Gwyn’s Guide to NTU Modules (or: PSYCcess)

welcome to SUCCESS

Hello to all my fans. Sorry about the subtitle (thx Tar). This post is a comprehensive review of every module I have taken in NTU. For each I briefly discuss the lecturer’s style, content, assessments, workload/difficulty, and personal tips if any. I categorise modules by semester, following the chronological order in which I took them. Ctrl-F is your friend here – enter either the year/semester (e.g. Y1S1), course code (e.g. HP1000), module name (e.g. Introduction to Psychology) to jump to the relevant section directly. I also indicate the type of module (Core/Major-PE/Ger-Core/Ger-PE/UE) and number of AUs.

Background: I’m majoring in Psychology with a 2nd Major in Sociology. This means I’m doing a normal workload for psychology + 35AUs in sociology courses substituted from my UEs. Trivia: if you do the math you will realise I took too many modules and exceeded my AU cap unnecessarily. This is called poor planning, and serves as the basis of my #protip: always plan your courses in the grand scheme of your 4-year journey here. (Though I’ll tell you now that I don’t regret it.)

Disclaimer: Module syllabus differs by year and is especially contingent on the lecturer so what you read here may not be what you get. This applies most to the general modules. Niche topics, however, tend to be dominated by the same professors (Prof Ringo’s shadow looms over my harrowed soul to this day). Also note that my module trajectory is neither the definitive standard nor a guideline. I just did whatever I wanted and look how that turned out for me (not great, thank you). Finally, all notes I make are tentative and you should always take them with a pinch of salt. It is your responsibility to do your due diligence.

If you find this list helpful, share it with your friends and hopeful juniors. And follow me on Instagram @gwynethtyt for more Tips N Tea – nothing but the best, served piping HOT. Feel free to DM me suggestions for improvement or if you’d like to contribute too. I do not sell notes or essays (except textbooks). Hit me up if you’re looking for any books. I am a textbook hoarder, and I treat all my books with care, love, and respect. I also annotate the books that I read, and you know what that means! Get my thoughts in the palm of your hand… for a marginal fee!

As of July 2020, this list is not complete and will continue to be updated as I finish my final year (AY20/21). All links open in new tabs.

Y1S1 (AY17/18)

HP1000 Introduction to Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Qiu Lin
Assessments: RP (10%), mid-terms/final exam (80-90%)?
Workload/difficulty: Low/easy

Review: This is the class that all the misguided youth of NTU clamour for because they think psychology is “fun and interesting“. Extremely popular module. I’m guessing extremely steep bell curve too. Imo it roughly has the content that you would find in a pop psychology book but with more academic flair. It does a good enough job of familiarising you with the basics. Prof Qiu helped to break down concepts further by incorporating the occasional brain teaser (in the form of printouts and videos). Tutorials were group discussions on simple questions; the exams were a matter of memory. Because the module entirely relies on secondary-source content, reading the textbook alone was enough for me. Following my batch, Prof Victoria took over this module. I heard she has a different approach, so I guess the golden era is no more. But if it ever returns… 🙂

HP1100 Fundamentals of Social Science Research | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Olivia Choy
Assessments: Mid-term (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium

Review: Let me get this out before we proceed: statistics is my nemesis. It will be an uphill challenge to some, juniors and seniors alike. This is because statistics is classically incompatible with the traditional method of studying that we’re accustomed to and that typically works (i.e. last-minute mugging). I can brute force my way through about anything except statistics. Granted, the ability to command the numbers is an essential skill for any good student of psychology. It is also a badge of honour. Master statistics and dazzle your peers with your outstanding brilliance! And you will forever be in demand for group projects!

Prof Olivia is a sharp cookie. Her slides are good quality (she has an affinity for the colours black and red). She knows how to test your understanding rather than your regurgitation skills. Example: we learn about various types of interaction effects in class. The mid-terms question throws out some specific scenario where I had to chart the DV and draw out the whole ass interaction graph. Still got it wrong though. And that was 1 out of 40 questions. To stand out you need an excellent grasp of the basics – and that won’t come from reading the slides alone, not even the textbook. But don’t be disheartened! Practice makes perfect in statistics. Or so I’ve heard. That means you have to make the effort to go above and beyond. If you see a practice exercise unanswered in your notes, you’d better get to working on it. NOW! IMMEDIATELY! (For more tips, read HP2100/HP3101)

I am having so much fun with these

HW0105 Academic Communication in the Arts, Humanities, & Social Sciences | GER-Core | 2AUs

Lecturer: Alvin Leong
Assessments: “Observational research” essay (25%), argumentative essay (40%), class presentation (20%), class part (15%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

Review: Acad Comms is a unique course for two reasons: 1) it is compulsory for every SSS student and 2) it is a game of luck, because each class has a different lecturer, even though the syllabus is fixed. Since modules in your first semester are registered for you, students are grouped in classes with others of the same major. But I transferred out of mine volitionally and joined one dominated by economics students instead. Fantastic decision because Dr Alvin is an amazing lecturer. He trusted that we had the discipline to read the textbook independently and instead spent most of his time giving targeted suggestions to improve our writing. I prided myself on my Anglais skills before but was totally nerfed in his Zone. I vividly recall one time he corrected me because I mistakenly assumed that “an” preceded “university” because the latter started with a vowel (u). He kindly pointed out that the starting sound (you-niversity) rather than the letter matters – because the word starts with a “y” therefore it is preceded by an “a” (a university). English is hard.

The assignments were simple. The first was a descriptive essay. We had at least 3 weeks in advance to write it. Even O-level English students have it tougher. The remaining assignments involved writing an argumentative paper and presenting on that topic. I argued that free will is an illusion. I remember the grudging look on Dr Alvin’s face as he tried to accept my proposition. It was fun.

To score better, brush up on your English skills by reading academic essays, opinion pieces, and even fiction (for descriptive inspiration). Finish your essays early and spend 1-2 days away from it before QCing it again, so that you are better able to re-evaluate your work with a critical eye (I know this is common knowledge, but we don’t follow it! I might not even be doing it with THIS post!) Swap essays with your friends and comment on each others’ strengths and weaknesses. And get reviews from Comms Cube; it’s free! (Read HW0208 for more.)

ES8005 Environmental Earth Systems Science | UE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Can’t recall, but he was French AND handsome
Assessments: 2 mid-terms (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Height of Mt Everest/easy

Review: This module was my first S/U. I knew it the moment I saw the final paper. It was geography – but ambitious and on crack. There was the Sun, earthquakes, rocks, clouds, global warming, volcanos, the oceans… and not enough time. The top grades were likely dominated by people with H2 geography credentials and/or who were taking the EESS major in the first place. Kinda like a non-psych student taking an introductory psych module against others who’ve already taken it in poly, not realising they’ll be stepped on thoroughly. I guess what goes around comes around…

To me this module is the equivalent of the other famous UE Astronomy, except it deals with Earth. Fascinating, but heavy in content, and requires a lot of memory space to ace. A background in/passion for geography will help. The syllabus appears to have been modified since AY17/18 to include an online discussion component (20%), but is still exam-heavy.

S C I E N C E

HS8008 Understanding Culture and Globalisation | GER-PE (LA) | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ian Rowen
Assessments: Class participation/quizzes (25%), group presentation (15%), final exam (60%)
Workload: Medium/hard

Review: This module was my first foray into sociology in university. It doesn’t require any foreknowledge of sociological theories and so is accessible for the layman. However, concepts tackled could be jarringly abstract. We learnt about globalisation in the context of people flows, material flows, culture flows, whatever flows. And we had discussions about things like malls becoming nothing because everything was increasingly homogenised. The complexity of the content drove me to overinvest myself, particularly on the group project. This was the paper we had to deconstruct. Even Prof Ian acknowledged that it was a complicated piece. (He removed it in the following year’s syllabus.)

Nonetheless, it provided a unique and relevant take on various aspects of everyday life. We covered local cultural icons, the Internet, K-pop (yes, oppa), and tourism among others. The module epitomises the magic of sociology: it illuminates and gives dimension to parts of your social world that you know exist but take for granted and don’t question. I don’t regret taking it, though had I known better I would’ve counterbalanced it with a less intensive UE.

Prof Ian is stoic, no-nonsense, and exceedingly accomplished. A lecturer that one can learn much from. He was helpful and treated me kindly when I faced difficulties. As intimidated as I am, I would love to take another module under him again.

ML0001 Absolute Basics for Career | GER-Core | 1AU

Lecturer: N/A
Assessments: Recap quizzes (pass/fail)
Workload/difficulty: Low/easy

Review: I might have taken this module one semester in advance because I wanted to get it out of the way. It’s impossible to fail unless you miss the deadlines. It reiterates a lot of commonsensical pointers that you implicitly “know” but don’t practice. I recommend writing down notes that resonate with you, because you will eventually forget. I know a lot of students who just rush through it nearing the deadline. I’m no saint myself, but after all, it is a course that could be beneficial for your career development. You might as well put some effort into it.

