This Year, The Year Ones Are Not The Only Ones Getting Oriented
Class of 2023 Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) students share their sentiments with SHAE LYNN QUEK on missed school experiences in polytechnic.
Although final-year Early Childhood Development & Education students have to change classes this semester, Yesha, 20, a final-year Early Childhood Development & Education student, is finally able to meet and bond with her classmates physically. Photo by Yesha.
Hype Issue #55
June 17, 2022
With the circuit breaker commencing right before the academic year started for polytechnic students in 2020, the first year cohort was devastated. Imagine starting life in a new school at home instead of being on campus.
‘Lost’ is probably the word that many would use to describe their first two months in polytechnic back in 2020. Both lecturers and students were equally disoriented, trying to navigate an abnormal new normal.
If you are a student from the graduating class of 2023, you might recall your past two years as a polytechnic student as mainly being sat in front of a laptop and using Microsoft (MS) Teams for project group calls or co-curricular activities (CCA) meetings.
Technically speaking, the circuit breaker had only affected the first two months of polytechnic life in 2020. But the bigger issue is how much of the “normal” polytechnic experience students have missed.
In the very semester when Covid-19 first hit, everyone had to go through online orientation, where the meeting of your classmates for the first time had to be done virtually.
How orientation camp looked pre-pandemic (above) compared to 2020 (below). Photo from @ngeeannpoly on Instagram.
This unfamiliar process left everyone feeling uncertain. Mah Jia Wei, Valerie, 19, a final-year Film, Sound & Video student, recalls how not having a proper orientation made her feel completely lost.
“When the lot of us came to school, we were completely lost and had no idea … [where to go, nor] what facilities Ngee Ann had,” she says. “We were often late for lectures as we had no idea how to get to the class or lecture theatre and didn’t really know about places [where] we could study or have group discussions.”
A physical orientation is something that many final-year students wish they could have experienced. Not having one has made many feel wistful about their polytechnic experience.
“Because of Covid, orientation camps and such were not … held, so my freshie experience was not as fun as compared to [that of] those who entered poly[technic] before Covid”, said Neo Xuan Xin, 19, a final-year Business Studies student.
Soon after the online orientation was the start of classes and lectures which were also all done virtually.
As a Film, Sound & Video student, Valerie remembers how, despite the lockdown, their practical modules had to proceed, putting them in “a very difficult situation”.
Even after returning to campus for some face-to-face modules, they barely had time to familiarise themselves with the filming equipment. Valerie mentions that some students chose to get internships outside of school to help give them the knowledge they were not able to acquire in their first year. This in turn poses a struggle for those without such an opportunity. It created a “knowledge gap” and “power imbalance” as there is a huge distinction between the people who constantly take on bigger and more important roles like directing and those who do minor roles like set designing.
“Not being able to learn and experience what we should have [in school] ruined our class dynamic and left us to struggle or educate ourselves using resources that [could not be] provided by the school,” she says.
Not being able to learn and experience what we should have [in school] ruined our class dynamic and left us to struggle or educate ourselves using resources that [could not be] provided by the school.
A big part of the “normal” polytechnic experience is the vibrant energy on campus. Usually held at the start of April semester, events and showcases such as the annual Arts Fiesta, CCA Fiesta and Red Camp are held for NP students.
However, for the past two years, most of these activities had to be done either virtually or as a hybrid (both physical and virtual sessions). It is only recently that final-year students are seeing such events resume and take place physically.
Recitals and Arts Fiesta are events that resumed this year. This allows CCAs to showcase their performances once again. Photo by @ngeeannpoly on Instagram (left) and Megan Nicole Yin (right).
With Covid-19 restrictions being eased this year, the bustling energy of the campus has returned.
It seems that the polytechnic students in their final year are finally experiencing a little bit of the “normal” polytechnic experience they never had. However, despite being in their final year, this sense of normalcy in polytechnic has left many feeling bewildered, feeling as if they are back in their first year.
What made Yesha feel like a first-year student again is seeing “long queues and more people on campus”, “food running out while queuing” and “escalators and lifts breaking down”. What seems to be an odd scene for a Class of 2023 student, is actually all part and parcel of normal polytechnic life.
It is as if the final-year students, who are now less than a year away from graduating, are finally getting the polytechnic experiences they never had.
I guess what is woeful about this batch is how they have never experienced a full “normal year” in polytechnic. Although it is refreshing to see the campus come back to life after two years, final-year students do have their regrets about their experience. Xuan Xin shares how she feels her polytechnic life has been “wasted”.
When asked if she thinks she is finally experiencing her desired polytechnic experience with the restrictions now being lifted, Valerie says, “I feel like ‘yes’ we are finally able to come to school for lessons every single day, and ‘no’ because one of the things I really looked forward to when entering poly[technic] was overseas trips and excursions for projects. It’s similar to year two where we just came to school for class and had some online classes over MS Teams.”
While final-year students do have their fair share of regrets, they are looking at the brighter side of the situation by being more appreciative of the little things. Yesha remembers how her lecturers would try their best to conduct lessons in a more engaging and interactive way through the screen. She adds how having home-based learning has given her less stress about what to wear to school and she finds herself having more time to go through her lesson materials.
Although they cannot turn back time to relive the full polytechnic experience, it is important that they are making the most of it now in their final year.
“I’m trying to gain a few experiences since I’m graduating soon so that I wouldn’t always associate poly[technic] life [with] being stuck at home, on the computer and rushing assignments”, said Yesha.
I’m trying to gain a few experiences since I’m graduating soon so that I wouldn’t always associate poly[technic] life [with] being stuck at home, on the computer and rushing assignments.
Without a doubt, their journey in NP hasn’t been the most smooth-sailing one. Nonetheless, having such an experience has not only made the memories and friendships formed along the way more worthwhile, but also built resilience in the final-year students for their future endeavours.