NTU vs NUS Psychology: The Lowdown

Considering Psychology as a degree, but can’t decide between NTU and NUS Psychology? We’ve got you covered! With 4 friends from NTU and NUS Psychology, we answer 10 frequently asked questions about the experience as a psychology student in both institutions. We also provide the nitty-gritty details, and offer some tips on how to thrive if you do choose to pursue Psychology in either university!

All links open in new tabs.

copped from @nus_memes

Questions to be answered (Ctrl-F to jump to the question straight, e.g. “Q3”)

  • Q1. Did you choose NTU/NUS Psych, and why?
  • Q2. What were your expectations for the Psych course when you first entered? How has the actual experience been similar and different?
  • Q3. What is the process for getting modules in NTU/NUS Psych like, and how has the experience been for you?
  • Q4. What are your favourite modules so far, and what modules have you not taken but want to?
  • Q5. (Because NUS allows seeing grades before S/U) How has the S/U function helped you? For NTU students, what are your opinions on this? 
  • Q6. Share one favourite memory you made in university.
  • Q7. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice before entering university, what would it be?
  • Q8. What research opportunities are available for students in your batch, and have you taken up any of them? How was the experience like?
  • Q9. What career opportunities have you been exposed to? 
  • Q10. What resources do you recommend for incoming students to your university’s Psych programme?

Profiles of our guest interviewees

Gwyneth (NTU): Year 4 doing Psychology and Sociology as a 2nd Major at NTU. Spends all her free time blogging or reading specific genres of manga (yes very boring). PLEASE support her by sharing this post/blog with ALL your friends. Find her @gwynethtyt everywhere.

Tarif (NTU): Year 2 NTU Psychology Major, pursuing a minor in Youth Work and Guidance. In his free time, Tarif enjoys taking long walks amidst nature and scrolling through TikTok and Facebook for funny content. A pragmatic idealist, Tarif can often be caught contemplating life, seeking greater meaning in the work that he does. Beyond his musings, he lives by the phrase: all is well!

Eric (NUS): Year 2 NUS Psychology undergraduate. Doesn’t like balloons.

Ye Rui (NUS): Year 2 NUS Psychology undergraduate. Enjoys watching shows, gaming, and playing soccer. HATES cucumbers.   

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

Updated Jan 2021

Dear readers, hope you guys are enjoying the new semester~! Feel free to contact me at gwynethtyt@gmail.com if you are looking for textbooks/notes, have a question, or just wanna chat. 🙂

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. (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. 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Ezpz

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)

HP2600 Cognitive Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Charles Or
Assessments: Class part (10%), quiz (15%), group 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/models covered in the slides relating to each topic (similar to HP2300). Each set of slides covers a broad range of information so drawing up mind (cognitive, geddit?) maps may help.

HP2700 Abnormal Psychology | Core | 3AUs

Lecturer: Shen Biing-Jiun
Assessments: Mid-terms (35%), finals (50%), discussion boards (10%), attendance (5%)
Workload/difficulty: Normal/normal

A remarkably Normal course, considering its name. And SuperDry. A quick check for this lecture’s schedule this coming semester (AY20/21 Sem 2) informs me that it will be held every Monday from 3:30-6:30pm. From personal experience, let’s just say that you want to avoid heavy lunches right before class.

The course syllabus in my year did not offer information about what topics were covered, so I never had a good grasp of what was going on. I can say there is a LOT to be covered. I typically print 4 slides per page (to annotate during revision) but my records show that some point I switched to 9 (nine) slides per page for this module only. And then I gave up on printing the later lectures LOL. The number of slides ranges from 70 on a good day to the 100s on a challenging one. Lecture information seems to be organised around major disorders in the DSM (e.g. eating disorders, autism, schizophrenia), their etiology, clinical criteria, prevalence and so on. Multiple disorders are included in a single lecture, so the learning experience is really about being pummelled with an overwhelming stream of new information that you can’t do anything about except absorb. Finally, the textbook provides a useful, structured complement to the information in his slides. *I am selling my lightly highlighted and annotated textbook (20%) for $25 – hmu!

