I was not the first person that came up with the title above, but I thought it resonated perfectly with my undergraduate life especially my last few semesters. The last sem is indeed my hardest Sem.
Having just finished my final exam of this semester and of my NUS undergraduate career, I thought I wanna do a “stock-take” on what I did this semester.
In summary for this semester, I took a level 5000 module, did my FYP + presentation and was a CS2103 tutor to 16 students. I gave 3 talks: guest lecture for CS3217 on iOS (Swift) Development, workshop on Raspberry Pi/Linux and a talk/live demo on Bluetooth Low Energy. I volunteered regularly at Repair Kopitiam and Yishun Reading Stars. As if those weren’t enough, I still held a part-time job too.
To most of my friends/people who knew me and met me through these events, you couldn’t have known I have stretched myself thin to commit to all of these. I now make a belated apology as I only had the personal resources to do the minimum in some of them. In hindsight when I look at these, I still wonder to myself how did I manage to pull them off.
The most notable new stuff are the Repair Kopitiam and the 3 presentations I gave. I came to know of Repair Kopitiam when I attended some classes at One Maker Group. It is basically an voluntary initiative to teach people how to repair their stuff, notably, household appliances, furniture and clothes. I’m attached to the appliance area and since then, I have probably taught about a dozen or so people on how to repair their items.
This was a good learning experience for me too. If you ask me, my Computer Science degree was entirely useless in this area. So for most of my skills, I had to learn “on-the-job” and from watching how other repair coaches carry out their duties. In terms of the household appliance department where I help out, I’m the youngest and have much to learn from them. Learn and teach at the same time.
The general demographic of the people I help are usually at least in their 40s and older, many of them Mandarin-speaking. Coming from an English-speaking family and in a English-medium university, my conversational Mandarin skills deteriorated from bad to worse in the past few years. Conversing with these older generation though tough for me initially, was a great way to slowly build back my Mandarin speaking skills.
Never before have I given so many solo presentations in such short span of time. 4 including my FYP. This may seem like very little to some but like I once told a friend from business, business students probably give more presentations in one semester than Computing students give in their entire 4 years. Those 3 are technical presentations with some live demos so they require some effort to prepare for and not something I can just smoke through. Furthermore, they were voluntary and don’t contribute to my grades.
Truthfully, the guest lecture, workshop and talk were all actually requested of by people who knew I had the unique knowledge to share (in a short notice). Without them initiating it, I probably would not have done all of them.
It may surprise some of you but I was actually a former debater while in JC and represented my school in inter-JC debate competitions. In spite of that, I am still fearful and get nervous when it comes to public speaking. The 3 presentations did gave me the practice and confidence boost I needed just in time for my FYP. I’m pretty sure without those 3 presentations, I will have probably done worse than any FYP grade I will eventually get.
Because of my numerous “extra-curricular” activities over the years, the opportunity cost on my grades have been huge.
I’m not ashamed to say contrary to the expectations of many, I’m technically a second-lower, I’m 3.97, just 0.03 shy away. I have calculated that the minimum grades I need to get that coveted second-upper is A- for my FYP (worth 3 modules) and B+ for my sole module. Reasonably achievable but there is a chance I still may not get them.
I did ask myself the question if I fail to get Second-Upper, is there anything I could have done better? I already have the answer to that. I could have definitely scrape through if I had done something less any time over my 4 years and put that time to studying that whee bit more. However, that something less would not have made me exactly what I am today and would have impacted someone less in this world.
In short, no regrets.
So what’s next?
Baring any unforeseen circumstances, my undergraduate career has pretty much ended unless I count things like the commencement ceremony. As they say, your learning does not stop when you finish school, rather it is just the beginning.
I wrote before that I actually feel that hardware/electronics is what I’m also interested in over pure software engineering. I hope to slowly move my career to a healthy mix between the two and my present job seems to allow that.
In terms of skills, I hope to learn how to ride a motorbike, drive a big truck as a civilian (I have a Class 4 military-only driving licence) and FLY a PLANE. The last one is no joke. I still have my childhood dream of flying but did not have the time, money and opportunity to do so. I hope once I earn enough, I can realise those dreams. Till then, back to the realities of the working world.