Latest posts by The Octant (see all)
- Reflections on Fulbright University Vietnam: How Should We Engage With Other Asian Liberal Arts Institutions? - June 21, 2019
- From the Black Box to The Globe: Seven Week 7 Highlights - October 20, 2018
- Taking a Gap Year [EYW 2018] - May 20, 2018
story | Various Writers
1. One Health: The Interdependence of Human, Animal, and Ecosystems
story and photo | Rhyhan Astha
After two plane rides and a bus journey, 20 of us arrived in Dehradun, India up to the Himalayas. Dr. Zohar Lederman lead us through the concept of One Health, which is the idea that human health is directly linked to animal and ecosystem health.
Fecal matter – yes, fecal matter – was a focal point of a part of our trip! We were tasked to collect the feces of the donkeys, dogs, and deers that roamed through the Jabarkhet Nature Reserve. We brought the feces in for analysis and identified the parasites that resided in some of the animals.
As we hiked through the lush greenery in India, we were often asked to question the ethics of everyday actions we would never think twice about in Singapore. Was it ethical to exterminate the Aedes mosquitoes if it could save a substantial amount of human lives? Should we kill the leeches crawling on our boots?
The landscape of India, where cows roamed the streets and monkeys are spotted alongside humans, made the question of coexistence between humans and animals more pertinent.
2. Living with Global Finance
story | Kimberly Yeo
photos | Leong Wai Yee
Do you know the difference between fixed income and equity? Do you want to become a super rich investment banker who owns half the shares of a Fortune 500 company? Do you see piles of dough when you close your eyes? If so, the Week 7 Living with Global Finance trip is for you!
To kick-start the trip, we learned the basics of finance in a seminar before jetting off to Hong Kong. Staying in Hong Kong itself was an exciting experience. The bustle and chaos of the city was a huge contrast to the pace and style of Singapore; I wish we could have stayed on longer to enjoy the city itself. However, we were not in Hong Kong as tourists. Rather we were there as students of finance or, from a more positive perspective, potential financiers.
During our time in Hong Kong and Singapore, we visited a number of big-name big-money banks (e.g. Standard Chartered, JP Morgan Chase), a big-name big-money investment management firm (Hillhouse Capital), and even a boutique investment firm (TC Capital). During our time there, we had the rare opportunity to talk to people who were highly experienced in their field of work, whether that be financial markets or corporate law.
Although many of us knew next to nothing about finance before the trip, the seminars scattered throughout the week helped us to understand the talks and ask (hopefully) intelligent questions to the speakers.
Overall, it was a good experience to learn about finance and take a tentative look at the corporate and finance world. In the worst case scenario, even if you grow to hate the stock market and your retail bank, you will at least learn the ancient and priceless skill of keeping yourself awake in a lengthy business meeting.
3. In the Footsteps of Alfred Russel Wallace
story | Wisha Jamal
photos | Participants of the LAB
From sitting on sea urchins, getting locked in gross toilets, practically sliding down an extinct volcano, to catching cockroaches in a swamp full of cows – this group of young, dumb and broke(n) college kids did it all.
Following in the footsteps of A.R. Wallace, a man we didn’t know existed before Week 7, we traipsed through the wilds and beaches of Bali, Lombok, and best of all, Bukit Timah. Our goal: compare and contrast the very divergent biodiversity on both sides of the Wallace Line (an imaginary line that divides the two Indonesian islands).
Over the course of a week, we walked among and identified the sea grass at Sanur beach, snorkeled through the coral reefs of Lombok trying to distinguish Damsel and Angel fish (occasionally destroying said reefs), photographed birds on both islands, and burnt to a crisp in Padang Bai (we all looked like fried chicken) following a failed snorkelling expedition. We learnt about how geography influences evolution, the correct way to setup pitfall traps, the difference between poison and venom, how not to react to a snake sighting and how truly difficult field research is.
What really stood out though, was our Eco-Field guides’ definition of a ‘nice surprise’ after a ‘traumatic week’. They invited a man who called himself ‘Snake Ron’ so that we could de-stress by playing with – you guessed it – his snakes. More specifically, a python called Sary who would wrap itself around your neck (fun!) and a little guy who kept trying to climb into everyone’s shirts. De-stress indeed. Yet, despite the snakes, (or perhaps because of them, I’m not sure) we really wouldn’t change a thing.
