Last Monday morning, as I was walking to the MRT station, I was stopped by a young lady holding a can tin. A quick look at what’s written on the tin, I saw the word “NUSSU flag day 2013”. Ooh.. So this is my alma mater having its annual Rag and Flag event at the start of its varsity year. Without hesitation, I put in whatever coins I had and got a sticker for my donation. I asked the young lady if she was a freshee (a term for freshman) and asked which hall of residence she came from. Her reply, “Sheares” came with a smile as she must have gathered I was an “oldie” senior from the familiar terms I used. I always enjoy meeting these freshees from NUS (National University of Singapore). It reminds me of the exciting and vibrant life I had in those varsity days.
In the university days, I stayed in the Kent Ridge Hall (short for Hall of Residence, which is a student hostel). Hall days were busy, happening and fully packed with Hall activities. It was a big contrast compared to those student days in formal schools prior to varsity entry. Living away from home does give you a sense of freedom to do whatever you like and have a chaotic lifestyle.
Staying in the Hall, you have to be really involved in the Hall activities to be really experiencing the exciting Hall life. Just staying in your room and going to lectures and tutorials and back to your room to study and sleep aren’t going to let you make more friends and enable you to discover yourself.
I was active in my Hall. I took part in Rag and Flag day as part of the freshman orientation. We had to build a large float out of various materials by hand for the rag part and asked for donations to welfare beneficiaries on the flag day. I was part of the rag dance too.
All of us were encouraged to join inter-Hall and even inter-block competitions. Each Hall had about 5-6 blocks of residence. I played Netball, Handball, Hockey, Basketball, joined Cheerleading team, volunteered at NUH (National University Hospital), was in block committee, joined lantern festival performance and others that I couldn’t remember. We had many committee meetings that continued late into the night. Some meetings were even scheduled at 12am and they were the norm!
By the time you read here, you must be wondering where’s the time for study? Ha! That’s the interesting part of staying in the Hall. As most activities started in the evening time, many of us studied hard and studied smart in the day. Since time was limited, you just had to be focused and be as efficient as possible when you attend tutorials and lectures. During examination period, Hall activities were minimal, allowing hostel students to concentrate and prepare for the papers.
I had fellow peers who played hard and studied hard. I had peers who skipped tutorial classes and slept in lecture halls too. Most of us survived alright and some even made it to the Dean’s list!
If anyone were to ask how were my University days, it would always bring back Hall days memories and not much on the academic part. I learnt many things in what I could not have if I did not stay in the Hall and opted for the comfort of my home. Learning to stay away from home for the very first time of my 19 years of life was interesting, exciting yet needed much discipline. I missed home terribly and looked forward to Friday nights to return home, and dreaded going back to my Hall on Sunday nights. However, there was much learning that overrided the cons. I learnt to manage my time well in order to juggle my studies and Hall activities. I learnt that efficient meetings were essential as time was too precious to waste. There were many international students and I learnt to get along with them, accepting differences among us. I got to know many wonderful seniors who were really helpful in guiding me along in relationships, peer pressure, academic, to state a few. These seniors were selfless in imparting knowledge and advice. With the countless involvement in activities, we picked up skills and essentials of EQ through getting along with peers, sportsmanship and teamwork.
In Hall days, we had endless block parties, competitions, make-shift stage concerts, as well as performances. We had great fun cooking together, training hard for sports, rehearsing for cheers and dance and had good laugh over humorous skits put up by people whom we never knew had such talent!
Many relationships began in the Hall. We heard of so many love stories, romantic and lousy ones. In my block, we knew of the “time of the day” when loud music would be played for a good 20 minutes and had good guesses of what went on in these rooms. Some didn’t even bother playing loud music nor off the lights, while the rest of us enjoyed a good show after dinner from the opposite block. There were some peers who played so hard, partied late into the night, took part furiously in all kinds of activities, and forgot why they were there. Of course, many great friendships were fostered as we passed each other by along the corridor, chatted in the laundry room with each tugging our laundry basket, getting to know more about the neighbours as we ate together in the common hall, and found like-minded friends when we went together for late night suppers. Those were the carefree varsity Hall days.
For friends and worried mums who always asked me about the decision to stay in the University hostel, I would say the experience is valuable and hard to replicate elsewhere if you pass this stage. It’s the best age to enjoy company of similar age peers, best time to try out all kinds of activities, best experience to party hard and study hard and best way to discover yourself! There was definitely no regrets for me. I will be full of support if my children were to ask for my opinions to stay in a University hostel come 10+ years from now. Wow! And that sounds pretty soon!
Have you stayed in a student hostel before? Share with me your experience!