A Conversation with Gloria Pang
How did you hear about USP and why did you join the programme?
I found out about USP through an invitation letter for early application. I found the concept of interdisciplinary learning very appealing. I was also drawn to the diversity and types of modules offered. I wanted to have a broad-based education because I enjoy learning, but found the idea of liberal arts slightly too broad. USP was thus a perfect opportunity for me to major in Geography while learning things beyond my discipline. Being able to stay in Cinnamon College was also another factor as I wanted to experience living on campus.
Could you describe what a USP class is like? What is the emphasis? Is it different from other regular NUS classes? Any favourite module?
USP classes have a large emphasis on being able to think critically, formulate constructive arguments, and articulate your thoughts clearly.
One of my favourite modules is Disasters and Responses, taught by Dr Patrick Daly. As its title suggests, it was about learning to respond to disasters. I loved it because I thought that it encapsulated multi-disciplinary learning, and also because Dr Daly was very experienced in the field (he worked in Aceh, in the aftermath of the earthquake). I enjoyed the many simulations, class discussions and peer-learning.
What differentiates a USP class from a regular NUS class is the class size and the level of engagement. In USP classes, plenty of engagement and personal contact with the instructor takes place. The difference is especially stark when compared to NUS’s General Education and Singapore Studies modules, with big class sizes.
Outside the classroom, what are some things you have done in USP?
In my first year, I took up the role of Orientation Week (O Week) director, overseeing the O Week Camp as part of the USP Freshman Orientation Programme. It was very challenging and involved a steep learning curve, but was definitely an enriching experience. Fortunately, I had an excellent team which made the journey very enjoyable. Seeing our vision realised in the camp was extremely thrilling and made all the effort worthwhile.
In my second year, I served as the Vice President (Welfare) for University Scholars Club (USC), a student-run management committee in USP. Some of the things I did included working with the House Captains and serving in the Dining Committee. In running for this position, I gave up my place for an exchange programme. On hindsight, I did not regret the decision because I gained so much from the experience. Even though it was a lot of work, as the job scope was extremely wide and the time was always tight, it was meaningful being a voice for the USP community. Working alongside very capable and determined people also inspired me a lot; the experience allowed me to grow in confidence.
In USP, there are many interest groups initiated and run by the students. I have been active in the tennis and badminton interest groups. For the past 3 years, I have had the honour of representing USP in the Inter-Faculty and Inter-College Games. The badminton team has a special place in my heart because it was the first group of people I grew very close to outside of my USP house.
I also went on a USP Student Exchange Programme overseas for a semester, to The University of North Carolina Honors College at Chapel Hill in United States. Being an honors college, my exchange university had a lot of unique opportunities. I remember attending a talk by a White House official on the situation of the Sino-US relationship, which was very interesting as I got to hear a very different perspective than usual. Of course, we did a lot of travelling as well!
What is living in Cinnamon College like? Is the compulsory two-year stay beneficial?
Besides the convenience of being near to school, staying in Cinnamon College also allows me accessibility to various, often USP-exclusive, events and talks. Recently, I attended a dialogue session with Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education, who came to visit USP. Staying away from home has also taught me to live independently and to appreciate home more. I learnt to prioritise the people who matter and to manage my time wisely. Living with my closest friends has also enabled certain activities: studying together, pulling off late-nights together, and panicking over deadlines together. The community and people are truly one of my greatest joys in university. Of course, living with different types of people has also taught me to accommodate to each other.
What are some of your fondest memories of being in USP?
One important part of my USP experience is living in Cinnamon College. I have been staying in a suite (a common living space containing 6 rooms) with more or less the same group of friends since my first year, with whom I would have steamboats and hold midnight study sessions together. Residential life was something I did not expect to be so significant before I joined USP, but it has become a really important aspect of my USP life.
Another highlight would be O Week and its final night. When I stood there with my committee at the end of it, there was such a huge sense of accomplishment and fulfilment – months of work culminated into that moment and we couldn’t believe we actually pulled it off. ☺
What do you think is the biggest takeaway from your USP experience so far?
I would say that it is having learnt to appreciate and value diversity, through both the USP classes and interacting with so many people of different backgrounds and interests and passions - all of them are so amazing in their own right.
Gloria will be graduating with the Class of 2017 and will be working with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).