4. From Papyrus to the Internet: On the Creation, Transmission and Preservation of Knowledge
story | Aryan Chhabra
photos| Norvin Ng
Escaping the heat and humidity of Singapore, a group of 16 students ventured into the cold terrains of the United Kingdom to explore the transmission of knowledge through the ages. Rumor has it that this was the only time in history Yale-NUS students didn’t complain about the lack of aircon.
Apart from examining various centers of knowledge production – the libraries of Oxford, Cambridge and London – we also witnessed how the printing press works. We also saw fascinating historical scripts like the New Testament. On the artistic front, we got an opportunity to witness one of Shakespeare’s great works, Othello, live in the Globe Theatre. We were required to stand for the entire three hour performance but I’m glad to say that I have never appreciated an experience that gave me sore ankles this much.
On a more serious note, what stood out for me in this trip was the discussion about whether the UK should return the Parthenon sculptures back to Greece or keep them with themselves for the sake of better preservation. The debate of who ‘owns’ a historical monument enlightened me on the nuances of symbols of cultural heritage and the complexities of history.
5. The Odyssey Within
story | Ng Jun Jie
photo | Prof. Lee Chee Keng
Like spending five minutes picking up an object? Or 30 minutes to walk around Black Box Theatre? And all of these in slow motion every day, under the shadows of four black walls? Then you could have taken my spot in The Odyssey Within.
Initially, my Week 7 experience of being trapped in the Black Box Theatre was extremely traumatising for me. I like to compare it to my National Service experience of being trapped in the military camp for five days a week. However, as pieces of what would become a one-hour long play started coming together, I decided to come to terms with my misfortune and attempt to see the value in the program.
One of my comrades, Damien Kee ’22, listed this programme as his first choice and truly enjoyed it. Despite our starkly different attitudes, I agreed with his reflection that, “the manner in which the play was constructed left us a lot of room to find the most enjoyable and most representative way of expressing how each scene made us feel… we had created something truly unique.”
Fast forward to Symposium Day. I sat at the backstage intensely nervous, as I was about to perform my first physical theatre piece. The 15 of us walked in as over a hundred pairs of eyes stared at us. We put in our best for the next 60 minutes, investing every inch of our bodies and emotions into the play we had spent 64 hours preparing for. I was glad when the play was over – on the one hand, I felt relieved and liberated from my fixed eight-hour shifts within the four black walls. On the other hand, I was also immensely proud and fulfilled for having a theatre production I could call my own.
6. Urban Wildlife
story | Michelle Lee
photos | participants of the LAB
Not my first choice for Week 7, Urban Wildlife started off with a photography workshop before we went on a hunt to attach trackers onto the four campus cats in UTown. From all teams finding a white half-tailed cat called Ashy laying on the UTown Green with none other in sight, it led to my team even seeking help from the Sapore Italiano restaurant for help. Despite being a short-lived project, it yielded a map tracking the movements of Ashy from Starbucks to the Berlin Wall fragment.
Calling ourselves the urban wildlifers, we also identified two different snakes during our Dairy Farm night hike – a Wrangler’s pit viper and a bronze-backed snake by shining our headlights at all the trees in the vicinity. For a good 30 minutes, a group of us also stared at a tree while using thermal cameras, echometers and torchlights to ID a wildlife. From being excited it could be a slow loris in order to hit a bingo on our modified Singapore Urban Wildlife Card, to confirming with the ‘Otterman’ Sivasothi that it was a civet, this Week 7 definitely lived up to its name.
Now, I can safely say that the bird we see outside Saga Tower B is not just ‘a bird’ but a black-naped oriole based on my bird-watching experience. Our project was not all watching; we also conducted a town hall meeting with a twist of including animals as stakeholders. Learning about how the three entities of the conservation landscape intertwined made the experiences eye-opening.
7. Narrating The Modern City
story and photos | Fatima Ameer
To understand what makes the modern city, we spent five days in London browsing through art galleries, walking down shady alleyways at night, navigating the tube, standing on the right (not left) side of the escalator, (legally) drawing graffiti on walls and eating at pubs. The insane amount of walking? Worth it.
Ironically, the most beautiful moment from the trip was outside of London city. We went to Sussex for a day to visit Virginia Woolf’s home to better understand her life. Walking to the river where she ended her life was emotionally challenging, but we made it through. On our way back, we came face to face with a herd of cows blocking our path to a gate. One step too close and I was met with an angry ‘moo’ in my face and a stream of cow saliva at my feet. Professor Carissa Foo calmly moved towards the gate even as the cows furiously stomped their hooves. At the end of the day, it was sheer determination that got us through to the other side.
Moral of the trip: don’t mess with cows.