All About Peer Student Supporters

Mental health and well-being have never been more important. The World Mental Health Report, published in 2022 by the World Health Organisation (WHO), reports that mental health conditions are prevalent in all countries, with 1 in 8 people around the world affected by a mental disorder. In Singapore alone, 1 in 7 Singaporeans have experienced a mood or anxiety disorder at least once in their lives. Over the past few years, awareness on mental health has increased amongst the public, aided by social media forums and public figures who openly talk about their struggles with mental health. While there is much work to be done in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health, the path ahead appears promising.  

So, what is ‘mental health’? The WHO provides a holistic definition for the term: A state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, to realize their abilities, to learn well and work well, and to contribute to their communities. Mental health is an integral component of health and well-being and is more than the absence of mental disorder. Thus, it is important to acknowledge that the state of our mental health is constantly on a spectrum, and that maintaining good mental health is accessible to everyone. 

University life can be demanding. Juggling academics, co-curricular activities (CCAs) and our personal life is not always easy, potentially leading to burnout if we don’t take a moment to press pause and appreciate the present. For students dealing with mental health challenges, the experience can be even more overwhelming. While some situations require professional mental health assistance, simply offering a sympathetic ear can provide significant support to someone going through a rough patch. It is with this in mind that the Peer Student Supporters (PSS) programme was established in NUS in 2018.  

 

University life can be demanding without adequate support. 

 

The Peer Student Supporters, or simply PSS, are a group of students who are trained to offer a listening ear and support peers who are navigating difficult times. They are equipped with the knowledge to guide other students to various resources available on campus. “One thing that sets apart PSS from other mental health groups on campus is that the PSS straddle two roles: that of mental health advocates and that of mental health supporters,” explained Jason Huang, certified counsellor and student advisor to PSS. He added on, “Anybody with a bit of knowledge on mental health can be a mental health advocate but in the case of a mental health supporter, they require training.” 

Training indeed is a crucial component of the PSS programme. Towards the middle of every semester, the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) sends out application calls for those interested in joining the OSA Wellness PSS programme. Shortlisted applicants are chosen after a round of interviews to get to know the applicants better. The selected candidates then go on to complete a PSS Design Your Own Course (DYOC). In this course, extending across a semester, students are trained in basic tenets of counselling, mindfulness techniques, and on how to be an effective peer supporter. It is only after the completion of the course that students are able to start their PSS journey. Since the PSS have a direct impact on other students’ lives, it is important that the selection criteria are stringent and robust.  

For students who are feeling mentally low, someone who can listen to their concerns without judgment can be a blessing. “I initially didn’t understand why a student would want to talk to an ‘uncertified’ person about mental health struggles. But the truth is that accessing counselling services can seem overwhelming and some students don’t feel ready to take such a big step. I believe that’s where we come in,” voiced Anshika Singh (Y3, Psychology), a new member of the PSS. Although the PSS are not certified mental health professionals, they are trained to be just as supportive and empathetic. “We operate from the belief that students would find their peers more approachable than mental health professionals,” highlighted Jason.  

If you would like to speak with a PSS, we highly recommend you go down to UTown! OSA Wellness PSS are stationed at the PitStop located in UTown from Monday to Friday, 1pm to 5 pm. Another way to reach them is through the uNivUS app where you can chat with the PSS on duty via a chatbot. You can also email OSAcares@nus.edu.sg and they will connect you to a PSS.  

 

 The newly inaugurated Pitstop @ UTown is a cosy space for students to unwind and where you can find OSA Wellness PSS to speak with.  

 

What is it like being a PSS? Jason aptly describes the PSS as “wounded healers,” individuals dedicated to helping others while facing their own unique challenges. Bhavya Matta (Y3, Life Sciences), who has been a PSS since last semester, shared her personal growth as a result of joining the programme. She expressed that her experience has taught her to be a more empathetic listener. Bhavya added, “It helped me too, you know. To this day, I like to journal, a skill that I picked up from the PSS DYOC training.”  

Kon Yu (Y3, Statistics), a long-time PSS, echoed Bhavya’s sentiments, sharing that he is now much more comfortable talking to strangers. He remarked, “With experience you also learn that as a PSS, students are reaching out to you for a friendly figure to share their concerns with. Sometimes, it is tempting to share all the techniques that we’ve learnt, but often, all they want is for you to listen to them like a friend would.” Kon Yu’s reflection underscores the importance of empathy and companionship in the role of a PSS.  

While Kon Yu, Bhavya and Anshika are PSS under OSA Wellness and work at the PitStop in UTown, various faculties have their own PSS programmes and their respective PitStops. The introduction of faculty PitStops at Science, CDE, Dentistry and Law not only aims to enhance accessibility for students but also to provide a more tailored approach to mental wellbeing within each respective faculty.  

The PitStop @ UTown was recently inaugurated on 17th August 2023 as part of the Student Life Fair. Located above Starbucks at the Education Resource Centre (ERC), this inviting space offers numerous activities for students to unwind. There is something for everyone here: karaoke, board games, paints and melty beads to name a few. For those who would like to take a nap, there are massage chairs available to do just that! “This is a strictly no work zone,” Kon Yu reminds everyone. Daryl Ong (Y1, Finance) and Jiexi Chen (Y1, Finance), two postgraduate students who were at PitStop when we were visiting, told us that they were enjoying their time thus far at PitStop. Their message to everyone is, “Just come and make new friends. Take a break from studying!” We second that! 

 

 The PitStop is a strictly relax-only zone 🙂

 

 Bring your friends along to PitStop!

 

 The PitStop features soundproof pods to enjoy some karaoke or play video games with friends. 

 

The PSS are busy preparing for the semester ahead. Apart from working shifts at PitStop, PSS also host wellness events throughout the semester. NUS students can look forward to a PitStop wellness carnival in October in conjunction with the WellNUS Festival. The PSS have also previously released a series of podcast episodes on mental wellness on campus which you can check out here. You can also stay up to date with their activities by following them on Instagram 

In the sage words of psychologist Carl R. Rogers, “What is most personal is most universal”, and this is what the PSS programme is all about. It can be easy to believe that we are the only ones grappling with setbacks while the rest of the world is moving at full steam. On the contrary, there are many people around us who face their own unique challenges. When you’re open to it, you will discover many ready and willing to assist and stand by you during your journey. Together, we can and will navigate this path!  

If you’re interested in becoming an OSA Wellness PSS, they will be opening applications soon. Keep an eye out for it via your student email! 

 

Sending you all some positive mid-semester energy from PitStop!

Halalsome Food: An NUS Perspective

Muslims around the world observe the practice of eating halal food. In Singapore, you would have come across the term halal many times before; from product labels in supermarkets to our very own NUS canteens that have a halal section for cutlery and plates. But what does the term halal really mean? And how are student experiences in NUS shaped by faith practices such as eating halal food? This week’s blog article is a deep dive into everything halal food on the NUS campus: food options, student perspectives, and insider information!

 

The halal sign as seen on a supermarket product.

 

What Is Halal Food? 

First, let’s set the stage. Halal, in the context of food, can be understood to be food or drink that is permissible for consumption in the Islamic faith. The word halal is an Arabic word that means lawful or permissible. For example, halal food includes vegetables & fruits, and for meat, animals that are slaughtered in accordance with Islamic law,” explained Sayyid Harith (Y3, Project and Facilities Management), the current and 60th President of the NUS Muslim Society (NUSMS).  

According to Islamic teachings, alcohol, pork, and other swine products are not fit for consumption and consequently fall outside the confines of halal food. This is quite well known amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike. What a lot of people may not be familiar with, however, is that other meats are also considered impermissible unless the animals have been slaughtered in the Islamic manner.  

So, while you may suggest that your Muslim friend eat from the chicken rice stall, they may decline if the stall is not halal-certified and hence there is no guarantee that the chicken has been slaughtered as per Islamic guidelines.  

In Singapore, Muslims have access to a wide variety of halal-certified and Muslim-owned eatery options ranging from fine dining restaurants to hawker stalls. While halal-certified means that they have obtained a halal certification from MUIS, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Muslim-owned restaurants also prepare halal food, but are not certified. Most Muslims in Singapore (including me) are happy to eat at Muslim-owned establishments while some prefer to exercise more caution.

 

The Western stall at The Deck is an example of a Muslim-owned establishment. They are very popular and run out of food easily so be quick to secure your spot in the lunch queue early! 

 

Muslims Of NUS 

Here at NUS, we host a significant Muslim population. Some reside on campus while others commute daily. Some are undergraduates while others are postgraduate students. Some are lecturers, professors, and fellows. Many are local students while some are exchange and international students. It really is a vibrant Muslim community consisting of people from all walks of life.  


The Muslim community in NUS is diverse (Picture taken at an event held by the NUS Muslim Society).

 

The University Food Culture 

A lot of students, even the daily commuters, spend a good chunk of their time in school during the weekday. Their time on campus is split between attending lessons, getting a few hours of work in, catching up with friends, participating in events, and engaging in a range of co-curricular activities (CCAs). Naturally, food comes to play an important role in the story – whether it is grabbing a quick snack in between back-to-back lectures or getting supper together with friends after classes. Ask any NUS student, and they will tell you how food is a big part of the NUS student experience and culture.  

Muslim students are, of course, no different. Some of my fondest memories in university are of chatting away with my friends at Al-Amaan for hours about everything under the sun. At this point, the uncle there recognises me and will ask, “Yellam okay, ma?” which in Tamil means “Is everything [the food] alright?” 

 

Halal Options On NUS Campus 

As of now, all canteens in NUS (with the exception of The Terrace located in COM 3) cater to the needs of the Muslim community with various halal and Muslim-owned stalls. Here is a list of the different halal options available on campus compiled by the NUS Muslim Society. These stalls often serve their food on green trays or use green plates and cutlery to demarcate halal food. 

 

Halal stalls often make use of green cutlery and/or trays (ft. my yum plate of nasi padang).

 

As a full-time international student in NUS, I personally find the halal options on campus to be easily accessible. Most of my classes are split between the Faculty of Science (FoS) and the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS), both of which have canteens nearby (Frontier, The Deck, and Techno Edge) that are popular among Muslim students and staff for the number of halal options they offer. The choices include Western, Nasi Padang and Chef’s Wok – to name a few of the stalls that I regularly patronise.  

 

Halal Food @ Prince George’s Park Residences 

However, as a resident of Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR), accessing halal food has proved to be a little trickier. During my two years of stay in PGPR, it has only had one halal Muslim-owned stall available in the canteen. During the COVID period, while lectures and tutorials were mostly online, I had enough and more time at hand to cook in my floor’s kitchen. The one halal stall sufficed. But since life returned to normalcy, I find myself spending a lot of time on campus, returning to my room only in the evening. Without being able to cook as much, I definitely feel the growing need for the PGPR canteen to open more halal stalls. As I write this, the only halal stall we have is closed due to, from what I understand, a lack of manpower.

 

I try to cook as much as possible to keep expenses low and eat healthier. 

 

But life goes on. Since PGPR is located near to the Kent Ridge MRT station, a quick stop there before heading to class in the morning or returning to my room in the evening does the job. The Kent Ridge MRT station is a halal food galore. RedSpot if you want to eat at an all-halal traditional canteen, Stuff’d or Ordinary Burgers for wraps and burgers, Subway for healthier options, Burger King for fast food, and many more. While prices are not subsidised (unlike NUS canteens which sell at lower prices), the portions are filling and the diversity of the food portfolio caters to everyone.

 

A new Indian Muslim stall is opening soon adjacent to Fairprice inside the Kent Ridge MRT station. 

 

Friends Syed Awais (Y1, PhD in Biological Sciences) and Nasir Ahmed (Y2, PhD in Mechanical Engineering) prefer cooking in their PGPR kitchens to eating out in NUS canteens. For these two international students from Pakistan and Nepal, cooking has become a hobby. “We feel like something is missing if we don’t cook often,” chuckled Syed. They cook everything from instant noodles to elaborate chicken kormas. I’ve had a chance to taste their cooking, and I am sold!

 

Halal Food @ Residential Colleges & Halls 

I also wanted to hear from students who stay in Halls and Residential Colleges (RCs). These two types of hostel accommodation in NUS come with a compulsory meal plan which includes breakfast and dinner.  

 For Muhammad Hazmi (Y2, Nursing), a resident at Tembusu College, food in RC is just right. The dining hall features a Malay and Indian stall, both of which are halal. On days when he is running late for class, Hazmi likes to dabao food from the dining hall to eat later, a smart way to save money since the meal plan is compulsory.

