Alone but Not Lonely

Many of us students have grown to be highly independent, especially those who stay on campus – from travelling to class alone to doing your own laundry, many daily activities necessitate a certain level of self-reliance. This transition towards doing many things alone and independently might lead to feelings of loneliness to arise. However, in this article, we will reveal why you don’t need to feel lonely even when alone. In fact, doing things alone could actually serve as a nice respite from the noise of our daily lives! Want to learn to embrace and appreciate the beauty of spending time with yourself? Read on.

 

The gratifying amount of freedom afforded by doing things on your own

Doing things alone means that you have a great amount of freedom to make decisions and carry out activities that suit your own preferences. Indeed, certain activities such as going out for a meal could be a fun and social activity if you were to do them with your friends. However, indulging in these activities yourself would in turn allow you to account for factors that would positively shape your experience and mood. In the case of having a meal, you would have the freedom to choose to eat the food that you might be craving for the day, the location that would best suit your convenience, and the time at which you desire to have your meal.

Source: Pinterest

In the context of one’s (likely) hectic University life, this benefit of doing things alone could prove extremely useful. As it is likely that you and your friends’ classes take place at varyingly different times of the day, being able to schedule group activities, such as meal get-togethers, or even do small things together, such as taking the shuttle bus to class, might be virtually impossible. Hence, rather than force-fitting your schedule to fit another’s for the sake of constant companionship, it might be advisable to place your own needs and schedule at the forefront instead. Give yourself the time and space to breathe, and at the same time reap the benefits of having the freedom to do things the way you want to!

 

The only one paying acute attention to you is yourself

It is natural that many of us are afraid of being judged for doing things alone – this is perhaps best encapsulated by the acronym, ‘FOBA’, which means ‘Fear of Being Alone’. However, such a fear might be largely unfounded.

FOBA (Source: Urban Dictionary)

Can you recall a time when you’ve judged someone negatively for being alone? It is likely that your answer is no, for people generally do not pay such great attention to the actions and behaviours of others around them. If you find yourself greatly self-conscious and hyper-aware of how others perceive you, it is likely that you are experiencing the spotlight effect. The spotlight effect causes one to overestimate the attention that others are paying to them, possibly leading to fears of judgement that could produce a level of social anxiety. 

In reality, studies show that we tend to believe others are judging us harsher than they really are. It is unlikely that others would judge you for doing things alone, for they either do not perceive being alone as a bad thing (similar to what we suggest in this article!), or they simply do not care that much about whether you are alone! Know that everyone is most concerned with their own activities – they are too busy to be focusing on what you are doing, and how you’re doing things. As such, let go of your inhibitions, if any, and embrace the time that you can spend alone, rather than put it off as a result of your fears of how others would perceive you. 

 

Alone time is precious time for introspection

For many of us, balancing school and other aspects of life can be wholly overwhelming. It is completely normal to experience feelings such as stress, anxiety, and frustration. The healthy practice would be to find an outlet to understand and release these emotions – spending time alone can prove to be extremely helpful in this regard. Recent studies found that having alone time in nature can be soothing for the mind, providing one with the opportunity to evaluate one’s life and reflect on one’s experiences (Source: The Inertia).

Source: MEME

Whether you choose to spend your alone time in nature or otherwise, giving yourself space to step back from the noise of your busy life and engaging in healthy reflection is crucial in maintaining a healthy mind. By sitting in your own thoughts, you get to know yourself better, perhaps gaining a clearer understanding of life and any problems that you might be facing. Furthermore, you could even gain energy and inspiration from your surroundings, as you properly observe your environment free from distractions.


“I’m all alone, but I’m not lonely,” wrote Haruki Murakami in his book, 1Q84.

Perhaps we can all learn to emulate this sentiment to some extent, as we go about our fleeting University experiences. The prospect of having meaningful alone time is brimming with much potential – go forth and experience it for yourself (if you haven’t already done so)! Share your experiences of spending time alone (but not being lonely) with us on Instagram @nusresidentiallife, as we would love to hear all about it.

 

 

Hidden Figures of the Dining Hall: NUS College (NUSC) Paperboxes

Without having to glance up from your buzzing phone screen, a casual scan of the QR code would grant you a wholesome meal, nicely plated and ready for your consumption in the dining hall. However, have you thought about the ones who work tirelessly to ease your dining hall experience, and serve you food to tide you through your campus days? 

NUS College (NUSC) Paperboxes is a Ground-Up Initiative (GUI) led by students from NUSC, and their most recent event, ‘A Day in a Life of a Dining Hall Service Staff: Meal Service Tag-Along’, aimed at facilitating direct engagement between the NUSC students and the dining hall service staff in Cinnamon College. Participating students had the opportunity to bond with the dining hall servers one-on-one by helping out with the breakfast meal service, and completing other ad-hoc duties. In this article, we hope to shed light on this meaningful event and the conversations shared, through the lens of both the participating students and the service staff – read on!

Students in the DH putting on hair nets and gloves in preparation for breakfast service

The event kicked-off with haste at 9.30am. Students donned their hair nets and put on their gloves whilst receiving final instructions from the dining hall staff manager, before splitting off to pair up with the meal servers from the different stations. 

After bashful greetings and polite introductions, the paired students and servers gradually warmed up to each other. ‘Honestly, I went in not knowing what to expect. I was slightly nervous as I didn’t know whether I could communicate with my server well, or if we could bond,’ revealed Anne Chan (Y2, Linguistics), one of the student participants. She was paired with the service staff from the Western stall, Wan Neo. ‘However, she was so nice and very friendly from the outset that I quickly got comfortable,’ she continued.

Anne (right) learning from the Western stall server, Shiem Cheng (left)

Whilst helping to serve the meal enhancements (cake rolls, for that morning), Anne talked to Shiem Cheng about her job as a meal server. She found out that Shiem Cheng has to wake up at 4am daily to get to work.Nevertheless, Shiem Cheng looks at the bright side of this, commenting that she enjoys waking up early as it keeps her active and strong. Furthermore, she boasts of her eight grandchildren who make her very proud and keeps her going. 

Another student participant, Marcus Ong (Y2, Computer Science), had a unique experience. He tagged along with Wan Neo, the service staff in charge of the drinks and condiments station. 

Marcus (right) refilling drinks with the guidance of Wan Neo (left)

Marcus expressed his initial hesitancy towards engaging with the service event. ‘I was afraid that the aunties would be frustrated or annoyed at me, as I might cause additional trouble for them!’ he admitted. 

Fortunately, the process went well, as Wan Neo was extremely patient in her guidance. Marcus learnt to help restock, clean, and clear the drinks and condiments section. Whilst taking a photo with Wan Neo, the photographer accidentally knocked into someone holding a cup of coffee, resulting in a coffee spill on the ground. Minor accidents, such as this, actually occur more often than we realise, and it is the dining hall servers, such as Wan Neo, who have to carry out the clean up. In this case, Marcus took the spill with stride, picked up a mop, and learnt to mop the floor. 

