Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Musings -- At the end of the day

I hate to sound clichéd but I can't think of a better phrase (right now) to use than "Time flies". As I'm typing this post right now, I recall the first blog post we were asked to write. I said that I wanted to be able to grasp crucial concepts about communicating effectively and bringing my ideas across well in different circumstances. And now, 13 weeks and 6 blogs posts later, I believe that I have gained more than what I had expected to.

Over this entire course of resume and report writing, taking minutes and drafting agendas, I dare say that I was truly exposed to every aspect of communication. The very fact that each ES lesson requires us to work with different groups of people, has enabled me to reach out and build relationships with every single one of my classmates. More importantly, I was able to expose myself to different kinds of people and make good use of various communication skills. Like Brad always says, "Know Your Audience" and knowing that each individual in my class is different, working with a different group each time stretches my communication vocabulary.

In my opinion, every assignment in this module has an associated communication skill that we can take home with. Tough as it may be, the process of writing the report has really equipped me with valuable team and oral communication skills. I also love the hype and enthusiasm that each lesson brings because of the seminar-style teaching. It allows greater teacher-student interaction which is diminishing in most other Science Faculty modules. This itself has inculcated in me, better communication among my peers and professors. What I find most interesting about this module is blogging because of the chance to read my classmates' blogs and gather their insightful opinions about various issues.

My understanding of the value of effective communication hasn't changed because I still believe that communication is crucial in every facet of life. However, what has changed were the skills that I have adopted throughout this course. Communicating professionally doesn't just include being able to write good resumes and emails, it also encompasses non-verbal and oral skills. Believe it or not, I have never done an oral presentation without constantly looking at my script. But after today's, it feels good to know that I was able to ramble on without needing much help from a script. YEAY!

For you readers, pardon this long post but I need to do this. Without Brad, our ever-so-approachable mentor and friend, I would not be walking away today with a sense of accomplishment. To my project group mates Lyon and Junrong, thanks for everything! To the rest of my friends: Weiren, Weikwan, HuiXuan, Oxy, WeiKin, Joyce, Angeline, Sammy, JunYen, XiuWen, Yuming, Peirong, Xin Yi, Eileen and Dongge (where have you been?), thanks for making this module the most enjoyable one! and PeiRong is right -- we have to take a class photo!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tiffany's Biodata

Tiffany is an NUS undergraduate pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. She is currently undertaking the role of Publications Director with NUSSU Travel Service, of which she takes charge of publishing the annual travel magazine, Globetrotter. Tiffany is also actively involved in other school activities and during the University Freshmen Orientation, she served voluntarily as Orientation Group Leader to help freshmen acculturate into the rigors of undergraduate life.

As Tiffany enjoys team work, this has allowed her to work well not only as a team leader but also a team player. Being a keen learner, Tiffany believes in making the most out of a learning journey. She has taken part in several exchange programs to countries like USA and Australia and has enjoyed the interaction with people of different cultures.

Academics aside, Tiffany continues to pursue her passion in dance. During her free time, she also loves reading and playing the piano.

*edited 8 Nov

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Time really flies. From learning how to write the research question, problem statement and purpose statement, to now tying the loose ends of the entire report, the process seemed to have gone by in a flash. This project has brought about many learning experiences, of which many were fruitful.

Due to everyone's busy schedule, many a times, it was very difficult for us (our group) to schedule meet-ups to do the project. Therefore, for 80% of the time, our project was done online either through MSN or emails. I have never really approved of the idea of doing a project this way (unless it is the last resort) because it would be rather difficult to put together pieces without everyone's immediate approval and ideas. However, to my surprise, our group was able to handle this situation very well. We would as much as possible squeeze out some time after ES lessons to divide the work among ourselves and set a deadline for each of our parts to be "submitted". Initially, our roles in the group were not clearly defined but as the project progressed, we soon assumed roles automatically and tried our best to help each other along the way.

Junrong, being the experienced one on the team, usually gave us insights on how reports should be written and with what kind of language. Being also skilled in Microsoft Excel, he helped our group do up all the figures and graphs, which greatly aided us in the 'Findings and Interpretations' part of the report. Lyon, the quick-witted one on the team, was usually the one who was able to spot mistakes quickly. He meticulously noted down all the information given by Brad during class, and ensured that we followed the details to every nook and cranny. Being also savvy in Microsoft Word, he formatted the entire report and made it look more professional. As for me, I did what I could in collating all the information which Lyon and Junrong had sent to me and edited any language errors which I spotted. I also tried my luck with the referencing section, following as close as possible to the APA style given and to be honest, the task was a tremendous pain in the neck.