 

Some of Hazmi’s meals

 

When Maryam Binte Aziz (Y2, Economics) was looking into residential options in NUS, she emailed the management office at Ridge View Residential College (RVRC) to ensure that halal food was available in the dining hall. Just like Tembusu, RVRC too has Malay and Indian food stalls which serve halal food. For her, the food can sometimes get a little repetitive and she hopes for more halal picks. Ayesha Chua (Y2, Psychology), another RVRC resident, shares Maryam’s sentiments. She also mentioned that the halal menu could be more diverse, particularly considering the cost of the meal plan which is the same regardless of the more limited options for Muslim students.

 

Ayesha (very kindly) invited me down for a meal at the RVRC dining hall and here’s what I had from the Indian stall! 

 

Hall meals differ slightly in that there are no stalls but instead, one halal course is offered for each meal (breakfast and lunch). “The halal food is quite good,” remarked Harith Raiyan (Y1, Mechanical Engineering), a resident of Temasek Hall. Harith, too, had enquired with seniors regarding food options before coming to Hall and came to the conclusion that Temasek Hall had the best halal food (his words, don’t come for us 😉). The variety is better than what he was expecting and he finds the meal plan to be reasonably priced.  

 

Halal Food @ UTown 

UTown, a student residence different from Halls and RCs, offers no meal plan. UTown is renowned amongst NUS students as a vibrant centre for student life. This is also why Tasneem Godhrawala (Y3, Psychology), a fellow international student, opted to reside in UTown. She surfed the internet, read blogs, and watched videos to find out more about halal food on campus and in Singapore and was relieved to find that locating halal food would not be a struggle.  

During our conversation, however, she brought up one concern regarding halal food on campus. “If you want to eat healthy, it is hard to find a halal place that is affordable and easily accessible,” Tasneem shared. Subway in UTown, for example, although halal-certified and healthy, is a pricier option and cannot be eaten daily. Salad outlets near campus, too, typically lack a halal-certificate and this poses a challenge for Tasneem who actively partakes in sports and likes to stay fit. 

 

When eating at the Subway in Kent Ridge MRT or UTown, don’t forget to ask for the 5% student discount! 

 

UTown halal stalls and restaurants, broadly speaking, tend to be on the higher end of pricing. However, Muslim UTowners can look forward to some promising news! The western and pasta stalls in FineFoods are currently in the process of obtaining their halal certificates. In the meantime, Muslim students and staff can dine there, as they’ve already begun using the cutlery and plates designated for halal cuisine. 

 (Psst… here’s a tip for all you biryani lovers out there. Bismillah Biryani in UTown offers a student deal where you can get a biryani plus a drink for S$6.5. Do check it out!) 

 

The Western Cuisine and PastaGo stalls in UTown FineFoods are slated to become halal-certified soon. 

 

Some Halal Food Concerns 

What are some of the challenges when it comes to halal food on the NUS campus? Numerous students I spoke to highlighted the necessity for greater diversity in the food selections available to Muslims. “I sometimes grow tired of the [halal] options,” expressed Nur Diana (Y4, Political Science). She also pointed out that while Muslims are confined to eating from halal stalls, non-Muslims can opt to eat from halal stalls, making a convincing case for introducing more halal alternatives.  

Another Muslim student, Nur Nadiah (Y4, Psychology) observed that food is differently priced across the canteens. For instance, Frontier located in FoS has more affordable halal options than The Deck located in FASS. The distance can be an added obstacle for students wishing to save money. Sayyid, the President of NUSMS, also recognised the importance of offering halal choices that are more budget-friendly, noting that the typical student budget is often S$5 or less per meal. 

 

Ramadan on Campus 

While food is important in our day-to-day lives, for Muslims, food plays an even more important role during the Islamic month of Ramadan. During this holy period, Muslims across the world abstain from drinking and eating from sunrise to sunset. It’s a month that is spent in worship during the day and at night. It is also a time that brings together the Muslim community. The evening iftar, which marks the breaking of the fast at sunset, is often a communal meal, becoming a means for strengthening community ties.  

The past two Ramadans fell during the NUS semester. So of course, I had to ask resident NUS Muslims what their experiences were.  

Hazmi, Ayesha and Maryam, residents of RCs, shared that their dining halls would start operation early to provide them with suhoor, the pre-dawn meal consumed by Muslims before beginning their fast. Additionally, in Tembusu, residents were provided with frozen ready-to-eat meals that they could take away the night before and just heat up in their floor’s pantry in the morning. Since iftar time coincided with dinner time, residents would eat from the dining hall as per usual to break their fasts. 

Meanwhile, over at PGPR, Ramadan was welcomed excitedly. A group of Muslim students, hailing from various countries, came together and broke their fast together on many days.  “It felt like family, you know. I felt super blessed to be able to host people and introduce different cultural foods to others,” said Aisha Noreen (Y1, PhD in Medicine), an international student from Pakistan. She added, “I never imagined meeting such a warm Muslim community in PGPR. Most of us didn’t know each other before Ramadan.” 

 

A delicious serving of Bangladeshi food from an iftar hosted by my friends Maliha and Saadman in PGPR. 

 

As a resident of PGPR, I was there too. Whether sitting on the floor (because there were too many of us to fit on the table) or in the lounges of PGPR while breaking our fast, conversations flew around. Some warm and friendly, and some heated and passionate. Definitely a Ramadan to remember.

 

Here’s me helping out Aisha as she prepares to host some guests for iftar.

 

Syed and Nasir, international PhD students, would also drop by mosques nearby like Tentera Diraja, Hussain Sulaiman, and Darussalam to break their fasts as mosques in Singapore offer iftar meals to everyone. Breaking their fast at mosques and then joining congregational prayers at the mosque itself is convenient for most Muslim students, after a long day of classes and fasting.

 

An iftar meal at the Hussain Sulaiman Mosque near NUS Business School.

 

A great initiative taken during Ramadan to accommodate for Muslims students’ needs is the pre-ordering of food available at Chef’s Wok in the Frontier canteen. While the stall usually closes by the time of iftar, students are able to pre-order food for iftar and self-collect it from the stall by 6:30 pm. Do keep an eye out for this when the next Ramadan comes around and you need a quick, filling, not-too-heavy-on-the-wallet fix for iftar! 

 

A Mini Halal Food Guide 

I have covered much ground on halal food and related experiences in this article. I hope I haven’t lost you. Almost there, I promise.  

While interviewing the many Muslims who were featured in this article, I asked them to recommend one dish from the eateries on campus. Here’s a mini halal food guide for you and your friends to work through over the semester:

  1. Mala Beef Fried Rice (Hong Kong Cafe – Techno Edge) 
  2. Spring Rolls (Pham Quyen Vietnamese Cuisine – Clementi Supper Stretch) 
  3. Nasi Goreng Kampong (Al-Amaan – Clementi Supper Stretch) 
  4. Prawn Hokkien Mee (Chef’s Wok – Frontier) 
  5. Black Pepper Chicken Hor Fun (Chef’s Wok – Frontier) 
  6. Fish n Chips (Western – The Deck) 
  7. Nasi Padang (Muslim – Techno Edge) 
  8. Biryani (Bismillah Biryani – UTown) 
  9. Ayam Penyet (Uncle Penyet – Frontier Aircon) 
  10. Fried Chicken Garlic Rice with Mentaiko Sauce (Western Cuisine – FineFoods) 

 

Known colloquially amongst NUS students as “supper stretch”, this row of restaurants along Clementi Road is a popular supper spot that is open well past midnight and has multiple halal options to choose from.  

 

Closing Thoughts… 

As evident across this article, the Muslim experience is heterogenous owing to the diversity within the community itself. The case of halal food is no different. If you are reading this, I hope this article has given you a broader perspective on the halal food scene in NUS, and through that, offered a glimpse into the everyday experiences of Muslims around you on campus. As a leading university in the world and Asia, I anticipate a future for NUS that is both inclusive and understanding. And I hope you will join along! 

(Psst… while you are here, here’s a reminder to order food through the NUSmart Dining App. Canteen queues can be ginormous during peak hours and ordering through the app is a smart way to skip the queues.) 

 

 

9 Useful Tips for Living in Hall

Before university began, campus living was one of the things I looked forward to the most. My friends who have lived in hall often shared their experiences with me – Jio-ing friends at random timings of the day for grocery runs, having lunch buddies in between classes, and heart-to-heart talks in the wee hours of the night. I was told that it was like a home away from home, a space for meeting peers of different backgrounds, and a chance for me to make the most out of university. 

After hearing so many good things, I signed up for the Sheares Engagement Camp as a freshman. Three years on, I have gained a few handy tips for a smooth transition into independent living and had a great time through my hall journey.  

For anyone who is considering hall life or just campus living in general, here are a few personal tips I have picked up along the way.  

 

Tip #1: Weekly Grocery Runs 

 

A really fulfilling grocery run 

 

I like to prepare for the week ahead with a stock of food supplies that are easy to cook and can be kept for at least a week. I typically return to hall on Sunday night (as I spend weekends at my local home off campus), hence shopping a few hours before would be convenient. Some of my essentials included Shin Ramen, a pack of sausages, frozen dumplings, bread, cheese and eggs. These are definitely not the healthiest options, but they are cheap, have longer expiration dates and make a quick meal for busy days. If you’ve got no time to shop before returning to hall, grab a few buddies to take the bus together to Clementi’s Sheng Siong supermarket!  

 

Tip #2: Get a Mini Cooker and a Basic Cutlery Set  

Before COVID-19 hit, hall residents used to be able to dine together in the communal hall with communal plates and cutlery provided. Following the pandemic, residents were given a Tupperware box and cutlery set for takeaway meals to be eaten in the comfort of our own rooms, minimising contact. After COVID-19, these have served to be really useful for takeaways or hotpot sessions. Speaking of hotpot, mini cookers have been true lifesavers for my friends and I, as we can have our individual little pots of soup in front of us, considering varying preferences in soup base flavours and ingredients. For people who enjoy cooking, a mini cooker would be super essential – and not just for hotpot! In Sheares Hall, there is a communal kitchen within each block, but the kitchen pots and pans are used frequently, and people who use them naturally having different standards in cleanliness. So, for me, I prefer to use my own cooking utensils for hygiene purposes.  

 

Tip #3: Keep a Capsule Closet

 

Me and my two Sheares Newly Discovered Companions (SNDCs):  SNDC is part of the Sheares Hall’s orientation program over a span of two weeks. Each senior and freshman group will engage in reciprocal welfare and pranks to get to know one another better.  

 

For those unfamiliar with the term, a capsule closet is a collection of minimal clothes that can be worn multiple times for various occasions. This is to reduce the need for an excessive amount of clothing in hall, especially with the cupboard being so small. In my first year, I basically moved 50% of my home closet to hall but regretted it at the end of the semester when we had to move everything out. It was a painful experience… Since then, I have narrowed my clothing options down to a few must-haves. You’ve got to have a couple of basic tees and pants for class. Perhaps have one dressy outfit for any formal events, along with a pair of dress shoes/heels. I had a dress ready since move-in day in my third year (pictured above) for the annual Sheares event! It is also advisable to keep a white dress shirt and formal pants in your closet for presentations and interviews. For shoes, I always had a pair of sneakers, sandals, heels and bathroom slippers. 

 

Tip #4: Do Laundry Once a Week  

Since the launch of the laundry payment system two years ago, the cost of living has been raised for the residents in hall. This is not covered by the hall fees paid at the beginning of each semester. It takes a full dollar for a single washing and drying cycle of dirty clothes, which can add up to a lot by the end of the semester. Admittedly, the payment system is a good measure for reducing the number of loads done, and in extension, saves water and electricity. To make do and save money, I would regularly do laundry once a week or once every 10 days. Moreover, you can place your undergarments and socks in laundry nets to keep them from getting lost. They can be easily found in shops nearby.  Note that clothes tend to shrink in the machines due to in-built settings. If they are not shrink-proof, you may want to hand wash such clothes. 

 

Tip #5: Avoid Bedsheet Woes 

As someone who really hated replacing bed sheets and covers, I would change my bedsheets once a week. Any longer and my bed feels a little icky to sleep in, due to the dust that collects in the room very easily. Trust me, you’ll be appalled to see how dusty a room can be after a few days! I keep a spare set of bedsheets and covers to alternate with my current set.  Not only can you change sheets instantly, but it also saves time and money when you do not need to wash them as often. A full set of covers can also take a while to dry in the dryer (depending on the size of your laundry load), thus I highly recommend a spare set in your cupboards. 

