Last year, we invited a few residents from various Residential Colleges (RCs) to share about the modules offered by their respective RCs (in this article). With the beginning of a new semester, we are back with a few more students to provide deeper insight into their experience with a new set of RC modules. For those considering applying to one of these RCs, this article could prove helpful in informing your decision on which RC might suit your academic preferences better. Furthermore, current students can also get to know more about the learning experiences of their peers from the other RCs. Did we pique your interest yet?
An unforgettable experience taking UTW1001O for Wang Tianyun
Hi, my name is Wang Tianyun. I am a Y2 student majoring in Design of Architecture and I currently stay in RC4. I am very happy to share my experiences in reading one of our Ideas and Exposition Modules (IEM) under the University Town College Programme (UTCP). I hope that my review will help incoming and current RC4 students plan your future studies.
Here’s a surprising fun fact – I did not take a single IEM in Y1 of my studies, contrary to what most seniors would recommend. This was because of my major’s academic programme! Architecture has a rigorous curriculum and long working hours, in which one studio module is worth 8 module credits (MCs). Since IEM is widely believed to be content-heavy, I was not mentally ready to take it while I was still adapting to the fast pace and busy life of my very first year of studying architecture. I had overloaded* in both semesters of Y1 (taking 22 MCs and 28 MCs in semesters 1 and 2 respectively) so as to ease the academic pressure for my senior years. In Y2S1, I finally registered for the writing module, IEM UTW1001O (The Urban and the Wild: Reading Urban Progress in Southeast Asia Ecocritically), when I only had 4 modules (20 MCs) for my Architecture major.
Taking UTW1001O turned out to be one of the best decisions that I had made in university so far. Among all the possible topics for writing, ‘Urban and the Wild’ interested me the most. Expanding upon key concepts of anthropocentrism, ecocentrism and biophilia, this module aims to develop the ecocritical awareness essential for understanding and navigating cities in this age of climate crisis, by crucially examining the relationship between human and non-humans. The most important skill that I learnt was close reading, traditionally employed in literary analysis. However, do not be intimidated by this fact – this was not a literature module, but a writing module. The informative lessons taught us much about research and how to do citations, which are useful skills for writing in the future.
The pictures below were taken with the class and the sunrise we saw at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. During recess week, when we were doing research about tensions between the human and non-human, we wanted to see real animals for inspiration. We went to the Sungei Buloh Wetland rather than the zoo because one of my friends was eager to find snakes (haha!). Compared to the zoo, Sungei Buloh is more natural, more preserved, and more ‘wild’ in a sense. There are places for people to observe birds without disturbing them. Sungei Buloh gave me a feeling that the natural environment is actually shared between human and non-human, hence the idea of ‘us’, as humans are part of nature. In class, we discussed the importance of shifting towards biocentrism in this human-centric world. But, at Sungei Buloh, it was my first time feeling that humans are not the centre of everything, not the rulers nor superior to other living forms. I learnt to appreciate biodiversity and to respect all lives.
Tianyun (third from right) with her UTW1001O classmates
Sunrise at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (taken 22 September 2022)
Professor Jinat is very passionate and knowledgeable. She is a very kind person, and it was a pleasure to be part of her class. Overall, I would recommend this module to anyone who has existing interests in city studies or studying the natural environment.
(*Note: Overloading refers to taking more than the normal workload for the semester, which means registering for more than 20 MCs worth of modules.)
Getting comfortable with abstraction in UNL2210 with Ng Jia Yeong
Hello! I am Ng Jia Yeong, a Y4 Economics student staying in Cinnamon College under the University Scholars Programme (USP) (now NUS College).
As the title suggests, ‘Mathematics and Reality’ (UNL2210) deals exactly with the two topics. We studied mathematics as a concept and as a discipline. We learnt about the philosophy of reality, and the relationship between mathematics and reality. Since we humans model reality through science, we also discussed the discipline of science. While this module is classified as a Science and Technology module in USP, I don’t think it requires one to have good mathematical or scientific skills. Rather, it leans more on the philosophical side with its class discussions and essays.