Due to the broad nature of this module, the exams similarly request answers on a wide range of things as opposed to a focus on specific theories or models. To do well in this module, I believe that you will need to take the initiative to reorganise the information in the slides into a format that is easier to understand for yourself. I would say study widely rather than closely spotting. He also has the trollish tendency to test esoteric information from his slides (e.g. the phobia of peanut butter – of which the answer I still do not know and do NOT care for), so keep an eye out. Nothing new about the discussion boards, except do them on time and spare at least 30 minutes to write a good quality post. Attend classes for your free 5%, despite how tempting it is to skip them – I know…

This should have no bearing on the evaluation of the module, but I can’t help but like Prof Shen despite everything. I feel profound empathy with his cause when I watch him struggle to finish presenting his 100 navy blue slides (juxtaposed against yellow text, for the love of eye strain) each lecture, give up, and then bring over the remaining content to the following lecture only to suffer through the same process.

HP3002 Positive Psychology | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Andy Ho, and his 9 titles
Assessments: 2 quizzes (20%), 2 group presentations (20%+20%), group report (20%), weekly gratitude journal (20%)
Workload/difficulty: Not positive about this one

Thriving, flourishing, unbothered – all these memeish words that I use ironically to step on my haters stem from this branch of psychology. I registered for this module with the intention of bettering myself and my perspective toward living. I am not an optimistic person by any means – rather its pragmatic antithesis. But I didn’t find what I was looking for. Not to mention that his class imbued me with more stress than positivity. The quizzes demanded a lot and I chronically underestimated the time required to revise. There were ups and downs with the group components (and social loafing) that left me drained. In his three-minute meditation exercises at the start of class, I would fall asleep half the time. But above all is the reason I might have failed: because happiness is in finding contentment now, rather than in some elusive ideal only attainable later. At least, that’s the main lesson I’ve taken away from positive psychology. Knowing it doesn’t mean applying it, however.

This module takes on the mighty task of balancing theory and application – with its key side effect being a sizeable amount of work. Across the semester, he will cover 10 topics, each tagged to a textbook chapter of ~30 pages. The quizzes (10%+10%) are split evenly, each covering 5 topics. That’s about 150 pages, so you want to start preparing at least one week in advance, not two days like me. (The % accorded to tests for the amount of content is disproportionate imo.) He tests from the textbook, so you can’t get away with just the slides. *I am selling my annotated/highlighted textbook for $20 – DM me! wink*

Onto the group presentations: there are two. He really likes things in pairs. The first is categorised as a “flipped classroom activity” (20%), which means you do the teaching (if I ever become a lecturer you can be sure I will do this all the time too…). Each group is randomly assigned a movie and they have to deconstruct it using the concepts covered that lecture. I think depth matters more than breadth here. To be frank, I have never known how well/badly I perform in his classes because he does not return us his grading for presentations, and he sandwiches his verbal feedback. Anyhow, the other presentation (20%) is one half of the main group project deliverable for the module, with the other half being a written report (20%). Creative liberty is encouraged, so you can pick anything that speaks to you as long as you can apply relevant concepts. I think of it as a tyranny of choice, but it can be fun to experiment with something new. With Andy’s modules (HP3002 and HP4002), the key ingredients are teamwork and creativity. As you may have observed, group components make up 60% of the entire module. You want – need – a group of people you can trust to carry a project through, and you want to impress with an innovative idea.

Additionally, there’s this weekly gratitude journal on Discussion Board. You reflect on a good experience you had that week, which is commented upon by a anonymous (randomly assigned) peer. In turn, you provide constructive encouragement to another student anonymously. I know that writing gratitude journals work – if you can cultivate a regular habit – and social support further bolsters the effect. The journals are due every week at a set time, so you want to set reminders in advance to write. I forgot some of the time and that was a real waste of free marks.

