From chatrooms to campus: Open House 2022 engages and excites

The ever-popular NUS Open House hit new heights this year, attracting over 8.61 million visitors a 26.2 per cent increase from the 6.83 million visitors that attended last year's online Open House. 

From 26 Feb to 5 Mar, visitors crowded the websites, livestreams, webinars and social media sessions hosted by the University's colleges, faculties and schools. There was something for everyone, and the hybrid event covered everything from academic courses to student life and entrepreneurship programmes.

While much of the engagement happened online, prospective students got to meet NUS students and staff face-to-face for the first time since the pandemic started.

The physical Open House, held one sunny Saturday on 5 Mar, included numerous booths showcasing the University’s wide-ranging academic options and vibrant student life; sample classes and talks to get a taste of varsity life; and tours of the different colleges, faculties, and schools. 

Prospective students gave the hybrid format a thumbs-up.

Joshua Chua, an alumnus of Anderson Serangoon Junior College, appreciated the online sessions and felt the physical Open House was a huge differentiating factor.

“The (physical) Open House really gave me a good image of what living and studying at NUS could look like by virtue of being an in-person event as opposed to it being virtual, so I'm really grateful to NUS and everyone involved for having this opportunity during the pandemic,” he said.

On her part, Hwa Chong Institution alumna Elsie Woo, who attended both the online and in-person sessions, said, “The experience was really welcoming and wholesome, and really exposed me to NUS as a whole.”

Showcasing the country’s first honours college

One of the highlights this year was the NUS College, Singapore’s first honours college. It will accept its first batch of students this year.

Prospective students were treated to online webinars on the College’s distinctive curriculum, its global pathways, and its focus on hands-on experiential learning. In more intimate breakout rooms, staff and student volunteers readily answered questions about student life and academic pathways. By having a home college or faculty – say Business or Science – while simultaneously being enrolled at NUS College, students will be able to get an educational experience that is as broad as it is deep.

The in-person activities featured a tour of the facilities and residential options that NUS College students would be able to enjoy.

Elsie Woo was one of many students drawn to NUS College’s unique offerings.

“I attended a few webinars, including introductory talks for NUS College and Food Science and Technology,” said Elsie, who also visited many booths in-person.

“The sessions were very well-planned and the seniors were extremely helpful and patient.”

Nanyang Polytechnic alumnus Koh Jin Yuen focused his time on NUS College, attending the College’s guided tour and virtual sharing sessions.

“The NUS College tour was informative as I got to ask the facilitators about their experiences. I think the curriculum is very meaningful,” said Jin Yuen.

“The Open House helped to deepen my understanding of how NUS College works, and allowed me to better understand the lifestyle of a student from NUS College.” He is intending to apply for the Information Systems programme offered by NUS Computing, as well as NUS College.

Ramping up interdisciplinary offerings

Exciting developments in the realm of interdisciplinary education—a major theme that NUS has been championing—were foregrounded at the Open House, with the College of Design and Engineering (CDE) also taking in its inaugural cohort. A result of the merger of the Faculty of Engineering and the School of Design and Environment, CDE is set to transform the NUS educational experience.

Across five galleries and 19 sub-categories, including Architecture, Industrial Design, Materials Science and Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Civil Engineering, visitors were presented with an informative display of the wide range of courses and programmes that will be on offer in the new College.

Raffles Institution alumna Grace Zai, who visited the Designing the Future exhibition and galleries, said, “The Engineering galleries were very informative as I could ask questions I had about the course, as well as student life, and get a clearer picture of what I would be studying and doing. It helped me make a more informed decision on my choices.”

Grace is considering applying to Engineering Science and Architecture, as well as Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering with a specialisation in robotics.

There were also panel discussions, both online and in-person, where faculty and current students interacted with prospective students to share their experiences and answer questions about the new interdisciplinary curriculum.

“As a prospective student, I got to see first-hand the school facilities, as well as the accommodations. My experience was pretty enriching and enlightening because I could ask the professors questions I had in mind and learn more about the courses,” said Timothy Tay, a graduate of Victoria Junior College who visited the SDE gallery on Sustainable Innovations.

“For example, I did not realise Project Facilities Management (PFM) was recently changed to Infrastructure Project Management (IPM). The professor explained that students will now graduate with a BEng degree rather than a BSc degree,” he recalled, referring to the first interdisciplinary full-time undergraduate programme to cover engineering, design, management, technology, building science and law modules.

Information was also available on the vibrant student life of the College’s various clubs and societies, as well as career programmes that enable students to better understand their interests and what it takes to marry that with industry skills and experience.

“The NUS Open House provided me with a more informed perspective on the courses offered in NUS. The various booths set up and run by students allowed for quick chats about what the courses have to offer. The responses by the students and professors were engaging and genuine, which I found informative in making my choice for courses in NUS,” said Kalepu Sai Sri Akshath, who attended CDE’s online and in-person events with his family and is intending to apply to Computer Engineering.

Drone-sensing demonstrations and the Solar Roof Tour, 5G Lab Tour, and BEEHUB Tour further showcased the College’s manifold facilities. Visitors also got a first-hand experience of NUS’ very own net-zero energy building through tours at SDE4, itself a product of both architecture and engineering, and the first of its kind in Singapore.

A marriage of the humanities and sciences

Continuing in the vein of interdisciplinarity and equipping students with a multifaceted, integrated toolbox of skills to thrive in the future economy is the College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS), which will be accepting its second intake this year.

Seminars about the CHS Core Curriculum were available at the Open House, as well as informative masterclasses that covered a vast range of interdisciplinary topics.