Marcus enthusiastically helping to mop up the coffee spill 

The students managed to join the meal servers for their short lunch break, from 11-11.30am. Grabbing their own food of choice from the dining hall stations, the meal servers sat down and engaged in hearty chatter. Yufang (Asian cuisine) shared about how she was able to remember the faces of certain students, and even their meal preferences. The students were pleasantly surprised by this, for the service staff would come across hundreds to thousands of students on the daily. “I pay attention and better remember those who patronise my stall frequently!” she clarified in Chinese.

Service staff having a short lunch break (From the left: Amaravadhi, Kamalachi, Giok Lan, Yufang, Jenny)

Giok Lan (breakfast grab-and-go station), revealed that she had been working as a dining hall server for about 10 years now, since the dining hall’s opening. While she used to be part of the dinner service team, she is happy with her current morning shift, as there would still be a whole day ahead of her after she leaves work, post-lunchtime. Siem Cheng concurred, saying in Chinese, “I will probably get some rest, or maybe go grocery shopping,” upon being asked about what she would do after her shift. 

Amaravadhi (coffee at the grab-and-go station), also explained that the breakfast service team is made up of people from diverse backgrounds, and hence they spoke different languages.

Amaravadhi (right) teaching a student participant to serve coffee

While Amaravadhi and Kamalachi (Malay cuisine) mainly conversed in English, other service staff like Yufang and Shiem Cheng mainly spoke in Chinese. Thankfully, there are a few amongst them who are able to speak both languages, helping to translate whenever necessary. Nevertheless, Amaravadhi revealed that they have developed such chemistry over the years, that they are able to implicitly understand each other on a certain level, even without speaking in the same language. “She would speak in Chinese, and I would reply to her in English!” Amaravadhi laughed, while talking about her conversations with Yufang. 

Finally, the students joined the service staff in clearing their food and moving to the back of the grab-and-go station to prepare sandwiches for next day’s breakfast.

Yufang making egg mayo sandwiches, with Shiem Cheng and other students helping in the background

Reflecting upon the overall experience, Marcus expressed that the event helped him better understand the different roles and tasks taken up by the dining hall staff. For instance, he and the other students did not know that the service staff had actually prepared the grab-and-go sandwiches themselves, the day before the next breakfast service. Furthermore, he found it eye-opening to learn about the different walks of life that each service staff came from, and how they each had their own motivations for doing their job. 

Similarly, Anne felt that it was a great opportunity to personally meet the people who served them food daily. “We often tend to take them for granted,” she admitted, continuing, “I think that talking to them allowed me to empathise with them more, and I became more grateful for the things that they do for us.” 

As the students bid the service staff goodbye, they smiled at the comforting fact that they would see the friendly faces of these aunties, whom they have gotten to understand better, again the next morning.


We hope that the stories shared about this experience will spur you towards greater interaction with your own dining hall’s service staff, or even other staff members who contribute to the inner-workings of your hostel. Remember to show them your appreciation – even small actions can go a long way! If you have your own stories to share (perhaps a cute interaction you’ve had with a dining hall service staff member), do post them on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife. We would love to hear it!

(Drive to) Survive: How F1 Racing Can Be Applied to Communal Living

In a flash, we are more than halfway into the semester. For those of us living on campus, it’s been that amount of time too – just about long enough to really ease into a comfortable rhythm of communal living… Or so it seems. Living with peers in a shared space is not always that simple. Without proper communication and the building of a shared understanding, communal living could produce great amounts of stress, and relationships could turn sour. Have you reflected on your living experience recently, and is there more you can do to improve it?

In this article, we’re going to help you reflect, by using a fun analogy of Formula One (F1) racing to help you create a positive communal living experience for you and your neighbours!

Singapore’s F1 race circuit (Source: Robb Report)

The F1 race weekend in Singapore took place recently, and we are sure that many of you are still reeling from the excitement of that large-scale event. However, beneath the surface of flashy drivers and high-speed racing, there actually lie many key communicative processes and stakeholders to ensure that the race goes smoothly for each driver. In consideration of this, using F1 racing as an analogy for communal living may not seem so far-fetched. While the stakes are ostensibly higher in an F1 race, one’s communal living experience also crucially affects one’s overall campus life, and even one’s mental health. Hence, learning from the complex processes that underpin F1 racing could be very valuable. Ready for some survival tips?

3… 2… 1… Go!

 

Knowing yourself well gears you up for success – in an F1 race and going into communal living

Before each race, the drivers (and their race team) each have their own methods of preparing themselves, both mentally and physically.

Daniel Ricciardo listening to music pre-race (Source: F1)

Similarly, before entering any group discussion or event with your other peers in the hostel, undergo light introspection, and take stock of your own expectations and feelings. Ask yourself questions such as, ‘What kind of relationships do I want to form with my hostel mates/neighbours?’, ‘How do I picture communal living to be like and how should I communicate that?’, and ‘Do I have certain living preferences or habits that I hope to maintain?’

Having a clear understanding of your own headspace and expectations going into communal living would ease the process of communicating with your peers, and building a common understanding within the group. 

 

Effective communication wins races, and makes for a pleasant living experience

Imagine yourself sitting at the wheel of an F1 car now. For an F1 driver, completing a race successfully would be virtually impossible without sustained and effective communication with their race managers and engineers. This applies to your shared living experience in the hostel as well. 

The main communication process begins when you (or your peers) initiate conversations within the group, and properly engage with everyone’s opinions. These conversations could be casual and unstructured – after all, you would hope to form friendly and warm relationships with each other. However, the establishment of certain ground-rules could be helpful, especially for those living in the shared apartments (such as in Residential Colleges and UTown Residence). If the idea of having rules sound overly-serious, the group could also opt to discuss each other’s living preferences and habits, and reach some form of mutual understanding. 

Here, we note how radio communications during the race is usually a two-way process – when the race strategist informs the driver of information (e.g. the race situation, a new plan), the driver needs to listen and respond, either through acknowledgement, or voicing out his own concerns in return. Similarly, it is crucial that one spends as much time listening to one’s peers as voicing out one’s opinions during important conversations regarding shared living. 

Furthermore, there are different stakeholders involved in various communication processes. In F1, there could be dozens of people talking on the radio at any given time – different aspects of the race need to be discussed and agreed upon. In order to avoid chaos and confusion, these conversations are grouped effectively, to take place in their given time and channel. Learning from that, one can also learn to organise the different types of conversations that take place. For instance, a one-to-one conversation might be more applicable when trying to agree on noise-levels with one’s neighbour. Meanwhile, a larger-scale conversation with people on the floor would need to be initiated when trying to discuss general cleanliness and upkeep of shared spaces like the pantry. 

 

Pit-stops are necessary in life, and racing

In most races, a minimum of one to two pit-stops would need to be made for services such as refuelling and tire replacement. The timings of these pit-stops depend on the race team’s strategy, and they aim to facilitate a smooth, complete race with desirable outcomes for the driver. Sometimes, pit-stops need to be made out of necessity or emergency, even if they are undesirable for the race. More re-servicing of the car might be required for these stops, such as a complete replacement of certain car parts. Applying this to communal living, it is crucial that we go beyond the initial orientation phase and pause to reflect as the semester passes. While most of the ground-rules are typically set at the beginning of the semester, it is completely normal for them to evolve, as people settle into the actual experience of living together. 