To wrap up: this module does a fair job at attempting to integrate theory and application. However, the bulk of the assignments are academic, and it lacks exercises that train your capacity for positivity besides the weekly gratitude journal. If you are looking for an immersive practical experience to positive psychology, I recommend taking the MOOC course The Science of Well-Being (it’s covered by NTU so it’s free!). The focus of the module is on integrating practice into everyday life through hands-on activities. With it, I’ve been practicing savouring my everyday experiences and getting into states of ~Flow~.

Later on I took another module with Andy – HP4002 Qualitative Psychology in Y4S1. I will get around to writing it eventually (maybe it’ll take another semester LOOOOL), but its structure, expectations, workload, and murkiness is identical.

HP3708 Biopsychosocial Criminology | Major-PE | 3AUs

Lecturer: Olivia Choy
Assessments: CA1 (20%), CA2 (20%), class part (20%), research paper (40%)
Workload/difficulty: High/normal (wanted to put “psycho” for kicks but it’s really manageable)

Welcome… to cRiMe! Featuring the factors behind criminality and many types of criminals. This module is the prototypical ideal in my non-criminal mind. Two tests and a research paper, and class participation for the remainder. What a fantabulous grading scheme. I was thriving, flourishing, and unbothered, so to speak. The content of the module is curated, not relying on any textbook but a selection of journal articles (about 2 articles/week, averaging 30 pages). These included one with her as main author, and her mentor Adrian Raine features occasionally (they have made some interesting, if controversial, findings together).

Classes are straightforward lectures, with designated activities for collective discussion and sharing. The class size is small (30-40 students max) such that you have no good reason not to participate. There are a healthy number of slides, but the content is dense. Fun counter-intuitive tidbits pop up sometimes, like the findings that prison visit (“scared straight”) programmes may actually increase offending. Or that drug educational programmes, much like the sex ed programmes that scare you into abstinence, are ineffective. Peppered throughout the slides are also references to other studies. Her tests include both the reading articles and these studies. I cannot remember if there were MCQs in her papers but SAQs feature prominently. It is good to overstudy.

sample, under the topic of nutrition (health factors). feed your kids omega-3 supplements.

The key assignment is the research paper (40%). In short you pick a criminal phenomenon/behaviour that intrigues you and deconstruct it using a biopsychosocial perspective. You should go beyond the readings of the course so some independent research is in order. (My paper had 37 references.) Prof Olivia provided a set of writing tips, but otherwise we were free to structure the essay however we wanted, and go in whatever direction we wanted. One tip I found helpful was to set up a central question/argument and address it. I think presenting competing views and evaluating which is better supported by evidence is another useful strategy.

This module is popular even among seniors so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it the first time. Good luck!

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

They really designed a module to convince students not to cheat…

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 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: Kenichi Ito (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: High/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 opposite of that with 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

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)

I wish I had kept more 4000-level Psych mods for Y4 instead of clearing 3/4 in Y3. That left me with only one this semester, which I cleared with Quali. Now sexy ones like Intergroup Relations (HP4243) are coming up in S2 and I can only watch and cry. I repeat: draw up an 8-semester plan, even if you’re a junior and think you have a lot of time left.

HP3901 Cultural Psychology | Major-PE | 3AUs

HP4002 Qualitative Methods in Psychology | Major-PE | 4AUs

HS3001 Contemporary Social Theory | UE (2nd Major) | 3AUs

HS4015 Sociology of Reproduction | UE (2nd Major) | 4AUs

Hope you enjoyed this read… and don’t forget to check back for regular updates! Feel free to contact me at gwynethtyt@gmail.com if you are looking for textbooks/notes, have a question, or just wanna chat. 🙂

weekly jam, #11

I have a sacred duty to share this song with as many people as I can. The moment the opening chords hit, I was compelled by an external force to drop everything I was doing and simply close my eyes and feel my existence channeled via every note of this melody. I have NO doubt that it was a spiritual experience (the last time I felt this way was watching John Mayer live). Good night and may we all find our good places within ourselves through this song.

the (briefer) art of thinking clearly

I received a few requests for this, so I will be uploading it here.

