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Feature

What makes millennials happy?

What makes NTU students feel on top of the world? And how do these millennials boost positivity and find fulfilment in their busy lives? Chrystal Chan, Peter Yeo and Derek Rodriguez investigate

Nurul ShafiqahPHOTO: LIONEL LIM

Happiness is… bringing glory to my country

Nurul Shafiqah
Sport Science & Management

This NTU student won Singapore’s first medal in Pencak Silat at the recent Asian Games, reason enough to be feeling on top of the world, we say. The final-year undergrad was just six years old when she got hooked on silat, after accompanying her brother to a training session. For the last 18 years, she has been training twice a day, six times a week, almost without fail. If happiness lies in the joy of achievement, then Shafiqah must know what it’s like to be on cloud nine.

“As an athlete, I believe that hard work and sacrifice drive achievement, so I embrace the suffering – years of training, tears, pain, bruises and injuries. I tell myself every day that if I hold on long enough and hard enough, I will eventually achieve what I had set out to do. The only thing more important than all that suffering is winning. The euphoria from victory – that’s happiness to me.”

PHOTO: SPORTSG

Happiness is… breaking out of my comfort zone

Chung Qi Han

Chung Qi Han
Accountancy

The exhilaration of reaching new heights is what keeps third-year undergrad Qi Han on that steep upward trek. The former president of the NTU Outdoor Adventure Club has been on 11 hikes and nine camping trips to countries like Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia since he first joined the club three years ago. The avid landscape photographer’s interest in harrowing hikes was sparked during an arduous three-hour trek up Gunung Datuk in Malaysia, when he was awestruck by the views at the top.

“Without a doubt, what makes me happy is the reward of a breathtaking view at the summit after a long, gruelling hike. The sense of gratification and relief is truly amazing, especially with close friends. One of my happiest moments out in the wild was on Mount Rinjani in Indonesia. The campsite near the summit was freezing after nightfall, and I remember my friends and I warming our cold hands and bellies with a hot bowl of potato soup. That night, we squeezed into a small tent, played card games and had heart-to-heart conversations. The sense of camaraderie created such feel-good vibes. As for the view? It was the cherry on the cake.”

Happiness is… putting a smile on someone’s face

Marie Ng

Marie Ng
English

Marie, leader of Hall 4’s Overseas Community Involvement Project for 2017/8, found great satisfaction working with her peers over the last two years – first as a member, then as President – to improve the condition of a school in a rural part of Laos that included building an annex with classrooms. But she was infused with the most joy on seeing the faces of the appreciative villagers and their children, whom she interacted with every day over games and arts and crafts, for example. Back in Singapore, the third-year humanities student and her team ran an art workshop for special needs children, an event she hopes will become a yearly one. Her juniors will also be continuing Hall 4's efforts in contributing both to the Singaporean and Laotian society.

“Small gestures, like folding a paper crown for the villagers, would make their day. It showed us that happiness really is that simple. Before we left Laos, there was a touching ceremony where the children and elders each tied a string around our wrists to bless us. As the principal wiped my tears away and laughed, I was overcome with gratefulness for the opportunity to meet the villagers and to make a small difference in their lives. I think finding happiness is about having the right perspective and reshaping the way we see things. Instead of complaining about our problems, we can remind ourselves to be more appreciative of what we have.”

Happiness is… trying to save the earth

Ang Wei Loong

Ang Wei Loong
Renaissance Engineering Programme

We only have one earth and we have borrowed it from our future generations. For Wei Loong, this has special significance as he finds fulfilment in doing his part. The final-year NTU student took matters into his own hands last year when he co-founded a business with his classmates that promotes sustainable practices by gamifying one’s green contributions through an app. Their young start-up already counts multinational companies among its clients.

“I met the co-founders of my company in a class on waste management and discovered our common interest in recycling. Working together towards a cleaner, greener world through our start-up also helped us grow closer as friends and this has brought me a lot of joy. But above everything else, having a supportive family that allows me to pursue my passions makes me happy.”

Happiness is… building something that works

Melvin Foo

Melvin Foo
Renaissance Engineering Programme

It all started five years ago when Melvin decided to build a 3D printer to create custom parts, as he was frustrated that he couldn’t find components for a robot he was making. He scoured the Web for ideas and spent countless hours tweaking his contraption to make it work. The Renaissance Engineering Programme freshman has since built six 3D printers, including resin and CoreXY-style 3D printers, all from scratch. He’s elated, he says, when the fruits of his creations can help others.

“I’ve been making things since I was nine years old, such as smartphone apps, remote-controlled airplanes, a smart security camera and Internet of Things devices, but creating my own 3D printer has brought me the most joy. The pride that comes with having made something that actually works well after umpteen tries is the best feeling in the world. The happiness that comes from finding out my inventions can help others is even better. I was thrilled when the 3D-printed teeth I made was used to help Thai villagers learn proper brushing techniques.”

