So what made Guo Feng choose to enter the University Scholars Programme? To him, it boiled down to a question of what he wanted his university life to be like. Did he want his university life to be one that was full of colour, or one that was dull and grey? His answer was clear – “I wanted to paint my own palette, and lead a vibrant university life”.
Indeed, listening to Guo Feng recount about his life in USP so far, one cannot help but to agree that Guo Feng’s experiences in university have been nothing short of colourful and vibrant. According to Guo Feng, his life in USP can be summed up in 4 ‘P’s – People, Programmes, Play and Places.
People - “The best thing about USP is its people – the students, staff, faculty and alumni”
As a freshman, Guo Feng attended every single Freshman Orientation Programme that USP had to offer – Scholaris, Camp, Orientation Week, and he even took part in NUS Receive and Give (RAG), where he was one of the dancers at the annual NUS RAG performance. To him, this experience was unforgettable as he managed to make many lasting friends, especially within his USP House, Ianthe. Even though it has been two years since then, he says, “even now, many of my house members still meet up for frequent house gatherings and occasional steamboats, which is testament to how close we have become”.
Indeed, the USP Freshman Orientation Programme made such an impact on Guo Feng that he decided to take on the role as the Events Director for the following year’s orientation programme. As Events Director, Guo Feng was responsible for planning Scholaris, Dinner and Dance, and Ingenio, a talent show where freshman members of each house get to showcase their talents to the rest of their batch. Planning all these events was indeed an eye opening experience for Guo Feng, as he quickly learnt that organising the orientation programme was vastly different from taking part in one – for one, it was much more grueling and a lot less fun. However, he says that he would not have traded that experience for anything else – “I saw the importance of building working relationships with people, and I picked up many useful skillsets like events planning, pitching for sponsorship and developing timelines, and though it was tough, what I enjoyed most about planning orientation was the interaction with incoming freshmen and providing them with advice on how to adapt to university”.
Programmes – “USP offers a myriad of opportunities as a multidisciplinary programme”
Aside from the people, Guo Feng has also enjoyed taking part in the curriculum offered by the USP. When asked about his most memorable module (class), he does not hesitate to tell me about the Writing and Critical Thinking module he took in his first semester, UWC2101N: Clothing Identities. “The best part of the module was the professor, Prof. Lo Mun Hou – he had a very good mentorship style. He was very patient and not blunt at all, and he would always provide in-depth information on how you could improve. I felt that this was more like a two way conversation, and allows the student and professor to build a relationship that extends beyond the classroom.” In addition to the quality of instruction, Guo Feng also had high praise for the topic of the module and his fellow students – “Everybody in the class came from different faculties, and there was a very high level of multidisciplinary engagement, something which I think exemplifies what USP is all about.”
Besides the academic opportunities, Guo Feng was also involved in We Will Dance 2015, a 10-hour dance marathon to raise funds for charitable institutions in education in Singapore. As the project director, he was primarily involved in ensuring the events’ successful in its second rendition, supervising is team members in the process. Guo Feng is thankful for the opportunity to be part of something meaningful in collaboration with USP and the support he has received throughout the planning process. We Will Dance 2015 raised a total of $19,000 for its beneficiaries and received an estimated 600 odd participants at Hong Lim Park in January 2015.
Play – “Colourful fun and play all year round”
Though not strictly academic, Guo Feng has also had the opportunity to experience theatre and acting through his participation in USProductions, a USP interest group that puts up a play annually. In 2014, Guo Feng acted in the play, titled “Patchwork” despite having no prior acting background. Guo Feng speaks fondly of the experience – “Though I have no prior experience in acting, I was very lucky to have worked with the very talented directors who taught me a lot about stage direction, as well as the other actors who made the whole process highly enjoyable. Being part of a team that delivered something that the USP community could watch and enjoy was definitely a highlight of my USP experience.”
So what else does USP offer outside the classroom? As an experienced tennis player, Guo Feng has represented USP in the NUS Interfaculty Games (IFG) multiple times and has come to enjoy the camaraderie shared between the USP athletes. In addition to tennis, Guo Feng has also represented USP in Tchoukball at the Intercollegiate Games, held between the different Residential Colleges in NUS.
Places – “A wide variety of International Programmes that bring students abroad”
One thing Guo Feng treasures about USP is the international opportunities that being in USP affords him. At the end of his first year, Guo Feng took part in Step’Up Cambodia 2013, USP Youth Expedition Project or Overseas Community Involvement Project, where he not only got to help villagers, but also to visit sights such as the Angkor Wat.
Last year, Guo Feng also participated in Buddhism in Asia that brought him to Kyoto to learn more about Zen Buddhism, which preaches the concept of mindfulness. In this programme, he managed to visit various temples and also took part in meditation sessions, which he says has taught him more about other religions, as well as to appreciate the simple things in life.
Making Your Own Choice
At the end of the day, Guo Feng has this to say about USP.
“USP has the opportunities and the rigour in its curriculum to make your NUS University Life an invigorating and fruitful one. Decide if the programmes are ideal and if the academic interdisciplinary nature fits the bill. Ultimately, USP is still an academic programme before the activities such as interest groups, communal living, house system, exchange programmes follow. Everyone has a unique USP story and everyone will seek their own fulfilling NUS Life, so make yours count too!”