What a semester! While I’m finishing up my last few finals, I have a little time to reflect on my experiences the last few months.
It was interesting experiencing the education system in Singapore, since it’s very different from Northwestern. The semester system (14 weeks, with a break week before midterms and finals) made it so there was a lot more room to breathe, especially since my modules usually only had one lecture each week and a tutorial every other week. Still, the grading style was pretty difficult to adjust to — finals are weighed heavier than they are in Northwestern, and with less assignments each exam holds a lot of weight on the grade, which leads to a lot of pressure to do well on that one assignment. The curving system is also hard to work around. I have a suspicion Engineering students might be more familiar with the terror of the curve, but trying to compete to be the limited number of people who get an A in the course means that you profit if someone else does poorly.
In other news, eating dinner together was a pretty big part of the culture on campus. People in my dorm constantly contacted each other through Whatsapp asking to come to dorm events or impromptu late-night dinners. We even shared our student ids so people can someone else’s meal plan, if they aren’t going to eat at the hall. It contributed into a pretty good sense of community with the people at the dorm.
By virtue of conversational osmosis and the types of discussion we had in class I ended up learning a lot about Singaporean history as well as the history of other countries in the area. It was refreshing to step out of an American-centric viewpoint and look at sociopolitical issues that people want to (or, in some cases, don’t want to) talk about. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught in a sort of bubble about what are “the” important issues and how to discuss them, and it’s easy to lose sight of other societies or places where discourse and discussion is constructed differently, and there are different issues that are important but are left absent in American-centric or Eurocentric discussions.
It’s been a fun experience — I’m sure I’ll miss living here when I have to leave.