If this helped you, please consider completing my FYP survey online here – your support means a lot to me. You need to be 21 years old or above, and a Singaporean NTU student to be eligible to participate. Following the completion of the survey, you may also opt to enter a lucky draw where 50 participants will be selected at random to receive a $10 Grab e-voucher around Jan 2021. Contact details may be found at the link.

The summary is currently incomplete (30/99). I will consider completing it and uploading the full version if I assess that there is sufficient interest from the public, because after all it takes time and effort to work on. This will be measured through the number of responses I receive on the survey, which will close tomorrow.

Enjoy!

weekly jam, #10

peach tree rascals – water

fell in love with ideas of you
roll up then we look at the view
hold up, do you think of me too?
nowadays I don’t know what to do
why you go when I needed you close
back then I messed it up, yea I know
without you is when I go through the most
but it’s okay when I got you close

reflections of a “student leader”

Just around this time in 2018 I was eagerly awaiting Union Day. For many of us, it’s an otherwise ordinary day with a minor perk: classes, by law, are not allowed to be conducted between 10:30am-2:30pm. For me it was a day of reckoning, where my fate as a “student leader” lay in the hands of my peers. In the month leading up to the big day, I had applied for the role of Union Representative (now “Union Executive Committee Representative”) in SSS Club, and had my plans all laid out for a corresponding role in the NTUSU Exco as Corporate Communications Executive (Relations). On Union Day, undergraduates are empowered with the ability to vote and elect a handful of representatives to their school Club, as well as the Big 3 (CAC, SC, WSC). And I was one of those hopeful applicants, filled with dreams and grand visions of a building a better place for students.

look at this sellout!

Fast forward two years and here I am – no longer a student leader of NTU, but a student who can say she’s had the experience of being one. Still, I remain invested in the election affair every year not only because it is an event of personal significance, but also that many of my friends have opted to contest for various positions in the clubs/societies they identify with. But enough about me – this piece wasn’t written for me, but for NTU students.

I aim to answer two questions, broadly:

  1. What is the significance of the student leader?
  2. More importantly: why should you care?

I will juxtapose two perspectives: as a leader from my experience in my junior years, and as an observer watching from the crowd following “retirement”.

The contested role of the “student leader”

What do you think about when you hear the phrase “student leader”? Responses range from the apathetic/nonchalant to mild approval to aggressive frustration. The last one is typically the most salient, perhaps because of the negativity bias. (In other words, we are more likely to recall unfavourable information, and we are tea-loving drama hoes).

There is a murkiness that surrounds the exact responsibilities of student leaders, though I will endeavour to state that this is largely deliberate – this is so that leaders can absorb a range of functions without being unnecessarily restricted. But while its abstract nature offers freedom, it also means little guidance and the leader is left to concretise it themselves. In my role as CCE(R), my overarching aim was to “bridge the gap between students and administration”. That could be anything. I opted to build U-Insight and U-Feedback, since they were the main channels of communication. But if there is not enough key initiatives or functions achieved that distinguish the role, then it is easy for onlookers to claim that the leader is not doing enough, or even that the role is redundant. They’re not necessarily wrong.

I’ve observed a disjuncture between the perceptions of students “on the ground” vs. student leaders on the issue of what they actually do. As a leader, it’s easy to list out all the things that I did – craft and disseminate timely information, manage social media channels, provide copywriting for all publicity materials, respond to students’ concerns… the list goes on. On the other hand, ask any cynic what they think student leaders do and you might get a diametrically opposed view.

this is not uncommon to see. it is not exclusive to the SU.