 

Tip #6: Order in with Friends  

Probably the most important tip ever: be sure to always collate food orders with people when you want to get food delivered to hall! Communal hall food will not always satisfy you as the menu is fixed daily, hence it is pretty normal to crave for other options. It may take some time for people to collate their orders, but this could really help you save on the ridiculous delivery fees. Some of the restaurants I personally love ordering from are Nana Thai, Formosa Delights, and Tai Feng Wei. Additionally, for those of us who love variety, ordering with friends comes with the special perk of having more dishes to share!   

 

Tip #7: Become Besties with the Communal Hall Staff  

 


 Pasta day  

 

Sometimes, or very occasionally, something delicious is presented at dinner time in the communal hall. The portions can get small especially on days when there are special menus. This is the time for you to unleash your charms. If you would like to get bigger portions, sincerely getting to know the dining staff and making their day with a sunny greeting is a really good way to increase your chances in that area! *wink* 

 

Tip #8: 8.50 am Rule  

A well-known fact about students living on campus is that we can wake up just slightly before class to get ready and still make it on time (or maybe just be few minutes late). This is especially applicable to Business students from Sheares Hall (and Kent Ridge Hall too – since they are just nearby). As a FASS student, I have found that waking up 15 minutes before class is good enough for me to wash up, get dressed and board the bus to school. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I can even grab breakfast from the communal hall on the way out! Of course, having a set of clothes ready the night before helps, so make sure you plan it out well before execution!  

 

Tip #9: Like Minds Succeed Together  

Courses can honestly be quite a struggle to go through alone at the university level. Most of the time, you will be able to find other residents studying the same major or taking the same courses as you, be it from your block or co-curricular activities (CCAs). Be open to making friends in your block, CCAs, or anyone you think you can vibe with! It will be great to have someone to study with and go through university life together with. Certain courses call for group projects, so if you have a friend group in hall that you can work with, half the job is already done! If you’re ever feeling shy to reach out to people, just remember that you have already made the decision to live in hall, why not make the most out of it?  

 

Closing Thoughts 

I consider myself an introvert, hence the decision to stay in Sheares was a highly intentional move to step out of my comfort zone and put myself in a spot where I could meet new people easily. My parents have often told me that university will be the best opportunity for me to try out new experiences and forge some of the closest friendships I’ll ever have, thus I decided to take that leap of faith and have never once regretted it!  

 

This article was contributed by Zen Sze, a Year 4 student from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). In her spare time, she enjoys sharing food reviews on the Singapore’s food scene at zensze.com. Click to find out more! 

 Interested to learn more about hall life and its living options, and have an experience like Zen’s? Click here to find out more.
 

Growing Together: NUS Community Gardens

From weeding to watering, there is a job for everyone at community gardens. These green patches set in urban environments, sometimes small and sometimes big, are bringing resident communities across the world local produce, emotional wellbeing and a revitalised connection to nature.  

While the origins of community gardening can be traced back to the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, urban gardening is relatively new to Singapore. The 1967 “Garden City” movement and the more recent “Community In Bloom” initiative (2005) by the National Parks Board (NParks) have played an important role in encouraging Singaporeans to get their gardening shovels and watering cans out. More recently, Singaporean youth have become increasingly involved in greening efforts as they become pioneering voices in sustainability and climate change related issues.  

Our resident community here at NUS, too, has been getting its hands dirty at the numerous community garden spaces on campus. While some gardens are well established and some are brand new, both come with their own sets of hurdles and rewarding learning experiences. 

Setting up a new community garden can indeed be challenging. “There are a lot of ups and downs,” shared Mr. Yuzuru Hamasaki, a Japanese Language lecturer at NUS and a resident fellow at Prince George’s Park Residences (PGPR). When he joined PGPR the previous year, Mr. Hamasaki took charge of setting up a community garden there. After setting up a Green Committee consisting of resident students, Mr. Hamasaki and his team began brainstorming design ideas for the gardening space they were allotted. 

Community gardens, as the name suggests, are community-oriented and should deeply involve the community to be successful and sustainable in the long run. Understanding this, the team then sent out a survey to PGPR residents asking them what sort of plants they would like to see in the upcoming garden. Once the garden’s design and plants were confirmed, the team got busy with placing orders and assembling items.  

 

The new PGPR community garden at Block 10, Level 1 balcony

 

But the work didn’t end there. Currently, the committee is busy experimenting with their plants and gardening techniques. The garden (now named The Green Corner @ PGP by PGPR residents after a garden naming contest) includes a hydroponics and aeroponics section alongside traditional soil gardening. The Green Committee has been learning what works and what doesn’t work in the Singaporean tropical climate through lots of trial and error. “We’ve killed quite a few plants,” chuckled Mr. Hamasaki during our interview.   

But the excitement of seeing plants that you have cared for grow successfully is unparalleled. It’s all worth it when you can see that “the plant has made it!” remarked Ayushi Marwah (Y3, Economics), an international student residing in PGPR and a member of the Green Committee. Jai Lal Lulla (Y4, Computer Science) and Atin Sakkeer Hussain (Y4, Computer Science), international students also part of the committee, described their time working at the PGPR garden as relaxing and fulfilling.  

These students have been incorporating knowledge gained from watching family members grow herbs and edibles back home, into the new garden at PGPR. For Mr. Hamasaki, Ayushi, Atin, Jai and the other committee members, the community garden has been a safe space to grow and learn from each other. Communication in community gardens is a two-way street and collaboration is key.  

PGPR residents can look forward to joining the interest group “Green Team” once the new academic year starts. The garden, located at the Block 10 balcony, is now open to residents, so feel free to drop by when you need a break after a long day! 

 See here for a short clip of the Green Committee carrying out an indoor aeroponics trial. 

 

Other community gardens have been around for a while. Residents at Raffles Hall (RH), for example, have been gardening on two plots for some years now. Over the years, the RH Green Committee has cultivated a wide variety of plants from sugarcane (yes, sugarcane!) to chillis to bananas. “Our seniors once used pandan from our garden to cook the broth for tang yuan dumplings,” shared Ng Chuan Xin (Y2, Computer Science), head of gardening at Raffles Hall.  

A major factor in determining a plant’s success seems to be the oh-so-hotly-discussed Singaporean climate – sometimes hot and humid, and at other times rainy. Some plants such as lavender, unfortunately did not survive the humidity, while others, such as the butterfly pea flower, are thriving in the RH gardens.  

Student involvement and enthusiasm have been crucial in ensuring the garden’s continuity. During the academic year, Green Committee members take weekly shifts maintaining the plots. There are unofficial members who are simply interested in gardening joining the regular gardeners, too. Some dedicated students even come down during the semester breaks to do some upkeep work.

 

Big smiles after a rewarding day at the RH community garden

 

When asked why she thinks community garden spaces are important on university campuses, Goh Ler Xuan (Y2, Computer Science), the current head of RH Green Committee observed, “Community gardening is a great chance to bond with each other and get to know the nature [around].” 

Check out more photos of the RH community garden on their website here. 

 

We also reached out to Ridge View Residential College (RVRC), to hear about their community garden spread over three plots. RVRC, the only residential college located outside UTown and within the Kent Ridge campus, calls itself the “College in Nature” and places a large emphasis on sustainability. As such, their community gardening initiative, headed by the RV Green Rangers interest group, was initiated some years ago with a focus on food sustainability and farming edibles.  

Since last year, they’ve been focusing on three aspects: gardening for food, gardening for wildlife and gardening for physical & emotional wellbeing. Gardening for food involves growing edible food. Gardening for wildlife aims to attract wildlife such as birds and butterflies. Gardening for physical & emotional wellbeing acknowledges the immense health benefits that come with being in touch with nature.  

During our interview with Ms. Patricia Lorenz – an RVRC fellow, nature enthusiast and advisor to the RV Green Rangers – many gardening gems were dropped generously. If you are a new gardener or thinking of taking up gardening, get your notebook ready!  

Challenge: A challenge of gardening edibles in Singapore is the lack of healthy topsoil in Singapore. Topsoil, the upper most layer of soil, contains the most organic material and nutrients, making it important for gardening and farming. While one may be led to believe that a green city that was once dense forest such as Singapore would have an abundance of healthy topsoil, that does not seem to be the case. Tropical forests, interestingly, have thin and poor topsoil. Where do trees then gather nutrients from? The leaf litter. And on cleared land, leaf litter is no longer present and so the topsoil is quickly depleted. How can we grow edibles on such land? 

Solution: This is where raised beds come in. By building raised beds, it’s possible to segregate an area of rich soil and mulch to plant edibles in. While wooden planks can also be used to create the enclosure, in Singapore they decay quickly and red bricks are a smarter option. RVRC hopes to install a raised bed this coming academic year and we can’t wait! 

 

An example of a raised bed (Source: trulyhandpicked.com)

 

Challenge: Wildlife gardening can be exciting and new terrain for many. One increasingly popular concept is that of butterfly gardens. However, planting just flowering plants is not enough to attract these beautiful insects. How do you create a successful butterfly garden? 

Solution: Butterfly gardens require both host plants and food plants. Host plants are the plants caterpillars feed on, whereas food plants are what adult butterflies feed on. Many gardeners will fill up their butterfly gardens with flowering plants (food plants), forgetting that to attract butterflies, you need host plants too. Different butterfly species feed exclusively on specific host plants and this is important to take note of too.

 

A baby Asian toad found while gardening at the RVRC community garden

 

Challenge: Growing up in HDB apartments, most Singaporeans are unfamiliar with touching dirt and soil. In our society, soil is often portrayed as being unhygienic and dangerous. Think of all the TV ads you saw growing up where children came home with stain marks from playing outside and the detergent washed off 99% of the germs. This mentality poses a barrier to getting students involved with gardening initially. There is also a fear of failure and reluctance that stems from little-know how on gardening.  

Solution: The solution is to educate ourselves. Working with soil results in Earthing: a process by which your bodily charges are neutralised. Being in touch with nature is incredibly healing and an instant mood up-lifter. Many of us today are hugely disconnected from nature, and community gardens are powerful spaces that help to bridge that gap. Since last year, RVRC has been implementing a tree planting session in their Freshmen Orientation Programme, giving all incoming RVRC students a taste of what it’s like to work with soil. 

 

A lot of community gardens in NUS are geared towards student communities residing on campus. But certainly, our staff deserve some respite too! NUS Medicine recently inaugurated a community garden in the MD11 block for academic, executive and administrative staff to come together.  

Their garden consists of three sections: the Marketplace, Kampong Memories and Wild Forest. The Marketplace holds plants that are commonly seen in the market that most Singaporeans are familiar with, like the laksa leaf. The Kampong Memories section takes us back to the good old days by growing plants that were commonly eaten in the kampong, such as ulam raja. The Wild Forest section is perhaps the most intriguing. It hosts plants that are commonly seen growing outside but many people are not aware of their edibility, like senduduk. 

The Medicine garden is part of a larger initiative to make the campus space greener while also providing a healthy space for the Medicine community to build personal relationships outside of work. Ms. Revathy, a staff member who is overlooking the garden project, hopes that the community garden becomes a place to “thought-share”, sharing ideas across disciplines and personal interests. We hope so too!

 

The NUS Medicine garden provides a green break after a long day of cognitive fatigue

 

Phew! We’ve done so much gardening talk. All we see is green. Community gardening is a creative avenue to build social cohesion and lay the foundations for a stronger connection with nature. With the industrialisation of food production, most of us are removed from how our food is produced. And it is costing the planet. A lot. And fast.  

Some things may change if people become closer to nature and experience its magic for themselves. We’ll leave you with what Ms. Lorenz told us, “Growing food is an added advantage. But really, the biggest gain is the connection to the food that we eat and the emotional wellbeing.” And we couldn’t agree more. 

Stop Scrolling! Here Are Some Film and Book Recommendations for Summer

The summer period beckons us yet again, and many are already rushing to venture into new opportunities and activities. However, some of you might want to kick back and take a much-needed break after the whirlwind semester. As you lie back on the couch and flick through your list of to-watch shows on Netflix, you might begin to spiral over the endless options afforded by the streaming site. As such, we are here to ease some of that indecisiveness! In this article, we will be recommending good films, shows and books, based on a comprehensive list of unique themes. If you cannot wait to find out more, read on!

