Staying at campus’ hostel is a fun way to meet new people and save time on commute to classes. But did you know that the first-year mandated stay, like so many other things at SUTD, has been designed to be an integral part of the Freshmore (first three terms for all SUTD students) experience?
We recently paid a visit to Cheryl Low, one of SUTD’s university ambassadors and Freshmore student, to get the inside scoop about living at SUTD Hostel.
The Camaraderie and Hostel Culture
“All of us tend to be busy, but we will still go out for supper on most nights. There’s so much good food in the East – like Simpang Bedok or Bedok North Block 85; the prata there is so good!” Cheryl beamed when asked about her favorite hostel routines. Like any true Singaporean, bonding over a late-night bowl of noodles or a platter of barbequed chicken wings has forged many deep friendships among SUTD undergraduates.
But there is a deeper layer to this as well. As Freshmore students from the same class live on the same floor, discussions often drift to the projects they are working on, trading ideas on how to tackle challenges from common modules. And this is working precisely as intended; campus living was designed to promote such collaborations and foster a sense of community.
Cheryl explains, “I usually hang out with friends from my Fifth Row clubs (SUTD’s co-curricular activities), or friends from the same floor since they are either from my class, or partner class. We also have Hostel Guardians who organise activities for us like workshops and celebrations which give opportunities for the various floors’ occupants to get together.”
Like in any university, the weeks are determined by the class schedule. “You really do feel it when it gets to the heavier part of the term. The school remains lively after dark, with people staying up to work on their projects,” quips Cheryl as she recalls the project she did in the previous term.
“That’s not always the case though. When we’re not too busy doing our projects, it’s always nice to hang out with each other and enjoy the facilities. We have recreation rooms with TVs and beanbags to catch a movie or the student lounge with board games and a foosball table. Sometimes we just catch up with each other in our rooms.” Cheryl, jovially sharing what they get up to when there is free time. “While I don’t cook, other students will sometimes cook for us – some of them really enjoy cooking at the hostel kitchen.”
Thriving in a Design-Centric Environment
For a design-minded person like Cheryl who came from a Junior College taking Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Economics, choosing SUTD was a natural choice. “I was drawn by SUTD’s unique curriculum because it is very design-centered. I knew I wanted to do science, but not exclusively, so it’s a perfect fit.”
While it has been more rigorous than she initially anticipated, the broad-based approach has given Cheryl a lot of opportunities to explore various subjects as compared to her friends who go to other universities. “It’s been enjoyable to learn new things, for example, I’m currently taking ‘The Digital World’, where I’m learning to code in Python to solve problems. During the Freshmore year, you get a taste of the different pillars in SUTD before deciding which pillar to major in.”
Looking around her room, we asked Cheryl about the soldering iron that is sitting on her desk. “I joined SUTDio (a Fifth Row club that specialises in architecture, design and arts) where I was a part of the product design team for one of our installations, so the soldering iron is essential to me. I love making physical, tangible things.”
Something else that stuck out to, was a partially assembled 3D printer sitting at the side of the room. “It’s for a project I have in mind, I really do have to get around to finish assembling the 3D Printer,” Cheryl sheepishly explains.
When asked about whether her SUTD experience so far was what she expected, Cheryl shares that “I’ve done a lot more ‘real world things’ than I imagined in my first year. Between school work and Fifth Row activities, I’m constantly kept on my toes.”
An example of this was helping to organise PARK(ing) Day 2017, where Cheryl was part of the publicity team. PARK(ing) Day is part of the annual worldwide event where artists, designers and members of public transform parking lots into temporary public spaces. The annual event is organised by SUTD in collaboration with Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).
Being a female in an engineering school
“There is still a stereotype that we (girls) can’t handle the hard sciences, but I feel like at the end of the day if you can do it, people will recognise you for what you can do. If anything, SUTD has the best representation of females among all engineering schools in Singapore,” says Cheryl, proud of the record that her batch of students is made of 38% female. She acknowledged that while this is a good statistic, there is still work to be done on this front.
As for advice for girls thinking about coming to SUTD?
“If you’re passionate about something, don’t let what other people have to say stop you. At the end of the day, you’re just as capable as anyone else. It’ll be hard for people to judge you if you prove your worth.”