Feature

New hits on the block

By Zach Chia
I’m jealous. Why do all these cool things happen after I graduate?

This lush garden campus tucked in the west of Singapore that we affectionately nickname Pulau NTU is fast becoming a Pulau of Possibilities. To the uninitiated, “pulau” means “island” and for some time, it was felt that NTU is an island in itself, since we don’t have the luxury of a train station at our doorstep. Despite that, it was named one of the top 15 most beautiful campuses in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine.

But Jurong itself is hotting up, with big-name retailers like H&M, Sephora, COS and Robinsons now in our backyard. There’s even an Olympic-size ice skating rink that offers a cool respite on days when temperatures go past 30 degrees Celsius.

To my lucky juniors, enjoy your time here as I can only imagine the things I could have done at...

... the plush dorms around the campus
In my time (I feel old saying this), competition for hall places was keen despite NTU being the largest residential campus in Singapore. I had to wait four weeks to get my pad, and that was with 14 points. Things are set to get a lot better with 5,000 new hostel places by 2015 and the first of the new additions (top picture) ready this August. Staying on campus is a great experience even if for one semester – you mature a lot, learn to deal with people and manage your life.

What I’d do?
Stay on campus and take part in all that hall life has to offer. When I was a resident of the condo-like Hall 3 (stay there!), there was always something fun happening, like block suppers and makan trips to “Ah Fang”, which is just a short walk from NTU. Those were the good times.

... the refreshed campus “lake”
The Nanyang Lake, sitting pretty much in its original form since the days of the former Nanyang University on these same grounds, was once a place for “love birds” to court and write poetry. Come this October, it will be rejuvenated, promising sparkling waters.

What I’d do?
Sit on the bench with that special someone and watch the sunset. As we chat, the sun’s gentle rays reflect off the clear water, caressing our faces... Oh, oops, I mean I’d sit there and study for my exams (we could be studying marine biology).

... the new medical school buildings
At NTU’s Novena campus, a beautiful 1920s structure has since been sensitively restored, with a new glass cube building reflecting the old. Here, medical students can do cutting-edge research whilst being inspired by the achievements of the past. The Novena campus will soon add a 20-storey Clinical Sciences Building. This will be complemented by a seven-storey Experimental Medicine Building at NTU’s main campus, which will be linked to the School of Biological Sciences.

What I’d do?
I am a science graduate, so if anyone wants to hire me for scientific research, you know where to look!

... the open-air campus centre
In time to come, you may not be able to find a good reason to get out of Pulau NTU. Get your daily chores done at the upcoming North Spine Hub near the Student Activities Centre, where there will be a new retail and F&B strip with, I imagine, your favourite toast-and-tea joints, bakeries, fast food outlets and restaurants, as well as a pharmacy and post office and even a “buskers’ street”. This buzzing stretch could be ready as soon as next year.

What I’d do?
I’d join an amazing lunchtime flash mob that randomly belts out cool songs to passers-by. And mail presents for my exchange friends who have gone back home.
... the nosh spots mushrooming on campus
The hippest eatery used to be Pitchstop Café at the Innovation Centre. It’s still an amazing place to have great pizza at an affordable price, but it’s facing strong competition. There’s now Artease at the humanities and social sciences building, Vänner Bistro at the Nanyang Auditorium, Starbucks at the Student Activities Centre, Spruce Bistro beside the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, and the just-opened The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf opposite the Nanyang Auditorium.

What I’d do?
Go on a round-the-campus café hop. I’d grab a massive mushroom pizza from Pitchstop, then head to Artease for a delightfully sweet cup of bubble tea, and top it all off with decadent desserts from Spruce Bistro and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
... the newly-refurbished campus clubhouse
When the newest extension of the renovated campus clubhouse opens this August, it will house a reading room, a pavilion and an outdoor food kiosk that connects to the pool at the Sports & Recreation Centre (so you can relax by the water with an icy drink in hand).

What I’d do?
I’d just chill the day away by the pool, humming to Bruno Mars in the background.
... the new health and wellness centre
The new University Health Service, conveniently located between the North and South Spines, offers under one roof medical and dental services and counselling services with separate entrances for students and NTU employees. Here, you can also get your X-ray done on the spot – in spanking new environs.

What I’d do?
If I feel under the weather, I’d stop trying to self-medicate with Vitamin C and head straight to the medical centre. I might even make an appointment to get my teeth polished on the next visit.
... the campus at night
The night-lighting around campus right now is nothing to shout about. Under the new campus master plan, however, the lighting will be a lot more appealing, with lights that accentuate the beauty of the campus after dark. I like the sound and look of this.

What I’d do?
I’d walk around the campus at 3am in the morning, enjoying the scenery as I de-stress from all that hard studying. I do that now, but the experience is set to get even better.

While you’re enjoying all these amazing new changes, don’t forget to make new friends. On this vibrant campus, there are over 33,000 young people from more than 100 countries, and a few thousand more young-at-heart professors and staff members. That’s a lot of people to meet. Have fun!

When I saw her standing there...
If one day in the future, you’re reminiscing the moment you met the love of your life at the new learning hub at the South Spine, spare a thought for your Cupid, Prof Freddy Boey. Word has it that the Provost had a simple request to the building’s award-winning designer, Thomas Heatherwick – build a place where young people would want to “mix and match”, and hopefully find their sweethearts! Another learning hub is planned at the North Spine by 2016. More chances to get lucky as you learn!

Ed’s note: Hey, Zach, come back for postgrad studies and enjoy these new facilities!