Y1S2 (AY17/18)

HP2100 Research Design & Data Analysis in Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ringo Ho
Assessments: Quizzes (10%), mid-term (20%), group project (20%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: High/Ringo

Review: New semester, same old suffering! This time we are face-to-face with the omniscient Stats God himself. You will learn the permutations of ANOVA and multiple regression. (In the words of my idol, Prof Catherine: everything, in the end, is merely regression.) The module is well-structured and progressively builds across lessons. It puts your skills to practice; the group project substantially value-adds to your learning of relevant content (if you recover from the blow you have been dealt). But the good things in life never come easy. It demands active concentration in connecting concepts that rapidly mutate into complex forms. There is a lot to imbibe every class, and little room to falter. A weak foundation makes for a shaky building.

I thought about it. Why did I struggle so much? I have many excuses. First, Prof R doesn’t subscribe to recording lectures – apparently he compared the performance of 2 cohorts with and without recordings and found no significant difference. (Might change with Covid.) Second, and compounding the issue, classes were at 9:30am. I am not a morning person. But those reasons are hardly adequate. It boils down to me delaying my inevitable confrontation with the module until it was too late, because I wanted to avoid the feeling of failure. You can run, but you cannot hide!

me running away from my problems

Prof Ringo is a seasoned lecturer. It is readily apparent that he knows what he is doing. He’s done it so many times he can probably predict who the winners and losers will be, and how the emotional turmoil of students will play out. Sometimes I feel he is desensitised. I remember him telling me to “go back and read the notes” multiple times. Maybe I didn’t.

Good news for you all is that my failure translates to your success. To succeed in this module, it is imperative that you revise regularly. By “regularly” I don’t mean shortly before each quiz or mid-term. I mean like every week after each class. 2.5h for the exam is deceptively short. You need to know the formulae as if it’s second nature because there isn’t enough time. Catch Prof Ringo for consultations; collaborate with your friends and compile a list of questions before prostrating yourself to avoid humiliation. Practice your SPSS. And don’t burn the midnight oil for ANY assessment. You can’t handle it. I couldn’t.

Don’t worry; you’ll be fine. (For more hijinks, read HP3101)

HP2300 Developmental Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Setoh Pei Pei
Assessments: Letter (5%), online questionnaires (5%), group presentation (10%), 2 quizzes (30%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Like caring for a child/Medium

Review: Your first lesson from this module might be on how to politely draft an email to an academic superior. It’s a running joke in my cohort. This module covers early development up to around adolescence across multiple dimensions – physical, mental, emotional, and moral. The content is extensive; the notes from this module (along with statistics) take up the most space in the organising file I keep them in.

One aspect of this module that differentiates it from the other junior-level cores is its emphasis on primary research. Prof PP’s slides are frequently interspersed with journal articles, many of which include groundbreaking discoveries. The tutorials serve the function of contextualising what we learnt in lecture, usually by providing real-life examples (e.g. the case of Genie, feral child) or further expanding upon said journal articles. Two assessments – the letter and the group presentation – each involve examining a research paper and explaining it to an audience. Free marks for participating in Prof’s most recent studies (smart move).

This is all to say: pay attention to the studies highlighted every tutorial. Hell, pay attention to every single study that’s name-dropped in the course. If you can find the original papers online, even better: read the abstracts and summarise their key findings. It goes without saying that you should peruse the tutorial papers throughly. The module is heavy in content, but is not difficult – you just have to figure out how to connect the little dots to form the bigger picture. It will ultimately contribute to your skills in critiquing papers, which is another quality expected of a psychology major.

HP2400 Social Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Albert Lee
Assessments: Class part (10%), group project (20%), mid-term (20%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

Review: A fan favourite. The nature of social psychology is fundamentally compelling because it gives meaning to the world that we [dramatic tone] find ourselves inescapably immersed in. The content of this module scratches an itch in your mind that you didn’t know you had. Sometimes it rings like common sense. Other times you learn something new. It gently nudges you towards the epiphany that the world does not revolve around you (though I can at least name you one person who did not attain that realisation), and that everyone is the protagonist of their own unique story. One of the best ways to learn is to relate a concept to yourself, and this module makes it easy. For example: think about the last time you judged someone harshly for something they did to offend you without delving deeper into the circumstances. That’s the fundamental attribution error! Still gonna judge people tho, losers!

Prof Albert is a Big Personality who is adored by glittery-eyed students. He has a quirky sense of humour that makes lectures a breeze. Speaking of lectures, keep an eye out for his policy of “skeletal class notes” i.e. where the slides he uploads have ___B L A N K S___! Among other out of context quotes that I could use from him, “creativity is central to learning” prefaces the section Group Project in the syllabus. Well, creativity comes in the form of a poster here, where poster roughly means mini research project with fancy aesthetics. Fancy aesthetics has never been my forte, so I concentrated on the research. I feel that a lot of times group projects spiral out of control, but matching each person to their forte may help – research, organisation, or artistic flair. Ideally, teammates can help each other to improve on their respective weaknesses by assisting one another. Ideally. Whatever it is, don’t be that person who loafs without contributing. Nobody likes habitual freeloaders; they’re scum.

OK, before I get carried away. The textbook is pivotal in this module: you are, of course, expected to read the relevant chapters before lectures. (But who does that?)

HW0208 Academic Communication in the Social Sciences |
GER-Core | 2AUs

Lecturer: Waheeda Gapar
Assessments: Annotated bibliography (25%), research paper (40%), oral presentation (20%), class part (15%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

Review: Every lecturer has their unique quirks and preferences, and if you can adapt to those, it can make for a more smooth-sailing journey. HW0208 is essentially HW0105 with a technical edge so the content ultimately can’t stray far. Ms Waheeda, in contrast with Dr Alvin, was more by-the-book – literally. There was a steady adherence to the textbook, that cold slab of black, white and grey. Learning to read and write critically is pretty meta and can get dry – I found myself more distracted than I’d have liked to be. Nevertheless, this module is important because it lays the foundation for another crucial skill: report writing. The more journal articles I read, the more it seems to me that persuasion boils down to artful storytelling. The more compelling, the more reiteration, the more your points stick. (My social media handle is @gwynethtyt. Remember it. ASDLKLDKFD)

The assignments are easy to score – if you know what your lecturer is looking for. So ask for pointers and use whatever you can get. I wasn’t clear on her standards of excellence; that reflected in my grades when I decided to just ram through everything like a bull, as I tend to do. For the benefit of those who did not read HW0105 above, get your writing reviewed at Comms Cube. Getting an external opinion on your work helps by revealing weaknesses as well as new perspectives. Be ruthless in interrogating your own work and omitting redundancy. For the presentation, which I performed only mediocrely, my strategy was to cram all my result/discussion pointers from my research paper into 5 minutes. In hindsight, it might have been more important to catch my audience’s attention and keep them entertained instead. Who cares about the central route to persuasion when you have the peripheral route, amirite? LMAO

yes

HP8005 Introduction to Human Resource Management | GER-PE (LA) | 3AUs

Lecturer: He was always reticent with his name… Jerry? Gary? I can at least tell you that he sported a distinctive tuft of shoulder-length hair that was always slickly oiled. And wore rimless glasses. I miss his eccentricities.
Assessments: Mid-terms (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium

Review: Welcome to IO Psych for the Layman. The content covered in this course is more pragmatic than theoretical. You have topics such as hiring decisions, employee development, and performance management. Mr Cool Hair would launch into passionate monologues of the state of affairs in the corporate world. He spent much time discussing how local policies and regulations (e.g. CPF, healthcare) had ramifications on businesses. My printouts are littered with hasty annotations of his observations, delivered in rapid fire.

Many concepts here come intuitively to the psychology student. Test validity and reliability, motivation, reinforcement – our daily bread and butter. At the same time, you have business ideas sprinkled throughout the course – organisational models, equity, market forces. It’s a niche module; I doubt I’ll be applying what I’ve learnt in my pedestrian not-in-HR life. But there is much targeted knowledge to be gleaned here, with the module’s sharp awareness of the world in which it exists. It can be beneficial when searching for a suitable career environment – especially if you’re considering binding yourself to any bureaucratic conglomerate.

Pay close attention to what he says, and attend his exam review.

GC0001 Sustainability: Seeing through the Haze | GER-Core | 1AU

Lecturer: N/A
Assessments: Recap quizzes (pass/fail)
Workload/difficulty: Low/easy

Review: I am of the belief that this module should be renamed “Palm Oil” instead. Thanks to this module, I went on a Lush shopping spree because their products are “environmentally friendly” and don’t include palm oil. Should I say: primed by palm oil? Anyway, stop using palm oil, guys. (But don’t be a victim of capitalism either.)

Y2S1 (AY18/19)

HP2200 Biological Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ryo Kitada
Assessments: Attendance/online quiz (10%), mid-term quiz (25%), in-class essay (15%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: High/Big Brain

It’s impossible not to like Prof Ryo. He is so soft. And amicable. Unfortunately everything else in this module is hard. LOOOOL. Biopsych is the “hard science” child of the field. We love social and personality psych but those feature relatively intangible constructs. Here you learn about entities and processes that have a physical existence. The brain and its four lobes. The basal ganglia. The retina and its RODS and CONES. The mitochondrion being the POWERHOUSE OF THE CELL. (Wait – maybe not that one.) It feels more grounded as a result – though this perception in no way means that biopsych is more legitimate.