A compilation of some strong criticisms of the so-called student leader. I address all below:

  • Selfish; only out for ourselves and our resumes, without real intention to benefit the student community.
  • The image of the porcelain doll is apt here: filled with an air of unwarranted self-importance, yet not serving any real purpose other than to look pretty.
  • Limited in power, yet corrupted by power. (Make up your mind!)

I personally believe there is a positive correlation between individuals driven by power/achievement and the likelihood of taking up leadership positions. But this does not necessarily mean they will be selfish. The ability to make a change is imbued with power, yet this proposition attracts different kinds of people. Some are motivated by a real desire to do good, and I also know of others whose ego is wildly out of proportion to their capability. It is unfair to make broad generalisations of the entire character of a group based on a few eye-catching examples. The best way to know is to judge for yourself, and this is not via hearsay. It is about hearing from the candidates themselves. I elaborate on this later.

Another common accusation is that clubs and societies are merely extensions of the administration/upper management. Here is where I recall an article I read in a module on organisational structure (HS2005) by Kanter (1994). It addresses issues of power. I took it the same semester I was in the Students’ Union, and thus found it particularly relevant. Kanter proposes that there are three sources of power in any organisation, and I attempt to contextualise them here.

Power

First is lines of supply – the more capacity a leader has to bring in new resources such as money and materials, the more powerful. It is important to establish here that virtually all events are funded by the school/SAO. Thus, proposals by student organisations are subject to multiple layers of approval and careful consideration of costs and benefits. This means that bargaining power is relatively limited, especially if it is not in line with the consensus from management.

Next we have lines of information – knowing current affairs and relevant news. The club has a bit more power here if they can manage to conduct surveys that assess members’ opinions, which they can then use to strengthen their claims to the administration. However, due to the inherently hierarchal structure of the system, information on school policies is often ambiguous or not conveyed to student leaders altogether. The opacity of the decision-making process at the highest levels of NTU is common knowledge – only when decisions have been confirmed are they announced to students. While there is an effort to include representatives in this process, this is not always a guaranteed. Furthermore, the rapidly-changing nature of key events such as Covid-19 means that things are constantly in flux. When students write in asking for certainty in uncertain situations, there are a very limited range of responses student leaders can pursue. It takes time to clarify.

Last we have lines of support – the power to call for extraordinary, innovative, but risky events without having to worry about resistance. This is arguably the most complicated. A bureaucratic structure is naturally predisposed – by design – to maintain the status quo as far as possible. The life cycle of any ambitious uprising against the current order is like that of a bug’s – short and usually quashed before it can grow into anything bigger. Irreversible upheavals are anathema to the existing order. Even at the policymaking level, many initiatives may be delayed with the rationale that “more research is required to avoid unforeseen consequences”. And that is rational to say considering any change has implications on up to 24,000 undergraduates at an institutional level. But that is not to say extraordinary things can’t be achieved. I don’t believe that the history of NTU has ever seen a fully S/U-able semester until last year. And that was achieved because students were able to collectively galvanise their interests, providing the sufficient momentum for student clubs to campaign for changes. However, it comes with great difficulty, and you need the right time, place, and people.

Agency

One note to make is that our system of (school) governance is not universally applicable to other cultures. When I was in McGill University I saw critical reports on existing practices all the time. But that’s not how it works here. It seems like a very cop-out answer but I believe it is best understood within the broader climate of Singapore’s political ideology.

Student leaders, by virtue of their position, are agents created to perpetuate the existing order. This is not their fault. They still do their best with the resources and constraints they have. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that members sometimes take for granted. Those “welfare pack” events every year that some mockingly disparage even as the same people readily join the thousand-strong queue for them? They take months of planning and logistics. Not to mention that there are tons of other activities occurring across the year. And even event-running is pivotal to maintaining school culture. We take student activities for granted until they disappear.