 

My mind is a canvas for you to paint on

Looking for inspiration, something to jolt your creativity or better your mental health? As if your mind is a blank canvas that has been primed for thick coats of paint, these recommendations will provide a splash of colour that might spur you on for your upcoming endeavours. 

Abstract: The Art of Design

Source: La Nacion

Every episode of this two-season series dives into the innovative projects of designers from different disciplines, meandering through ambitious creatives, and strands of their thought-processes and inspirational work ethic. Design is omnipresent in our everyday lives, and its impact is palpable, even on those who stray far from the creative fields. If you are interested in design, or simply wish to be uplifted by the imagination of others, this show is for you. 

How Do You Live?

Source: Kinokuniya

A Japanese classic, and also animator Hayao Miyazaki’s all-time favourite, this book (written by Genzaburo Yoshino and translated in English by Bruno Navasky) presents touching, philosophical narratives of what it means to live in this large, complex universe. Glean inspirational moral lessons as you follow a young boy who navigates through life with awareness and introspection. We encourage you to immerse yourself in this heart-warming read before its adapted screenplay (written and directed by Miyazaki himself) is released!

 

No thoughts, head empty

This set of recommendations will appeal to those who wish to switch off their brains after a semester of its active usage. 

Murder Mystery / Murder Mystery 2

Source: Good Morning America

Chaos, comedy and twists ensue when the Spitz couple, played by Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler, set off for getaways with their billionaire friends. Both installations in this film series are sure to keep you entertained for their short durations, funny antics and endless drama (coupled with some proper mystery)! Kick up your feet and unwind after a long day (or semester) with these films, and immerse in a good ol’ whodunnit comedy. Available on Netflix. 

Shrek

Source: Empire

A childhood favourite for some, this animated series starring a friendly green ogre never gets old. Shrek manages to explore topics such as friendship and family through a fairytale setting, proving itself to be a timeless classic that provides entertainment and adventure for all ages. If you miss those carefree days of indulging in cartoons after school, these films will offer you the chance to turn off your brain and relive some of those youthful memories! Available on Amazon Prime. 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Source: Goodreads

Look, we get it. The effort and determination it takes to read a book can sometimes feel insurmountable. However, this easy read, nominated for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Romance in 2021, might change your mind. This fun romance features a main character who is trying to find herself amidst her often chaotic life… perhaps many of us can relate to her. We suggest picking this up in its audiobook version, especially if you do not feel up to digesting text after a semester’s worth of (probably intense) readings!

 

No thoughts, just vibes

This is an enhanced version of the previous set of recommendations  – sit back and experience the immaculate ‘vibes’ from these films and books! 

My Neighbour Totoro

Source: The Big Issue

This surreal, beautifully-animated film quickly feels warm and familiar, even on first watch. The world of Totoro and other lovable characters bursts at the seams with fantasy, colour and camaraderie, making you wish you could stay on after the short 1 hour 26 min of runtime. Come for the famous Totoro, and stay for the emotional union amongst friends and creatures alike. Available on Netflix.

Blade Runner 2049

Source: StudioBinder

Looking to immerse yourself in good cinematography, or overall just some ‘aesthetic’ vibes? Blade Runner 2049 might be the film for you. A visual feast with a long runtime of 2 hours 43 min, this epic science fiction film will take you on a trip through a post-apocalyptic world, and charm you with its striking colour palette. Even if the plot grows confusing, there is no harm in enjoying its pretty visuals, and letting your brain’s cogwheels take a break. Available on Netflix.

Kafka on the Shore

Source: Goodreads

Perhaps you have heard of Japanese author Haruki Murakami, famous for magic realism and stories about everyday life written in sharp prose. Kafka on the Shore provides a classic Murakami experience that can only be truly understood through reading the book. Follow two interweaving narratives presented with easy-to-read prose and be taken on a vivid, surrealist journey. The vibes here will be immaculate and one-of-a-kind.  

 

If stress from school was not enough for you…

Here are some anxiety-inducing recommendations instead that will get your heart racing for sure. Watch with caution! 

Uncut Gems

Source: No Film School

No lie, this crime thriller film is not for the faint-hearted. It opens with a dreamy, psychedelic sequence that permeates through a rare opal gem found during mining, and is likely the only time for viewers to catch their breath before the upcoming gripping tale of a jeweller and his high-stakes gamble. This dreamy-looking A24 film is more nightmare-inducing than anything, but we guarantee that you will be left at the edge of your seat all the way until the credits roll. Available on Netflix. 

Succession

Source: Los Angeles Times

The Main Title Theme of Succession’s soundtrack possibly tells you everything you need to know about the show before you jump into it. Composed by Nicholas Britell, classical tunes produced by piano keys and dramatic strings are disrupted by a distorted, hip-hop-sounding bass line and heavy drums beats– dissonant yet addictive, this piece brilliantly encapsulates the chaos of the Roy family, or rather, empire, and the trials and tribulations they face as the largest media conglomerate in the world of Succession. Strip away the excesses of wealth and fame to reveal power struggles, family dysfunction and lots of back-stabbing. If fast-paced, snarky dialogue, social commentary, dark-humour satire, flawed characters and stressful, gripping plots are up your alley, we implore you not to miss out on this masterpiece. Available on HBO. 

Room

Source: Cafe Powell

The first half of this delicate film is anxiety-inducing; a suffocating watch. Intense and emotional, this realistic drama tells a tale of a mother and her young son struggling to cope with a years-long, distressful hostage situation, and how they attempt to ease into ‘normal life’ after escape. Another raw and unflinchingly brutal production by A24, this film will provide you with great amounts of stress, but pays it off with a stirring performance and a touching story. Available on HBO

 

Don’t get it twisted, because I already am

Want something unpredictable and twisted to placate the dark spiral in your mind? Dip your toes into mind-bending realities slightly tinged with horror to get some of that craved-for adrenaline pumping. Note: Check for trigger warnings before diving into any of these recommendations!

Midsommar

Source: Yahoo Movies UK

This A24 folk horror film directed by Ari Aster could be hard to watch for some. One might describe it as an idyllic retreat to a summery Swedish countryside gone wrong – but the plot is far richer and more twisted than meets the eye. Pretty scenes featuring colourful flowers are interspersed with underlying terror; bizarre rituals result in jaw-dropping outcomes that were long hinted at through the artful use of unsuspecting symbols in the film. If you are prepared for a twisted and emotional original, we suggest you go into this film blind. Available on Apple TV

American Psycho

Source: Big Picture Film Club

Curious about the ‘80s yuppie (young urban professional) culture in corporate America? Set in New York City, this black comedy horror film stars a deeply-troubled investment banker (played by the masterful Christian Bale) who is determined to keep up his charismatic, put-together appearance during his day job, whilst balancing his violent tendencies that surface by night. A twisted interplay between fragile egos, toxic masculinity and the realities of work cultures born out of capitalism and consumerism, this classic thriller will be anything but boring. Available on Apple TV

Earthlings

Source: Amazon

A quirky, offbeat novel written by Sayaka Murata, this story about a funny child called Natsuki quickly descends into unflinchingly twisted and shocking plotlines. Earthlings is highly-original and humorous in a peculiar manner. The only way you can experience its wonderfully unpredictable universe is by jumping straight into the book without reading anything else about it!

Quick, a fast one before it ends 

Before you head out, here is a quick list of recommendations to wrap up the list. These range from fast-paced films to short story collections, all of which are easily-digestible and would pass you by in a blur. 

英雄 (Hero)

Source: South China Morning Post

Staggeringly exciting and elegantly fast-paced, this classic wuxia film directed by Zhang Yimou truly lives up to its star-studded cast (Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Donnie Yen, Tony Leung and more). The film boasts an epic, cautionary tale that is accompanied by impressively choreographed martial arts, making it a classic Chinese film that should not be missed. Available on Disney Plus.

The Darjeeling Limited

Source: Spotern

For a film that has a short 1 hour 31 min runtime, one might expect it to be hurried or simple. The Darjeeling Limited is quite the opposite of that. Wes Anderson’s idiosyncrasies and quirky cinematographic styles showcase themselves in full force here. While the film passes by quickly, its story meanders through complex themes of family, friendship, and finding oneself with gorgeous scenes of India as a backdrop. Coloured with the right amount of dramatic absurdity and off-beat humour, this quick watch will be a memorable one. 

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories

Source: Goodreads

This fine short story collection by Ken Liu is easily digestible, and absolutely charming. Featuring his popular, award-winning story, The Paper Menagerie (read it for free here!), Liu’s collection of science fiction, fantasy offers something for everyone, even if you are not a typical fan of these genres. From emotional gut-punches to commentaries on technology, strap in for a whirlwind of powerful prose that will release you as quickly as it captures you.

 


Phew, that was quite a list, wasn’t it? What do you think of our recommendations – let us know if you have watched or read any of them. Share your own recommendations on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, as we would love to read about it and repost for more to see! We hope that you have a restful summer break, and do remember to take care of yourself 🙂

Residents Share: Eating, Cooking, and What It Means To Them

The memorable aroma of good food, the planning of “What are we eating for dinner?”, or the mere thought of what one will get to cook with friends for supper are things that keep some students going during a tiresome day of studying. Food quietly manages to define the university experience for many students, shaping their moods and habits on campus. As such, students share a plethora of unique food experiences, and have different answers for what food means to them.

In hopes of unlocking some of these food-related stories, we have invited a few residents to share their rich and sumptuous encounters with food on campus, which we hope will in turn inspire more students to ponder about how food has shaped their own schooling experiences too. If you’re excited to ‘tuck in’ to these stories, read on!

 

Glennys – the carefree food nomad

Hello, I am Glennys Tai, a Y3 Communications and New Media student living at UTown Residence (UTR). I am also a designer for NUSSU The Ridge Magazine, which, fun fact, is how I got the chance to stay in UTR this year!

On Wednesdays, my class ends at 9pm and there is usually no more food to buy after that… However, I still manage to have dinner because of my classmates, who stay at Cinnamon College. Shout-out to them for sparing me a free dining hall credit every week, so that we can eat together in the Cinnamon-Tembusu dining hall until as late as 9.30pm! 👍

Glennys (right) and her friends at Cinnamon College’s dining hall

Other than the residential college’s dining hall food I have on Wednesdays, there are other foods that I have tried on campus as well, so I will share some of them here! 

1. Fried rice with oyster mushroom (from The Terrace)

I bought this the first time I had a class at the School of Computing. I quite like the Computing canteen because I can take my time to order on my phone, instead of queuing (and panicking) when I reach the front of the line because I haven’t decided what to get. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this dish only costs around $2.80! I acknowledge that the rice is not the best as it is slightly bland, and the mushrooms have to be bought as an add-on. But the mushrooms were so good, and they made the whole meal enjoyable – best 80 cents (if I recall correctly) I’ve ever spent! I try to get this dish whenever I can since I visit the COM2 building every week. This is especially because it is very budget friendly, so it saves me money as I have to buy food on campus every day.

2. Food cooked in a mini cooker

Having a mini cooker has genuinely saved my life in the time that I have stayed on campus because I can just throw in anything that can be cooked with water or cook anything that has soup. To save money, I stock up on instant noodles and bring as many ingredients as I can whenever I come back from home after the weekend, which helps me achieve an illusion of luxury (ham, luncheon meat, mushroom, literally anything I can get my hands on).

Cooking instant noodles and luncheon meat in a mini cooker

Sometimes I bring canned mushroom soup and throw it in to boil and it feels like I’m home. Other times, I buy the Hai Di Lao soup base from Octobox and put in whatever ingredients I have, and it really feels like a whole meal! I really appreciate having a mini cooker because there are times when I truly don’t feel like leaving my room to eat by myself– plus it helps me save money (I think)!

I think that mini cookers are really life saviours as they will fulfil all your needs. Never underestimate the power of boiling water 👍especially during busier periods of the semester. It really helps to have food stocked up in your room that can be easily cooked so you don’t have to spend too much time thinking about what to get for meals. Using a mini cooker is the closest I can get to making my own food, because heavy cooking is actually not allowed in UTR (there’s no stove) – we just have a pantry area.

3. Trying random things from Octobox

I spend a lot of time walking around Octobox when I’m bored because I enjoy browsing the racks of items that I have never thought of buying before. I recently tried this packet of frozen dumplings (which cost around $5) that I boiled in my mini cooker. It was surprisingly very enjoyable to indulge in! The packet came with a generous number of dumplings (around 20) and it included a packet of vinegar and chilli oil too. I think that the amount of sauce they give is not enough, but other than that it was great and lasted me a few meals.

Dumplings in chilli oil!

