Struggling to stay together

15 Oct 2018

By Debbie Michelle Ng

Zhang Zhi Zhen, 23, and Hong Li Xuan, 21, have stayed togeth er in Hall of Residence 8 since 2016. They first moved in together after encountering problems with their initial roommates.

Since the guaranteed two-year hall stay programme, competition for senior students to stay in their desired halls has become even tougher. Photojournalist Debbie Ng speaks to two such students who are fighting hard to stay together

They laugh at each other’s jokes, sweat it out at dance practice, and share food, clothes and makeup. The walls of their room are littered with post-it notes written for each other, scrawled with encouraging messages like “you can do this” and “don’t give up”. It is hard to believe that just a few semesters ago, these two roommates were strangers.

Now best of friends, Hong Li Xuan, 21, and Zhang Zhi Zhen, 23, entered NTU a year before the university announced a guaranteed two-year hall stay programme in 2017. This meant that the new ruling of a guaranteed hall stay would not apply to them.

As such, to secure their spots in Hall of Residence 8, Hong and Zhang have to participate in several hall activities to get on their hall’s recommended list — a list of 105 students, chosen by the Junior Common Room Committee (JCRC), who participate actively in hall activities.

Students on the list must sign a contract detailing how they will contribute to the hall in the coming year. Those who do not comply with the terms and conditions of the contract can be asked to leave.

In order to be on that list, Hong and Zhang have dedicated their time to training for and competing in the Inter-Hall Games, Inter-Hall Recreational Games and the Hall Olympiad Closing Ceremony. They have also taken on leadership roles in their hall’s orientation camp and other committees.

Despite their hectic schedules, the pair are glad to be able to do it together.

“It’s difficult to juggle school and hall sometimes. But when I look over at Li Xuan, it’s like I’ve found someone special, and all the hard work is worth it,” said Zhang, a student from the School of Biological Sciences.

The third-year students first met each other at a hall event, and hit it off instantly. They decided to be roommates soon after. Since then, the pair have fought hard to continue being roommates in their hall for the past two years.

“We do many activities together, but we’re actually quite different people. She’s a singer, and I’m a swimmer, but we still find ways to support each other,” said the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information student, Hong. “I don’t think I could give this up so easily to stay with someone else.”

The pair often return to their room past midnight after a full day of school and hall activities. To satisfy their hunger pangs, they cook supper in the pantry.

Now in their third year, Hong (left) and Zhang continue to take part in a variety of hall activities to retain their places in Hall 8. These include dance, sports, recreational games, jam band and subcommittees like freshman orientation camp, and Dinner and Dance.

Despite their packed schedules, Hong and Zhang enjoy doing many things together, even their laundry.

Zhang (right) and Hong brush up their contract bridge skills with the help of their hall mates. They took up the recreational game together this semester, adding to the repertoire of games they compete in, such as carrom and boggle.

Both are actively involved in Hall 8’s dance team Srethgie, which is a four-time champion in the NTU Inter-Hall Dance Competition held during the Hall Olympiad Closing Ceremony. The dance troupe practices daily till past midnight in the weeks leading up to the competition.