Happiness is… running my own business

Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee
Biomedical Sciences and Chinese Medicine

Despite sleeping only five hours a day during busy periods, third-year double-degree student Ryan is a happy man. While pursuing a minor in entrepreneurship last year, he started a company that offers laser tag for organisations to have team-building and bonding activities. Like Counterstrike, but in real life, teams strategise to “eliminate” their opponents, shooting infrared beams at each other with guns.

“Running a business is like a rollercoaster. There are highs, like when people sign up for our laser tag games. But there are also challenges, such as marketing ourselves creatively so we rise above the chatter. Generally, the highs of entrepreneurship outweigh the challenges and I am happiest when I'm learning something new, which happens often when you're managing a business.”

My happy spot on campus is…

“The rest pod at the Lee Wee Nam Library! It is reasonably spacious and cosy, and you get privacy when you close the door.”
– Lindsey Fisk (below), Year 1, Nanyang Business School

“The study area with benches next to the South Spine car park as it’s quiet and peaceful.”
– Chua Yun Da, Year 4, School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
  “The Sports & Recreation Centre, where I go for midnight runs around the track. Afterwards, I enjoy lying on the track to look at the stars.”
– Adolphus Lee, Year 4, School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
  “The tutorial rooms at The Hive, where I play Nintendo Switch with my friends from NTU’s Cyberwellness, Cybersports and Games Creation Society.”
– Er Zheng Wei, Year 1, Nanyang Business School
   
“The North Hill gym at night, when I’m on the treadmill. But doing 11pm runs with my friends around campus also makes me happy.”
– Chen Xiangyi, Year 2, School of Social Sciences
  “My hall room in Banyan Hall. My window faces the forest and I love the view and tranquil surroundings.”
– Rachel Ang, Year 2, Nanyang Business School
 
“The unusual bench (below) at the North Spine Plaza, where I can sit and enjoy the breeze, people watch, and get a healthy dose of vitamin D. It’s just a happy place.”
– Isabel King, exchange student from Suffolk University

“The Art, Design & Media building. I like to gaze at the night sky from the grass roof. It’s relaxing.”
– Siah Wen Zhao, Year 1, Nanyang Business School
  “Our favourite tutorial room at The Hive, where my orientation group meets regularly for lunch. We even have mini karaoke sessions there since the sound system is fantastic. I like that we all set aside time to meet as a big group. During the busy lunch hour, this is a good place to be if we can’t find seats in the canteen.”
– Tan Sock Min, Year 1, Nanyang Business School
  “The Lee Wee Nam Library, as it has comfortable seats and is a cool place to retreat to on blazing hot days.”
– Muhammad Azman, Year 4, School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
   
“The massage chairs at the Cozy Hub in the Global Lounge, which is conveniently located between my classes at the South Spine and my room at Hall 12. I try to take a short 20-minute massage there before heading back to hall. It feels so good after a long day.”
– Jayden Ngooi (below), Year 2, Nanyang Business School

“The rooftop at The Hive. I like hanging out there when I need to get away from the hustle and bustle.”
– Abdullah Zulhilmie, Year 4, School of Social Sciences

For a feel-good outing, I like to…

“Go to a park to cycle and run, although a better option would be hiking in Mount Fansipan in Vietnam.”
– Marcella Chua, Year 3, School of Biological Sciences
  “Dance. I’m a freelance dancer and a part-time studio manager at a dance studio. So any empty space with a reflective surface where I can practise my dance moves, like *SCAPE and Esplanade, is where I’m the happiest.”
– Timothy Foong, Year 2, School of Social Sciences
 
“Visit my aunt, an avid baker, to pick up a few new baking tips and recipes.”
– Adeline Tan, Year 2, School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
  “Work the coffee machine at Jewel Coffee. I’m a part-time barista and it fascinates me how different types of coffee beans can be blended to create unique and delicious coffee.”
– Jeremy Koh, Year 2, School of Social Sciences
  “Go to the turtle museum at Chinese Garden and feed the turtles there. They are so cute!”
– Rachel Ang, Year 2, Nanyang Business School
   
“Find creative inspiration in the latest art and photography exhibitions at the National Design Centre.”
Jannah Suhaimi, Year 2, School of Art, Design & Media
  “Visit the Malayan tapir enclosure at the Singapore Zoo. I love animals!”
– Anna Cheang, Year 1, School of Social Sciences
 

Happy songs

We asked students on Instagram what happy beats they groove to while studying, working out and on road trips. Here's a round-up of their greatest hits.

For studying
Good Time – Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen
Fight Song – Rachel Platten
Yellow – Coldplay

For working out
Can’t Stop the Feeling! – Justin Timberlake
Mamma Mia – Abba
Run the World – Beyoncé

For road trips
Havana – Camila Cabello
Happy – Pharrell Williams
Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars