Sunday, November 05, 2006


THERE must be no other community as diverse and as integrated as the one we experience in university.

The students come from different backgrounds and yet, each of those different people are in classes together, working on projects together, and waging the fight for better grades together.
It is that magical period of life where communal biases come to a temporary standstill - it is not exactly utopia, but it is a wonderful respite from the world.

And many graduates even turn to postgraduate programmes in an attempt to remain in this realm instead of facing the trials of a job and the working world.

I know of students who choose to pursue further studies in almost any field, just so they can stay on in school.

The idea of not having a professor to run to and not having pocket money is simply too scary a thought for them.

To me, college life and culture is almost reminiscent of hippie culture - most sins are forgiven and there is acceptance of very liberal concepts and attitudes.

In the blink of an eye, one can see a girl in little more than a bikini, talking and hugging a girl covered in a burqa.

Male students dress in everything ranging from freshly-ironed shirts and trousers to singlets and running shorts.

A short walk to the canteen will show a myriad of cuisines - from Japanese to Vietnamese to Middle-Eastern to Singaporean staples such as chicken rice and yong tau foo.

There are Singaporeans tucking into kebab rolls, while the exchange students they are dining with are flushing red from the spice in the chicken curry. And not forgetting the ever-figure-conscious dieting population dining on salads and tea without milk.

And in the lecture halls, the cacophony of different languages buzzing on the same subject matter never fails to make me smile.

Wherever these students may be from and whatever their majors, their worries differ little - deadlines, essays and of course, dating and gossip.

Not everyone has friends in every lecture, and freshmen sitting alone are often pleasantly surprised when their neighbours include them in the general grumbles and groans about the university and fellow varsity members.

It must be such an anomaly in a country where strangers don't always smile at each other on the MRT.

The best thing about university life, from my experience thus far, is the fact that almost all students realise that an education includes more than getting a piece of paper to frame on the wall.

Hallways ring with laughter, but there are snippets of conversation on human rights mingled with talk on the latest buy-over of some company and the newest medical technology.
This is not to say that students who are here merely to gain that wall decoration are non-existent; they are around, but certainly rarer a species than the 'global student'.

The university is a place to experience a different culture, to fall in and out of love, to fall and pick oneself up, to learn, to laugh and live, with few criticisms.

It is where you run the last lap to complete your education, so what is there not to enjoy?

(The writer is a third-year political science and South Asian studies undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.)

Signing off........ Weekend is nearing an end..........

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