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
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?
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.