The Data Science and Economics masterclass saw Assoc Prof Lim Tiong Wee and Assoc Prof Chen Ying (Statistics & Data Science, Faculty of Science) and Dr Denis Tkachenko (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) break down the complexities of the digital economy with real-life examples, and explicate its relevance to Singapore’s Smart Nation goals.

The new Data Science and Economics (DSE) cross-disciplinary programme will be the first of its kind in Singapore to integrate knowledge across these two disciplines.

“I got to understand how data science and economics complement each other,” said Russell Hor, a graduate of St. Joseph's Institution who has finished National Service and is enrolling in CHS this year.

Vanille Goh, who graduated from Anglo-Chinese Junior College and attended the Geography and Environmental Studies masterclasses, said, “[The masterclasses] provided me with a good overview of how passionate the lecturers were and how each course will adequately prepare me for what I would want to do in the future.”

Nanyang Junior College alumna Wen Xinyue also appreciated the in-person masterclasses, adding that they gave her a first-hand glimpse into studying humanities at the university level.

“I am interested in studying English, and from the English Language and Literature masterclass on Gender, Sexuality and Language, I learnt about how entrenched gender roles and stereotypes can be within the language we use,” she shared.

Meanwhile, over at the “Insights into Southeast Asia from the Martial Arts Perspective” masterclass, Dr Mohamed Effendy of NUS Southeast Asian Studies presented prospective students with a riveting intellectual and visual treat, demonstrating how useful unique perspectives on the region’s myriad communities can be gleaned by studying them through the lens of the martial arts. Students saw the concepts brought to life – witnessing first-hand an exciting live demonstration by practitioners of pencak silat – of how Southeast Asian warriors of old defended themselves using a wide array of techniques and weapons.

Action aplenty

There was action aplenty among other faculties. NUS Business School’s programmes included a 360 live tour, as well as live chats with the BBA Deans on the different majors offered by the School. Its in-person sessions included sharing sessions by the BBA Deans, BIZCareers advisors, and student ambassadors.

Year 4 Accountancy and Finance undergraduate Calvin Chur was one such student volunteer, serving as an emcee for the online Open House and sharing in-person on 5 Mar about life at the Business School.

“It was a tiring, but extremely fulfilling day engaging with prospective students, learning about their concerns with regards to entering a new phase of life and trying to address those concerns,” said Calvin. “In fact, many of their concerns mirrored those that I had as a fresh A-level graduate attending the NUS Open House back in 2016 – and I am glad that I could offer insider insights to help them make an informed decision at this major milestone of their lives.”

Year 4 Real Estate undergraduate Natasha Liem, another student volunteer who served as an emcee, added, “There was quite a large number of viewers for the panel and a prospective student actually sent me a message on Instagram to enquire more about real estate from a student's perspective. I think the panel went well!”

For NUS Business School Executive (Marketing & Outreach) Ms Casey Jean Grant, it was an eye-opener to experience the whole planning process.

“Most of the students and parents were very curious and excited about the prospect of coming to NUS Business School,” she added. “Their excitement definitely rubbed off on us and made the rest of us excited to share about our School.”

With frontline healthcare workers being in the spotlight these couple of years, there was plenty of interest in NUS Dentistry, NUS Nursing, NUS Medicine, and Duke-NUS Medical School. Live demonstrations were conducted and prospective students got a taste of what it would be like to be a dentist, nurse or doctor.

Serving up a slice of campus life

Whether on the screen or in the flesh, visitors to the Open House also witnessed the rich and vibrant student life beyond the classroom that NUS is known for.

Besides holding talks to acquaint visitors with the wide range of co-curricular activities available, student clubs and societies rose to the occasion at the Student Village showcases to feature a spectacular smorgasbord of music, dance and sporting performance across the eight days that Open House was on. Visitors were serenaded by soulful tunes by the NUS Jazz Band and wowed by the moves of NUS Kendo Club. They were also treated to cheerleading displays, snazzy dance performances by NUS Funkstyle and BreakiNUS, catchy renditions of contemporary pop and choral music by the a cappella group Resonance, and the dulcet tones of TheNUSChoir and the NUS Mandopop group Voices.

“It was really lively with dozens of booths as well as live performances put on by really talented students! It truly allowed me to understand the culture here and makes me want to be a part of it after experiencing first hand,” Vanille Goh shared.

Students and hall masters from the halls and residences also conducted informative residential life talks, A-Day-in-the-Life-Of vlog sessions and Ask-Me-Anything sessions to help students interested in on-campus living understand its manifold aspects like academic programmes and pastoral care.

These were complemented by in-person tours of King Edward VII Hall, NUS College, Ridge View Residential College, Tembusu College, RC4, and Pioneer House, NUS’ newest housing model, giving participants a real taste of the sense of community and camaraderie that comes with residential life in NUS.

Joshua Chua, who also participated in the RC4 tour, said, “The RC4 tour was definitely a highlight because the tour guide, as with most staff and students, was welcoming and frank, which eased my nervousness.”

Matthew Yeow, an alumnus of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) who attended both online and in-person sharing sessions by student residents of the Residential Colleges, said, “During the physical Open House, I had the opportunity to find out a lot more about the residential colleges and what made them distinct from halls. Furthermore, I also got to find out more about the individual residential colleges and their communities, as well as the additional modules they took.”

“As a prospective student, I think the Open House was executed effectively through both the online and physical mediums. Having the opportunity to come down and visit the University and talk to the current students gave me a better understanding of student life in NUS,” he added.