I have also tried out a self-heating hotpot from Octobox. I’m not sure why there are so many different self-heating hotpots at Octobox, and I have actually never heard of them until I saw them being sold there.

Octobox’s self-heating hotpot

I finally tried this recently and I think that it was not bad! The hotpot came with quite a lot of food: noodles, potato, mushroom, lotus root and green vegetables (looked like seaweed). I only purchased this because it was a tiring day and I felt like treating myself. However, for a $4 to $5 item, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of ingredients given. Plus it was pretty easy to prepare. However, I would say that the ergonomics of this bowl was not the best because its shape makes it hard to scoop your food. Overall, this was a solid 7/10. I wouldn’t eat it regularly, but it’s nice to know that the option is there if I ever run out of food and don’t feel like eating at FineFood again!

A hotpot full with ingredients

4. Mala at the PGP canteen

I would also like to take this opportunity to give a special mention to the PGP Mala, although I believe that most people would have heard about it already. 

To me, it tastes the best out of all the Mala stalls in school. It’s not too oily, yet it has sufficient flavour; the spice levels are all quite consistent and predictable; most importantly, everyone usually agrees that it is the best Mala on campus so it is easy to converge on where to eat! Other Mala stalls are usually quite controversial when I talk about them with friends. For example, some people think that Mala at The Deck is nice, while others think that it is overrated. PGP Mala is also the cheapest option, so when I get it with friends, even if we select a lot of ingredients, the damage usually does not exceed $6-$8 per person. Hence, its price also plays a really major factor that makes it good in comparison to all other options!

Before moving into UTR, I didn’t realise how much more money I would spend as I had to buy my own lunch and dinner every day. I try as much as possible to bring a lot of groceries from home and eat what I have instead of going out, because all the food at UTown is slightly expensive. I also don’t have many friends who stay on campus, so if I’m eating alone, it makes sense to make my own food and save money – when I actually do see my friends, I can then go out to eat something nice with them!

Looking back, I realise that food has shaped a lot of my interactions with friends in school. It is typically difficult to meet up because everyone is busy with conflicting timetables, but it is easy to grab a quick impromptu meal when everyone happens to be in school, since we all need to eat lunch anyway. Since there are so many options on campus, someone always has a story about something they have tried at a certain stall in school and these stories frequently pop up as fun conversations that we bond over. When I stayed in Hall previously, my friends and I would spend a lot of time trying to decide what to eat for lunch and then later laugh about the sorry state of our Hall dinner (it wasn’t always bad but some days were worse than others). Yet, even the bad meals eventually turn into funny memories that we look back on fondly! Overall, what I will remember most is how food in university is a constant, shared experience among friends, even when it seems like we’re too busy with school to spend more time together.

 

Zi Xin – the mini cooker extraordinaire 

Hi everyone, I’m Wong Zi Xin, a Y2 double majoring in Psychology and Communications and New Media, and I stay in Kent Ridge Hall. Fun fact, I had dance practice 8 times a week in Y2S2… it was truly tiring. As I stay in Hall, I tend to cook a lot of food in my dorm room, as dining hall food can get quite dreary to eat. 

My habit of cooking was largely cultivated during the Covid-19 and Home-Based Learning (HBL) period. During that time, I did not have to physically go out of Hall to go for classes, so I chose not to go out to get food either. Since delivering food everyday would be very expensive, and the dining hall at Hall does not serve lunch, I started cooking lunch for myself.

However, even after HBL ended and most classes resumed in their physical form, I found myself maintaining the habit of cooking. If I have to rush from one tutorial class to another, I would sacrifice a quick nap to cook myself lunch before heading out again. This is the benefit of having a room on campus – rather than struggle with the chaotic lunch crowd at The Deck during peak hours, I can cook for myself at the comfort of my own dorm room instead. That way, I do not need to stand in long queues and hunt for seats in the cafeteria!

One thing I love to have is instant noodles! I love to cook all sorts of noodles on campus, such as Kimchi Maggie and Indomie, because it is so easy and fast to cook. I tend to cook it most often for supper, especially on days when I have dance practice until 12 am because I tend to get hungry after dance. If I have nothing else in my room or I’m too lazy to walk to Supper Stretch to eat, I would just cook Maggie Mee in the comfort of my own room. I also used to eat with my dance friends and watch dance shows with them (shout-out to the show Street Man Fighter)!

Cooked Maggie Mee with sides

Another thing I cook quite often as well is spaghetti! To me, this is another very convenient meal. When I have the money, I’ll also buy cheese sausages to dump in and cook together with the spaghetti since it is so easy– I just need to boil the sausages! The sausages also add a savoury dimension to the plain noodles.

Pasta with sausages and a sunny side up!

Spaghetti and boiled sausages lined up in the shape of a smiley face

I usually purchase pasta sauce from Don Don Donki, but my friend introduced me to this kewpie soy sauce and garlic butter flavoured pasta sauce in Y1 and it is really good. To be fair, it is not mind-blowing, but I find that it is quite good for the cooked food standards in Hall. 

On one fine day in Y2, my mother suddenly decided to get me soba sauce. Hence, I began buying Japanese soba noodles on certain lunch days when I felt like eating healthier! I usually rinse the soba noodles in cold water (taken from the water cooler), plus there is ice available in my Hall too, so I get to make very ‘legit’ soba noodles. I also bought some small seaweed flakes to add to my soba as garnish. But fun fact, most of the flakes flew out of the packaging when I opened it in my room. It was a hard time cleaning the mess up, but thankfully the garnish turned out to be very yummy. I ate my soba together with my floormates, and we also made some boiled dumplings in a separate pot! It was an amazing homemade dining experience.

Boiled dumplings cooked in another pot!

I find that pots are very useful. They come in especially handy for hotpot nights with hallmates! We put different soup bases in different pots, buy hotpot ingredients that we like, and then gather to eat hotpot together. Such a good bonding activity! Here is a tip for those who want to use pots to cook on campus: be careful not to get too much water touching the base of your pot or the power socket area when you are washing it, or it might spoil more easily (I have already lost two pots to such mistakes)!  

Now that I am in Y2S2 and Covid restrictions have eased, I no longer cook in Hall as much. I typically am out from morning all the way till night, which is when I have dance practice, so most of my meals are eaten outside. However, I still cook on days when I get hungry in Hall! I think it is overall very convenient to cook food on your own, and it is a cheaper option as compared to ordering food delivery every day. On days when I do not feel like eating dining hall food, I also get to cook up a quick meal easily. The cleaning is also very fast since I would only use one pot to cook, and one set of utensils to eat.

A comforting meal of Jjajangmyeon cooked using one pot

Overall, I think it is pretty clear that I typically go for easy, instant meals. There are many online food trends now, such as those viral 5 minutes cooking recipes for instant noodles. These vibrant trends make me want to try them out, since they look convenient and the outcomes look tasty. Furthermore, university life is so hectic. I am constantly so busy that I barely have time to think about my meals anymore. While that sounds rather drab, it’s really not so bad – I have yummy, instant meal recipes to quickly whip up as a good mid-day treat!

 

Kang Wei – the budding communal MasterChef

Hello! I am Lee Kang Wei, a Y4 double degree student studying Computer Science and Computational Biology, and I am part of NUS College. I had previously stayed in Cinnamon College, but I currently stay in the West Wing building (Yale-NUS College campus)! 

I have an extensive relationship with food and campus life, and I have many small stories to share. For instance, I love walking to the Fairprice at UTown to treat myself to an ice cream on nights when I need a break from studying! 

I have always loved drinking a large bowl of hot soup at one go. As such, I first started getting into cooking, soups were one of the dishes that I thoroughly enjoyed learning to make.

Ginseng chicken soup cooked in a Cinnamon College floor pantry

I like to view grocery shopping as a break to take from studying. So, when I have spare time, or when I need some respite from doing work, I visit the 24/7 Sheng Siong nearby to get some ingredients to make soup! Since soup is a very shareable food item, I like making extra portions to share with my close friends on campus.

Warm bowls of ABC soup and Cream of mushroom soup

I also enjoy eating noodles, so soup and noodles is a food combination that I tend to have too!

Tonkotsu broth with ramen cooked by Kang Wei

I used to cook lunch with some of my floormates every Saturday too. It was perfect because many of us turned out to enjoy cooking. It served as a nice break from the academic week, and it was a fun way for us to spend some time together.

An array of delicious cooked food served in the middle of the corridor

Bonding over different cuisines of food in the floor lounge

I actually started cooking only because I wanted to save money while staying on campus. However, the activity of cooking became more meaningful for me in Y3 when I began to cook for my floormates, or even cook together with them. It was this development that propelled me to spend more time learning different recipes and putting in more effort into cooking tastier dishes.

A large meal prepared amongst floormates

I think that making food together with friends or for friends is definitely very fun. It makes the meaning behind cooking go beyond just making meals for consumption. I find that food has great potential for bringing people together. 

For people who stay on campus (or for those who are considering staying), these communal living experiences are hard to come by. It is unlikely that we will get to stay with friends and engage in activities such as cooking so easily ever again. Hence, I advise students on campus to make full use of this chance to experience communal living and have fun with friends while they still can!

 


Hungry yet? We hope that these warm and personal sharings will serve as inspiration for more to create good experiences with food on campus. The possibilities are endless – if you crave more stories or wish to share about your own experiences, do post your thoughts on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife – we will be sure to repost it!

6 Ways to Find Yourself Amidst The Uni Hustle

With the semester already well underway, many of you might already be asking yourself questions such as, “What’s next?” Despite the gruelling semester and endless hustles, it seems that many are choosing to take on more work and look ahead for opportunities to spend their summer productively. This is a crucial time for you to pause and consider what your top priorities are, rather than charge head-first alongside your hustling peers. Through finding yourself and understanding your own motivations, you can best plan for your next steps, and meaningfully align them with your goals. In this article, we will share with you 6 steps on how you could do so – read on!

 

1. Catch a breath

Slow down, pause, and take a step back for a moment. Instead of looking at others’ progress and lives, pay attention to your own current direction. Rather than evaluate, we appeal to you to simply observe yourself first. 

Reflect on your frequent practices, your current commitments and investments, as well as the main things that you are actively working towards. What are the key emotions linked to these practices or goals of yours? Now, take a step back to observe. Is your list of commitments long? Are there items that you feel more excited about, or items that you clearly do not look forward to? 

Set aside time to properly consider what your motivations are for the commitments and goals that you currently pursue. It might be worth dropping the ones that turn out to not hold much value for you, allowing you to focus your energy on those that you realise should be prioritised more greatly. You could even take a few days to ruminate, and sleep on this; more than ‘catching a breath’, this stage serves as a crucial way to frame your mindset, and prepare you for a more satisfactory and efficient journey moving forward.

Slow down to observe your fast-paced life (IMG: Source)

 

2. Dig deep

After catching a breath, it is imperative that you make use of this new clarity in headspace to reflect on your innermost thoughts. This might sound slightly daunting, especially due to the energy and soul-searching it requires. However, we promise that it would be worth your time!

IMG: source

When digging deep, first consider your current position, and compare yourself to you (Gloveworx), rather than looking at others. Determine where you are, so that you can decide where you hope to be. We recommend starting off by asking yourself abstract questions (such as those mentioned in 1. Catch a breath), then moving into more tangible ones. For instance, start off by thinking about which emotions are most salient in your current life, what motivations serve as the main driving force for what you currently pursue, and when you feel the best about yourself (and perhaps when you do not). 

After some contemplation, you can begin to sieve out more concrete insights, such as by asking yourself about the frequency with which you feel the best about the activity that you are participating in, and exactly which aspects of the activity make you feel this way. Consider doing a mapping: categorising your current commitments (e.g. necessary, recreational, social), breaking them down into specific parts to be bucketed under distinct themes (e.g. emotions, goals, degree of necessity), then reflecting on your key takeaways. Rather than focus on the visceral emotions you derive from activities, try to dig deep by picking out the root of your feelings and matching them to specific elements that explain them.

Example of a mapping that you can do – enhance this by adding categorisation and takeaways

If you are contemplating between different life plans going forward, it is also useful to weigh the pros and cons of each option. The previous mapping exercise could inform this process, and allow you to think about advantages and disadvantages that go beyond the obvious or tangible, paying attention to your subjective experiences and the resulting qualitative data as well. 

