What’s college really like? Honest reflections of an SAS alum

As the 2015-2016 school year comes to an end, 274 seniors will be leaving the very place they call “home” – Singapore American School. More than just an international school located on a tiny island in the Asia Pacific, SAS has been a safe nest that students have built through knowledge and interaction. The graduating class of 2016 will soon be flying off independently to explore exciting worlds outside of that protective nest.

At SAS, we are pounded by our teachers reminding us of our textbook reading pages for the night, and are given second chances to retake a test. We wake up to breakfast prepared for us on the dining room table and a school bus to take us to Woodlands. However, none of this is readily available for us in university. No teacher is going to put up assignments on Schoology, and no one will be there to wake us up if we sleep past our alarm clock. There is no doubt that seniors and even juniors wonder what being a college student is really like, and how their days are planned out.

Alum Jihan Chung (‘15), who will be a sophomore at New York University this fall, shares with us a peek into his daily life at university.

Alumni Jihan Chung who graduated SAS in 2015.

The Eye: Why did you choose to go to NYU?

The reason I came to NYU was because of the location and its name value. To be very honest, I put myself above the majority as far as intelligence and personality goes. I am the greatest person I know and I thought it was only fitting that a great person like me lives in the greatest city in the world, New York City. I am so happy I made this decision.

New York University Campus. Photo from Creative Commons.

The Eye: What are you majoring in?

As of right now, I am majoring in Economics. However, I intend to switch my major to marketing. I am studying economics right now is because the world we live in runs on capitalism. If I want to come out alive in this capitalist society, I must learn the system perfectly; I think economics is the fundamental core to understanding the world around me. Economics is everywhere – it explains why someone would eat at McDonald’s instead of Morton’s steakhouse for dinner, or why someone would take the MRT to Orchard instead of taking a cab. I see economics as a topic everyone in a capitalist society should study, much like how people say swimming is a necessary skill because of Earth’s big bodies of water. Yet, I want to major marketing because studying economics for four years can only go so far. I consider economics as simply the fundamentals and that marketing would be my next step.

The Eye: What does the outline of your typical day look like?

I scheduled all my classes to start at 9:30 am this semester so that I don’t have to wake up too early for class. I normally eat breakfast unless I choose to leave bed a little later than usual. After my 9:30am to 10:45am class, I either take a nap or do homework for my next upcoming class, which happens at around 2:00pm to 3:00pm. I hit the gym for two hours for some sweet gains after my second round of classes. By then, I’m usually starving so I grab dinner from a nearby dining hall and eat in in my dorm with friends.

The Eye: How does life in college compare to life when you were studying at SAS?

The Western education system has definitely given me more freedom. It’s somewhat like when I first became a high schooler, and experienced what a free period was. I can do whatever I want in between my classes because I have more freedom to work with. Although I am able to spend time doing what I really want to do, I have to manage my time so that I have space for classes, and personal health, whether it’d be doing homework on time, catching a club meeting, going to the gym or taking a nap. The academic aspect of university is also very different. At SAS, I was required to take at least six classes, many of which I had no interest in. On the other hand, the program I am a part of at NYU only assigns me four classes. With a smaller number of classes for the semester, college has given me more time to spend on each individual class.

The Eye: What is one thing that college has taught you that high school didn’t?

In my opinion, high school leaves students with the feeling that the students are confident in their academic goals and social skills, but I am not sure if that is correct. In terms of social skills, I feel that high school never taught me much. In SAS, most people have their group of friends that do everything together, but in college, you lose friends that were in your group, and might feel somewhat insecure or left out. When students go to college, they might not know exactly what to do because it’ll be difficult to find another group that was like the one they were part of in high school.

The Eye: How do you manage financial costs in college?

I really don’t manage my money to be honest. I am telling you right now that Amazon Prime will blow you and your bank account away. Additionally, it’s hard to manage money when you live in New York City, where everything is much more expensive.

The Eye: What are some of the activities you can do in New York but you couldn’t in Singapore?

I like New York City because there is always something to do. For example, if I want to take my mind off of things, I could take the subway to the Highline and walk through the park. I could also go to the Brooklyn Bridge and see the skyline of the best city in the world. Wall Street, Battery Park, Rockefeller Center, Radio city, Empire State Building, and Central Park are just a few places to check in. There is no way Singapore could provide me with any diversity that is even remotely close to what New York City provides me with.

Central Park. Photo from Creative Commons.

The Eye: What is the best part about being a college student?

The best part about being a college student is that I am a step closer to becoming an adult and finding out what I can do for society. I have learned how to live in society for 13 years and still have three more years to go. I am just really excited to go out there and be a part of society.

The Eye: What is one piece of advice that you can give to graduating seniors attending college in the fall?

There really isn’t anything you can do to prepare yourself. However, there is nothing wrong with that. College is a place to explore different majors and graduate with the degree that you have enjoyed studying. Remember when people said that high school is the place to decide what you want to do in college? That’s not really the case. People change majors frequently as they learn more and more depth about each field of study.

New York City Skyline. Photo from Creative Commons.

Author: Christen Yu

Christen Yu is a senior and one of the co-editors for the eye this year. She has been a student at Singapore American School for fourteen years, and despite having been born in Southern California, she considers Singapore her home. A few of her favorite things include wasting time and money on Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise episodes, and overusing the snapchat dog filter. She finds happiness in drinking bubble tea, and making friends laugh. She can be contacted at yu18985@sas.edu.sg.

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