We ask 10 freshmores what led them to choose SUTD, what drives them, and what it’s like to be part of the SUTD community.
Goh Ying Hao
“I want to improve myself in all aspects be it physically, emotionally, financially. In 2016 I was hurt quite badly on all fronts: I had my third ACL injury which meant I couldn’t play rugby on a competitive level again; I did badly for A-levels and got rejected by all the universities; I had a break-up during the same period, NS, and then developed suspected tuberculosis/ lymphoma cancer and got quarantined in EDC and was told I would die in 2 weeks. I felt so tired of everything. But I’m perfectly fine now. I’m invincible now.
I chose SUTD because of its focus on personal development. I feel SUTD has such a beautiful wholesome vibe: like hang out at night, sit and stare at the stars, slow dance in the dark kind of vibe. People say more but speak less.
I co-run two startups outside of school and have my own tech team of brothers I trust with my life. Monthly we’ll come together and try to create something. I plan to go into the EPD pillar, to bring hardware design to my team, because I believe that can bring us up to another playing field and maybe we can create something that can just change the world.”
“Coming from a very competitive school, the environment here has been a 180-degree change. The people here are kind and helpful, and there’s not a point in time where I don’t have anyone to ask for help from. Even at midnight in the dormitory!
There was one time I really just started panicking and just broke down because of physics. Because of my background from my previous school, the moment you don’t get something and you feel very pressured because everyone else gets it. I was just doing my homework and then I just started crying. I said things like, I’m going to fail. Then my good friend from my OG came over, bought me food and just sat with me to accompany me. It’s so stupid. When I ask around, nobody breaks down over something that small.
I know that I liked architecture since young because I designed my own room when I was like nine by myself. I saw myself as a doctor or an architect. My first choice was medicine but I didn’t get in. For architecture, it’s obviously between SUTD and NUS. When I talked to people here, they seem to enjoy what they do. And they say this school doesn’t make it tedious.
Within the first few weeks in SUTD, I already had multiple opportunities to do more. I was selected for the Design Odyssey (Drive) programme. I’ve been active in community involvement programmes since secondary school. My group is now working with a nursing home. By visiting them, we highlight what problems they have, and then create something that addresses their problems.”
Thoon Zar Chi Ko
“I never thought I would go into engineering. During the SUTD open house, I learnt about the ISTD programme and how they have specialised tracks like cybersecurity, which is something that I want to go into. I also want to stay in a hostel — SUTD is on the other side of the country for me because I live in the west!
I usually hang out with the international students during the weekend because I got sian (tired) of travelling home. They go on their own self-organised tours around Singapore. One Saturday, I joined them on one outing. They wanted to see Bugis Street, so we brought them there, where they tried some of the local food.
My parents were born in Myanmar and they moved here to pursue their masters in electrical engineering in the 80s. I was born in Singapore. There’s another Myanmar girl in my cohort classroom who I can click with. I help her with adjusting to Singapore life, while she helps me with Burmese because I’m not good in Burmese. I can speak, but it’s really broken. As for reading and writing… I just can’t!
In SUTD I’m struggling a little with physics. I dropped physics in Secondary 2 because I didn’t think I would go into engineering. But here I am. My classmates are very patient in explaining the concepts to me. I’m really grateful for them.”
“I chose SUTD because of the whole structure of the school. The way the school integrates both design and engineering is very interesting and unique. I knew all along that I’m into design and I was sure that I was not into specific design courses like fashion. So when I heard about this school when I was still in secondary school, I felt that this is the school that I want to be in.
Living in hostel feels like a very long staycation. I personally like to socialise. If you are not staying in the hostel, you normally only communicate with others in between classes and during lunch breaks. It’s very superficial. But with having to live in hostel, you are able to hang out with them, have heart to heart talks with them even after classes and Fifth Rows. I could just knock on my friend’s door and ask if I could come in. Also, the hostel buildings are unique in the sense that there are also air-conditioned study rooms and anyone is free to join.
My first month has been very eventful… But the one that stands out was when I had a relationship problem. So, some nights, I would spend my time talking to my friends about it, hear their different perspectives and so on. It’s very heart-warming to know that your friends are there for you (literally anytime).