It is a comprehensive module, and there is much to internalise. His slides are pretty self-sufficient. The content spans broadly (from memory to sexual behaviour) and is yet simultaneously specific (long-term potentiation, INAH-3 somehow predicting homosexuality). The good news is what you see is what you get: there’s no need to get creative with the information given. Understanding the process and function of each bodily part – and what happens when they fail – is what matters. No projects! Just plain ol’ understanding and application questions! We love you, Prof Ryo! A cognitive neuroscientist, and a KING!

The assessments: be careful with the in-class essay. Because it is an open-ended question, you need to be comprehensive in your response or you’ll omit key points. Perhaps due to the complexity of the content, he allows a double-sided A4 cheat sheet in the final exam. And he instituted this particular rule for short answer questions: respond in no more than two sentences. Not AT ALL my cup of tea – how else would we have this post – but a commendable strategy to sift out the most lucid answers. He is superb at setting tricky questions, though he provides contextual detail to compensate for it. Like I said, focus on process and function.

I will end my fangirling with a heartwarming story. He used to use a generic red laser pointer in lectures. A student apparently informed him that the tiny dot was hard to see in the recordings. The lesson after summer break, he proudly unleashed his brand new $300 laser pointer. Imagine a dot except magnified a hundred times and it came in the shape of a hand pointing a finger. No joke. He was proud of himself. Again: a KING.

I am CONVINCED it looks like this

HP2500 Personality & Individual Differences | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Tania Nagpaul
Assessments: Duo presentation (20%), midterms (30%), exam (50%)? Not sure – there was no syllabus given(!)
Workload/difficulty: Easy/easy

Review: Perhaps because I found this module interesting, it was a breeze. It’s hard not to find personality theories compelling, if only because they are so relatable. Lectures are truncated versions of the textbook and readily digestible. The textbook itself is similarly clear and easy to read. No primary research or readings required here either. There are many interpretations of personality to explore – dispositional, cognitive, humanistic and more. All more diverse and promising than the MBTI. It’s a fun and chill mod handed to you on a silver platter.

I particularly enjoyed tutorials. Mr Loo Seng was my tutor. He’s a specialist on extremism from the Home Team Behavioural Sciences Centre (HTBSC), where I interned in 2016. He possessed a calm demeanor while exuding a crisp confidence with his materials. I dig it. For the presentation, we had to apply a self-chosen personality theory to a public figure. Other than ensuring that the theory clearly explains prominent facets of the individual, it may be useful to critique the theory. Lastly, the tests aren’t hard, though they sometimes demand an intricate understanding of the theories’ rationale and predictions to score. You’ll need the textbook’s elaboration and perhaps some online material.

HP3101 Applied Statistical Methods for Psychological Research |
Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Ringo Ho
Assessments: Quiz (8%), mid-term (22%), group project (20%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Ringo/Ringo

This module is my only B in university (so far). Given my prior reports, you might be wondering at this point why of all things I opted for this as a 3k module. Well… I have a complicated relationship with statistics. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. No matter what, I know I needed it, and I trusted that future me would appreciate the decision. (Even if the consequence was a B.) The problem is I, apparently, did not learn from my previous experiences of failure, and continued to fail. So let me be a cautionary tale to you all.

me entering this module waiting to be terrorised

The format is identical to HP2100. So is the focus: ANOVA and regression. Everything’s just harder. My affectionate name for this module is HP2100 On Crack Where I Get 1/5 On My Weekly Quizzes Because I Don’t Understand!. The topics covered range from clearly relevant (model fitting, simple slopes) to you might need this someday (diagnostics, dominance analysis). Honestly: diagnostics still eludes me. There are also academic papers written by statisticians(!) as recommended reading. As if there wasn’t enough for my feeble mind to fret about. Also, I wish to take this opportunity to once again apologise to my statistics groupmates ASFDFSKJ

Well, was it worth it? I can at least say I have seen a marginal improvement in my ability to understand results sections in journal articles. There remain numerous terms that are beyond my reach, but they’re not as daunting anymore. Recently I read this paper that used a contrast comparison at one point (where you compare multiple groups in combinations instead of separately, e.g. A+B vs C). It was one of the topics covered. I realised, even if I had forgotten most what I’d learnt, I roughly knew what was going on. Another paper used polynomial regression analysis and I was like… OK… that’s regression with extra steps. LOL

It’s business as usual with Prof Ringo. His exams are fine-tuned to perfection: they test understanding of key content, the ability to deliver under immense time pressure, and comfort with application and generalisation. He especially excels with the last one, likely due to the nature of his work. Mr Jie Xin was my tutor, and his enthusiasm in classes made my miserable time that much bearable. He would accommodate my questions after class and give encouraging comments. Case in point:

I could have 3 hands and still not have enough time

All my printouts for this semester share office space in a red arch file, except my stats notes. THOSE get an exclusive black file to themselves. I have a feeling I will be reviewing them a lot for FYP.

So, yeah, I don’t regret it… probably. :,-)

HS1001 Person & Society | UE (2nd Major) | 3AUs

Lecturer: Shirley Sun
Assessments: Class part (20%), term paper (30%), final exam (50%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/medium (easy for social science students)

Midway through Year 1 I became fixated on Sociology as a 2nd Major. It seemed too great an opportunity to pass up. It’s Study Another Thing You Like and Profit, But With Less Commitment. I can get behind that. The trade-off is you can’t S/U your modules under the programme (same goes for a minor), such that they are in effect cores or electives. If you are interested, here are all the 2nd Majors available to you. Plan ahead.

Sociology is a fantastic complement to psychology. The two disciplines share the same tenet: the individual is influenced by the social. But psychology begins with the individual as the unit of analysis while sociology is everything but the individual. In the words of Durkheim, social structures transcend the individual and have a life of their own. Therefore, they deserve study in and of themselves.

Similar to HP1000, HS1001 is a module open to all colleges and is thus chronically oversubscribed. The textbook title reveals much – “The Practical Skeptic: Core Concepts in Sociology”. The course covers topics that have a significant impact on my own writing: inequality, culture, and social control among others. I should note that I think the term paper’s topic is too specialised considering the nature of the course. But everything that is taught is appropriate for a general audience.

If I could recommend one module for all students this would be it, because of its enormous applicability to everyday living. It imbues you with the priceless skill of thinking about the social world critically. It challenges your assumptions with inconvenient facts. By cultivating the sociological imagination (the ability to detach yourself from the situation you are immersed in), you’ll find that life is indeed full of surprises.

HP8003 Are You Okay? Mental Health in Singapore | GER-PE (LA) | 3AUs

Lecturer: Lim Choon Guan
Assessments: Mid-term/s (40%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: I’m okay for both

Yes, it’s that module. Open book. Massively oversubscribed. Dr Lim is an actual psychiatrist with the Institute of Mental Health, so that’s cool. His slides are well-rounded, somewhat heavy in content, with frequent nods to local statistics. Each lecture is about 50 slides, which he delivers with charisma and ease. His repository of resources includes his own notes, and other expositions; it’s a nice touch that I appreciate. No textbook – it’s a personalised course. Mid-terms are MCQ, final exam has essay questions.

I wouldn’t say this module is easy to ace, though it is easy to S/U. I will note that it didn’t significantly value-add to my knowledge as a psychology student because a lot of the content is implicated in other cores e.g. abnormal psychology. The module stands well on its own however, and is a good primer for anyone interested in exploring mental health as a topic.

Y2S2 (AY18/19)

Writing in progress – check back regularly for updates! 😛

HP2600 Cognitive Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Charles Or
Assessments: Class part (10%), quiz (15%), lab report (15%), final exam (60%)
Workload/difficulty: Just right

In my opinion, cognitive psychology was just right. There is just enough content in every lecture to challenge you, whilst not overpowering. The specifics of cogpsych are far from easy (honestly, what is this) but Prof Charles keeps it accessible. He sprinkles all sorts of interactive activities in his lectures, which break the monotony of theory and keep our attention. Many are iterations of famous experiments in the field. Included also are real-life examples to illustrate how susceptible we are to our cognitive tendencies. Understanding how your brain operates to make sense of the world around you is both enlightening and exciting.

The tutorials generate thought-provoking questions and provide hands-on engagement through activities e.g. online visual search tasks. My tutor was Mr Aaron (Ang). He did a good job with elaborating on key concepts from lectures, rather than merely rehashing them. Discussions encouraged us to search for recent findings and primary research papers, only to realise that the answers are not clean-cut. They never are in academia.

The group report was interesting – we were given a set of results and expected to build a report around it. This is counterintuitive since the literature review traditionally comes before the results, but it’s nothing that can’t be resolved with some reading. To make a strong case, you will need to familiarise yourself with the phenomenon and the rationales behind specific experimental designs. Furthermore, you will need to be able to explain the results convincingly. That means Google Scholar and many references. For the quiz and final exam, ensure you have a good grasp of the major theories covered in the slides (similar to HP2300).