Furthermore, depending on one’s assessment of the situation, ‘emergency pit-stops’ might be required along the way. If there are certain things that one can no longer tolerate, or if relationships turn sour due to misunderstandings or misalignment in living habits, it is necessary to convene a meeting as soon as possible. By talking things out and confronting the situation at hand, issues can be better resolved, and tensions could potentially dissolve more quickly. This ensures that the peaceful and amicable relations are maintained or restored, and everyone moves forward on the same note. Without tackling the situations that arise, problems could snowball, and this would only lead to added stress for one’s university life.


Overall, it is clear from the case of F1 that communication is a key process that pervades most aspects of our lives, regardless of the activity or situation. Having good communication skills and facilitating effective communication with peers is key to ensuring smooth and enjoyable communal living. We hope that you have had some meaningful takeaways from this article, and if you have any experiences to share with regards to communal living (or other analogies, maybe 😊), do post them on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, we would love to hear it. 

Rag & Flag: What is it really like? A collaboration between Pioneer House X KEVII Hall

Rag & Flag is an annual university-wide event that involves students from almost all hostels and faculties, and this year, it is finally back to its physical form! Students from all over campus flocked to UTown to enjoy the elaborate performances put up by the various student groups, and the Flag teams had the opportunity to hold physical donation drives. What an exciting affair! 

What is the experience of Rag & Flag really like? To find out, we dive deep into a collaboration between Pioneer House (PH) and KEVII (KE7) Hall. Through personal anecdotes from the committee members and participants themselves, we will relive the experience with them – read on! 

Introducing the Project Directors (PDs)

I’m Lin Sheng Yuan, a Y2 Medicine student in NUS and I was the Project Director from KEVII. My role mainly revolved around coordinating and communicating with different parties – National University of Singapore Students’ Union (NUSSU), the planning committee, Hall Office, and the participating students. I ensured that the planning and execution of Rag sessions went smoothly, and were enjoyable for everyone.

I’m Chia Ci Xian, a Y3 Chemical Engineering student, and I was the Project Director from PH. Similar to Sheng Yuan, I communicated extensively with the relevant stakeholders to ensure that Rag went smoothly – however, on my end, I attended more to the participating students from PH! 

 

What is Rag?

Sheng Yuan explains: “Rag stands for Receive and Giving day, where NUS students put up vibrant and spectacular performances. The purpose of this event is to appreciate and show gratitude to the public for supporting NUS in Flag Day, which is a complementary campus-wide fundraising event by the NUS community. The Rag performance was hosted at Town Green this year, and it was open to the public.”

Rag is typically made up of two committees, known as Dance and Floats. The Dance committee is in charge of putting up the main performance for Rag’s showcase day, across genres such as hip-hop, open and contemporary. One may think that experience is necessary to be a dancer for Rag, but that is not the case! For those who do not fancy themselves as a performer, the Floats committee offers participants the chance to explore their creative capabilities to create props and build sets for the performance to come to life. 

 

Why and how did KE7 and PH collaborate? 

Ci Xian reveals: “We had a common goal of improving upon our previous Rag experiences. By working together, we could make up for each other’s downsides, and enhance each other’s strengths. For instance, we combined our organising committees to maximise efficacy, and merged the little resources that we had separately.”

Sheng Yuan agreed: “It has always been a tradition for hostels to collaborate with each other, in order to maximise manpower, budget, venue usage and talents for the planning and execution of Rag. Considering the scale of Rag, it is important to have a large and diverse group of participants, which a cross-hostel collaboration can also achieve. Furthermore, PH and KEVII are located right across from each other, so it is quite convenient and logical for us to collaborate as neighbours!”

 

The Rag Experience

Megan Tay (Y1, Accounting, PH), reflects on her Rag experience: “As an incoming freshman, Rag allowed me to meet many people from various faculties. I can proudly say that they will be my friends for life! It truly was a unique experience that you can never find anywhere else.”

Megan during float-making

Gan Xin Yee (Y1, Data Science and Economics, PH), enthused: “It was indeed all about the people I met, and was a very memorable experience. I recommend the next incoming batch of freshmen to participate!”

Xin Yee (middle, in yellow) at a post-Rag beach outing

Tianyi in the midst of constructing props that will be um, broken eventually

Reflecting on the experience, Didong Tianyi (Y1, Biomedical Engineering, KEVII) mused: “One memorable float that I helped make was the breakable brick wall. While assembling the float, I had to utilise my creativity and problem-solving skills to obtain the desired outcome. As you could imagine, seeing the breakable brick wall break spectacularly during the performance made all the effort worthwhile.”

Formation of the breakable brick wall

Benny Ong, (Y2, Computer Science, KEVII), had similar sentiments, especially having been the Floats Head. “I joined Rag as it was a good opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone, and try something new and exciting. Through Rag, I have met many new people, and learnt many new skills, such as working with others to construct large-scale props. One memorable experience was the first time we arranged our completed floats in the planned formation. It looked very nice and I felt that our hard work had paid off,” Benny beamed.

Benny constructing a foldable background

Koh Hui Bin, (Y1, Business, KEVII), joined Rag as a Dance member. She revealed: “It was a difficult decision to join Dance, but I chose to because I wanted my university life to be one where I could step out of her comfort zone. Through Rag, I met amazing friends who I still meet every day, even though Rag is already over. While it was intimidating at first, I would go through Rag again in a heartbeat, with all these beautiful people.”

Hui Bin (bottom) at dance practice 

Hui Bin (third from the left) rehearsing for the performance

Lam Li Yan, (Y2, Medicine, KEVII), reflects extensively on her experience as a dance choreographer for Rag.

“Being a part of KE7 Dance, I grew extremely close to every member, and they inspired me a lot through my journey in dance. Initially, I was scared as it was my first time choreographing, but I felt less so after seeing fellow dancers and friends joining as choreographers, as I knew that we would be able to work well together. Being around other choreographers definitely helped make the journey less stressful – we gave each other helpful input, and we bonded extremely well throughout the three months. Whenever I felt stuck, I knew that they would be there to cheer me on,” Li Yan explained.

Li Yan (right) with other Rag dancers

“On the night of our dry run, an incident occurred which caused great distress. We had spent much time waiting for our turn to rehearse on stage. Yet, we were unable to do so, because of a delay in the overall rehearsal schedule. This brought great stress upon our already-tired dance team. However, everyone there was really supportive, cheering us up and maintaining overall morale. It was very heart-warming to see everyone band together to counter the problem,” Li Yan recalls. She confessed, “This was the moment where I felt closest to the KExPH Rag community – we felt like a big family as everyone cared about one another. I cannot imagine doing Rag without them.


Overall, the Rag experience was clearly a vibrant, enjoyable and meaningful one for its participating students. It is intriguing to watch how the Rag performances evolve every year, as students endeavour towards constructing creative stages to put up a good show, and raise funds for good causes. We hope that this article has provided more insight with regards to the behind-the-scenes of a unique Rag experience, as well as propel any future students to join Rag (or Flag)! If you have any other thoughts or pictures to share, do post them on Instagram and tag us at @nusresidentiallife, we would love to see it.