Leaders as just “overhyped event planners”? I recall the time my colleague showing me a 50-page document reviewing a school policy based on a large-scale survey that he had teamed up with another colleague to implement (hi A if you’re reading this, pat on the back for you). I would have disseminated it but got shot down before I could. His partner (also A, love y’all fairies) worked himself half to death over policies relating to student life, personally tailoring thoughtful 300-word responses to students who were flagging issues they faced. He finally saw his ideas come to success after months of back and forth, but was it worth it? Either way, I know he did his best.

The student not immersed in this reality only has a partial view into what leaders actually do – but that’s not their fault. The student-member doesn’t see what’s going on, because they don’t have access to this privileged information. I argue that this is due to the limitations on the part of clubs (and perhaps by default the system as whole) in measures to ensure accountability and transparency.

Accountability and transparency

I had the pleasure of attending the SSS Union Rally last Friday via Zoom. I noted a discrepancy in the recruitment emails and final rally line-up sent earlier that week by the club, and thus I sought to clarify the matter as a Concerned and Invested Member. Unfortunately, I picked an inappropriate time to do so, during the transition between two candidates — the Returning Officer appeared visibly thrown off by my question. Seemingly offended by my indiscretion, he first spluttered that I should have “done my research beforehand based on the information available” (but I did, or I wouldn’t have a question to ask in the first place…). He then proceeded to inform me chidingly that it was rude and unbecoming to unmute and show my face in a rally(!) without seeking permission to do so.

Throughout this lecture, he did not answer my question nor seek to clarify what I meant. He did say it could be asked at the end of the rally “when the questions are open to the floor”, but I left because I have better things to do than sit in for another three hours. Still, don’t take my word for it – verify it with the recording of the rally! If they make it publicly accessible, that is. (Maybe if a Student Advisor was present, there might have been a better outcome to this? Hahaha!) Of course, there are many potential innocuous explanations for the discrepancy. The club is welcome to respond to my question and I will revise my account where necessary.

every voice, always heard.

Every year leaders face the same problems and ask the same questions — how do we increase student engagement, and actually make changes that benefit the members’ welfare. These are questions with no answers and no end: we can only inch forward slowly in trying to discover what works and what doesn’t. One way to start is to increase transparency and accountability of all processes, and not ignore students’ concerns. If the students know what is going on then they can be invested in it. But this is, of course, not as easy as it sounds.

Before Covid-19 happened, there would be a period of time where applicants’ details were publicly displayed at the foyer for students to peruse. Inconsistencies, if found, could be raised to the election committee, and disqualifications could ensue if they were found to be legitimate. For example, I believe there is a rule whereby you cannot have a fellow candidate endorse you (you need a supporter and seconder for your application). Maybe in the transition online, this process was omitted. I didn’t know who my representatives were until two nights before the rally.

I have good faith that the student leaders did their best for SSS Club during their term. They organised a few events, e.g. a welfare-themed one. In response to students’ concerns on the newly implemented S/U option, they provided relevant clarification on questions raised by students. They created a new social media page @sss.academics to address academic concerns. There are a lot of background processes running at any given point, and we should give them credit for what they have achieved.

I believe that the onus is on student clubs to make information about club proceedings and updates easily accessible to their members. That means that relevant documents should be stored in an online location that is retrievable at a click and not hidden in some dusty treasure chest. In my opinion, reports, constitutions, or meeting minutes should be sent without question upon request – and the member shouldn’t even have to ask for it to be privately sent in the first place. It should be a given that it is publicly available. Fun Accountability Test: send an email to any club asking for their constitution and assess the response you get. I will qualify this by saying that clubs often have to strike a fine balance by deciding what is shared and what is not, because you don’t want to risk inundating your members with information to excess and driving them away or detracting from other relevant matters. Presidents should also regularly conduct reviews to ascertain if certain positions are doing too much or too little.

