My university, the National University of Singapore, organized a post-Student Exchange Programme (SEP) briefing on the first day of school for returning SEP students. The lady began the briefing by saying, “SEP changes people whether you know it or not and whether you like it or not.” Well, I’m quite certain that I have changed and I see the world and its many cultures in a different light because of the programme. But no one said to me that “the university has changed while you’re away whether you know it or and whether you like it or not.”
I have been staying in Utown for a year before I left for hongkong and during those 4 months while I was away, a new fancy building sprang out in Utown. I knew that they were building something but I didn’t expect them to build it so quickly. This new building is called EduSports and it has an infinity swimming pool, a rock climbing wall, a supermarket, an expensive bookshop, a sushi shop, yet another food court, a couple of auditoriums and many studio rooms. At night, the base of the UFO saucer lookalike will glitter, it kind of reminds me of the supertrees over at the Gardens by the bay. Sometimes I see working adults coming by at night just to take photographs of the new complex. The first time I explored this building was actually on the first day of school with a group of exchange students from Hongkong (!) and Japan. It was a strange feeling to feel lost on my home ground and to take photographs like a tourist alongside the exchange students. Somehow it brought back memories of my very first day in hongkong when I saw HKUST for the first time. It is a beautiful sight but I am still not used to seeing it there.
More people are using the Town Green (the grass in front of the EduSports) now as a place for social activities. Just the other night, there was a mini concert going on there and people were sitting on the grass and listening to the music. Most of the days, different groups of people play frisbee on the grass in the evenings. I like the Town Green a lot actually, it’s where I sit around and catch up with friends, have picnics, read a book in the afternoon and stargaze at night. It’s such a relaxing place, I can’t imagine how intensely stressful school would be like without it.
Not only does the place look different, the people are different as well because most of my friends are either on exchange or are in their final semester and so I don’t see anyone that I know around Utown or even around the campus.So it’s a new experience for me – I find myself among the exchange students and the freshmen quite frequently these days. I didn’t expect this but it’s not bad this way. I am also finally living alone without a roommate after a year and a half. I wasn’t used to it at the start actually, I wasn’t used to going back to an empty room after a day of classes in the evening, I wasn’t used to not saying goodnight before I sleep. Eating meals could have become a really lonely process if not for the dining hall so this actually makes me appreciate the dining hall concept more. I could go down to the dining hall for meals and hope to find people there. Sometimes I don’t but most of the time, I do and it’s very nice to just bump into people and then eat together, have conversations and make more friends. It’s also very nice and convenient to have a place to host dinners and invite good friends over to share meal credits with. As of so far, I have hosted Veronica, Valerie and Esther for dinner on separate occasions. Seeing and eating with them again makes me feel at home in this ever-changing NUS landscape. 🙂