Prince George’s Park Residence’s Residential Wellness Manager

Schoolwork stress and mental health woes got you down? A listening ear could help greatly. In our previous article, we introduced UTown Residence’s new Residential Wellness Manager (RWM), Patrick. Here’s the good news – there is more than one incoming RWM! Wan Teng, the RWM for Prince George’s Park Residence (PGPR) shares more about herself and her role in this article, so do read on! 

Hi Wan Teng, could you introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Wan Teng! I am an RWM from Student Wellness. 

What were your previous role(s)?

Previously, I was a youth worker from a voluntary welfare organisation for 7 years. After that, I was based in China for a year and a half, working in community development, under the same organisation. Following that, I returned to Singapore and joined a social service organisation as a social worker, before transitioning into being a stay-home mom for three and a half years!

What have you enjoyed doing recently?

I enjoy going outdoors with my kids – exploring new places to hike, cycling, and just having general outdoor-play as a family. 

Have you frequented NUS before this?

Actually, no. However, when I was a youth worker, we conducted a student conference held at PGPR and hosted students from various campuses. Hence, I felt a sense of familiarity returning to PGPR for this new role!

Do you have any past experiences of working with student wellness matters?

When I was a youth worker, I mainly worked with polytechnic students. To some degree, I was able to extend mental health support, and encourage them to take care of their wellbeing. While it was not the core focus of my work at the time, I feel that it was part and parcel of my job as a youth worker. 

When I was a social worker, my focus was not just with students, but with low-income families as well, in terms of promoting mental wellbeing and providing community resources for their overall wellbeing. 

What do you think are the most prevalent issues that students face today? 

I think that anxiety is a major concern for students today, as well as issues surrounding their relationships. This comes in the form of managing the relationships they have with others, coping with the emotions that arise, and articulating these emotions and drawing healthy boundaries for themselves and others. 

Personally, how do you take care of your own wellbeing?

As I have two young children to take care of and time is very limited. Hence, simple things such as reading a book, spending time with my husband, watching movies together, going for massages, or even going grocery shopping alone, are quite therapeutic for me! The heart and mind can be quite cluttered at times, so I enjoy taking time off for myself to quietly settle in my own thoughts, and have some alone time.

Do you have any advice for students who currently feel anxious or alone?

Firstly, don’t think that what you face is weird or abnormal – such feelings and conditions are much more common than we think. A recent Student Life & Wellness survey conducted found that about 44% of students expressed that they experienced anxiety symptoms. Evidently, mental health issues are relatively widespread, and many of us experience them to varying extents. While some may cope with exercise, mindfulness practice, others may benefit from talking to mental wellness staff or counsellors. It is not shameful and perfectly acceptable to seek help. NUS has many mental health resources to support you.

Do you have any suggestions for students who potentially face mental health issues, but are at the moment unwilling/unable to reach out for help?

For these students, I refer to the Cycle of Change model.

Cycle of change (Source: The OAD Clinic)

There are six stages involved in the cycle. At every stage of change, we are able to provide different types of resources and support. In non-emergency situations, I would share useful mental health resources while waiting for them to contemplate, and prepare to eventually reach out for help. It ultimately takes two hands to clap – while we are always willing and happy to provide any mental health support that a student may require, they need to be ready to seek help as well. 

What are your thoughts about students who have tried therapy, but didn’t find it effective?

I would personally want to hear more from the student regarding their experiences in therapy. There might have been a lack of chemistry between the therapist and the student, as it is difficult for one to find a therapist whom they truly connect with. This therapeutic relationship with one’s therapist has a significant impact on the power for one to change. 

It is important to recognise that therapy does not serve as a quick fix – it is a long-term process that might not reveal any results or success at first. It is important for one to clarify expectations when going into therapy. I would advise students to be patient, and trust the process – do not be discouraged if therapy does not seem to work immediately.

Any parting words for students?

Know that I will always be a friendly face for you to talk to on campus!


Wan Teng with Patrick (UTR’s RWM) 

Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful interview, Wan Teng! We hope that students reading this article now have a better understanding of the new RWM role, as well as what to expect in the upcoming semester. If you have any thoughts to share after reading this article, do post about it on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, we would love to hear it. 

In the meantime, we have compiled a short FAQ section on some lingering questions that you might have after reading this article, so read on!

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. The 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. 

Can you tell me more about the RWM role?

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. RWM 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. SSM can advise on matters regarding modules, Leave of Absence and candidature. 

Will other people get to know what I share with the staff?

The matters that you discussed 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 a RWM or SSM can provide you with other perspectives and options to your challenges and help you better cope with your concerns.

UTown Residence’s Residential Wellness Manager

We’re deep into Week 5, and by now, the semester is starting to heat up. You may start to encounter stressful and worrisome thoughts, and you’re wondering if there’s anyone you can talk to – just to get a load off your mind. Sometimes, we just need a neutral listening ear. The good news is that, right now – there is someone just like that, in your hostel.

Gearing up for this new academic year, NUS is building a team of Residential Wellness Managers (RWMs) to provide support to students residing at NUS hostels. That’s right! You’re probably curious now about what exactly an RWM is. To answer your questions, we’re going to get to know Mr Patrick Chan, the new RWM of UTown Residence (UTR). Read on!

 

Hi Patrick, would you like to introduce yourself?

Hi, my name is Patrick! About myself –. I have been working in education for 12 years. One fun fact is that I love rabbits. I have a rabbit, and I’m trying to train her to do some tricks (normal tricks, not magic tricks!). 

Cool, what do you like about rabbits/your rabbit? 

They are very tame and lovely creatures! Sometimes my rabbit does bite me, especially when she gobbles her treats greedily when I hand-feed her.

Patrick with his rabbit, Hayley

What have you been up to these past few months?

I have been learning from my boss and team members about this new role – the job scope and the processes. Our exchanges are fun, as there are many takeaways through them. I also went to Johor Bahru for a timeout – to eat, and relax before starting work!

Have you frequented or stayed at NUS before this?

I did my studies elsewhere, so I haven’t had the privilege to frequent and stay at NUS Kent Ridge campus. However, six years ago, during my undergraduate studies, my friends brought me to UTown to study. There have been a lot of changes made over the past few years. I was pleasantly surprised upon my return to UTown.

You mentioned that you have been in education for 12 years now. Could you tell us more about how your role has evolved?

Interestingly, my role has evolved, and yet remained the same – I worked in programme, student management, as staff advisor to student council and a counsellor. In my current role of supporting students, there are similar themes – I now support students in a different capacity, in terms of mental health, as compared to some of my previous roles.

How has student wellness evolved in general, in your opinion?

I feel that it has evolved dramatically in the past few years. When I first started out in the education sector, one barely knew what a counsellor was, beyond their existence. Mental health has become more heavily discussed and emphasised in recent years. This is a very good thing, as the reduced stigma towards the topic of mental health has enabled more students to be more willing to reach out to counsellors, and the like, for help.