Because time was not on our side, I believe that all of us made the best out of this experience by grasping every opportunity to ask and learn. I dare say that our group was able to thrive under this immense pressure that the project has put on us, especially when it came to ensuring that every little detail was paid attention to. I was also taken aback at my own ability to work under pressure because I have always thought that I couldn't.

Out in the working world, I trust that many a times we would land ourselves in situations like this, whereby projects after projects have to rushed out. This therefore is a good form of "training" (I would say) to hone our skills in being accurate and efficient. After all, that's what most bosses look for isn't it?

All in all, everyone worked hand-in-hand and without the help of my teammates, this project would not have been possible. I sure hope I was as good a team member as Lyon and Junrong were. Thanks, you guys!!

Friday, September 26, 2008

French, please.

It is interesting to note that people from all over the world have such different cultures and values in which they hold so strongly to. The story I am about to tell happened to me not too long ago, during my 6 month stay in the US.

It was the end of the term and I had about a month to travel around before I headed back home. So a friend and I decided to make a trip up to Canada to see the Niagra falls as well as other major cities like Toronto and Montreal. When we first arrived in Montreal, I chanced upon a quaint little shop that sold souvenirs and other intricately-designed items so without hesitation, I dragged my friend inside to take a look. I came across a small vase which I really liked but there was no price tagged on it. With the vase in my hand, I took it to the lady at the counter and asked:

"Excuse me, how much is this?"

"Vous parlez français?" the lady replied with a frown on her face. Not understanding what she was saying, I hesitated a little before answering:

"Sorry, could you.." Before I could continue, the lady interrupted me, this time sounding a little more frustrated.

"Vous parlez français? No English, French only!" She rolled her eyes after saying that.

I stared at her in disbelief and was a little outraged by the way she treated a tourist. Afterall, I was going to buy something from her shop! Shouldn't she be a little bit nicer? What struck me most was that the English she spoke sounded entirely perfect! My friend, upon seeing the commotion came up to us. Thank God he knew French, and he asked the lady for the price on my behalf. Being already turned off by the lady's attitude, I managed a weak smile, put the vase back and walked out of the shop. My friend then told me that the people of Montreal, even though knowing English, only hold French as their common language for communication because they were once a French colony. I was surprised and I blamed myself for not doing my homework.

So I thought the rest of my stay in Montreal would be smooth-sailing until one day later, I witnessed a blatant racial discrimination. My friend and I wanted to take a bus to somewhere in the city. As we were walking to the bus stop, we saw that our bus was just about to leave! Panicking, my friend dashed as fast as he could to try and stop the bus, while I on the other hand tried to catch up with him.

Then, the most unbelievable thing happened: The bus driver, on seeing 2 Chinese people running after the bus, stopped the bus after driving for a distance and opened the front door. But the minute my friend caught up with the bus and stood by the door waiting for me to catch up, the driver stared at my friend, closed the door, and drove off! My friend stood by the roadside, dumbfounded and we both didn't know to laugh or to cry.. We found out later on from friends living in Canada that the only reason why the driver did that, was because we were Chinese.

So there you go. The first time in my life I was being racially discriminated. And it didn't feel good.

Moral of the story: Do not go to Montreal. Ok I'm kidding!
Real Moral of the story: We should always do our homework each time we know we will be facing people of different cultures. Intercultural behaviour if not handled properly, might result in conflicts and arguments or may even create a mindset that will condemn that particular culture. This is especially so when we are travelling abroad and interacting with people of different races. Sometimes, it is hard to pinpoint who is to blame for people behaving the way they do. The best way would just be, to take everything with a pinch of salt and embrace every experience!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fighting Climate Change

I came across this website when I was watching National Geographic Channel this afternoon and so i decided to put up this poster in light of the recent surge of campaigns to fight climate change. so guys, do your part to clean up the world today!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Portable electronic devices and you

Within the last 8 years, portable electronic devices (PED) including handphones, mp3s, laptops and digital cameras have been on the rise. Due to the technological advancement in recent years, companies have been manufacturing different kinds of a particular electronic device on a large scale so as to cater to the needs of the society.