 

3. Synthesise takeaways from the ongoing semester 

We find that one great way to develop your priorities and direction is to reflect on your experiences, building upon your learnings and relationships. Synthesising learning points from your studies and experiences is a skill that enhances your ‘confidence to use knowledge from one area of study to [inspire new ideas and] question information in other areas of learning’ (Macmillan Education). We encourage you to apply your takeaways from your current and past experiences, and apply them.

IMG: source

Seeking out connections between things that you have learnt (both in your field of study and your general life) could highlight overlaps and important findings that would enable you to make more informed, holistic decisions. Build on what you have gained expertise in, or skills that you are currently honing. Lay out these insights to clarify what you might want to pursue moving forward. 

To explicate this suggestion, here is an example: Peter, a Y2 student majoring in Communications and New Media, is currently taking a coding module. He has deep dived into machine learning and has learnt more about computer science, developing his coding skills extensively. While his new knowledge and expertise do not have direct links to his main field of study, Peter realises that feelings of excitement and satisfaction are closely linked to his experience in this coding module. As such, he draws connections between his major and his learnings from the coding module, arriving at the decision to explore the field of UX/UI design (which combines knowledge from both areas). For the summer holidays, he hence hopes to take up an online course that delves into user experience design.

 

4. Write or visualise 

Writing out your reflections could help with finding meaning in your everyday experiences, possibly refreshing your perspective on your daily observations as well (Career Wise). Visualisations, in the form of drawings, mind maps or other forms of visual expression, can also help you flesh out your thoughts to greater detail. 

This would benefit your execution of the aforementioned suggestions. Nevertheless, if the suggestions prove too extensive to carry out given your current capacity, consider a simple exercise such as journaling. Frequent journaling can provide you with an outlet to pen down your thoughts, including personal reflections that may not come up in your daily conversations. Through this thoughtful process, you could get to know yourself better; reading past entries could help you sieve out useful insights about yourself and your developing goals too. Here are 32 journal prompts you could adopt for some self-discovery. Alternatively, you could simply revert to the typical style of journaling by penning down your daily encounters and emotions too!

Make journaling fun by making it an aesthetic process too (IMG: Source)

 

  1. Look to those who you respect

Now, you can compare yourself to others. Wait – we don’t mean it literally! With the resources and self-reflection that you have extensively engaged in, we think that you might be ready to look to external parties again. According to Festinger’s social comparison theory, ‘comparing ourselves is necessary to find better answers to the timeless question about who we are’ (source).

One could stand to gain much insight and inspiration by listening to the stories and opinions of those who they respect dearly: teachers, experienced peers, parents, mentors, etc. By ‘comparing’ your current way of thinking to those with opinions that you value, you could get a glimpse into new perspectives and ideas that could allow you to rethink your path moving forward. Oftentimes, looking at your life with a pair of fresh eyes (a.k.a. through someone else’s eyes) could be the final key to taking a meaningful step forward. 

Arrange a sit-down (e.g. with a trusted mentor/adult) if you need a conducive space and time to properly think through your plans. However, considering that it is a busy period, don’t stress over it. Even if fleeting, your engagement with these people could still prove highly effective if you are able to ask direct and concise questions. You could also consider weaving in pertinent questions into casual conversations, when you happen to bump into someone whom you wish to gain insights from.

IMG: Source

 

6. Consider your own mental capacity

We find this to be one of the most crucial steps to take when finding yourself amidst the hustle. Mental (and physical) health matters the most, for without a healthy mind (and body), you would find yourself struggling to proceed with your daily functions, much less work towards larger goals. 

Ask yourself: Is your body telling you that you deserve a much-needed break this summer? Are you feeling tired, burnt out, or overwhelmed? Recall what you have done this semester – for instance, think about whether you have experienced high amounts of stress, or whether you need a prolonged break to reignite certain passions that diminished as a result of stress. If you find that you lack a clear headspace to think about or work on your future endeavours, know that it is alright to have some respite from the university hustle. The length of break required could differ for everyone – understanding yourself and your mental needs would allow you to carve out an appropriate amount of time to rest and recuperate. Only after your mental capacity has been regenerated, then can you return to plan out your next steps with a clear mind!

 


University life can be strenuous if you think about it as a never-ending race with your peers. Instead of rushing to an arbitrary finish line, slow down to run your own race – compare yourself to yourself, and find yourself amidst the hustle. This way, we think that you can best propel yourself towards decisions that would suit your personal goals and preferences. Do you have any additional tips that you wish to share? Post them on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife – we will be sure to repost them!

Getting Familiar With More Residential Wellness Managers

Previously, we had introduced the Residential Wellness Managers (RWMs) of UTown Residence (UTR) and Prince George’s Park Residence (PGPR). Guess what, a few more RWMs have come onboard since then! In this article, let us get to know them better as human beings beyond their professional role, and find out about some of their hobbies and quirks. For more information on what exactly an RWM is, read till the end of the article!

 

Jaya Rajesh (RWM for LightHouse, Pioneer House, Helix House)

Hello, I am Jaya. I am the RWM in charge of LightHouse, Pioneer House, and the future Helix House. Some things about me: I am a social worker by training, and have a strong desire to support the people who need help. In my free time, I like to cook, bake, dance, and listen to music. I also keep and write a gratitude journal daily. And of course, I love to spend time with my family and friends!

With regards to the RWM role, I consider myself as a staff to the students in the hostels. As I am not part of the hostel management team or from the faculty, some students may be more comfortable to share their concerns with me. Moreover, as I’m from India, I can empathise well with international students who may face challenges adjusting to life in Singapore. As of now, I attend events organised by the respective Houses, and interact with students during the sessions. In addition, some students connect with me via Telegram if they need my help!

I was born in India, and received my Masters of Social Work upon graduating from the University of Kerala. I also went on to get a Masters in Narrative Therapy and Community Work from the University of Melbourne, Australia! 

I have nearly 18 years of work experience. I first started my career working in an addiction centre, and later, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). I then went on to undertake the role of a Medical Social Worker (MSW) in a hospital. This was the role that I worked in for 12 years, before finally joining NUS. Throughout my career, I have mainly worked with older people, including adults. Now, I am excited to transition to working with a younger population in NUS. 

In NUS, I frequent the PGPR canteen a lot, especially since it is located near to the Houses that I am in charge of. I love to eat mala there! I also enjoy having fish soup from Eureka Taste (Medicine Block 6) and Ayam Penyet from the Science canteen (Frontier). 

If I had the freedom to do anything in NUS, I would definitely choose to visit the PitStop at the Science faculty to relax for a day. I would probably lounge in the massage chair, have fun with the Nintendo Switch and enjoy some quiet time by indulging in a comic book.

What does wellness mean to me? Well, I think that it is a positive state of mind. Any activities or places that bring me joy could be a form of wellness. For example, after a long day at work, preparing meals for my family gives me happiness – therefore it is a wellness activity to me.

Jaya preparing food for her family

Here are some fun facts about myself: I currently learn Indian classical dance. I look forward to dance lessons every week, where I not only get to learn Indian classical dance, but also get to interact with my friendly classmates. Furthermore, I catch at least seven hours of sleep a day. To me, the most essential things are getting sufficient sleep, and spending time with like-minded people. I find that pursuing personal hobbies, engaging in social interaction, exploring meditation, getting sufficient sleep, etc., are some things that students can consider adopting, especially to cope with the stresses of life. 

Jaya on-stage for her recent Mohiniyattam (Indian classical dance) performance

While I have not experienced any major mental health challenges myself, I have definitely experienced my fair share of stress during my schooling days, especially during exam periods. Fortunately, I think that because I focused on enjoying the learning process rather than the outcome, I did not feel too pressured during my university days. I enjoy learning new things and want to continually improve my knowledge and skills! However, I have had classmates who I had observed struggling with depression; out of a sense of inadequacy, the priority became the outcome (their grades) and aiming for perfect scores. Hence, I would reach out to talk to them, and listen to their struggles and aspirations. 

With my current role as an RWM, I look forward most to supporting the students. I think (and hope) that it is a great feeling for them to have a outlet (RWMs) to share their problems freely without the fear of being judged. Building trust and rapport with the students is important for them to feel comfortable with opening up, and thus I try my best to take advantage of every opportunity to interact with students. With my years of experience in healthcare, I believe that preventive work is as important as treating health problems. Therefore, I see myself connecting with the students by organising workshops and events based on their needs (e.g. suicide awareness and prevention, self-care, etc.). When students have issues, they can reach out to me for help. I can be their first line of support during office hours. 

To conclude, here is some parting advice from me: Sometimes, we are unable to solve our own problems, and that is okay. It is a chance for someone who cares to connect with us again, and together, we can find better solutions to our challenges.

 

D’Cruz Joan Lavina (RWM for Temasek Hall, Eusoff Hall, Raffles Hall)

Hey! I’m Lavina, the RWM serving Temasek Hall, Eusoff Hall, and Raffles Hall. In my free time, I play a bit of Sudoku and take walks with my (very opinionated) pet husky, Isaac!

Lavina with her pet husky, Isaac

So far, interacting with the students at the respective halls has been eye-opening, and they have made me feel…young (haha)! But in all seriousness, I truly feel like I am part of something larger. With my team of students, I think that we can help bring mental health awareness to the forefront of important discussions and initiatives. Students not staying in these halls can feel free to approach me to talk as well!

Before coming to NUS, I was actually a trained psychiatric nurse with 13 years of clinical nursing experience. Moving forward from my previous career, I sought out more challenging opportunities in my field. I also hoped to provide life-changing support to others. I soon realised that a role as an RWM allowed me to achieve both of these aspirations.

As an RWM, I am usually based at S6 (Science) or UTown. But given my role, I am usually fortunate to be able to do my work wherever I need to. I recently visited the Yale NUS library with my colleague and fell in love with the place, so it might be my new haunt!

To me, wellness means incorporating healthy habits into one’s daily life. I take care of my own physical and mental wellbeing by taking evening walks around the park with my parents. I have also picked up pilates, and am trying to convince my colleagues to join me 😉.

There is a lot of research on the benefits of exercise and its impact on mental wellbeing. So, my advice is that a good walk around the neighbourhood will be a good start! Previously, there was a time when I was working overseas as a mental health nurse. I made a conscious effort to join a gym, learn how to box, and make friends with the trainers there; I even roped in my fellow colleagues to join me. Those activities kept me occupied, tired me out in a positive way, and allowed me to have a better sleep at the end of the day. I would also plan hikes with my new friends! Hence, I suggest engaging in some form of physical activity for students to work on their mental wellbeing – it is a constant process.

Lavina and Isaac out for a walk at the park 

Here is some parting advice from me: Be yourself; everyone else is already taken (Oscar Wilde).

To me, an RWM is one who is committed, open-minded and passionate. I look forward greatly to engaging with the students and hall staff, and overall being a friend to them!

 

Pragati Pritmani (RWM for Kent Ridge Hall, Sheares Hall, King Edward VII Hall)

Hi, I’m Pragati and I’m an RWM supporting three halls on campus – Kent Ridge Hall, Sheares Hall and King Edward VII (KE7) Hall. I love film photography, and exploring new places; I also have a soft spot for any kind of dumplings and noodles!

Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to do the Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal with my father and sister. It’s been one of the best experiences I’ve had to date. I find that trekking can be very much likened to life, where the final destination doesn’t matter quite as much as the journey there.

Pragati (left) and her family at the Everest Base Camp!

My career journey has meandered quite a bit after my graduation. I initially started off teaching English and Science to primary school students. I then went on to teach smaller groups at a neuro-educational start-up. While I loved the creative aspect of teaching using clay and process drama, I found myself taking a break from that, and eventually becoming a counsellor. As part of my training to become a counsellor, I interned at the Yale-NUS Counselling Centre, and loved the experience. I then explored working within a university after graduating, and chanced upon the RWM role here at NUS, which leads me to where I am now!

I was not a previous student of NUS, but I spent some time on campus when interning at the Yale-NUS Counselling Centre. I enjoy being on campus and am still exploring the different parts of it. So far, the coffee at Coffee Roasters has lived up to its name, and I love the Ma La Xiang Guo at PGPR. An ideal day here would be the balance of exploring the food options throughout campus while also being able to appreciate the lovely green spaces. During my university days, I loved grabbing food or coffee and sitting at any of the green spaces as a way to disengage from busy life and relax. 

Wellness to me is balance – it’s figuring out what it is that you’re prioritising on a particular day by listening to what your body or mind needs at the moment and focusing on it. For example, if I find myself constantly thinking about an upcoming deadline, I would explore what emotion is driving the thought; for me, that emotion is usually anxiety. I would then decide on what things I could do to cope with the identified anxious feelings. These things could be activities more external to the mind, such as speaking to family or a close friend about it, or something more internal, such as engaging with deep breathing for a few minutes throughout the day.  