Student wellness support system in NUS (Source: OSA)

What do you think has inspired this shift in focus?

I think that it started during the COVID-19 period – there were more mental health cases like depression and suicidal ideations, likely because Singapore citizens and youths had lesser outlets to relieve their stress. Students have revealed to me that because they could not go out, nor interact with anyone physically due to online lessons, they felt very lonely and isolated at home. Online interactions are not ‘real’ interactions – they are unable to see each other’s faces, and they cannot enjoy the process of having that ambience and atmosphere of proper conversation or activities with their friends. 

How do you feel about being the RWM for UTR?

I am excited to be assigned to UTR, and to support the community here.  I think that all hostels are unique, and every hostel would have their own way of taking care of their residents’ mental health.  Ultimately, our goal is the same – for residents to enjoy their campus life and be happy. 

We currently have rest-stops, called a PitStop at the Faculty of Science.  There will also be a PitStop in UTown down the road, where RWMs will be on standby to support students from the different hostels in UTown. Students can look forward to that!

Considering the demographic of UTR residents, in your opinion – how would the mental health needs of postgraduate students differ from that of Undergraduate students?

In my experience with PhD students, many of them have to do their own projects, theses, essays, labs, conferences and such. With all of these different commitments, many of them have less time left to rest and relax. It is hence even more important for these students to carve time out to practice self-care.

What advice do you have for students reading this article?

Don’t ruminate on the past, or the future. Focus on what you are doing now. Take some time from your busy schedule to take a break, and do things that you enjoy. 

What are some self-care activities that you enjoy doing?

Now that I have a rabbit, I play with her a lot in the morning before work and at night, when she’s the most active. I am also reading fiction novels with exciting storylines, many of which are translated novels found online. I also enjoy taking walks in parks such as Botanic Gardens, enjoying the different sceneries there, as well as enjoying the moment itself. 

What events can students look forward to from the larger Student Wellness team that you’re part of? 

Student Wellness will be organising a Wellness Festival in October 2022, and there will be many workshops available for students to attend – either at UTR or even at their own faculty! It is also intentional that NUS WellNUS month falls together with the World Mental Health Day falls in the month of October – a perfect time to embrace self-care.

Student Wellness has come up with the 7 PitStop Principles (which are evidence-based) – all workshops are linked to these principles, which are self-care tips for students to adopt. I encourage you to find ways to weave these principles into your life, to breathe easier.

The 7 PitStop Principles

Any parting thoughts? 

Humans are creatures of habits and our habits shape us – if a person adopts the right habits, I believe that he/she will be able to feel better mentally.


Thank you, Patrick, for your rich and thorough insights! We hope that our readers now better understand the new RWM role, as well as about Patrick as a person. If you have any other thoughts or queries, do leave us a comment, or post about it on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, we would love to hear about it. Meanwhile – we’ve compiled a short Q&A for questions we thought you might ask after reading this article.  Scroll on to read!

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. The 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. 

Can you tell me more about the RWM role?

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. RWM 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. SSM can advise on matters regarding modules, Leave of Absence and candidature. 

Will other people get to know what I share with the staff?

The matters that you discussed 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 a RWM or SSM can provide you with other perspectives and options to your challenges and help you better cope with your concerns.

NUSCares: Community Service Project in NUS College

Service learning is a term that is sometimes casually thrown around in areas of community service and community engagement, but what does it really mean and what does it entail?

NUSCares is an annual community service project by NUS College (NUSC) (affiliated with the previous University Scholars Programme (USP)) students residing in Cinnamon College. Previously known as Batch Project (BP), this multifaceted service project interestingly originated as an alternative to the popular Rag and Flag, which students from USP collectively decided to withdraw from in 2018. Due to the rich history of NUSCares and the nature of it, being the first service learning project introduced to NUSC freshmen upon their entry into the honours college, it is known as the flagship service learning project of NUSC. This year, more than 40 freshmen participated in NUSCares, making up about 10% of NUSC’s new intake. In this article, we explore the origins of NUSCares at NUSC, the NUSCares’22 project and why it’s special.  Read on to find out all about the experience!

Hannah Ong, the Project Director of NUSCares 2022

“Hello! I’m Hannah, a Y2 Psychology Major, currently residing in Cinnamon College. Personally, I really enjoyed my own NUSCares (2021) journey, and it was the highlight of my University orientation experience. Hence, I wanted to recreate some of that for the new batch of NUSCares members!”

 

The history of NUSCares and Batch Project

The title ‘Batch Project’ (BP) had to be changed as a result of the formation of NUSC, from USP. The NUSC admin had plans to shift away from the notion of having a segregation between the years of study, instead hoping to engage everyone in the NUSC community, be it the incoming batch or the older batches of USP students, to participate in such activities. With BP being a project that was largely intertwined with orientation activities, the admin required a name change before the project could be re-introduced to the NUSC community. As such, from 2022 onwards, BP will be known as NUSCares. Being a part of the transition from USP to NUSC, the project also benefited from more liberal funding and a greater emphasis during the publicity campaign for NUSC’s orientation events. 

What about BP itself, then? You might wonder how the original project came about, and how exactly did USP’s involvement in the university-wide Rag and Flag transform into the emergence of BP. To fully explain this phenomenon, we will refer to this detailed article written by the students of BP 2020 themselves, explaining the origins of BP. 

According to the BP article, the debate on whether USP should pull out of Rag and Flag began in 2017, during which time a letter signed by members of the University Scholars Club (the club that manages the majority of USP’s workings) requested an online poll to decide whether USP should withdraw from the NUS-wide event and “organise an alternative public engagement performance” for future batches to participate in. While those involved in the debate agreed that Rag was effective in facilitating bonding for the USP freshmen, “there was contention over the environmental unsustainability of Rag”. Furthermore, “there was a general consensus that Rag did not achieve meaningful engagement with the public”, as there was minimal community service involved, and the beneficiaries themselves had rarely even attended the central event. 

In accordance with the results of the Rag Referendum and the poll held amongst USP students, USP eventually withdrew from Rag and Flag. However, this sparked the community’s wishes to create something similar, but even better, for the future batches. Hence, BP was founded, its members making great effort to find out the needs of the target community, whilst also retaining the performance element of Rag to put up a dance item, all while facilitating meaningful bonding amongst the freshmen. 

 

Working with children for 2022

Every year, NUSCares chooses a target group and organisation to work with, based on identified societal concerns or vulnerable groups. In 2021, Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH) was chosen to generate awareness about mental health amongst the USP community. This year, after much deliberation and online meetings, the committee agreed on children as the target group instead. Firstly, everyone was interested in working with children – they found it meaningful and important to be able to impact the younger generation when they are at such an impressionable age. Secondly, they were able to reconcile it with a societal concern of addressing environmental issues.

Hannah enthused: “I personally have always loved working with children. With children, we were able to incorporate other causes such as environmental sustainability and mental well-being, through our themed sessions!” says Hannah.  Through planning a series of educational and fun workshops with children, they would be able to slip in topics related to environmental conservation in bite-sized ways for the young audience to understand.