As can be seen from Science Faculty students in NUS, many of us has or have owned at least 2 of the above listed PEDs. With the constant introduction of new models of these PEDs (eg iPhone, Samsung Omnia, Macbook air etc), people are always looking for an upgrade from their current PED to a newer model. Sony Ericsson, being one of the first few labels that introduced camera phones into the market, has been constantly upgrading their phones from the initial VGA built-in camera to a now 5 megapixel camera phone. Brands like Apple and Creative, IBM and HP have also done the same for the respective PED that they manufacture. With the latest models being sold in the market, who wouldn’t be tempted to be part of the era of cutting edge technology?

This aside, some people do not believe in buying phones that are integrated with camera and music functions. To them, a camera is a camera and a phone with integrated camera just doesn’t seem to serve justice. These people feel that the qualities of the pictures may not turn out as good if taken with a camera phone
and playing music with a handphone uses up the battery within a shorter span of time. By just looking at the science students in NUS, we can observe that the average number of PEDs a person owns is increasing. This being said, more resources are actually being used up to make new PEDs each time. When a person decides to upgrade his/her current working handphone to a newer model, the old phone gets “chucked” aside. The accumulation of old electronic devices creates more junk and wastage and many people do not know how to get rid of this junk the proper way. I myself(shamelessly) own a camera phone, an mp3 player, a digital camera and a laptop and for the most part, I dare say that I have no idea how i'm going to dispose of these PEDs should I decide to get new ones. Get Wall-E maybe?

Research Question:
Do Science Faculty students in NUS know the possible consequences that can result from accumulation and improper disposal of electronic junk?

Purpose Statement:
The main objective would be to find out if NUS students know how to dispose of their electronic junk (should they have any). Another purpose is also to find out if NUS Science Faculty students are aware about the consequences of improper disposal of electronic junk. Last but not least, to research on the various effects of how electronic junk can harm our environment.

Reason for Attitudinal Survery:

We need to know how many NUS students actually have the habit of constantly buying new electronic products and not knowing how to dispose of their old ones properly. By doing this, we can then propose appropriate solutions to this matter. We, of course, are not telling students to stop buying PEDs but ultimately, we want them to be aware of the consequences and how they can act responsibly when dealing with issues regarding this.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

During lunchtimes or tea breaks, people sometimes like to immerse themselves in what some might call, gossip and what my friends and I like to call, “b*tching”. In one of the gossip sessions I had, Beng, a friend of mine, (names have been changed to protect privacy) started telling us about an interpersonal conflict story which he had experienced and I’m going to share his story here:

Since Beng was part of the executive committee (exco) of the band, he and the rest of his exco members had to play the part in deciding the new batch of student leaders for the band. Voting was the best option then so all the members of the band were asked to vote for their friends whom they thought would be ideal to sit in the exco. Now there was this particular person (lets call him A), whom Beng and a few other members of the exco felt should not be sitting in the exco position because he had a very unserious attitude. However, due to popularity among his peers, he was voted into the committee.

Upon seeing the results of the voting, Beng brought the matter up to the current exco at that time. Despite Beng’s explanation of his standpoint and how he felt that putting A into the exco will affect the running of the entire band, the Vice-president did not agree with Beng at all. He insisted that A should remain in the committee since he was technically “voted” in and rightfully “deserves” the place in the committee. They both had a long debate over the matter and most of it surrounded issues of ethics and reality.

A vote was finally taken across the entire exco and they all felt that A should not just be “taken” out of the committee and if the voting results were to be altered, the act of voting would be meaningless. So I went on to ask Beng how A performed ever since he became part of the exco and Beng said that he gradually became more serious, which was a good thing.

Conclusion: Interpersonal conflicts, more often than not, arise due to conflicting viewpoints, miscommunication or sometimes even a lack of communication. Everyone, including me, has had their fair share of interpersonal conflicts and honestly, if I were Beng, I would have sounded out to A and told him (in a tactful way of course) that he had to change his attitude should he want to continue staying as a committee member. However, I felt that the situation was well dealt with and ultimately, everyone has the band’s interest at heart.

This brings me to a quick question that I would like to raise: Is there or can there be such a thing as Intrapersonal conflict? If so, is that part of having an alter ego? Because in my opinion, I think that it is possible to have intrapersonal conflict for example, it might be in a situation where a part of you wants to do this, while the other part of you knows that there is certain consequence. Or is that another issue altogether?