As for my academics, I hope I don’t get too anxious from the exams, the first exam literally started in week 4, pretty early I would say. But the reason why I’m afraid of getting too anxious is because during A-levels, I went into stress eating to relieve my stress. It developed into an eating disorder over time and I gained 10kg from that and THAT’S a lot! Early this year, I started counselling and I am better now. And now that I have started a new chapter in SUTD, I feel like I’m starting afresh. I’m still trying to overcome this disorder but with supportive friends and family, I can! Now, I also try to cope with stress through sports. My friends and I often run together at the track to keep fit and that helps me in de-stressing and it also serves as a bonding activity!”
“This first month has been incredibly tiring but fulfilling. The highlight was taking part in a machine learning competition organised by DSTA. I took part with my JC friends and an SUTD graduate who I met during matriculation. We were supposed to build a neural network to classify images and we eventually came in second place. Normally we play cybersecurity Capture-the-Flag (CTF) competitions, so machine learning was completely new to us. And unlike many of the other top teams we designed our networks largely by hand because we wanted to learn how every little part worked.
I wish I could use the SUTD labs more. There is just so much to do and so little time! One of the main reasons for coming here is to have an environment where I am encouraged to apply theory to solve real problems. I went to the School of Science and Technology, which is very similar to SUTD. Tight-knit community. Different approach to learning. I feel that I fit well here.
Even though one of my bigger hobbies is building software, I also love robots. So, it’s either ISTD or EPD, I can’t decide yet! Robotics is highly interdisciplinary. You’ve got to have your electronics, software, and intelligence. But you also need mechanical and functional design. Another reason why I like SUTD is because it is integrated. You can usually be in one pillar and take modules from another, which is awesome.”
“I started learning the guitar in Secondary 2 through YouTube videos. It’s all self-taught. One day someone told me, “Eh, you’re pretty good. Do you want to perform?” I said maybe I’ll try. So that’s how I started performing. I joined a music community called Indigo Scales and I handle manpower. We have two concerts a year attended by around 300 people.
I performed during Orientation and my OG mates were very supportive. I could hear them screaming from the stage. It was really heartwarming for me. And after my performance, we formed a circle and then we just danced and cheered. It felt surreal. It’s one of those moments when I felt that these are people that I can really have fun with, and open my heart to. It’s really the people here that makes the experience so precious and memorable.
I’m now preparing for a concert in August for SUTD freshmores, called Summer Vibes. I’m also the assistant director for the event. Because of all my activities, the first four weeks in SUTD have been rather stressful. I’m still trying to find the right balance. I’ve been studying with my OG friends until 2 or 3am to catch up with my studies and make sure I don’t fall behind. I don’t get a lot of sleep. I drink a lot of coffee but I’m trying to cut down a bit.”
“Before I joined university, a lot of people that I know kept saying that once you join a university you won’t really have friends, you won’t really have a social life. But when I stepped into SUTD, it’s totally different from what my friends told me. Every single day there is something that I can look forward to. Previously in JC, I had nothing like that. I would look forward to going home. Yesterday I was looking forward to Fifth Row, and my supper with my Fifth Row friends. And I always look forward to night study sessions even though they are very tiring. During our study sessions we joke a lot. It’s always fun.
My dad thought that I would not come to SUTD because he thought that I would actually go into arts or something like that. But I’m quite fond of things that my dad has done. He works in computer engineering and even has a few patents under him. I always envisioned that I want to go in the same line of work. My dad’s colleagues are also very supportive. They tell me I should do computer engineering and be like my dad: create apps, something which is very useful for people. My dad also says the interns from SUTD are quite good, why not go there? So yeah, my dad, he’s my inspiration.
I think one of the best things about SUTD is that the cohort is so small. Everyone in my class knows everyone. That’s how nice it is. And we always have dinner together. Last night, I went off for supper and I didn’t know that they were having a games night together as a group! And they wanted to have a steamboat party session on 7 July at 7pm hence the party name 777 Steamboat party. I’ll be there, obviously.”