 

NUSCares’s Groundwork and Storyblogging committees

There are two major committees in NUSCares – Groundwork, which aims to have direct and sustained interaction with the chosen beneficiaries, and Storyblogging, which documents NUSCares’s activities and generates awareness about the community through media awareness methods. For 2022, NUSCares made a decisive choice to rid the dance committee due to dwindling interest in the dance aspect of BP in recent years, instead focusing all efforts on its work with the target community (children) and the student community (NUSCares). 

The Groundwork committee collaborated with Bethel Community Services (BCS) and Children’s Wishing Well (CWW) to conduct a series of 10 themed workshops with children. Some of the topics covered in these workshops include energy conservation, mindfulness, and living a healthy lifestyle.

Hannah conducting a waste management workshop alongside another NUSCares member

While the NUSCares committee had actually begun planning this project in October 2021, majority of the execution of the project took place over the course of their 2022 summer break, from May to July. As such, this allowed for the incoming NUS College Y1s to join and take part in the respective activities. 

Li Jiaxin, a Y1 NUSCares Groundwork member, shared that it was a very meaningful experience. She further elaborated, saying, “We got to work closely with the kids and provide them with guidance through enrichment activities (such as crafts), and they were very energetic and keen to participate in the activities!”

A creativity workshop that Jiaxin facilitated

Certain challenges were faced along the way, as described by Jiaxin: “Matching the children’s energy levels was something we had to contend with. We had to command their attention when giving instructions, because children are understandably easily distracted and start to play with materials ahead of time. We had to constantly check on everyone and help them stay on track to finish the project! When working with children, I’m always reminded to let go of the way that I think something should be done. Instead, I learn to give them autonomy in choosing how they wish to do certain things!”

The Storyblogging committee was also hard at work throughout summer, organising an online two-day bootcamp on essential skills. Newcomers had the opportunity to engage in extensive discussions on topics such as interacting with children, and pick up relevant skills such as photography basics, article-writing, video production, and more. This formed a strong basis for the team to start up their channels on Instagram, TikTok and the NUSCares blog site. The TikTok sub-committee has produced an array of childhood-related content, with one of its videos recently garnering a staggering 21.2K views! It speaks strongly to the passion and effort put in by all participants. 

Overall, the NUSCares participants have thoroughly enjoyed themselves this summer, forming tight bonds with each other whilst carrying out meaningful service activities which were also fully planned and executed by the project’s student committee. What service learning projects are you looking forward to in NUS? Do share your thoughts with us by tagging us on Instagram @nusresidentiallife, we would love to hear them!

Mental Health Hacks: Tried and Tested

Awareness surrounding the topic of mental health has fortunately increased over the recent few years, and with that – many tips and tricks claiming to be beneficial towards one’s mental health have popped up all over the internet. These range from tangible checklists of activities one could do in order to boost one’s mental health, to heartfelt advice and stories of those who have experience with regards to different aspects of mental health. 

So, the million-dollar question is – do they all really work? In this article, we will be looking at the efficacy of mental health hacks that claim to effect positive change on their user’s mental stability and welfare. Some popular hacks we’re going to explore (sourced from this Forbes article and this WebMD article) include decluttering, walking in nature, and listening to music. We have invited our very own NUS residents to try them out for you – read on to hear about their experiences and their final verdicts! 

First, let’s get to know the residents who have tried and tested these mental health hacks!

Hi! I’m Eaindra, an incoming Y2 Psychology major living in the College of Alice and Peter Tan (CAPT). Some of my hobbies include knitting, crocheting, and annoying my chonky cat. I also play Netball if there are any netballers reading this XD

Hello! My name is Ashleigh, an incoming Y2 studying Psychology. I am currently living in Tembusu College.

Hi, I’m Lixon, a Y2 Physics Major currently studying in Tembusu College!

 

Mental Health Hack 1: Declutter

Tester: Eaindra 

Before the hack, how were you feeling? 

I tried this hack on a weekend when I had some free time to reorganise my room (for context: while I was trying these hacks, I was working Mon-Fri). After much procrastination at home, I finally got down to cleaning and my mood was a 3.5/10. I was feeling lethargic and all I wanted to do was lie down on the sofa and watch TikTok, but I willed myself to start.

Experience doing the hack

30 minutes into cleaning, I decided that I should simultaneously pack for move-in day – so I did that as well. The whole process took up about 2.5 hours of my morning. I managed to clean my room partially before giving up, but I did successfully finish packing most of my stuff for move-in day! 

Eaindra’s cat in her room amidst the decluttering process

Post-hack feelings

After this arduous process, I was feeling more physically tired than before. On the other hand, mentally, I felt more refreshed when looking at my decluttered room (let’s say my mood was a 6.5/10). I also felt productive to have conveniently cleaned my room whilst packing for move-in, and I was quite proud of myself for finishing both these tasks before lunchtime (*pat pat*). I would recommend this hack if you have a messy room that needs cleaning, because I feel like the cleaner room really boosts my morale for the day! Also, perhaps do it before lunchtime, so that after lunch you can regain your energy ◡̈.

 

Mental Health Hack 2: Pet a furry friend

Tester: Eaindra 

Before the hack, how were you feeling? 

My experience with this hack might be slightly skewed, because I do own a cat whom I see daily. Hence, the effects of conducting a one-off petting might not have contributed much to lightening my mood (i.e. If you aren’t a pet owner, this hack may have more impact on you than it did for me!). I decided to try this hack on a day when I felt extremely overwhelmed and drained from work. 

Experience doing the hack

Upon reaching home, I spent some quality time with my cat, combing his fur and petting him. Afterwards, he was in a playful mood, so I played with some of his favourite toys with him.

Eaindra and her cat

Post-hack feelings

Simply seeing my cat had already dissolved all the negative thoughts in my head, and I was happy that I could peacefully enjoy some time alone with him. Overall, spending time with my cat cheered me up and I could go to sleep peacefully that night without thinking about work stuff. I would recommend this hack to everyone too (unless you’re afraid of animals or allergic) because animals are so cute and guaranteed to give you that serotonin boost! I rate it a 9.5/10!

Eaindra’s cat with his toy

 

Mental Health Hack 3: Find something funny

Testers: Eaindra and Ashleigh

Eaindra’s experience

Before the hack, how were you feeling? 

Before trying this hack, I had to deal with a demanding and aggravating client at work, so I was feeling pretty gloomy, and just wanted to go home to sleep. 

Experience doing the hack

Usually, my friends and I would exchange funny TikToks or Instagram posts and they never fail to make me smile or sometimes even burst into laughter. Hence, I decided to turn to the TikToks sent by my friends to cheer myself up. 

Post-hack feelings

That day, every TikTok they had sent felt funnier than those from previous days, perhaps because my morale was extra low, or maybe the videos were just that funny. Nonetheless, it really cheered me up, and got me smiling before the day ended. I think it also helps to have people to share your troubles with! Shout out to my awesome friends who never fail to cheer me up with their nonsense when I need it most <3. In general, I would recommend a source of entertainment that you can rely on to lift up your spirits (mine is TikTok and Instagram reels) but be careful not to get sucked into the blackhole of TikTok addiction. 

