Due to the COVID-19 situation, undergrads returning to university this year will have one-of-a-kind experiences.
Starting a new semester in school is always exciting.
However, in light of the current COVID-19 situation, restrictions have been placed on university orientation programmes, school events and classes, with many activities conducted online.
Currently, universities in Singapore are offering a mix of both online and face-to-face lessons, with a class limit of 50 students for physical classes.
Five youths share about their experiences and challenges heading back to university this year.
Orientation camps are usually highly anticipated by freshmen as they can get to socialise and meet new friends. However, all orientation camps have been shifted online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Singapore Management University (SMU) freshman Glenyse Lim said: “There were some limitations in activities and internet connectivity issues as it was conducted online. Being glued to our chairs for a few hours, we also experienced some digital fatigue.
“But the facilitators tried their best to make the whole experience enjoyable and we had fun clearing the tasks together while learning more about our school.”
Felicia Choy, a second year Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduate, was a student leader for her faculty’s orientation camp. Understanding the struggles of the freshmen, she was thankful that they enjoyed the virtual orientation programmes despite the unfavourable circumstances.
The 21-year-old said: “As much as it was sad for seniors, as we have spent a lot of effort planning the camps, it would inevitably be worse for the freshmen as their camps now consist of just staring and moving about in front of their computer screen.
“It’s definitely not the most fun way to be inducted into a new environment or the easiest way to make new friends.
“However, it was fun to see people slowly opening up albeit some slower than the others. It was nice to see them try to be positive and live in the moment.”
Moving things to the virtual space also created unique and enjoyable moments for university students.
“As part of the ‘RAG’ event, the orientation groups were taught a short dance, which the seniors then curated into a short video shown during the camp finale. That was memorable for me,” said Trina Wern, a freshman at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The various games that the seniors brainstormed for the online orientation camps also helped the freshmen have fun together, despite being physically apart.
Cherie Tan, a first year undergraduate at NTU, said: “The seniors really put in a lot of effort into planning the games such that it was unique and it allowed us to get to know each other better.
“For example, we played a Bingo game where there were different tasks in every box which we had to complete together as a team. Examples of some of the tasks included singing together and drawing our orientation group leaders. I really enjoyed myself playing the games that the seniors organised!”
As many face-to-face lessons and lectures could not be held during this period, students found themselves struggling with the lack of human interaction in classes.
First year Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) undergraduate Zhao Wenqi said: “I had to discuss group work with classmates I’ve never met before, which was a new experience for me. Though I enjoy learning from home, it makes me less productive and lazier too.
“Online classes are also quite fast-paced and no one could physically help me when I faced difficulties or didn’t understand certain things.”
Although online classes have brought students convenience, it can cause disruption to learning.
“Being at the comfort of my home has its pros and cons. As lectures are being held online, I won’t have to travel to a physical class, thus making it convenient for me. However, I found myself being more distracted learning from home as compared to face-to-face classes,” said Trina.
This season may have brought new learning experiences and challenges, but many university students remain hopeful for the new school term.
“Even though I feel bummed out as there are many limitations with most activities being virtual, I’m still looking forward to starting university and the new experiences to come,” said Cherie.
“I was excited to make new friends and study together with my classmates, but I believe there are still chances to meet new people as I still have a few more years in university,” Wenqi said cheerfully.
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