“I like the curriculum in SUTD, it’s less traditional compared to NUS and NTU. SUTD emphasises a lot about passion, innovation and entrepreneurship. I talked to seniors and I found out that many alumni have their own start-ups. And to the teachers here, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Even if it’s a stupid question, the teachers would really go through with you, like asking why the student asked the question and take you through the steps to get the answer. In my time here, I don’t feel like there’s any competition. It feels like everybody’s working together to do well, and to make sure that nobody is doing badly. If you need help, your friends will help you. I think it’s a special culture.
SUTD also gives you a lot of opportunities. I’m in my freshmore but next month I am going to MIT for the IDC Robocon competition. I just started school 4 weeks ago and I already got a chance to go to MIT! The two of us going for this have no experience in robotics, but they will teach us over there. It’s a two-week long programme. I’m really looking forward to it.
Living in a hostel gives me a lot of freedom. But with that freedom comes discipline. I really have to plan my time wisely. Sometimes I just have to say ‘no’ to hanging out with friends to study instead. Another thing about living on campus is having to settle my own meals. I’m a Muslim so there are only one or two stalls I can eat from. So, I cook almost every day. Sometimes my friends and I would cook together. Yesterday I cooked mee goreng for a group of friends. We are actually planning to start a new CCA, but we’re still figuring it out.”
“I’ve been quite involved with the sports scene here in SUTD. I joined basketball and floorball and have represented the school for the recent basketball tournament. This is something I never expected that I could do, because one year ago I tore my ligament while playing football. I haven’t been doing any sports for the past year because I was afraid to make it worse. During SUTD’s discovery week, I tried out the wide variety of sports and fell in love again.
I think one nice thing about SUTD’s Fifth Rows is that we don’t have that superstar mentality. I think there are a lot of people who wanted to try a sport before SUTD, but they don’t get to because schools or clubs outside are quite selective and stringent with their selection. But here, we welcome everyone as long as they have the passion for it. We win through friendships and experience, and it’s not always about the medals.
Besides sports, an architectural education has always been something I wanted to experience, so I plan to join the ASD pillar. I discovered SUTD four years ago, when I came here to watch the A-division football finals. My friend and I walked around the campus, and sat on the Jackie Chan Pavilion and I immediately had an interest in the school. I went to read more about the curriculum here and talked to a few of my seniors and some of the staff. After my A-levels, I only applied to SUTD. No regrets.”
“Moving to university isn’t easy – especially not after I’ve spent the past six years in an environment I grew to be comfortable in. The first few days of orientation turned out to be more overwhelming than I had expected. It felt like I couldn’t click with anyone and that’s when the doubts arrived – many ‘what ifs’ and questions about whether I had ultimately chosen the right path for myself. I confided in my friends, and they reminded me of why I made this decision in the first place while validating my thoughts and feelings, cheering me on from the sidelines. It was almost as if they knew it would get better. And true enough, as the days passed, my worries proved undue. Much laughter, joy and funny moments have been woven into my life as I made newfound friends and shared many wonderful memories with them. I will always remember calculating prices in Set As, the magic of L’Hôpital’s rule, jamming to Disney songs until 2am, late night conversations and many more. I am incredibly thankful to my friends, both old and new, for being such strong pillars of support for me and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
I chose SUTD mainly because of its multi-disciplinary curriculum and unique teaching pedagogy. I knew that I wanted something beyond the traditional teaching styles that have accompanied me for my educational journey thus far. Indeed, in SUTD, I would often find myself standing before the whiteboard, working through case problems with my peers, along with the guidance of helpful lecturers who would really take time to ensure that we understand the course material. Although the student community here is small, it is incredibly homely and vibrant, where students always look out for one another and are unafraid to voice out their opinions and suggestions for improvements around the school. For all these reasons and more, I am glad to have chosen SUTD. The fact that it is near my home is also another major plus point!
My time in SUTD thus far has been fulfilling – I’ve learnt so much about computing, programming, etc. that are grounded in real-life contexts and applications. I look forward to what’s to come, especially being able to work with the latest technologies as an engineer at the Defence Science and Technology Agency in future!”