HP2700 Abnormal Psychology | Core | 3AUs

HP3002 Positive Psychology | Major-PE | 3AUs

HP3708 Biopsychosocial Criminology | Major-PE | 3AUs

HE9015 Undergraduate Research | UE | 4AUs

If you’re considering URECA, read this.

HS2002 Doing Social Research | UE | 3AUs

HY0001 Ethics & Moral Reasoning | GER-Core | 1AU

Y2S2 Special Term (AY18/19)

6-week language immersion in Tokyo, Japan – see review here.

Y3S1 (AY19/20)

Things got heated in Year 3.1 – with 22 AUs, I needed two arch files to hold all my notes. My term in the Students’ Union Exco had ended with the new academic year, and I figured I had more time on my hands. By this time I had already secured my spot at McGill University for overseas exchange in 3.2, so my plan was to complete more modules this semester such that I could devote more time to fussing over my Final Year Project (FYP) in Year 4. All psych students have to complete four 4k modules by graduation, with one of the four being a laboratory module. Because the lab mod is [ideally?] a prerequisite for taking on FYP, we usually aim to complete it by end of Y3. Lab mods are limited by semester so keep an eye out – content of courses is your best friend.

HP4041 Laboratory in Social Psychology | Major-PE | 4AUs

Lecturer: Ito Kenichi (proud father of his cute daughter)
Assessments: Class part (5%), quizzes (10%), group presentation (10%), individual research proposal (20%), presentation (25%), report (30%)
Workload/difficulty: Medium/easy

Three lab mods were offered in 3.1 – social (Ito), cognitive (Charles), and neuroscience (Gianluca). All lab modules are geared towards preparing students for FYP. I never had any doubt I would end up anywhere else but social lab. Guess I’m boring. Laboratory is used to describe the module in the sense that we learn to conduct scientific experiments, but most of your research will be performed outside the classroom in your own time.

Social lab was a well-structured course, even with lots of things going on. The progression of content mirrored a report: introduction, literature review, ethics application, results, and analysis. Each week, we had to read 1-2 articles in preparation for lessons, which was assessed via a quiz (10%) that was due the morning of class. One week he presented two published papers that contradicted each other to illustrate the importance of alternative explanations; that was great.

Prof Ito is humourous and succinct. He loves his daughter very much and he will make sure EVERYONE KNOWS. Lessons were short and sweet; it’s a 3-hour seminar, but we were usually released earlier. His lesson format begins with a short lecture (about 30 minutes to an hour), followed by independent or collaborative activity. The tasks are simple extensions of class material and provide good practice.

Aside from the quizzes, there were no examination-type assessments. More than half of the module revolves around an independent project. We came up with a research proposal and implemented it (on a small scale). This was followed by report writing and an individual presentation. Without a doubt, my report writing skills improved with the resources he provided. I still refer to those notes today when I write. In addition, there’s a pair presentation where we were made to partner up and explain the findings of an existing academic article. It’s nothing we haven’t done before.

*If you are intending to take Social Lab in AY20/21 Sem 1, Prof Catherine is probably going to be your lecturer. Enjoy~

HP4104 Evidence-based Practice in Clinical Psychology | Major-PE | 4AU

Lecturer: Chermain Wong
Assessments: Class part (10%), group presentation (20%), individual report (30%), final exam (40%) – 20 MCQs, choose 2/3 essays
Workload/difficulty: Everything is on fire

Evidence-based Practice in Psychology (EBPP) is more than a string of words. It is a commitment; it is a creed; it is an entire movement. And this module will etch it into your MIND FOREVER.

EBPP is the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preference. – APA

read it again until you live and breathe it!

This module is centred exclusively on clinical practice and psychotherapeutic methods. The specialised nature of the content meant that it was my first time encountering many concepts introduced. There’s a little bit of everything – case formulation and implementation, depression and anxiety, treatment models, specific procedures in treatment… I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t picture how the lectures fit together until the final lesson, when Ms Chermain literally drew a pictorial diagram connecting the major themes. That and after I read the textbook, which was incredibly helpful in connecting the dots. But by then it was too late, of course. (This should be clear by now but last-minute studying never works. Yes, starting 2 weeks before your exams is also last-minute.)

The two assignments – an individual paper and group presentation – both require direct application of the content taught. For the individual paper, we were asked to build a case formulation given a fictional scenario. It’s one of the most challenging and time-consuming assignments I’ve had to do. The good news: all the resources we needed to write the paper were compiled neatly for us beforehand; we only had to download and read them. The bad news: the amount of reading to do was monumental. There was no word limit, so I ended up with a 28-page report. One thing she did that I have mixed opinions about was sharing a model report submitted by an ace student a few years prior. Because the entire class now used it as reference, everyone’s papers were virtually identical. The best students stood out by thoughtfully including elements that were typically overlooked. I was not one of them, so don’t ask me. HAHAHA

me but I am Bowser

The group presentation was a nightmare. It was again a case formulation. The instructions were simple: create from scratch a character presenting with any disorder, and tailor a comprehensive treatment plan. There were other pointers, but we otherwise had absolute freedom. I struggled a lot with the lack of boundaries due to the infinite choices at every turn. The four group presentations that emerged from the same class were diametrically different as a result. The discrepancy was so great at times I felt physically uncomfortable. Ironically, this group situation was antithetical with that of the individual paper. What a time to be alive.

I must append this section by saying I underestimated this module, which at least partially accounts for my less-than-optimal experience. 4000-level modules are meant to be specialised and consequently challenging; that is why their weightage is greater (4AUs). There were many motivated students in that class who fared better, and who likely have more positive testimonials. It remains a valuable opportunity for students who are considering a career in clinical psychology.

HS2001 Classical Social Theory | UE (2nd Major) | 3AUs

Writing in progress

HS2005 Organizations and Organizational Change | UE (2nd Major) | 3AUs

HS2028 Graying Society: Issues & Challenges | UE (2nd Major) | 3AUs

ET0001 Enterprise & Innovation | GER-Core | 1AU

ML0002 Career Power Up | GER-Core | 1AU

Y3S2 (AY19/20)

Semester exchange at McGill University in Montreal, Canada – see review here.

Y4S1 (AY20/21)

Studying now

delusion angel

daydream delusion
limousine eyelash
oh, baby with your pretty face
drop a tear in my wineglass
look at those big eyes
see what you mean to me
sweet cakes and milkshakes
i am a delusion angel
i am a fantasy parade
i want you to know what i think
don’t want you to guess anymore
you have no idea where i came from
we have no idea where we’re going
launched in life
like branches in the river
flowing downstream
caught in the current
i’ll carry you, you’ll carry me
that’s how it could be
don’t you know me?
don’t you know me by now?

david jewell (before sunrise)

nippon banzai (a language immersion story)

all opinions in this article are my own. pictures are mine unless otherwise stated.

I travelled to Japan to study in Waseda University as part of a language immersion programme under NTU, from 17th June – 26th July 2019. (That was almost a year back because I forgot about this post, but better late than never.) It was the final phase of my transformation into full-fledged weeb. As a model student ready to champion NTU at all times, I hereby report my experiences for my fans.

じゃあ、始めましょう (well, let’s begin)!

Brief background (ripped from Wikipedia): Waseda University is a private research university with its main campus in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Established in 1882, it is consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the country. Undergraduate enrolment numbers stood at 42,000 in 2018 – about 1.8 times the number that NTU has. It also seems exceptionally popular as an exchange destination for students from overseas. Its list of alumni include seven Prime Ministers of Japan, as well as every bibliophile’s wet dream, Haruki Murakami. (Now you know why I went.)

The application period

I learnt about the programme via an email from GEM Discoverer. Yes, this is a friendly hint that you should check your email more often.

click for more details. picture taken from Waseda University

I had a ball of a time with the application process. Before applying directly with Waseda, I had to be offered placement under GEM Discoverer. Declaring my desire was simple enough, involving filling up one electronic form on the iNTU portal. Considering what was to come with Waseda University’s application, I am obligated to applaud the efficiency of the NTU registration system. In fairness, I will also mention that I was offered placement two days before Waseda’s application deadline.

Upon obtaining NTU’s approval, I was directed to the Waseda University administration, where a separate application was required on that end. For the summer course I was applying for, four levels were available: (1) lower beginner, (2) upper beginner, (3) intermediate, and (4) advanced. Note: being able to read and write hiragana and katakana is expected even for lower beginners. On top of the intensive Japanese programme (3 or 6 weeks), applicants could also opt for a “skill-based programme” held in the morning – it was 3 weeks long and held concurrently with the intensive programme. Each focused on a specific skill e.g. conversation. A peer, despite studying at one level lower than mine, handled restaurant situations better than all of us by the end of the programme because he did a skill-based course related to dining out. As for me – well, I spent my mornings in bed.

good morning, or should i say, good sleep.