One of the things I do to improve my physical wellbeing is to reframe exercise as movement, including practices such as walking a longer route home or going for a fitness class. Both these things help keep me physically active. Over the past year or so, I’ve tried different classes ranging from boxing to spin. I also regularly play tennis. As for mental wellbeing, I practise mindfulness daily and incorporate time where I get to decompress and relax for the day. This could entail spending time with my family, friends or even by myself.

Pragati on a nature hike                       Pragati with elephants in Krabi

I look forward to engaging with the students on campus. I am keen to see exactly how mental health is perceived by them, and what can be done to support students within this area. I’m interested in co-creation, such as where students and myself work together to develop programmes and initiatives to support the overall student body’s mental wellbeing.  

If you see me around campus, please say hi, and if you’re ever struggling with something, do reach out!

 

Si Wei (RWM for Tembusu College, RC4)

Hello! I am Si Wei, the RWM for Tembusu College and Residential College 4. I am also a Registered Social Worker by training. I love to travel around the world to explore new places and experience different cultures. However, during the Covid-19 pandemic when international travel ceased, I cultivated a new interest in home gardening at my balcony, which I take pride of, and started to practise mindfulness on a daily basis.

So far, I have been providing supportive and coaching sessions to students who require a listening ear, and trying to provide clarity when they share the challenges they face with me. I have also been training and supporting the Peer Student Helpers, such as Residential Assistants and Peer Student Supporters, to build their capacity in delivering the duties of care for the hostels’ residents. I get to outreach and interact with other hostel’s residents through events, such as WellNUS Festival in 2022. As RWMs, we are supporters, educators, advocates and partners for students’ personal wellbeing and growth. I feel that I am in a privileged position to be able to work directly with students and to advocate on the importance of mental wellness and self-care.

Si Wei (front, left) at a Wellness Workshop (Barista Experience Workshop) with RC4 students at The Coffee Roaster Infinity Coffee Studio

For non-residential students, NUS has an extension network of supportive resources like University Counselling Services, OSA Student Wellness and Faculty Student Support Managers. There is always help and support available as long as the students are willing to reach out when they are in need.

I first started my career as a teacher in a public school. I had the opportunities to work with many students from underprivileged backgrounds and it spurred my interest to find out more about social issues, such as poverty and mental health. Hence, I took a Master in Social Work and made a career switch to become a community social worker. This experience was a humbling one – while supporting families and individuals facing challenging issues, I also learnt a lot from their resilience and grit in overcoming multiple difficulties in life. Nonetheless, I found that I am still an educator at heart, and nurturing students was still my ultimate calling. Hence, I ended up with my current RWM role, which is a perfect combination of both education and social work!

I did not previously study in NUS, but I totally appreciate the diversity of the student’s population and the vibrant student life. There are always many activities and events happening on campus. At the same time, I am impressed with the extensive supportive network with NUS, and the addition of the RWM role would certainly value-add and compliment what is in place to reach out to the hostels’ residents.

I spend most of my working hours in UTown due to its proximity to the hostels I am working with. I like the greenery and the resort vibe in UTown. I personally love the Korean Food at Hwang’s as it sells good Korean food at an affordable price! An ideal day would be for me to explore different parts of NUS and do my work at different places. The campus is just so huge that I still have not visited many places.

I think that wellness is multidimensional in nature. Your physical wellness (physical health), mental wellness (self-awareness of your mental state and ability to cope with stressors), social wellness (adequate social support and network) and spiritual wellness (purpose and meaning in life) are all important in enabling you to lead a fruitful life. I believe that setting clear boundaries between work/studies and personal life is essential in maintaining good wellbeing. Being an advocate of mental wellness, it is of paramount importance for me to be a role model and practise what I preach. It is helpful to have a ritual in transiting out of work, such as listening to my favourite music while commuting home after work.

Here’s an extra tip: The NUS 7 PitStop Principles (Personal Skills, Interaction, Time-out, Sleep, Thoughtful Eating, On the move and Purpose) is an effective framework for guiding students to achieve mental wellness. Do find out more about it!

NUS 7 PitStop Principles

When I was a University student, I struggled with the overwhelming stressors from my academic work, CCA and other commitments as well. What worked for me was to know that I was not alone – that my friends and classmates were experiencing the same stress as well. Hence it was helpful to have a positive group of friends and comrades to journey through challenging times. I found it helpful to have a schedule to plan each timing and task to be completed until the end of semester, allowing me to see clearly when the difficult time would end. I would also intentionally plan time away from work regularly to do something I like, to ensure that I have the space to recharge and improve my capacity to cope with the challenges ahead. Having experienced university life already, I am now excited to be able to engage with current students directly, and journey with them through their time in NUS, as it will be the best time of their life.

Since young, we are all taught to be kind to others, but we are rarely being told to be kind to ourselves. Hence, many of us start looking into our personal wellbeing only when we have reached the tipping point. We are only human and we all have our good and bad times. During bad times, it is totally okay to be not okay, and it is not selfish to engage with self-care. Rest assured that there is always help available and it is okay to seek help. The day we can all comfortably acknowledge our vulnerabilities is the day where we will be able to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

 


We hope that this article has demystified the warm and unique personalities of these new RWMs. Students – go forth and talk to an RWM if you ever need a listening ear! In the meantime, we have compiled a short FAQ section that details more on the role of RWMs and other questions that you might have after reading this article, so read on!

What exactly is the role of an RWM? 

An RWM’s main role is to provide emotional support to the residents with personal or mental health issues. They do check-ins and follow up with residents who are feeling overwhelmed or suffering from mental health challenges. They also meet with any students who need a listening ear. RWMs can also refer you to the University Counselling Services or University Health Centre if required. They can also accompany residents to see the counsellors especially when students are feeling uncomfortable or anxious about it. 

What about the SSM?

An SSM also plays a supportive role similar to the RWM. In addition, if your concerns relate to academic issues, it would be ideal to make an appointment to see them first. SSMs can advise on matters regarding modules, Leave of Absence and candidature. 

Who should I approach? The Residential Wellness Manager (RWM) or Student Support Manager (SSM) of my faculty?

The short answer is: It does not matter – both are good options! NUS is committed to your mental health and wellness. Both the RWM and SSM can provide support to the residents with personal or mental health issues. It is really up to you who you want to talk to. Both RWM and SSM are trained to refer you should you need other help and resources. You can discuss topics like academic concerns, relationships, personal goals and mental health challenges etc. 

Will other people know about what I share with the staff?

The matters that you discuss are private. However, in order to render help, there are times that other parties need to be informed. Talk to your RWM or SSM about this. 

I still think it is embarrassing to approach someone for help when I have some stress.

All of us go through some form of challenges and struggles from time to time. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but it is a sign of strength that you want things to get better! Seeking help from an RWM or SSM can provide you with other perspectives and options to your challenges and help you better cope with your concerns.

Inter-College Games 2023: Residents Share Their Experiences

The Inter-College Games (ICG) has flown by as quickly as the first half of the semester have passed. These games are held in the beginning of semester two of every academic year, and see groups from the various Residential Colleges (RCs) come together to engage in friendly and intense competition! With the relaxation of Covid-19 measures this year, student groups were excited to get back into ICG in its fullest form – without being restricted by last year’s safety protocols. To provide a glimpse into what went down in the 2023 iteration of ICG, we have invited a few students from the respective hostels to share their experiences and key highlights – read on!

 

An exciting and unexpected Chess game for Vaishnav from RC4

Hi! I’m Vaishnav Muralidharan, a Y2 Computer Science student and a resident at Residential College 4 (RC4). I enjoy playing chess and building new things with code. 

I played in the Chess event for RC4, and the tournament spanned over five rounds. In each round, we played a match with another RC across four (chess)boards. Teams usually send their strongest players to play on Board 1 and rank their other boards accordingly. The team with the most wins out of the four boards, wins the round.

Chess players playing games on different boards simultaneously 

“Can you prepare yourself in case I pass out?” I asked the arbiter jokingly, who laughed at my nervousness.

In this game, I was going up against a Candidate Master from NUS College, who is ranked as one of the top 10 chess players in Singapore. He was sent to play on Board 1, as he was considered the strongest player in his team. Having not played chess intensively for a while, I volunteered to ‘sacrifice’ myself to play on Board 1, so my teammates would have a higher chance of winning on their other boards. 

The pressure on me was low in the beginning, as everyone knew that I had less than a 1% chance of winning the Candidate Master. As such, my moves were bold – I took huge risks with my attack and was unperturbed about the safety of my King (a chess piece). I put a ton of pressure on my opponent’s position through my consistent attack, and he was forced to enter an endgame (a stage of chess when few pieces are left on the board), which gave me a huge advantage. By then, a crowd had gathered around our game and many people started whispering tensely.

Vaishnav (left) in a crucial moment of the game against NUS College

The fight wasn’t over – he wasn’t giving up. After many moves, he reached his hand out. I thought it was to move a piece, but instead, he stopped the clock. He was resigning! It took me a while to realise that I was the only player to win against the top seed (the player with the highest ranking) of the tournament.

Vaishnav and his ICG team (Left to Right: Bing Xuan Cheng, Kevin Tang, Bryan Chan, Lee I-Shiuan, Vaishnav Muralidharan, Tejas, Leong Hung Rey)

We eventually won silver for the overall tournament, thanks to our captain I-Shiuan’s relentless strategizing and my teammates’ efforts – a big shout out to I-Shiuan, Hung Rey, Bryan, Tejas, Bing Xuan and Kevin for putting their best into each of their individual games!

 

Winston’s experience with camaraderie in playing Smash Bros for NUS College

My name’s Winston Jin, and I’m a Y1 Biomedical Engineering student living at Cinnamon College under the NUS College programme. 

I chose to sign up for the Smash Bros event for ICG because it was the first ever video game that I picked up. Going into ICG, I had two goals: firstly, I wanted to have fun, and secondly, I wanted to get to know others who played Smash, so that we could play together outside ICG! Previously, I had a group of friends who would always meet up to play Smash together, but our group disbanded when the pandemic hit and everyone moved on to other games individually.

Winston (leftmost) and his Smash ICG team

I think the greatest experience I had playing in this ICG wasn’t winning the event; it was that during the event, the players from the other RCs gathered and asked if we wanted to start a small inter-college club of Smash players where we could find a time to meet up and play recreationally. To me, that was very heartening to see. Everyone who played in the event was super wholesome, regardless of whether they won or lost the games, and there was even another Nintendo Switch set up on the side for players to chill together and have a fun time playing the game we all love. I had an amazing time, playing alongside my team and playing against other teams, and I hope that the Smash communities in the respective RCs can continue to be so wholesome and fun.

 

Andrew on leading RVRC’s swim team

Hey! I am Andrew from Y2 Industrial and Systems Engineering and I currently stay at Ridge View Residential College (RVRC)!

I swim for RVRC and help lead the interest group. For ICG, I helped to roster and organise the swimmers for their various events. As captain, I wanted to help RVRC improve upon the results that we had in last year’s ICG as I believed that we had great potential to go far. Furthermore, this year’s ICG was the first time we could hold more events as Covid-19 restrictions were finally lifted. As a result, we had mixed relays (mixed gendered swimming relay) added into the line-up of events which made ICG much more enjoyable and exhilarating.

I competed in the men’s 4x50m relay event. Yale-NUS College has always dominated in swimming events, so we considered them one of our greatest competitors. However, I was able to come from behind in the last leg of the relay event, allowing us to beat Yale-NUS to obtain a Gold medal – this was something I felt very proud of, and was grateful that we managed to achieve this as a team.

Andrew (back, third from right) and the RVRC swim team

I struggled greatly to find players to compete for ICG, even up until the night before the competition. Hence, managing to find the necessary players to compete in the end was a great relief, and I am unbelievably grateful to all of my teammates who had participated. I truly would have been nothing without my team and I was pleasantly surprised by their performance. Beyond the context of my RC, I genuinely appreciated having this opportunity to represent my college whilst fostering valuable bonds with students from other RCs. I think that the ICGs are one of the things that help build integrity and spirit within the NUS community and hope that I will have more chances in the future to participate!

 

Yong Jun’s eye-opening Tchoukball experience with Tembusu College

Yong Jun (centre) and his Tchoukball friends

Hi! I’m Yong Jun, a Y1 Data Science and Analytics major staying in Tembusu College, and I played Tchoukball for ICG 2023. 

