“Through this experience, I became more thankful to the opportunities that I have and realized what is more valuable than money is people’s selfless love. “
In this article, let’s hear from Wu Xue Yi from Zhejiang University on her experience in Singapore and takeaway from the exchange programme through volunteering in various organizations.
But first, studying is important too! (of course we must talk about SUTD :P)
Having taken classes in Architecture both in China and in Singapore, I can see that the emphasis on the curriculum is really different. In China, an architecture degree takes 5 years, which is much longer compared to SUTD. As SUTD arranges a tight curriculum for Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD) students, I believe they learn more in a term compared to us back home.
One thing that is different from China in SUTD’s curriculum is the handcrafting skills. Students in China spend a lot of time drawing, painting and making models by hand while students in SUTD use mostly computers and machines to perform those tasks. Although using software to draw models and machine to print it is more convenient compared to making it manually, handcrafting is also an important skill. I think every architecture student should be proficient in both ways and find out for themselves what is important in modern architecture learning.
I really appreciate my professor, Carlos Bañón, in SUTD. He gave us much encouragement every time we finished our project. Since such culture was not prevalent back in my home university, his encouragement was very precious to me. Although I could tell that he was very busy and had undertaken a lot of work, he was always energetic in class and his hardworking attitude was indeed inspiring.
Soliciting donations (Flag Day) on the streets, a first for me
I was fortunate to be on the Temasek Foundation Leadership Enrichment and Regional Networking (TF LEaRN) programme during my exchange in SUTD. Through this programme, I had many opportunities to take part in charities and make my contributions to the society.
One event that I took part in was the MWH Flag Day 2019. For this event, I had the opportunity to work and communicate with local volunteers and to make my little contribution to the vulnerable groups in the society. The monies raised were used for defraying operations cost and funding rehabilitation programmes in the Muhammadiyah Welfare Home (MWH).
One challenge that I faced was that I had never solicited donations from strangers before. I was worried in the beginning, but the worry dissipated quickly as I found that many people would just donate even without me approaching. This moved me very much because events like this were held so regularly that people were familiar with it and would donate with trust. Kindness could be a habit too!
During my 4 hours stint on the streets, I found that the seniors and the children were more likely to donate compared to the youngsters. Even people with special needs came to donate though they could themselves be in need. This was thought provoking. This could mean that people who were vulnerable have empathy on those who suffered the same, and people who had received help were more than willing to contribute what little they had.
Through this experience, I became more thankful to the opportunities that I have and realized what is more valuable than money is people’s selfless love. Such programmes allowed youths like us to better understand society and cultivated our intentions to make this world a better place.
Making their day better, even for a little bit
Another event that I took part in was to befriend patients doing kidney dialysis in the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) Centre. For a day, we would try to engage in deep conversations with patients doing dialysis there. Since kidney dialysis is a long and boring process, talking and playing games would help them get through it in a pleasant way.
The challenge for me was that due to my lack of confidence in speaking English, I felt shy to start a conversation with the patients. At first, I would just follow others and listen to them talk. However I felt that I should overcome my fears, so I decided to go on my own to engage someone. It was not easy as many patients were tired or had accents that were difficult for me to understand. Fortunately, I eventually found someone whom I had a good talk with and I hope that I had made his day better!
Usually as we go along on our daily lives, we meet people that look healthy just like us. What we don’t see are people who are suffering from severe diseases and disabilities that will prevent them from enjoying the normal life that we are enjoying. Therefore, it is easy for us to forget that they exist.
With this, I got to know more about vulnerable groups in our society. I think the majority of us are fortunate and should give more encouragement to those in need and help them face their life positively.
All work no play makes Xue Yi a dull girl
Apart from the experiences mentioned above, I also had the chance to explore Singapore and the Southeast Asia culture. As an architecture student, I remembered clearly that one place I went to was the National Arts Museum. There, I saw many precious artwork and the Southeast Asian styled ones inspired me the most. In short, my exchange in Singapore and SUTD was truly a wholesome and fantastic experience!
Entries to many museums are either free or at a discounted price for students (yes, even for exchange students)! Follow this link and check out their individual websites for more information.
Advice for prospective exchange students
Prepare to speak English a lot, so do brush up on that! Come with an open mind to challenges and hard-working spirit of Singapore!
Find out more!
If you are interested in experiencing Singapore and SUTD’s unique curriculum, come for an exchange term at SUTD!
Pictures courtesy of Wu Xue Yi, Zhejiang University