a lively environment and people there are friendly!” Having visited the various booths at the Open House and chatted with FASS undergrads about the various courses, Yogez Wari waxed lyrical about how everyone at the Sociology booth were warm and approachable, rendering her a better insight of her intended major. She left the event enlightened and thrilled about embarking on the FASS track. “FASS is going to be a very enriching place to be in. I can’t wait!” she enthused. It sure is, Yogez, an exciting and FASSinating journey awaits!

The Visitor Experience at the FASS @ NUS Day 2010

by Student Blogger, Hong Xinying


 Personal interactions between visitors and representatives of FASS (the student volunteers and Department staff alike) at the booth remain the highlight of FASS @ NUS Day 2010. Visitors whom I approached appreciated this aspect of the event, especially when they were able to obtain personalised accounts of student life from the friendly and approachable volunteers. Incoming student Hannah Lee noted that there was “a lot of interaction” at the event and she commended the student volunteers, tutors and professors alike for a job well done.

While posing as a prospective student, I visited the different booths at the event, asking questions that I thought that a typical student visitor might have asked. Instead of simply taking their word for it, I was able to experience this “interactivity” that many visitors spoke of. People were upfront and friendly, even as the usual scenario at such fairs meant that flyers are thrust left and right to the incoming visitor, especially when the crowds begin to form.


A survey with the some booths had showed that the average student visitor tended to ask pragmatic questions about “career prospects”, the “differences between the disciplines”, as Christopher Navarajan, a Sociology Teaching Assistant had observed. This was generally the case for the social science Departments. Penelope Wang, a first year Psychology Major, concurred that visitors had mostly practical concerns in their inquiries, as she had often been asked to elaborate on the module assessment and the jobs that Psychology Majors could take on upon graduation. 

At the History Booth. Photo taken by Christel Quek (
At the History Booth. Photo taken by Christel Quek (

Even then, there were a few exceptions, as some Departments attracted students who are already passionate about the subject. The History Department conducted a quiz on Singaporean History at 3.35pm and there were easily about 10 enthusiastic participants. Farhan, one of the Philosophy Majors who was manning the Philosophy booth, noted that the students that he had talked to were “already ‘converted’”, in the sense that they were already keen on the subject even before attending the event. Rather than posing inquiries about the course requirements, these student visitors were more interested in finding out about the student life and the learning environment in the Philosophy department. The same applied to the Southeast Asian Studies department, as student volunteer, Bryan Yue had noted. He said that visitors to the booth are generally “really interested” in the major and they would “come straight to the booth” even without much prompting from the student volunteers.

The different Department booths, on their end, employed a range of methods at drawing visitors to their booths. Besides information booklets, volunteers handed out additional giveaways. Some Departments organised quizzes and cultural performances as well. Moving away from the crowds, I walked towards the other end of the ground floor, towards the English Language and Literature booths. Nicholas Liu and Koh Xin Tian, both Year 4 English Literature Majors approached me almost immediately, with information booklets on the English Language, English Literature and Theatre Studies. As with previous years, Faculty members donate books for the annual event and the tables were lined with piles of books. The visitors’ comments left on the board were reflective of the yearly custom’s popularity with the visitors, as most comments had thanked the Department for the books that they had taken away with them. BooksActually, an independent bookstore, had also donated goodie bags for the visitors of the English department booth. Packaged in a brown paper bag, the bag contained two copies of the now-defunct Singa: Literature in Singapore magazine and a wooden pencil, each of which was individually inscribed with the name of a famous writer.

 Comments left by Visitors at the Department of English Language and Literature Booth
Comments left by Visitors at the Department of English Language and Literature Booth

Next to the crowded tables of free books, the Theatre Studies booth featured the portfolios that students had done for the introductory module. The portfolio constitutes a considerable portion of the assessment for that module. Costume portfolios and intricately-built set pieces were among some of the works that were displayed at the booth. Similarly, the Communications and New Media booth displayed the works of the students, letting their achievements to vouch for the rich, hands-on learning opportunities that the course provides.

At the Geography booth, the student volunteers informed visitors about the study abroad opportunities that were exclusive to the department in an attempt to sway students into joining the Department. Valerie Wee, a Year 2 Geography Major, said that she would try to “promote the joint minor programme between NUS and the University of Toronto” in an attempt to draw interest to the subject. Globes of various shapes and sizes were also on display, while volunteers gave out ferreo rocher chocolates to visitors. The Philosophy Department gave away free post-it pads designed by Assistant Professor John Holbo. The NUS Philosophy post-it pad contains his illustrations of Greek philosophers, as well as the tagline: “People Helping People Refute People”. Friendly volunteers at the Political Science booth handed out brightly coloured ‘keyboard brushes’ to visitors while encouraging them to take a closer look at the department booth.

The region-specific departments on the other hand, scheduled cultural performances at the lobby. In conjunction with the Japanese Studies Society, the Japanese Studies department scheduled several performances throughout the day, including the Japanese Dance and the Koto Music Performance. Besides the Ranaat by Southeast Asian Studies Programme, the Department had also scheduled Thai Music Performances at 12.40pm and 3.55pm respectively.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience at FASS @ NUS Day 2010. The event was visited by a large number of prospective students, while parents of these student visitors were few in number, as compared to the general NUS Open House. The friendly exchanges with the volunteers gave the student visitors a friendly welcome to the faculty and many left the event more well-informed about the programmes offered at FASS.