This module is definitely very theoretical, and might be too abstract for some people’s tastes. Still, I took this module to learn about natural law – something different from the other ‘sciency’ USP modules I had taken so far. While most of us have previously done mathematics and science in school, the educational focus was usually on mastery of technique and application of theories. This approach towards mathematics and science is certainly valid, but there’s a more fundamental viewpoint that focuses on how mathematical and scientific knowledge is “discovered” or “invented”, which highlights their role in describing and understanding reality. Through this approach, we studied these disciplines at a very basic level to consider how mathematicians and scientists do their work. I think Professor Kuldip designs the curriculum well to demonstrate the key features of these disciplines, by focusing on key developments such as the number system, geometry, calculus, and motion and gravity.
Some of the questions we considered include: How did the ancient Greeks prove that the area of a circle is πr², and how did Newton and Leibniz develop calculus, which became such an important tool in classical mechanics? We also covered more fundamental questions: Should science seek to describe our observations of reality or literal reality? How do mathematical knowledge and scientific knowledge differ? Why has mathematics been surprisingly effective at describing reality? (Spoiler alert: These deeper questions are far from settled; for any answer you can come up with, there’s a counterargument out there.)
Notes during class discussion about the aim of science
Of course, the philosophical side of this module gets very meta at times. We got to enjoy discussions – and existential crises, I presume – on the nature of reality, and our knowledge of reality. While the content taught in this module was very abstract, I found the assigned readings to be very useful introductory texts for those unacquainted to the topics, and the pace of the seminars was comfortable. Given the meta nature of the content, I appreciated the gentle learning curve which gave me time to wrap my head around the concepts. This was much needed for me to do the two major essays for the module!
Final presentation slides: The “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences” is a key question in the module
In my opinion, the most important takeaway from this module would be appreciation for the foundations of mathematics and science, and perhaps a similar appreciation for other disciplines in general. As I had previously mentioned, we may already be familiar with mathematics and science, but it’s easy to forget that our knowledge, techniques, and application owe themselves to the foundations of these disciplines: things like how knowledge is acquired, the purpose of these disciplines, and the relevant premises, axioms, or assumptions. In a similar way, being aware of the foundations of one’s own discipline is useful to remind ourselves that there’s more to our field than just application.
TLDR: In ‘Mathematics and Reality’, you study the titular topics which gets very theoretical; this is a module for you if you want a richer understanding of mathematics and science as academic disciplines!
An eye-opening experience with nature in RVN1001 for Wang Yu Wei
Hi, I am Wang Yu Wei, a Y2 Industrial Design student from RVRC. I will be reviewing RVN1001 ‘The Great Extinction: Rewilding and Conservation’.
In this module, we focused on learning about the different factors that cause biodiversity loss, and wildlife conservation theories (mainly focusing on rewilding). It featured a “flipped classroom” style of teaching, where we read up on the content before class, and then discuss the readings through group activities during class. For instance, we would collaboratively create web diagrams based on the discussion topics. We also conducted peer teaching, which was integrated in the form of graded assignments.
I appreciated the emphasis on collaboration with community partners such as the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS), where they came down to share on their rewilding project along the Rail Corridor.
Starting from Week 3, every alternate lesson was a field trip to a different nature park in Singapore. The last two field trips were collaborations with NSS. We went down to Dover Forest (part of the forest was going to be demolished for BTOs) to dig up saplings to transfer back to RVRC for future rewilding. This was quite a tiring but new experience for most of us. Below are a few photos that I took during the field trip!
Nisitrus malaya cricket
Asian weaver ants
A fig tree!