Ashleigh’s experience

Before the hack, how were you feeling? 

Before trying this hack, I was feeling a bit anxious and restless thinking about my current trajectory in university, as it felt like there was an overwhelming number of things that I was not doing right, or am plain unaware of.

Experience doing the hack

I tried this hack out by going onto YouTube, where I managed to catch a new video by a creator whose content I’ve enjoyed for quite a while. I immediately immersed myself in the video and the creator’s familiar antics, and without realising, my mood was lifted (to the point where I had trouble remembering what I had been upset about in the first place while writing this).

Ashleigh watching a YouTube video

Post-hack feelings

Of course, I recognise that this hack might not always work, especially in severe cases of mental lethargy – I have unfortunately experienced instances like this myself. One should also never ditch their unresolved problems and rely on the overconsumption of media to feel better. However, the value of this hack, in this context, lies in how quickly it can have that positive effect during occasions where one may need a quick boost in mood so that they can resume other activities with a fresh mind, and return to the initial problem later on.

 

Mental Health Hack 4: Buy something nice for yourself

Tester: Ashleigh

Before the hack, how were you feeling? 

Before trying this hack, I was feeling pretty angry at myself because I had just slept through lunch plans I made with my friend, and had stood her up by accident.

Experience doing the hack

I tried this hack by getting something from Carousell (a local buy-and-sell platform for second-hand goods). I directed most of my attention to looking through my liked items and searching up new keywords, before narrowing my options to about two items that I really liked, and which I felt I could afford to buy. I definitely felt a little calmer after that.

Ashleigh wearing her new top

Post-hack feelings

I think that, instead of reverting to the typical explanation of retail therapy being inexplicably able to make one feel better, the main reason I actually felt better was because I managed to divert all of my restless energy into doing something that required some thinking and planning, which made me feel more in control of myself. Retail therapy was definitely still at work to some extent though!

 

Mental Health Hack 5: Walking in nature

Tester: Ashleigh

Before the hack, how were you feeling? 

I was feeling a little burned out from juggling work and school matters. Around this time, my usual hobby, which was drawing, began to feel a bit frustrating to do as well. 

Experience doing the hack

I walked to the park nearest to my house, and made it a point to take my time rather than rush to my destination. Upon arriving at the park, I took the path closest to the beach to get to my usual spot on one of the breakwaters to sit for a while and watch the water. My mind felt pretty healed after that, and a very deep sense of calmness slowly took hold of me.

Ashleigh at her usual spot in Pasir Ris Park

Post-hack feelings

I think that walking in nature helps ease negative emotions such as tiredness and burnout. This hack really made me feel like I had reconnected with something bigger than myself, and that was very comforting. 

 

Mental Health Hack 6: Listening to music

Tester: Lixon

Before the hack, how were you feeling? 

Before trying out the hack, I was feeling quite distracted and jumpy from work. Keeping track of many deadlines made me feel like there were so many thoughts just bouncing around in my head, and it made it quite difficult for me to stay focused on one thing at a time.

Experience doing the hack

I decided to try to listen to some music to relax for a bit. I put in my earbuds, turned off the lights, and lay back in my bed so that I could focus more on the music. While listening to the first few songs, my mind was still jumping around with random thoughts about work, but I slowly began to lose myself more in the music. I focused on different parts of the music each time – the vocals, the instruments, and the softer background melodies. Sometimes I would picture myself performing the songs on stage, and other times, old memories were stirred up by some nostalgic pieces.

After about an hour or so of this, I found my head to be a lot clearer than before. It even felt somewhat lighter, and it was easier for me to get back and focus on work.

Lixon listening to music

Post-hack feelings

I think that listening to music is a great way to get some “active rest”. I am not someone that can just stay still and do nothing, so listening to music is a good way to get some rest while keeping myself somewhat entertained. Focusing on music serves as a way to reset my thoughts, and it really helps with clearing my head. I also find that music evokes a lot of emotions when I listen to it, so it acts as a great outlet when I’m getting overwhelmed, be it from stress or sadness.


Some parting thoughts from Eaindra:

“Overall, I think that these hacks do work in cheering you up, and they are things that I find could be easily incorporated into your life (maybe if you are not a pet owner, hacks such as petting a furry friend would be less applicable, but if you stay on campus there are always the NUS cats to pet!). To me, mental wellness is really important, so I try my best to remain mindful of the things I do and take some time to do self-care regularly (although this is really just an excuse for retail therapy at times). There are many simple ways to release your stress and I think that forming these small habits can go a long way. Simple is the best way to go!”

 

Ultimately, these mental health hacks are not meant to replace proper, long-term self-care, nor turning to professional help when necessary. They serve to help clear one’s head, and potentially lighten one’s mood. Some of these hacks have evidently helped improve the moods of the residents in this article, who have tested them out. We would recommend you to try these mental health hacks for yourself too, especially those activities that appeal greatly to you. If you do try them out, share about your experience on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife – we would love to hear it.

 

3 Lesser Known Facts About UTown’s Design

Living near, or even in, UTown, makes it easy for one to take its beauty for granted, especially after gaining familiarity with its ins-and-outs. While we may have already grown accustomed to the look of UTown, there is actually much to appreciate about its design — it has contributed greatly to the aesthetically pleasing views one enjoys upon every visit to UTown, and the ease with which we coexist and conduct activities in UTown. In this article, we hope to shed light on a few lesser known aspects of UTown which have been designed for visitors, residents, and the like, to have an enjoyable time in the heart of NUS. 

 

1. UTown has more greenery than you realise

According to STX Landscape Architects, the firm that was commissioned to design UTown, “over 2000 new trees and palms were planted on site”, and “including green roofs, 48% of the site was set aside for planting and greenery”. This astonishing amount of green in UTown shapes the overall identity of the place and allows the people in UTown to relax and be immersed in nature, as they go about their daily activities.

This notable characteristic of UTown is best represented by the ‘crown jewel’ – Town Green! This open and inviting green field sits right in the heart of UTown, and is one of the most eye-catching things in the area. The possibilities are made endless with Town Green, for students can gather here to conduct all sorts of activities. In the daytime, one passing by Town Green would be able to witness different groups of students ambling through the grass or engaging in sports. At night, residents can be found having deep talks over supper around the edges of the Green.

Trees and other plants that intersperse the man-made elements of UTown also allow such structures, e.g. a commercial-looking building, a tall residential block, etc. to blend in with the natural elements, and be easier on the eyes. 

For example, the ERC building hugs a cluster of tall trees. The branches of these trees have grown eagerly to reach past the roof of the ERC, guiding one’s line of sight to move from the ground floor to the uppermost peripheries of ERC’s open rooftop, hence prompting passers-by to fully appreciate the design of the building.

The accessible roof of the ERC has also been intentionally crafted as a garden rooftop, and these plants beautify the topmost level of the building, whilst being drenched in much-needed sunlight during the day.

Furthermore, UTown is home to a significant number of NUS hostels, namely, UTown Residence, Tembusu College, Cinnamon College, College of Alice and Peter Tan, and Residential College 4. The residents of these hostels would understandably grow accustomed to, and perhaps even become tired of, the views of UTown, if not for the lush greenery that interlaces the pathways that run deep towards the respective hostels. As seen in the photo below, the row of steps leading to the Residential Colleges is lined with so many plants that anyone walking through them might feel like they are in a nature getaway!

