Changing and growing with NTU

By Aishwarya Devi, Opinion Editor

Graphic: Toby Tan

Graphic: Toby Tan

As you enter university, expect to be disappointed.

The NTU that I stepped into as a freshman in 2013 is not the same school that I will be graduating from this year. Like the rambling of any average teenager, my journey in NTU matured over time.

Picture a scrawny 20-year-old, not quite grown out of her teenage years — or her acne — entering an impressive campus that houses one of the world’s most gorgeous faculty designs.

NTU, to my innocent first-year eyes, seemed like the land of promise, full of opportunities beyond my wildest imagination.

The wide variety of CCA and research programmes offered endless choices. I could gain convenient financial independence with the work-study scheme.

I took up a position as the publications director in the Tamil Literary Society and worked as a student assistant for a professor.

I joined a number of freshman orientation camps, including those held by the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty and the Tamil Literary Society, and volunteered to be on the committee for several.

NTU allowed me to take charge of my life. As a young adult, it was exactly the environment I needed.

And then it all went to hell. My time in NTU was not what this scrawny youth expected it to be.

The campus underwent major changes in my second and third years. The hall life and the stunning greenery of NTU was part of the package of NTU that had appealed to me. However, hall life was nothing more than a reprieve from the heavy construction noises that pervaded the campus.

Often enough, this also meant that my peers and I lose our favorite hangout spots.

Not to mention the sweaty mess I was, evading the many obstructed passages and maneuvering around diversions as I made my way to attend classes.

The surrounding dust and noise pollution that filled the campus mirrored the chaos that was the end of my first two years at NTU. The ambitious, wide-eyed first-year student had given in to the stress of balancing the three most important “S”-es of any college student: school, social life, and most importantly, sleep.

It was as if the image I had of myself traipsing through the stunning campus of NTU with my perfect grades and my perfect social circle, had collapsed in on itself. Instead, I was a tired, unhappy student in an equally lackluster setting.

My friends and I were disappointed, to say the least.

I realise now that a sense of entitlement had preceded my expectations. My years of academic advances — from primary school to the dreaded A levels — had reinforced in me a pride for my ability and determination.

In an eager attempt to prove myself, I had spread myself too thin. I had unknowingly conditioned myself to believe that I had crossed some form of invisible finish line. That upon my admission to university, my academic life and career would sort itself out naturally.

I could not have been more wrong, however.

Success is not an end game, but a continued work in progress. The process does not always look pretty, but at the end of the day, I realise that I now have a renewed understanding of my goals.

Despite the inconveniences of the construction works in NTU, the NTU campus has never looked better. Much like the campus infrastructure that has housed me for the past four years, my work ethic has undergone a major remodel.

I am better able to multitask, while also acknowledging my limitations. Instead of spreading myself thin over too many activities, I have learnt to focus myself on a few tasks that I can excel at.

Likewise, I would be selling myself short if I do not acknowledge the gains of my disappointments. I had been disappointed with my ability to cope with my academic ventures. And I had let these frustrations be aggravated by the surrounding mess of my physical environment. However, in the end, I have gained from them both.

As I walk through the campus today, I feel as I did when I first stepped into this university — positive.

The open concept of the North Spine, with sunlight filling the corridors, the new buildings in the South Spine and the fresh new look that my school has, fills me with hope for my future outside as I step out of my academic life.

Expectations are great if you are prepared to be disappointed — to learn from these disappointments.

As this final year comes to an end for me, I face the seemingly daunting world outside, remembering that it is not about the dirty, noisy journey, but the results that grow out of it.

After all, if NTU can reinvent itself, then its students most definitely can.