Walkovers

A final phenomenon to tickle your interest is the overwhelming tendency towards walkovers in school elections. This means that only one person is running for one position. But did you know that all roles, as long as you meet the prerequisites, are open for contest? Some societies do engage in deconflicting strategies to maximise student fit but a position doesn’t “close” even if there are no vacancies – nobody is guaranteed a position until they are officially voted in on Union Day / Annual General Meeting. So watch out when you receive a recruitment email where certain positions are omitted. Oftentimes you can still apply for those omitted from the list – and you should raise alarm if you receive a suspicious, deflecting, response. The reservation of roles is not allowed. But nobody is handing you anything on a silver plate – you want it, you should be prepared for it. Anyway, walkovers are the norm, and contests are the exception. This creates a troubling situation sometimes when onlookers perceive leaders as incompetent (but there is no better choice). Yes, if there was a better choice they wouldn’t win… but where are the contestants?

Okay, so what?

The takeaway for students is: if you’re frustrated at the current state of affairs, demand accountability. Make your opinions heard, and stand for constructive change. Even if you think student leaders suck, being one is better than being a sitting duck lamenting that nothing is happening. In case anyone takes my words out of context: I have NEVER once blamed students for any of this. I have made it clear that it is a STRUCTURAL issue. But you have the POWER to change it.

Vote. Know who the people representing you are. Ask questions (at the right time, I guess). Save the receipts. Demand accountability. Attend your AGMs and rallies and ask your questions and find out what events are relevant for you. It’s not as if you have anything to lose. Watch out for leaders who present with an arsenal of lofty, abstract ideals (hot air) but have no concrete plans to back it up. If they say they want to “improve the welfare of students”, ask them what examples of initiatives they have in mind and how they will implement them. Don’t be afraid to vote against people that you feel don’t reflect your ideology or are ill-equipped. Again: your vote counts. It will tomorrow. It always will.

Wow, you’ve made it!

Special section for Psychology students only. Come for AGM tomorrow! (See @ntupsychsoc on Telegram.) I wish to promote my friend Tarif who is running for president in PsychSoc this year. He is an outstanding student who excels academically and socially. As a former student leader, whatever that means, he has my stamp of utmost confidence. But decide for yourself! Tune in to PsychSoc AGM tomorrow (Tues, 15/9) 6:45pm on Zoom to hear more about his plans and ideas. (He has concrete plans!) And of course, vote – your opinion matters. Note that you need to be registered as a member to attend the event.

he’s on the left.

Update for my tea-loving drama hoes

Woke up this morning to this:

nice new vision
look ma, now i can ask questions on the spot

Coincidence? Whatever it is, remember to vote and question.

The NTU Freshman’s Starter Pack to Success

Compilation of useful resources for incoming freshmen.

All links open in new tabs.

Student Life

Academics

Exchange

Financial Assistance

Apps

  • uWave: consolidates all student services in one neat app. e.g. personalised timetable, bus timings, facility booking, upcoming events, and student forum. Essential
  • Blackboard: NTULearn but on your mobile. Essential
  • Forest: plant virtual trees; can’t leave app while tree is growing. Virtual coins earned can be converted to planting real-life trees(?)
  • BFT: similar to Forest; keeps your phone face-down  
  • GoParkin: NTU’s new barrier-less initiative uses this for parking
  • Microsoft To-Do: create and categorise tasks in to-do lists
  • Moment: detailed tracking of phone usage patterns and screen time logged
  • CamScanner: scan pages, cards, receipts, your face on demand… You’d be surprised at how much more professional your notes and documents will seem after using this.

Productivity hacks

  • Eisenhower matrix: is your task important? Is it urgent? Is it both, or neither?
  • Setting SMART goals: because setting goals is the best way to justify procrastination
  • Google Calendar: all basic bitches use it, so can you
  • Trello: project management tool designed for collaboration – you can now chastise your group mates with evidence of their social loafing!
  • RescueTime: logs your computer usage to create personalised productivity reports
  • When2meet.com: coordinates meeting availabilities for groups and presents them in a clean calendar template. No longer do you need to suffer through the never-ending WhatsApp copy-paste threads.

Social media

Send me ideas if you want, I’ll credit you

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)! (Select page 2 below to continue)

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)