 

2. There are many large windows in UTown

To capitalise on the great views of the place, many buildings that overlook Town Green have been constructed with large windows. For instance, the Education Resource Centre (ERC) building is lined with multiple panels of windows, which even hug and round the corners of the building, placing great emphasis on the impact that the outdoor views have on the atmosphere felt within the indoor compounds.

This observation is consistent even for the sides of the buildings that do not face the centre of UTown. These beautifully shaped, glassy windows make the place feel more breathable (by letting in natural light) and welcoming (especially when catching glimpses of the sights of nature that lie outside)!

 

3. The open spaces in UTown are criminally underrated

Whilst UTown is seemingly punctuated with beautiful structures that create endless possibilities, it is actually its open spaces, which have been liberally created amidst the vibrant blocks of resource buildings, that allow for the people who populate UTown to enjoy great freedom and breathing space. These intentionally crafted areas, such as the open plaza that connects the lawn of Town Green and its surrounding buildings, promotes creativity and exciting activities, as they silently watch the UTown community grow and strengthen. 

For instance, the wide sheltered walkway of the Town Plaza enables the movement of large groups of people every day, to-and-fro the UTown bus stop and the centre of UTown.

On the ground floor of the ERC, the area outside of Starbucks has become a popular study spot despite it being partially outdoors, for it has a high ceiling that allows for air circulation and the occasional wind to pass through, ensuring that the area does not grow warm and stuffy. Over at the Stephen Riady Centre (SRC), the open spaces between its shops and lecture rooms now serve as perfect areas for student activities such as dance and cheerleading.

Source: World Architects

Even the walkway that takes one straight from the Town Plaza to the residential blocks is built to be a wide and breathable space, allowing one to enjoy the pleasant view of the Town Green, which sits right beside the walkway.

The harmonious relationship between nature, buildings, and open spaces is the thing that facilitates life and dynamism in UTown.  

Ultimately, while this article does not have the capacity to capture every aspect of UTown’s well-designed infrastructure and environment, we hope that you have gained a newfound appreciation of the town that so many call their second home. If you have more interesting insights to share with regards to this topic, do post your thoughts (or pictures) on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, we would love to hear them!

Healthier Food Options in UTown

Having tasty and hearty meals can make all the difference in one’s university life, especially since they serve as motivation for one to get through days filled with classes or intense studying. However, the ‘Freshman 15’ (a common term to describe the 15 pounds that students tend to gain in their first year of college education) is real, and the supper-filled nights may start to accumulate and feel burdensome for one’s health. If you are looking to balance out these late-night, guilty-pleasure meals, or simply seek out healthier food options to have as meals on campus, read the rest of this article for some recommendations!

 

What constitutes healthier food options?

Source: Harvard University 

Meal preferences and the definition of ‘healthy food’ can vary depending on the individual. For the sake of this article, we typically refer to ‘healthier food’ as food that is lower in oil and salt content, and we hope to recommend an array of options that will satisfy you with a healthy intake of nutrients, such as proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins. However, the intent of this article is not to prescribe a certain form of diet and help you ascertain what you should, or should not, eat – rather, take this as suggestions for you to consider trying out while you are on campus!

 

UTown options

A myriad of food options awaits you in UTown. While these food places are punctuated with guilty pleasures such as bubble tea or cheese fries, there are many healthier food options available too, as long as you are willing to seek them out. We grab hold of Qi Xuan, a Y2 (going on Y3) Business Administration student who currently resides in Cinnamon College, and is also captain of NUS Dragon Boat (for AY21/22)! Nothing like a sportsperson to tell us how to maximise those healthy eating calories while living on campus.

Source: Qi Xuan

“I choose healthier options because of the lifestyle plan that was implemented for the team. Actively picking healthier options helps us to maintain our physical health, on top of training our discipline,” says Qi Xuan.

 

1. Hwang’s Korean Restaurant

Source: OSAU

Try the kimbap at this place. Kimbap is a roll of dried seaweed that tightly hugs cooked rice, and an assortment of healthy ingredients, which are typically carrots, cucumbers, eggs, pickles, and some meat. According to Qi Xuan, the kimbap is quite filling, and it also comes at a reasonable price! If you’re feeling extra hungry, you could pair it with their Bibimbap, yet another rice dish topped with a plethora of ingredients, and paired with a dollop of Gochujang (a yummy Korean red chilli paste). To spice things up, order the Hotstone Bibimbap instead of the normal bowl, and have yourself a piping hot, crispy underside to your sumptuous rice bowl! 

 

2. Fine Food

Source: Letyourheartspeak WordPress

This air-conditioned food court boasts a wide variety of healthy food options. The La Mian Xiao Long Bao stall offers steamy, delicious Chinese food. “Depending on your mood, you could get the tomato egg noodles, or their dumpling noodle soup,” comments Qi Xuan. 

If you are willing to splurge a little, the Mixed Greens stall is definitely one of the healthier options there, according to Qi Xuan. Their display of colourful ingredients is reminiscent of what you might find at SaladStop! or Poke Theory, and you definitely will be able to fill your bowl with a good mix of proteins, vegetables, and carbohydrates.

Experiencing a rare, cold and rainy day? Qi Xuan suggests giving the Five Grains Bee Hoon stall a try; they sell warm and nutritious noodle dishes that would be perfect for such a weather. Otherwise, the porridge from the Hong Kong Gourmet stall comes in a hearty portion, and can be paired with You Tiao (deep-fried dough strips) too, if you wish to indulge in a bit of fried food for the day.

 

3. Flavours@UTown (aka Food Clique)

Source: NUS UCI 

Another food court, another array of options. The Yong Tau Foo stall here is a good place to turn to when in doubt. As Qi Xuan says, “Since you can choose ingredients, I go for the non-fried ones and pair them with rice, or noodle soup.” 

Over at the Mixed Veg Rice (aka Caifan) stall, you could select the non-fried dishes and have them with brown rice. To end off your meal, grab a fruit cup from the Fruit Juice stall!

 

4. SuperSnacks

Source: NUS UCI

On days where you would like to indulge in a measured amount of guilty pleasure-type food, Qi Xuan suggests ordering the quesadilla from this popular supper place. She adds on that the guilt is lessened, since the quesadilla is not fried, and is hence not an oily food. 

 

Healthier options outside of UTown

If we were to go on and rave about the other healthy food options available in NUS, this article would probably never end! 

Nevertheless, here are a few honourable mentions:

  1. Yong Tau Foo @ The Deck 
  2. Mr Bean @ National University Hospital 
  3. Subway @ Yusof Ishak House 
  4. Chinese Cooked Food @ Techno Edge Canteen

 

The food scene at NUS is ever-changing, so go forth and explore the options for yourself! (Psst, there will be a Subway opening in UTown when the new AY begins too, so do look forward to that). If you have any other solid recommendations to share, feel free to post them on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, we would love to hear them.