I chose to play Tchoukball as I wanted to try something different, especially after spending all of my schooling life in the performing arts. Having seen a few glimpses of the game in passing, I found there was something rather beautiful about the sport. The welcoming community of Tembusu Tchoukball was definitely a plus point as well. They were really open to beginners and took their time to teach and motivate us, even when we were clueless and made tons of mistakes. Thus, after going for a few sessions, I decided to commit to Tchoukball as an interest group member!

The ICG itself was a blast. It was fun playing against players who we did not normally get to play with. This pushed us to be more alert in game, and really focus on reading where their shots would go when defending. We needed to adapt quickly and change our attacking strategies on the fly if our initial game plan wasn’t working. Tchoukball is really as much a mind game as it is a physical sport!

Tembusu trio watching the ball keenly while defending

Great read and catch by a Tembusu player when defending!

The highlight of my ICG experience, ironically enough, was watching the matches on the side-lines. The final match between Tembusu and RC4 for the champions title was absolutely riveting. There were some really memorable shots taken and caught. The games progressed so quickly and moves that I never fathomed were played right before my eyes. It was truly an eye-opening experience, and the joy and pride I felt when my team won was something that is indescribable.

Yong Jun’s teammate hanging in the air to take a sharp shot 

Though the training leading up to ICG was tough and at times excruciating, I’m glad to have had the chance to participate in such an exciting event. As cheesy as it may sound, the friends that I made along this journey were worth every bit of pain endured, and I’m glad that we came out of ICG with a strong sense of camaraderie.

Tembusu’s Tchoukball ICG team photo

 

James and his fun Captain’s Ball team from Yale-NUS

Hello! I am James Ham, a Y2 Law & Liberal Arts Double Degree Programme student from Yale-NUS College (YNC). For ICG 2023, I participated in the Captain’s Ball event!

I first decided to join the Captain’s Ball interest group, as my friend, Tay Ying, was holding open sessions for the interest group during last winter break. These sessions catered to people who did not necessarily have experience, but wanted to try their hand at the sport – so I thought, why not try it out for fun? Eventually, when YNC Captain’s Ball needed players to compete in ICG, I decided to give it a shot. Since it has always been a bucket-list-type thing for me to play in an ICG event during my university life, I quickly took the opportunity to sign up!

I would like to give a massive shout-out to our team here. They were the most welcoming and chill group of people to play with, which was all I could’ve asked for. From the beginning, there was no barrier to entry and the team was very welcoming to beginners. The more experienced players helped to guide those who had just joined and brought everyone together. I know that sometimes, teams are framed as ‘open to beginners’, but they may not be as accessible in reality. However, that was definitely not the case with this team. It was the first time I felt genuinely welcomed and didn’t feel out of place or judged just because it was my first time playing the sport. That spirit of openness naturally flowed into our interpersonal relationships, and I’m very happy to say that I’ve made a lot of new friends who I look forward to seeing around school more often.

A BeReal photo of the team having supper together after training

Although we lost every single game during ICG, the highlight was in our last match, when we scored 9 points against the opposing team. We were so ecstatic by this achievement that we even took a picture with the scoreboard, despite the overall loss.

James (second row, left) and the YNC Captain’s Ball team

Photo of the scoreboard with 9 points to YNC – an exciting moment!

I have learnt that the most important thing in ICG is to have fun, and I will cherish these memories for a long time. Thank you team YNC for fulfilling my bucket list experience of playing for YNC in ICGs! I couldn’t have asked for a better team to do it with 🙂.

 

Eaindra and her second year of Netball ICG with CAPT

Eaindra (centre) and her netball friends

Hi I’m Eaindra Phyo, a Y2 student doing Psychology, and I’m from the College of Alice and Peter Tan (CAPT)! I played both the Netball and Captain’s Ball events for ICG this year, but I will be talking about my Netball experience here! 

I joined ICG because Netball is a sport that I’ve been playing for almost a decade and I find a lot of joy playing it on court. As such, competing for Netball ICG was not an opportunity that I wanted to pass up! Also, this year’s ICG had reverted to its full court version, which is something I haven’t experienced since A Divisions (National School Games for Junior College students). Hence, I was very excited to train for and play full court via a proper 7 vs. 7 match. 

This year’s netball matches were so intense and fun. It was very exciting to see everyone back on court for full court matches. It was also quite fun to recognise some familiar faces from last year’s Netball ICG games, plus see the new faces from the batch of Y1s this year!

Eaindra (second row, second from left) and her CAPT Netball ICG team

Unfortunately, I think the most startling thing about Netball ICG was the terrible number of injuries sustained throughout the three days of games. While everyone tried their best to play safely, accidents became inevitable when the matches became fast-paced and intense. I do hope that everyone is feeling better and resting well now!

Eaindra’s teammates putting on ankle guards before a game

Overall, I think that each team gave their all on court and it was very heartening to see each players’ perseverance and grit! I enjoyed watching the matches between other colleges as much as I enjoyed being on court, and I’m glad to have made new Netball friends at ICG ❤️.

Eaindra’s teammates practising shooting between matches

To future ICG players: Have fun and take care of yourselves (your safety is always the utmost priority and ICG is NOT worth permanent injuries). Take the chance to meet people from other colleges who enjoy the same sports you do and make friends! Perhaps y’all could even play together outside of ICG – I always find it so much more fun to play with new people because you’re unfamiliar with their playing style and it tests your ability to adapt quickly on court. It’s always important to play the matches with sportsmanship and grace so that everyone has fun together! ◡̈

The CAPT team doing a team cheer

 


Phew, the ICG season seems to have been an intense and exciting one! Time flies quickly, and soon enough, the respective RCs will begin training for the next ICG season. We hope that the stories shared in this article have been insightful, perhaps spurring you on to participate in ICG (if you haven’t already) or simply step out of your comfort zone to take part in similar events at your own hostel! If you have any ICG-related experiences to share, do post them on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife as we would love to share them with the rest of NUS!

Using Telegram: A University Student’s Starter Pack

Upon entering university, one would quickly realise that Telegram has become the staple communication platform for most university students and groups. While Telegram may feel foreign to many who had previously relied on the likes of Whatsapp and the Messaging app, it is a user-friendly tool that facilitates much of the activities and communication that goes on in school. Many university students have since turned to using Telegram as their main mode of communication since their onboarding! In this article, we endeavour to help you familiarise yourself with the uses and tools of Telegram, and hopefully ease you into the rhythms of university’s online experience.

 

Tele-Tip 1: Organise your chats

As the school term begins, it is likely that you would find yourself participating in an array of extra-curricular activities, events and engaging with multiple projects – soon, you are drowning in a blur of endless chat groups and messages that clog up your Telegram rapidly. One way of dealing with this is to produce for yourself an ‘organised-mess’ with the help of chat folders.

Go to ‘Folders’ under settings

Create or edit folders

Above is an example of how you could organise your chats in folders. Some ideas of folders could be an ‘Unread’ folder, a folder for interest groups (IGs), one for academic modules e.g. group project chat groups, etc. The key point here is to sieve out categories that would include multiple chats in their basket. 

The position of chat folders can be shifted too, so that most frequently used folders can be prioritised and placed at the front of the list, where they are visible and easily accessible.

 

Tele-Tip 2: Use ‘Saved Messages’ or channels as repositories 

One great hack is to use the ‘Saved Messages’ chat, or create a personal channel, to dump information for yourself (or for a specific few others, when it comes to channels)!

Collating materials for personal use through Saved Messages

For instance, sending files from one of your devices to another could prove difficult, especially if they are of different brands. However, you could easily send these materials to yourself through Telegram, and open the files from any device that you have downloaded Telegram on! This would be a fool proof method, for Telegram works on both mobile and desktop.

Channels are similar, in that they are typically used for the dissemination of information and materials. You could create a channel dedicated to a certain project, or even just for personal use, so that you can organise and collate information in one chat. Alternatively, you could create a channel to share information with friends or group mates! For instance, students going on exchange have chosen to create channels for their friends to subscribe to, so that they can share stories and photos of their adventures (and misadventures). 

 

Tele-Tip 3: Schedule messages, edit messages

Telegram makes it easy for users to plan out their messages, and make changes to their texts retrospectively. 

The schedule message function allows you to plan out messages and ensure that they are sent out at/by a certain time. To schedule a message, draft out your text first; right-click on the ‘send’ button (desktop), or press and hold the ‘send’ button (mobile). Afraid that you might oversleep and forget to send an important text out? Use this function to schedule your message beforehand, and allow yourself to catch some rest with complete peace of mind.

Schedule message function

Pop-up prompt to schedule message for a certain date and time

Made an error? You can also edit messages (that are not forwarded messages) by tapping and holding (on mobile) or right-clicking (on desktop) on them. Taking it further, you could completely delete a message if you decide that you no longer want it to be visible to the receiving party. Unlike the delete messages function in WhatsApp, Telegram allows for the deletion of messages with no traces of it left behind – except for the receiving party’s memory, if they have already read your text. 

 

Tele-Tip 4: Create polls

University students who participate in student-organised events and groups cannot escape the use of Telegram bots and polls. However, it could be a headache to navigate your way around using these features if it’s your first time.

Find the ‘Create poll’ option under the kebab menu (desktop)

To create a quick and simple poll, navigate to the kebab menu (desktop) or the file/attachment icon (mobile). The functions of this in-built poll are typically sufficient for multiple-choice polls to gauge interest or opinions for a certain prompt. Certain poll customisation options to note before sending your poll out would be the ‘anonymous’ function, for responses to remain anonymous, and the ‘multiple options’ function, for the poll to function as checkbox options rather than single-choice options. 

If you wish to create slightly different polls than that offered by Telegram’s in-built function, consider using Telegram bots! One popularly used bot is the @countmeinbot, which can be searched up easily through the platform’s search bar.

@countmeinbot options 

The bot is relatively intuitive and easy to use, as it guides users each step of the way.

Example of a Countmein poll

The polls can be published to any, and as many, chats that you wish to send them to. Names of respondents would be visible (upon them selecting an option) for all, which makes it easy for the collating of attendance for certain events!

 

Tele-Tip 5: Join useful channels

Telegram channels that disseminate relevant information

University life can get overwhelming, especially when it becomes a balancing act of juggling multiple interests and commitments outside of the classroom. Subscribing to relevant Telegram channels can ease this process, and ensure that you stay updated without having to actively seek out such information. 

Example of useful channels to subscribe to include news channels (e.g. The Straits Times), NUS channels and groups (e.g. The National University of Singapore group, NUS Lost and Found) and ‘lobang’ channels that are constantly updated with good promotions and perks (e.g. GoodLobang).

 

Tele-Tip 6: Privacy settings and restrictions 

Lastly, it is crucial to be attentive and cautious in our general use of social media/messaging platforms. Personal data and privacy has become a pertinent issue in this technological age – fortunately, Telegram provides extensive options for you to customise your privacy settings according to what you are most comfortable with. 

For example, you can restrict the visibility of your personal information, such as your contact number and ‘last seen’. Contact numbers are no longer crucial for messaging on Telegram, as all users are required to create a unique Telegram username, which allows them to be found and contacted by anyone else on the platform. As such, you can choose to make your phone number only visible to your contacts, or nobody at all. These options can be found in the ‘Privacy and Security’ settings on Telegram. Do adjust and play around with these settings to ensure that your experience on Telegram is best tailored to your privacy preferences! 

Note: a setting that many are increasingly turning to is to restrict the ‘Who can add me to groups and channels’ ability to contacts only.

Restrictive settings

It is likely that student leaders or event-organisers, many of whom may not be saved in your contacts, may want to add you to groups, especially when you first enter school or participate in certain activities. You might want to mention these privacy settings to the relevant parties (for they would not be able to directly add you to newly-created groups), so that they can send you an invite link to groups that you hope to join!


Overall, the list of Telegram’s functions is a non-exhaustive one.  While it can seem daunting to be thrown into using such an unfamiliar, but now widely-used, platform, we encourage you to adopt a positive learning mindset, and maximise the potential usages of this platform. Just from this article alone, you can see that it offers myriad usage areas, compared to many other messaging platforms.  For many students in university, Telegram has even become their main messaging platform! It is hence high-time for you to get in on the buzz surrounding this platform too. 

Ultimately, remember that such technology should be used as a tool to make our lives easier, rather than be a cause for greater headache. If you have found this article helpful, and perhaps have more tips to share, do post your thoughts on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife – we would love to hear them.