The real party was the enrolment procedure, though. Not sure if this implies something about the Japanese bureaucratic practices even today, but part of the process involved physically mailing a series of printed, hand-signed hardcopy documents. Bonus misadventures when I wanted to submit my N5 certificate as supplementary proof, but I couldn’t find it, and it wasn’t available online, so I had to contact JLPT directly to ask for it, and then they had to send me the copies by international mail, and then I had to scan the physical copies, but hey, at least I paid nothing for it aside from my time and sanity. The final round of acceptance documents were, similarly, addressed to me via physical mail. As with all overseas exchange procedures, my advice is to begin early, because the application of certain documents (esp. your academic transcript) takes time to process and collect. Thankfully, despite the tedium of the enrolment process, what was to come made up for my misery many times over.

Adventures in wonderland

Ah, yes, the trip, the main course. Japan gave me the freedom to do so, so much. Here are some of the places I visited, or activities I did:

  • Watched three firework shows

The Japanese take pride in everything, and you best believe their firework festivals are overkill. The largest one I attended was the Adachi Fireworks Festival, which according to this source lasted an hour, included 13,500 fireworks, and was attended by over 600,000 people. And that’s merely the tip of the fireberg. Fun observation at the event: there was extensive choping behaviour. Groups of people came in advance (probably the day before) to lay out their picnic mats to demarcate the zones where they would sit on the grass. Some of them even had family names pasted in scotch tape over them. What was most fascinating was how those choped spots were thoroughly respected, even if the occupiers did not turn up. So in the middle of a packed area you would have a group of people huddling real close to each other on a small mat while an empty large mat that was not theirs lay right beside them. The event was free, but key areas and view spots were reserved and could be purchased in advance. There was even a package to sail down the river and have a lovely dinner below the fireworks.

  • Visited temples and shrines
even got a fortune slip at one. it says my luck will be OK. LOL
  • Screamed for my life at extreme theme park, Fuji-Q Highland (4 world records)
move over, USS.

My friends and I left Fuji-Q trembling. Every adrenaline junkie’s dream. On one rollercoaster, I did not hear my seat partner make any sound because he was frozen in pure terror. Another one launched into silent prayer at some point. It was hilarious. The muscle aches the next day were worth it.

  • Celebrated at izakayas – you know it.
horse sashimi

I tasted basashi, or horse sashimi, for the first time at an izakaya. Horse meat is also known as sakuraniku (cherry blossom meat) because of its appearance and history. It looks like tuna, tastes like lamb but less gamey, and is very chewy. Later on, I chose basashi as my topic when we were asked to present on unique foods in Japan.

  • Observed a live tuna auction at Toyosu Fish Market (and had some after)
  • Reached paradise at Oedo Onsen Monogatari, a hot springs theme park. (Really though, a hot springs theme park. #Believe.)
beautiful ladies ready to conquer
  • Visited a cat cafe
meow
  • Visited a maid cafe, where the theme was futuristic cat maids. (Don’t ask me. Also, no pictures, unless you pay. I didn’t pay.)
  • Feasted on sinful foods at random festivals
i had candied apple for the first time. yumz
  • Trekked to see the view from Kannonzaki Lighthouse in Yokosuka, a city notable for its navy and American influences.
  • Entered a Japanese battleship, Mikasa (converted into a museum)
  • Watched an arm-wrestling competition. It is an a r t
the boys were going wild over this ship
  • Donated money to the local arcade centres, damn their claw machines
  • Hiked Mount Takao (it was great, but the onsen at the foot of the mountain was better)
perhaps it’s inaccurate to say trekked considering we took an elevator halfway up.
  • Spent hours in bookstores! SO MANY BOOKS!!!
  • Honorary mention: completed the campaign mode on the original Bishibashi – located in a baseball park. Hit a few hard balls while I was at it, too.
hmu for challenge anytime sis

It’s hard to overstate the impact of the trip on me. It was an escapist fantasy, except very real. Even my health improved – the number of steps I took soared to 9,200 and 12,500 in June and July respectively. It may not seem like much to the typical athlete, except my average in May before I took off was 5,000. I guess this is called relative improvement. My skin cleared (y’all have NO idea. I did not go for any facial treatments in Japan but my face condition was A for Amazing). I lost weight (the first thing a bunch of people would say upon seeing me was “what the hell, you slimmed down!” ??? I’m sure I’ve gained it back, though). I was productive (my final report for URECA was submitted mid-way through the programme, AND I completed another long blog post). Most of all, I was happy. Then again, it’s hard not to be ecstatic everyday when you’re studying what you love, and spending time with people with common interests.

But halt the thought that I was there only to play: sister here was there to work hard. To strive and to achieve. I had opted for the 6-week course. Lessons were from 1pm-4:30pm, Mondays to Fridays, for approximately 90 hours in total (excluding break times). For reference, one 3AU module in NTU counts for 39 hours. This means I completed the equivalent of more than a year’s worth of Japanese in NTU within that six weeks I was there. Correspondingly, I will receive 6 AUs under my UEs. We burned through a 300-page textbook. On average, we had two quizzes per week and one test fortnightly. On top of that, we had to deliver two presentations. And you know mugging is an evolved instinct for us NTU students – it was common to hear “ah sorry, tonight cannot go out cuz I need to go back and prepare” LMAO.

Teaching is learning

The above phrase is taken from one of my favourite lecturers in Waseda. When I first arrived, I was overwhelmed. I could barely speak a word, despite having studied Japanese for three years in Ngee Ann Polytechnic (trivia: I graduated with a Diploma Plus in Japanese. Another reason to go to Poly, kids). But I had not practiced it for so long – since I began university – so I struggled. I recall this incident at a liquor store, around the first week of my studies. As I entered furtively, the elderly shop owner hobbled towards me with his arms curled proudly behind his back.

Owner: [In Japanese] Are you looking for anything? (I inferred this from the context)

Me: Ah… I…. sumimasen.

gwyneth embarrasses herself, part 1/infinite

I wanted to say I can’t speak Japanese, but I couldn’t even say that (at that point)! Absolutely appalling. Amidst my chagrin, he tilted his head and said 大丈夫 (daijyoubu, “it’s okay”) in the driest tone ever. I still have no idea what to make of it, frankly, but he intimidated me enough for me to buy two drinks from that place. Help.

As the lessons progressed, my standard improved by leaps and bounds. I was still having trouble understanding my surroundings most of the time, but there was one moment that stands out in my memory. Later in the trip, I was drawn into a tea shop, where I was offered some sample red tea by a smiling attendant. I sipped it, and was surprised to taste something distinctively gassy and sweet. So I asked her, in Japanese, how to make it (easy enough – point to the cup and use the verb “make”). Where it all came together was when she replied. As she enthusiastically explained that I had to steep 2 of those tea bags overnight in a particular Japanese soda brand bottle, I realised I understood what she was saying! I was shookt. It’s harder than it sounds because the Japanese sentence structure is diametrically opposed to that of English, plus they speak so quickly. (Have I ever mentioned that the speakers in listening comprehension exercises sound like they’re on steroids to me?)

natural loser

The lecturers at Waseda University were wonderful. My class had four lecturers, allocated to specific days of the week. Each had their own quirks and teaching styles, but all were kind and accommodating. All adhered to the predefined syllabus introduced at the beginning of the course. It was specific down to the exact chapters and points that would be covered on any given day – if you missed a class, it was easy to catch up. During class, there were a lot of interactive activities and conversational practice. I believe that’s what made the learning experience stand out – the social element of it. You can study grammar at home, but only in class do you get to rehearse with peers of your standard.

At the end of the programme, my class made a card for each of our lecturers to thank them for their time and service. I remember their surprised and glowing expressions; it’s the little things that make the memories.

Culture, food, and everything else

The day-to-day experience is not easy. Everything is in Japanese. You are expected to be able to communicate in Japanese, and there is no contingency plan if you can’t. It was most difficult at the beginning, where I often fell into situations that required help. For example, when I first arrived, I lost my way in the metro and did not know which train to take. I tried to ask a conductor for help, but he could not speak English. We could only gesture wildly to each other to no avail. Then, I bought the wrong ticket, and I couldn’t change the fare or the destination. In exasperation, the two conductors simply confiscated my ticket and pushed me out back into where I began without a refund.

The intense environment is not without its perks – you learn to adapt and all that brute practice pays off. Another encounter, when I wanted to top-up my Pasmo card (their ez-link) at the Family Mart:

Me: [In English] Hi, is it possible to top-up my Pasmo card?

Attendant: Uh – ah – (doesn’t understand)

Me: (Oh no he doesn’t understand Eigo)

Me: [In Japanese] Ka – do …. cha – ji….

Attendant: [In Japanese] Ah, you want to charge your card? Sure, please tap here.

