THINKING ALOUD

8 reasons I would choose NTU again

By Zach Chia

PHOTO: MARK TEO
If I qualified to be an undergraduate in NTU again, I’d say yes without hesitation. Here’s why.

1. Commuting gives you precious time

I live on the opposite side of the island, so travelling to NTU is a Journey to the West. But, I spend my travelling time meaningfully, whether it’s studying, reading, chilling, sleeping, people-watching or having a conversation with friends.
I even started a started a travel blog and wrote almost all my posts on the train!

Of course, you can skip the travelling and choose to stay in a hall of residence. All freshmen are assured of a place.

2. It’s a fun initiation into adulthood

The NTU campus is probably one of the youngest residential areas in the whole country – it doesn’t ever sleep! I used to run at 3am when I lived on campus, and there was always enough people having supper to tempt me into joining in.

Living on your own is the perfect way to practice self-control and be independent. This entails preparing your meals, scheduling your daily timetable, making your bed, doing your laundry and cleaning your room. It helps that NTU is a self-contained town, with almost everything you need.

Even for the guys, staying on campus is a good rite of passage. Unlike your National Service days, you don’t answer to a commander. You impose the rules yourself as you learn to become an adult.

3. Active learning works

A flipped classroom means you learn before entering class – through watching videos and reading up on your own – and even more during the lesson itself with active dialogue. This means more work for your brain and more growth for your mind.

Under this system, you learn by discussing and not regurgitating what’s on the board.

Flipped classes also equate to more attention, since you’re no longer in a large lecture hall. Smaller classes like these therefore usually translate to better teaching and better learning.

4. NTU incubates its research ecosystem

Researchers live for that Eureka moment – that split second when it hits you that you have discovered something no one else in the world knows. It’s what makes a scientist breathe, and it’s what makes science come alive.

NTU’s high position on research rankings is the natural outcome of being in an inspiring place for science. Research is an ecosystem, and NTU has become even more of a scientific incubator, attracting academic luminaries and young sparks to the campus.

Being plugged into a compact and navigable ecosystem meant a lot to me as an undergraduate. Passionate professors, exciting discussions, revealing research… the best way to fall in love with research.

5. Aesthetics matter when you hit the books (or tablet)

The Art, Design & Media building often graces the cover of glossy NTU brochures. While it’s an architectural triumph, my favourite snapshot of the campus has to be the Chinese Heritage Centre with the South Spine, the Hive and the School of Humanities & Social Sciences in the background.

That’s four generations and four styles of buildings sitting harmoniously side by side. It’s a reminder that beauty comes in many forms, and for a young university that was bequeathed a heritage campus, it’s a lovely link to the past.

PHOTO: ZACH CHIA
The sprawling campus has enough greenery to make it peaceful and beautiful. Aesthetics matter when I want to get in the mood to learn.

6. You don’t need deep pockets to see the world

With so many global programmes and financial assistance schemes to help you see the world, almost for free, you can easily satisfy your wanderlust.

I spent my undergraduate years across three continents, without a hefty expenditure, all in the name of education. And no, I wasn’t a scholar. That’s something many at NTU aspire to and get to do. It’s great for those like me who want a chance to see the world, but can’t afford to as a student.

7. There’s a place for everybody

Picking the right university is about the fit, and no matter who you are, it’s possible to fit in at NTU. If you’re a star in the making, you’ll join the likes of Gentle Bones, Joanne Peh and Narelle Kheng. An athlete may call Dipna Lim-Prasad and Calvin Kang seniors. Name your interest and you’ll probably find kindred souls wandering around campus.

If you can envision yourself happily here for the next few years, that’s a positive start.

Next, make NTU that life-changing experience for you.

8. You make your own campus experience

Going to university gives you connections, experiences, opportunities – it opens doors. That’s why people go to brand-name universities.

But your time there is what you make of it. University can be just a place you go to for a degree, or it can lift the veil on new vistas. University can be an isolating experience or the forging of friendships. You could amble through trained but not educated, or you could chart a course inspired and inspiring.

So choose your university wisely and go in ready to own the experience.

Zach Chia, 26, is an NTU biological sciences graduate pursuing the NTU-Karolinska Institutet Joint PhD programme. When he is not working on his research in neuroscience, he takes photographs and blogs.