By Wee Rae
NTU Fest made its comeback on 19 Aug after a year-long hiatus, with a slew of new initiatives that saw more emphasis placed on celebrating the university’s achievements and support for student groups and local talents.
Part of the annual Freshmen Welcome activities, NTU Fest is a full-day extravaganza which marks the start of the new academic year.
This year’s affair comprised of a carnival, walkathon and concert – a central event to bring the university and community together.
It was opened to all NTU students and staff. Residents of Jurong and their families and friends were also invited to attend the event.
NTU Fest held its inaugural event in 2014. It took a one-year hiatus in 2016 to review its operations, following declining student participation from 2014 to 2015.
Back with new measures
Unlike past years, this year’s event was held on campus at the Sports and Recreation Centre – the first of many changes.
Previously, the event took place at public venues such as the Padang in 2014 and The Promontory@Marina Bay in 2015.
Second-year student Fan Wenxuan, who attended NTU Fest in 2015 and 2017, felt that the change in venue was a good decision.
“Holding it in school makes it more convenient for students who stay in halls to come,” said Fan, a student at the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
“We are also in an environment that we are familiar with,” added the 19-year-old.
Chairperson of the NTU Fest 2017 committee Bryan Tan shares similar sentiments.
“By bringing the event back to home, it relates back to the original objective of identity and appreciating your school,” said the 25-year-old, who graduated from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering last month.
“If NTU Fest was held in the CBD (Central Business District), it becomes a public event rather than an NTU event,” he said.
Tan added that this year’s event took on a more student-centric approach. This comes as the NTU Fest student committee had a greater influence over the planning of the event.
They also worked with other student clubs such as the NTU Sports Club and Welfare Services Club, who assisted with idea generation and the execution of the event.
This allowed the committee to gather more feedback from students during the planning process, added Tan.
Other changes included the introduction of a walkathon at the event, which covered scenic routes along Nanyang Lake and the Chinese Heritage Centre.
Performances by Jam Bands from the various Halls of Residences, dance groups and the university’s acapella group, Harmonix, were also among the line-up.
In a bid to support local talent, there were also special performances by artistes Hayley and Jayley Woo.
At previous editions of NTU Fest, the focus had been on K-pop stars like Kang Gary and Dal Sherbet who were guest performers.
Exhibition booths were also set up at The Wave, NTU’s newly opened sports hall built using engineered wood from sustainable forests.
The booths showcased notable student projects such as the EDGAR-2 robot engineered by students from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Nanyang Venture 8 – a four-wheel urban concept electric micro-car designed by students from the College of Engineering.
Vy Tran, 22, an exchange student from Vietnam, said that the event was a good platform for exchange students to learn more about NTU.
“As exchange students, we do not know much about NTU. Through this event, we can make more friends and learn more about the NTU spirit which is really nice,” said Tran.
Small crowd despite changes
Despite the new initiatives in place, many students felt that the event turnout was underwhelming.
Aakash Kumar, 22, a member of NTU Breakers who performed at the event, said that students are less likely to attend school events on a weekend.
“Most people aren’t in school on a weekend and those staying in halls would have gone home,” said the third-year student at the School of Biological Sciences.
Some attributed the small crowd to the event’s inconvenient location.
“To be honest, I expected it to be quite dead because nobody would come at this time, and also since NTU is so inaccessible,” said Gladys Lim, a third-year student at the School of Social Sciences.
She added that the event could have been better promoted to generate more interest among students. “I felt that there wasn’t really much hype about it,” said Lim.
Jeryl Chen, vocalist of Hall of Residence 16 Jam Band One Knight Stand, preferred the event to be held off campus.
“When you celebrate NTU, I think it’s good to showcase it to the rest of Singapore as well,” said the 22-year-old.
Performing to a larger audience in public would also allow students to gain exposure and step out of their comfort zones, added Chen.
Despite the lower-than-expected attendance, this year’s crowd size is still an improvement from the turnout at NTU Fest in previous years.
President of the Students’ Union Gan Rui Yun said that the event turnout was estimated at 5,000 based on ticket sales – a 45 per cent increase from 3,441 back in 2015.
Professor Kwok Kian-Woon, Associate Provost of Student Life, believes that the main problem for the low turnout lies with the students’ mindsets.
“Sometimes we can’t always use the same old argument of the campus being too far. We all have to chip in a little for a special day,” he said.
“Building strong university traditions is always challenging, but we have to start somewhere.”