?????? All I did was pronounce “card charge” in Japanese

There is a foreigner ‘charge’ of sorts. My friends and I went to a classy sushi restaurant in the last week of the programme. By that time, our skills had been honed enough to read the Japanese menu (armed with an electronic dictionary and a lot of back-and-forth). This also meant that we were able to comprehend the waitress when she explained in Japanese that the English menu charged more for the same dishes. At least they’re honest. Considering the English menu consisted of only set meals and did not offer nigiri sushi (which is the prime reason one visits a sushi restaurant!), all that decoding paid off. That and the surprised gasp of the guy receiving us at the counter when he realised, “you guys can speak Japanese!” – exclaimed in English of course.

That didn’t stop the chef standing at the counter a few steps away from silently judging us whenever we read the name of a dish out loud in a stilted accent, LOL.

Friend [reciting out loud]: Kuruma ebi? What is that? (lit. ‘car prawn’ = Japanese tiger prawn)

(chef flinches in the distance)

Here are some of my favourite classic foods:

sashimi assortment. with alcohol. HEE
negitoro don (mashed tuna over rice). i like to top it off with raw egg.
chazuke topped with tuna. you pour broth from the teapot into a bowl of rice.
raw wagyu beef over rice. thanks cheryl
no japan food selection is complete without the author declaring they ate ichiran ramen.

As you can tell, I had a lot of raw meat/fish, raw eggs, and rice. Want health? #GoRaw

Friendship is magic

I went into the programme not knowing anyone. Naturally, I was filled with a Deep Existential Fear that I would have to be alone for six weeks. Thankfully, the others from NTU were accepting and welcoming, and soon my worries were assuaged. We’d go out almost everyday after class together, feasting on delicacies, visiting new places, and sharing our hobbies. I have them solely to thank for all the things that I managed to do.

judgement-free zone.

I got to meet people from all walks of life via the programme, too. In my class alone, there were students who hailed from the US, Britain, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan. I had thought that we would be of similar age too, but no! Not only were there university students, there were working adults and even retirees in the pool. While we might have varying motivations, all of us were brought together by our passion for the language and culture of Japan.

with friends from taiwan.

All in all, I’m deeply grateful to have had this opportunity. Without NTU, I wouldn’t have known about this programme. It also led me to discover a circle of friends with whom I can unabashedly be my weird self around (because they’re weird too). It was the best of both worlds: a time to relax and lose myself, while simultaneously learning new skills and being productive. It is, indubitably, a highlight of my university experience. I learnt a lot and had an insane amount of fun. I’d recommend this programme for anyone who is genuinely interested in advancing their language skills, or who derive joy from learning. P/S: I suspect they don’t bell curve, L O L

my classmates and my other favourite sensei.

Quick summary (tl;dr)

  • Under GEM Discoverer, apply at iNTU
  • Language Immersion Programme
  • 3 weeks or 6 weeks (3/6AUs respectively)
  • Subsidies are available
  • Legitimately beneficial for language skills
  • Amazing environment to practice
  • No bell curve?
  • Lots of admin work (at the beginning)
  • Lots of freedom
  • Culture shock is real
  • Fun and friendship is very real
  • Reality seems unreal
  • Definitely a highlight of uni life
bonus content!

weekly jam, #9

slchld – she likes spring, i prefer winter

What you’ve been dying to see
Would you be that flower for me
I prefer marigold
But its the lily from the valley that you want

Jasmine, marigold, winter soul yeah
Whichever blooms first I might call you by that
Whatever you’d like
Daffodil or tulips cause I really don’t mind
If that makes you happy then I’ll be happy too

Girl give it up, give it up, give it up, it’s here
Don’t let it hurt, let it hurt, let it hurt, nothing left to fear
Winter or spring it don’t matter to me, as long as you’re here
I can keep you warm till spring comes (x)

virgin crisis

“But virgin girls are the best, right?”

good, better, and best – who determines the rest?

As my fans and haters are well-aware, Gwyneth is a feminist (and the whole world must know). That’s a loaded label that can mean a lot of different things depending on who you are and what you believe. Not everyone can relate to my definition of it, i.e. equality of the sexes. In fact, there exists a notable group of people who sincerely believe that men and women have achieved equality in society (and by extension, that the ladies don’t know their place by asking for more). Evidently, they have never taken a class in sociology, but then again I’ve never taken a class in men’s rights.

Yet because I am equipped with debilitating self-awareness, I recognise that I can’t criticise others for being keyboard warriors without being hypocritical. I’m the liberal here, and liberals are only good for getting triggered :-). So I’ll save you the trouble and call myself out first. The difference between me and the rats out there is that I hope to impart a lesson through this piece, rather than merely inconveniencing others. If I am a keyboard warrior, at least let me be an enlightened one.

baby g in her natural habitat.

Disclaimer before we proceed: this piece is written in opposition to a specific subtype of man. Certainly, it would be unfair to generalise the beliefs and behaviours of a select few to the entire population, so I would like to clarify in advance that I am in no way saying “all men are trash”. If you’re reading this and it hits too close to home, know that I frame your opinions as a manifestation of social evil. That is to say, I may have personal vendettas against you (as you may have with me), but for the purposes of this essay, I am discussing the problem at a group level. For stylistic and venting purposes, I will also be pulling ad hominems – because I can and I want to. To sum up, the entire argument to follow is grounded on three cornerstone assumptions.

  1. Gender inequality exists.
  2. Men as a group, vis-à-vis women, occupy a superior position in the existing social hierarchy.
  3. Regardless whether individual males are aware of, or acknowledge this imbalance of power, they are beneficiaries of a structure that systematically privileges them on most grounds.

I understand that the above may be contradictory. If you are confused or simply disagree, feel free to defend yourself by hashtagging #notallmen. It’s the quickest way out and you don’t even have to expend any mental energy. This is also not to say that the lives that males have by virtue of their existence is a path of rainbows and flowers. But overall, they do get away with a lot more. If I had to elaborate further I would require the space of another blog post, but why expend the effort when we have Wikipedia and Google Scholar?

Well then, if you’re still here, let the proselytising begin.

THE LEGACY OF SEXUAL DISEMPOWERMENT

Where do I begin my journey of triggeredness? All it took was a single statement, really. Virgin girls = best girls. But as we will learn, nothing is ever that simple. A single statement can reveal a lot about one’s underlying perspectives and values.

Slut-shaming has existed for eons, though it emerged in popular discourse more recently. In short: it’s the act of denigrating women as long as they are perceived to fall outside acceptable standards of (sexual) behaviour. To simplify my explanations, I will let the pictures do the talking. They range from subtle to blatant. And, sadly, it can be perpetrated by women too.

absolutely. It’s also usually young women who get slut-shamed.
i lost it at penis punching bag

Slut-shaming encompasses a wide range of aspects – anything from dress to the number of sexual partners. Sound familiar?

VIRGIN GIRLS ARE THE BEST

A picture says a thousand words. So do statements, especially when they come with a ton of Bigotry Baggage. Here, together, let us break down what “virgin girls are the best!” really means, irrespective of the identity of the person who advanced it.

  • Virgins = good.
  • Non-virgins = not so good.

Let’s spice up the above by assuming that the person is speaking of virginal status before marriage. It flows logically: without it, the speaker would merely be reduced to someone with a fetish for virgins, plus they would be attacking everyone around them who is not a virgin, including their parents. Perfectly valid, except rather strange. Now, the implications rise.

  • Unmarried virgins = good
  • Unmarried non-virgins = not so good
  • Based on the above, losing your virginity before marriage somehow degrades you or makes you less desirable as a female (girl).
  • Sound familiar?

In the following section, I express my reservations with the above logic, or should I say plainly, slut-shaming mentality. They come in two forms. First, the emotional “effeminate” argument, where I just get mad and yell because women are apparently more emotional creatures. Second, to counteract the previous statement, we have the logical “masculine” argument. But don’t worry – there isn’t much substance in the latter either because, well, there’s not much you can put against irrationality, ha ha.

r/menwritingwomen

The ad hominem, emotional, feminine argument, where I attack the person behind the argument instead of targeting its content because I’m triggered. Think of all this repressed anger as the inevitable culmination of a whole lifetime of misguided individuals attempting to instruct me what I should or should not do with my body.

Some boys (not real men, since we’re playing the game of “constructing arbitrary differences within groups”) really be out there saying bullshit like this before they, in the same breath and without a trace of irony, ask me why I detest the male enterprise. For the benefit of all then, I have to explicate my distaste by overtly referencing dumb quotes that I can’t believe I’ve heard sometimes.

What’s worse than a chauvinist? A chauvinist who acts as if he is a proponent of gender equality, while acting to limit the freedoms of women. Kudos for creating an artificial distinction between women on the basis of their private affairs that has nothing to do with you in the first place. You’re not the one sticking your dick into them anyway, so why is it any of your business? But then again, it’s not as if we haven’t had centuries of experience of men sticking their noses (and dicks) into places where they don’t belong (see: abortion), because ~women are weaklings that need to be protected by their morally and intellectually superior counterparts~.

It’s okay, you can simply write me off as a dumb female going on a rant about imaginary oppression that doesn’t even exist. There’s so many other more meaningful things that one can focus on – like sieving out the virgin females to chase. Not that you’re getting any either way.