Overall, I felt that the workload for this module was manageable – we had two graded presentations, while the remaining lessons centred around discussions and field trips. However, the presentations were challenging as the content required to conduct them were quite foreign to me at the time. I learnt quite a lot about sustainability and conservation practices through this module. I enjoyed the field trips and the animal identification projects the most, as it was fun taking photos and identifying insects and birds. I am not sure if the Dover Forest sapling salvage will be continued for the new semester, but it would be quite a new experience for many, as we had to trek into the muddy jungle with digging equipment to dig out small saplings before trekking out with them. If you enjoy the outdoors and wish to learn more about rewilding, this module is probably for you!
A pertinent module shaped by a great teacher in UTW1001C for Yolanda Lei
Hi everyone, I’m Yolanda Lei, a Y2 Life Science student residing in the College of Alice and Peter Tan (CAPT)!
I took UTW1001C ‘At the Edges of the Law: Ethics, Morality and Society’ because I heard a lot of good things from seniors and batchmates who took it before me. The module’s content sounded really interesting to me because I personally enjoy discussing controversial issues in society. Friends also said that Professor Jan is a very kind and understanding person.
The topics proposed for this module were very interesting. These included freedom of speech, euthanasia and Singapore’s Section 377a. Since Professor Jan studies philosophy, we got a peek into philosophical frameworks and how they influence policy making. I really enjoyed the intellectual discussions that I managed to have with my friends through this module. We talked about our various stances on the relevant topics, whilst trying to back them up with evidence. Writing was a great way for me to express my enjoyment in discussing such content.
Professor Jan was also an especially understanding prof, and I truly adore him with all my heart. Instead of the typical oral pitches that we are tasked to give in IEMs, he allowed us to do a recorded presentation instead – to me, this shows how understanding he is to those (like me) who are socially anxious and highly uncomfortable with giving presentations. He also almost always grants deadline extensions, even if it comes at the cost of his own marking time, which is really sweet of him (however, please don’t take advantage of that and only ask for extensions if you really need it!). I recall sending him an email to thank him for all he has done for the class and in general, thank him for being him. He replied to my email really quickly with an ‘essay’ expressing his own gratitude as well. Not only were the topics for this module highly relatable and intellectually stimulating, Professor Jan also made it a lot better because you could really see his passion for the topics. This was definitely a module that made me look forward to having classes, and I would recommend those interested to definitely go for it!
Yolanda and friends falling asleep after trying to write their essays
Yolanda (second from left), with Professor Jan and classmates
Interdisciplinary learning with Jade Gao in UTC2113
Hello! I am Jade Gao and I’m a Y2 studying Quantitative Finance and Statistics. I am currently a resident of Tembusu College.
A module that left a great impact on me was ‘Gaming Life’ (UTC2113), taught by Ms Cera Tan in Semester 1. While I went into the module with the expectations that its content would be somewhat statistical due to the analytical aspects of gameplay, I was pleasantly surprised when the module delved into the political, anthropological, social and philosophical perspectives of gaming life as well.
At the end of each seminar, Cera would always include a game that helps to illustrate the concepts learnt in class. In the following week, there would then be a pair presentation analysing the gameplay with respect to fundamental concepts taught in class. I really enjoyed the experience of taking a step back and looking at the game from a different perspective that epitomises the society that we live in; this also made abstract concepts easier to digest.
Illustration of concepts through an Aesop’s Fable: The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse
Due to the nature of seminar classes, the more you cogitate over the content, the more questions you have and the more you gain from the class. We got to critique the different societal structures and how power shifts from one agent to another. For our final work, we had the flexibility to choose the work’s medium and our topic of interest. I decided to make a diorama, which represented my understanding and predictions of the society of Control.
Cera is a patient and encouraging tutor who would help you explore your work and bring it to greater heights. Despite being a science student, I greatly enjoyed the humanities-based intellectual discourse during the seminar. This module is beginner-friendly and I would strongly recommend taking this class!
The stories above have revealed how diverse and interdisciplinary learning is for students under the various RC academic programmes. We hope that prospective students have managed to get a glimpse into what life could be like, studying in one of these programmes, and that current students have gotten a taste of what others on campus are learning about! If you would like to share your own review of an RC module that you have taken, do post it on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife – we will definitely repost it for others to read!