An orientation camp with a difference

By Elizabeth Lee

It was a camp that was not supposed to take place.

Tamarind Hall, part of the Nanyang Crescent cluster of hall residences, was opened just this year and a freshmen orientation camp had not been planned as the Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC) was not yet formed.

But in just a month, a group of over 70 Tamarind Hall residents came together and overcame the odds, executing a two-day orientation camp for one of NTU’s newest halls for undergraduates.    

The planning of Tamarind’s hall camp started with a Telegram group chat, consisting of a handful of new residents seeking to connect with fellow hallmates.

Soon after the chat was created, several freshmen within the group began asking for an orientation camp, prompting existing hall residents to orchestrate one.

One resident, Tay Zhi Qi, stepped up to take on the role of chairperson for Tamarind Hall’s inaugural orientation camp.

Tamarind Hall resident, Tay Zhi Qi, rallied around 70 other residents to organise the camp. PHOTO: YEO WEI LUN

The second-year School of Biological Sciences (SBS) student said he felt bad that the hall’s incoming freshmen did not have an orientation camp to look forward to.

“If I could do something for them, it wouldn’t hurt,” said the 22-year-old.

“Hall life will be more fun if people know each other,” he added.

Let the camp begin

With the help of the hall’s senior faculty-in-residence Associate Professor Jasmine Lam, Tay wrote a proposal for the orientation, which later secured funding from the Student Affairs Office.

Tay then began roping in residents by sending a sign-up link in the Telegram chat group, which had grown to include over 200 residents. He also asked for volunteers to be main committee members, programmers or orientation group leaders.

One resident who offered his help was first-year School of Materials Science and Engineering student Joseph Ong, who stepped up to be an orientation group leader.

“I saw my NTU friends applying for hall camp, and when I learnt that there was no Tamarind hall camp, I felt a strong sense (like I was) missing out on something,” said the 21-year-old.

Ong added: “I wanted to make new friends and find a community, and so, I took that initiative.”

Ong was one of almost 70 residents who rallied together to plan and execute the camp, which ran from 18 to 19 Aug.

Tamarind Hall’s orientation camp. PHOTO: YEO WEI LUN

Tamarind’s two-day orientation camp saw over 200 campers painting Pokemon characters on flags to represent their orientation groups’ identities, and exploring the hall in search of cards, as part of an orientation game.

The objective was to provide common ground for people to know each other, said Tay.

Despite the short duration of Tamarind’s camp, many residents were grateful to have enjoyed a hall camp experience.

Chief programmer and second-year Nanyang Business School (NBS) student Eddie Soh, 23, said: “Even though the camp was not big-scale, at least we have something.”

First-year School of Humanities Student Rosalind Ang, 23, said: “The point of an orientation camp is to make friends, and I think the (Tamarind) FOC achieved that.” She added that the camp helped her to grow closer to her fellow residents, whom she described as “friendly”.

Hall life after camp

Even though the camp has ended, the friendships forged remain strong.

Second-year NBS student Christina Wong, who was an orientation group leader, said the camp has helped residents become more comfortable to talk to one another, or ask for help.

The 20-year-old added: “A freshie even offered to buy food back from the pasar malam he was at.”

Third-year School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences student Daniel Neo, 23, said: “There is no barrier between the seniors and freshies. Everyone hangs out together.”

Campers playing games at the orientation camp. PHOTO: YEO WEI LUN

When asked about their plans for Tamarind Hall, residents expressed the desire to build a culture of inclusivity.

First-year SBS student Leong Utek, 22, said he hopes the hall culture can be “laid-back” so that shyer residents can feel comfortable enough to join hall activities.

Others hope that there will be more activities for residents to participate in.

Neo said having a range of activities like sports or recreational games that residents can choose from will allow them to enjoy “the full hall experience”.

In her address to campers, senior faculty-in-residence Prof Jasmine Lam said she hopes to initiate and implement programmes in line with NTU’s Residential Education (RE) scheme, which Tamarind Hall is a part of.

The RE scheme aims to enrich students’ hall life by training them in life skills beyond the academic curriculum.

Faculty-in-residence Professor Kristina Marie Tom said she was interested in looking out for the emotional well-being of students by organising workshops on handling stress, peer helping and counselling skills.

“It’s about bringing our life and career experiences and trying to make that available as a resource to students,” said Prof Tom, who also expressed interest in making music and the arts a focus.

“I hope you will participate actively in the activities,” said Prof Lam in her address to campers during the orientation camp. “Hall life is a very precious experience because it’s once in a lifetime.”