The logical, rational, masculine argument, where I attempt to present a coherent argument against this virginal rubbish, though I shouldn’t have to because any decent person who respects others would realise that this line of reasoning is problematic in the first place. Whoops, ad hominem!

I decided to rephrase my argument in a way that appears logical, since well, ladies are too emotional and need to be more rational. Side-track: yes, I was informed by a kind man recently that inherent biological differences between men and women mean that the latter are predisposed to be more emotional creatures. Of course I had to deconstruct his argument thoroughly by repeatedly asking questions to clarify, because no smart man, virgin or not, will explicitly acknowledge that he actually holds such beliefs without some prodding. Because of how broad this statement is, let’s delve in a little deeper to investigate: what emotions are we talking about? To what extent do they differ, and why do they differ? Consider the following from a psychological study on gender differences in emotion. The frequency and intensity of emotions experienced by men and women from two samples (Australian/International) was measured. Effect size refers to the “practical magnitude” of the phenomenon in question.

[In the Australian group], there are significant gender differences for the frequency of Affection, Joy, Pride, Fear, Anger, and Sadness. The effect sizes for Affection, Fear and Sadness are small, and those for Joy, Pride and Anger are extremely small. In terms of intensity, significant differences are only found for Affection, Pride, and Sadness. The effect sizes for Affection and Pride are extremely small, and that for Sadness is a small effect. The means for Pride are in the opposite direction from the other positive emotions with males scoring higher than females.

In the international group, there are gender differences for the frequency of Affection, Joy, Contentment, Fear, Anger and Sadness, with females scoring higher in all cases. The effect size for Anger is extremely small and none of the others is more than small with 0.30 for Affection being the largest. The results for intensity in the international group differ from the Australian. Significant gender differences, with females scoring higher, are found for all emotions except Pride. Apart from the extremely small effect for Guilt, the other effect sizes fall within the range of small effects.

From these results it is apparent that there are significant gender differences in the reported frequency and intensity of some emotions, particularly in the international group. But the differences are uniformly small or extremely small. Any stereotyping of females as more emotional than males for these emotions is, therefore, based on small differences between the genders. […] This interpretation lends support to views like Brody’s (1997) that the perception of gender differences in emotional expression are exaggerated by stereotyping, and are acquired during the process of socialization rather than being physiological or neurophysiological or genetic in nature, Buss (1999).

Gender and Emotions, Brebner (2003) – emphases mine

(You know, some research has found that men tend to be angrier than women. But you can probably tell from this post alone that I am chronically angry too. LOOOOL.)

With that addressed, let us revert to the point. On what basis is a virgin “better”? We’ll leave the scripture part out of this, because otherwise there would be no need for a “rational” segment of this piece. Actually, that doesn’t leave much to address, but I’ll do my best.

THE PERILS OF MARRIAGE

Why is marriage in particular so revered as a milestone? Sure, it is a rite of passage signifying commitment and usually stands as a celebration of love. But does being unmarried dilute the love that two people (or more, if you like) share? Radical concept in our society for now, perhaps, but there is a rising trend of unmarried parents in the world today. These people possess all the characteristics that a married couple would have – cohabitation, children, long-term commitment – everything sans the legal binding. Are they less “good”, just because they decided to have pre-marital sex?

And not even marriage is a guaranteed. There were 7,344 divorces and annulments in 2018. What if two people (both abstinent prior to marriage) wed and then have spectacular coitus, but decide to divorce later on? Since they are now technically single but no longer virgins, what category do they fall under? Are they inferior beings until they remarry? Surely it is apparent by now that determining the worth of a person via such arbitrary standards makes for sticky situations.

This is merely a conjecture on my part, but it almost seems as if the desirability of a virgin to the believers of premarital-virgin supremacy lies in the [female] virgin’s propensity to be deflowered. So that you belong solely to the one who marks you, as if you’re territory to be conquered by dick. The pinnacle of objectification. Sorry but that only works in young adult erotica, which is the furthest thing removed from reality possible. (People in there neither need lubricant nor have refractory periods at all. But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

Lastly, if you’re having sex only for the purpose of procreation, I can only say I feel sorry for you. Not a valid argument, but really. Really.

CRITICAL COMMENTARY: IT’S YOUR CHOICE

I have no qualms against virgins, male or female. Prude-shaming is as toxic as slut-shaming. It is fair game if one has a sexual preference for virgins or non-virgins. That’s fine. That’s like having a preference for males or females, or even neither. Or like, BDSM play (shame me more, daddy!). What is not fine is attempting to impose your standards on others regarding what is considered good, bad, pure, impure, right, and wrong on matters relating to their bodies. The issue is compounded when it disadvantages certain groups over others.

It makes me most sad when I see women themselves slut-shame each other, or subscribe to these outdated ideologies. Imagine learning to hate your natural propensity for pleasure – very much a part of you, and your body – because you were told that your desirability as a person somehow stems from suppressing your sexuality.

damn liberals be coRRuptiNg thE sOciAL orDeR

My main goal of writing this piece was, surprisingly, not to let my anti-feminist counterparts know how misguided they are (still, if the shoe fits, you are welcome to wear it). Change comes from within, rather than outside. This was targeted at my readers who are ambivalent about this issue or who find themselves taking a middle-ground on such matters. Slut-shaming hurts both men and women. It is a tool of control. Remember that the next time you’re reading an article and find yourself exacting certain standards that may not be fair to all parties involved. Remember that when you hear your friends making a demeaning comment disparaging someone because they “stepped out of line” on some arbitrary standard of sexual behaviour. If they want to have sex with 30 people because they can, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, you don’t have any right to lecture them. You’re not superior because you didn’t have sex or had less.

Consider this a declaration of intent. Every time someone says something dumb like “virgin girls are the best”, I’m going to call it out for its bullshit. The era of sexism, well-intentioned or malicious, is passé. Talk shit and get hit. You’re going to learn that your words and actions have consequences even if you like to coop yourself up in your little bubble. You can say it again; I will simply call you out for it once more. The age of laughing it off as a joke, or as the oversensitivity of a fragile woman, is long over. If you suddenly feel prosecuted because you have a penis, perhaps you will finally understand how it feels like be someone with a vagina who is constantly told that they should feel guilty for embracing the basic instinct that is sex, original sin or not. If my ladies want to keep their virginity until marriage, fine. I cannot stop them from celebrating orthodoxy when it comes to matters of their own body (although neither should they be allowed to infringe on the rights of other women). But god forbid it be men who get to do so.

The good news is that with the passing of time the younger generation (our age) is starting to become more comfortable with their sexuality, even in our socially conservative climate. (But don’t take my word for it – I use markedly biased samples such as NTU Confessions and NUS Whispers LOL). Sometimes I see posts that imply people are stressed over their virginal status instead. Hopefully this is a sign that certain regressive mindsets are slowly being swept away. Either way, let’s continue work hard at making the social world a better place for all. And do yourself a favour: after this circuit-breaker, go out and indulge in the sex that you deserve. Unless you don’t want to.

on commitment

To me, commitment is about being willing to be vulnerable. It’s something that’s difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve once given. Like throwing a rock at a pond — it dances across the surface uninhibited, unaware of what’s to come, before the depths inevitably swallow it whole. The ideal of a clean cut is a fantasy; all it takes is a shared glance to topple it. And with this vulnerability comes a lot of pain. It hurts, it hurts often, and it hurts like hell. Is it supposed to be this way? Even with my previous relationships, I don’t have a clear answer, but it might be yes. At some point I started to imagine romantic love as two people (as I’ve been conditioned to understand it) tightly locked in an paradoxical embrace. The shared warmth is so intoxicating you believe you could stay forever, yet at other times this urge to pull away overwhelms. But eventually one side gets tired, because it is so powerful it becomes suffocating, and they let go first.

carte blanche

Ask my friends what my greatest desire is and they’d likely say money – lots and lots of it. Not that I would deny it. Yet money is but a means to an end. What I really want in this world is absolute freedom.

my time at mcgill: a mid-term review

Eight weeks have elapsed since my first class at McGill University. Some things have changed. I have gained new memories, like that of the biting agony felt in my fingers under -20ºC weather, courtesy of Quebec City. I bruised my chin from being stabbed in the face with a pole during a fall while skiing. I started playing MapleStory again out of nostalgia (what? Hmu losers). Other things remain unchanged: being late for back-to-back classes, and burning the midnight oil to chiong assignments. Anyhow, I am the least interesting part of this article. Instead, let me share some observations I have made in my time at McGill. Get ready for a ride – as my time here has been.

no post of mine is complete without a reference to luigi, apparently.

As a primer, here are the modules I am taking:

  • Human Motivation (P)
  • Advanced Topics in Social Psychology (P)
  • Development and Underdevelopment (S)
  • Sociology of Science (S)

Where P = Psychology, S = Sociology (I’m taking a 2nd Major in Sociology). But this subject discrimination is less important here, for reasons I will later explicate.

Institutions & Structures

McGill is a left-winger/social liberal’s wet dream (suffice it to say that the module on societal [under]development has vastly expanded my repertoire of political terms). I’m not sure if it gets better than this. It is apparently one of the most diverse universities in North America, with ~30% of all undergraduates being international students. I am unable to find corresponding statistics for NTU, because 1) our website is clunky and 2) if Google can’t find it, it’s not worth finding.

Here, student care and empowerment is a big deal; campus protests are common and normalised; you catch glimpses of Bernie supporters at the library; student-run newspapers write scathing satirical pieces on both administrative and student hypocrisy; there is a Marxist coalition named “Socialist Fightback Club” registered as a student society. The members are dead serious about it, and attempted to charge me $4 CAD for a copy of The Communist Manifesto that they printed. The school’s humble “Shag Shop” distributes free condoms and sells experimental sex toys.

One can actually engage in productive discourse on matters of copulation here, without the risk of retaliation from concerned conservatives. In particular, sexual assault at least seems to be taken seriously here – can you imagine? (No, we couldn’t.) This is not to say that McGill is any less susceptible to the inertia of bureaucracy, but it does have a dramatically different outlook on the surface. Social inequality and the repercussions of a colonial past on indigenous peoples are readily acknowledged, though I cannot comment on the extent to which rectifying measures are effective.

On the note of liberty, professors are allotted more freedom in structuring their classes here. Rules appear to be readily revisable at lecturers’ wills. One module I’m taking (Human Motivation) provides an automatic option for students to reduce the weightage of the mid-term exam to 10%, such that the final exam accounts for 90%. (That’s hot.) I can envision that such a policy would be ravenously popular in NTU – not that it would ever be approved. In contrast, NTU appears to have a restricted range on the proportion that the final exam can account for (40-60%). This comparatively laissez-faire regulation runs in line with McGill’s institutional structure.

Classes & Lessons

Right off the bat, classes are more interdisciplinary here – both in content and student composition. That module on development that I jumped into on the sheer fact that it “looked interesting” turned out to be a composite of economics, political science, anthropology, and geography. The last time I took a geography test, I got 6/20. Imagine my terror when I came face-to-face with papers like The Political Economy of Import-Substituting Industrialization in Latin America from the Quarterly Journal of Economics after the add-drop period had passed. It’s halfway through the semester and I’m still not sure what a market economy is. The good news is I’m doing okay, but I might not do this to myself again. (Who am I kidding – I know I would.)

I have a classmate in my social psychology module whose major is Gender, Sexuality, Feminist, and Social Justice Studies (GSFS for short). If you thought I was a radical feminist, you have yet to see the world, my friends. The lady is a hurricane. She wrote a 1,738-word response to a reading on attitudes and beliefs in social cognition where she made the following points: the potential inapplicability of the research to diverse populations, ableism in research, and the problematic assumption that sexual identity is a binary construct. The recommended number of words for each response is 300. I probably wrote my response under 15 minutes. Another student pursuing a branch of neuroscience enjoys relating findings to physical (e.g. fMRI) measurements of the brain, as well her personal difficulties with mental health. The perspective that each student brings to the table is coloured by their unique education and identity, and it makes for a fascinating exchange of ideas.

Class participation is played up more at McGill. Another module that I’m taking (sociology of science – excellent content) is designed with student interaction at its core. In the 1.5 hours of each session, our lecturer spends the first 20-30 minutes enumerating the key concepts of the assigned reading(s) for that day. The class then splits up for the next hour to mull over a set of questions that extrapolate from the reading. And they’re not basic questions limited to “what did the author mean?”; these questions demand engagement and connections across readings, and there are often no clear-cut answers. We upload the content of our discussion in a Word document and are collectively graded for the quality of thought shown (25% of total grade, collated across all responses). Peer evaluation is also taken seriously here – each member anonymously rates the performance of their groupmates, and one’s score is adjusted based on their relative contribution. It’s something NTU should definitely consider implementing as a default, because god knows how many people don’t know how to pull their weight in projects.

Individually, we are also expected to craft and submit discussion questions (another 25%). Outstanding submissions are included as part of the group discussion worksheet, and automatically receive full marks. The system works such that if there are 6 questions on the worksheet that day, there could be anywhere from 2-6 student submissions. Including 10% for simply doing your readings on time, here it can be seen that the participation aspect already accounts for more than half (60%) of the final grade.

In my view, learning at McGill entails more negotiation and subjective interpretation, while NTU adopts a more definitive-instructive approach. This style of learning intrigued me, because I’m more of a lone wolf-type – the environment at home favours this approach. The general sequence of my tutorials in NTU is this: lecturer/tutor rambles > asks if students have any questions > receives no response > class ends. That doesn’t mean you can’t attempt to participate, but active participation is simply not built into its blueprint.

Either way, the merits of this collaborative learning approach at McGill are clear enough: listening to multiple perspectives on an issue widens one’s scope of thought. The downsides are that conversations veer off-topic rapidly, and clarity is sacrificed for variety. It also doesn’t always mean that the quality of thought is better. Silence appears to be an uncomfortable concept here, to the point that fluffed up nonsense is better than nothing. I disagree. Nonetheless, it surely contributes to a livelier classroom that can be simultaneously stimulating and overwhelming. It’s an important reminder that what works at home does not always work elsewhere, and the world out there is much greater than my tiny safe-space bubble. You know what that means: ~character development~! Catch me back in NTU more eloquent, outgoing, and assertive than ever before! /s

Montreal’s Quirks & People

McGill’s medium of instruction is English, but everyone I’ve met there is effectively bilingual. Still, natives seem more comfortable in French, which is reflected in the ubiquity of the language in Montreal’s physical infrastructure. As a whole, French dominates in the Quebec region. Montreal has a particularly curious history of Franco-Anglophone relations.

Part of the reason why I picked Canada (and McGill) as my exchange destination was because my gut said I wouldn’t experience racism as much here than if I were to go elsewhere, like Australia or the US. I think I was right. My friends at other places have shared instances where they’ve faced aggression and outright discrimination (e.g. UK). I toured New York and Boston before entering Canada in December 2019. Even with four of us, I never felt safe. There was always an undercurrent of chaotic instability that I couldn’t shake off. A man seated barely two metres away from me at the metro suddenly punched the air in an uppercut motion, and I was so terrified my knees nearly gave way. And there was this one exchange with a phone operator when I was purchasing tickets for Chicago on Broadway:

Operator: … and your country of residence?

Me: Singapore.

Operator: Oh, so you’re from China! That’s fine, you could have said so from the beginning.

Me: [sigh] … No, that’s not in China.

Operator: No? Japan then?

welp.

Especially with the coronavirus, it’s not a great year for the Chinese. The upside is that Canada remains fairly unafflicted, and the panic hasn’t set in. A man did give me the side eye and scooted away from me when I coughed on the train once, but I can understand that, LOL.

In Canada, at least in downtown Montreal, it’s different. If there is racism, they mask it superbly. The people here are more assertive than we are, but they are not rude (which is a fine line the Americans often transgress imo). Crucially, I feel that I can breathe here. It’s merely a feeling, not grounded in any good science, but it’s a powerful contrast. Then again, it should be noted that most people I interact with are from the same group – basically, liberals with heightened political sensitivities. (Not everyone is the same, y’know, like one of my [Singaporean male] followers who made it a point to declare to me via DMs that Bernie and his supporters were hypocritical for being “anti-big corp”. God, I get so wet when boys take on the Mantle of Responsibility to let me know I’m misguided because they know so much better. Hit me harder with that Big Knowledge, daddy!)

Final Thoughts

Learning is more intrinsically enjoyable without the omnipresent pressure of having to outdo your peers. Here, the only target to outdo is myself. I go to classes because I want to learn (fine – to be accurate, the kiasu mentality of not wanting to lose out on what I could be potentially learning kicks in, but that’s just semantics). I push myself equally hard for my assignments, though I will admit I give myself leeway on smaller matters. Of course, I still want the A, but it is a bonus byproduct rather than the motivating force.

Things aren’t transformed simply because you’re overseas. In fact, you realise that some phenomena are indeed universal, like social loafing (à la groupmates slacking off). The boys from NTU with me are still tanking the group projects for their modules, because their perfectionist mentality persists. I was lucky enough to have zero modules with group projects – I’d be damned if I had to deal with that BS even on exchange.

This is by no means a campaign against grades – I continue to endorse that people should be rewarded in proportion to the effort and quality of work they put in (wow, meritocratic ideal siol, indoctrinated Sinkie). The point is that we don’t have to, and in fact shouldn’t, take the existing standards of our education system for granted. They are not set in stone, and can always be changed for the better. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I wouldn’t say my experience at McGill has been life-changing. I’m still very much in a comfortable space, with my beliefs and values unchallenged. In fact, McGill might even suit my ideology better. What I’ve seen is only the tip of the iceberg. However, I believe acknowledging this fact opens the door to a new beginning. I’ve seen glimpses of how things can be different, but still work well. The next step is to get out there with this (marginally) broadened perspective and use it. Baby steps, small steps, progress all the same. Maybe it’s not the goal, but how we get there that matters.