story | Justin Ong, Managing Editor
photo | Justin Ong
The first and most obvious reason why I joined Team NUS was simply because there was no one in school who would be willing to run obscene distances with me four times a week. Even if there were, it would only be that small handful, and I don’t think such a commitment should ever be imposed upon someone unless he/she were truly passionate. And so I turned to NUS.
I come from a series of schools that didn’t support my endeavors in long distance running. I didn’t have a proper team to train with back when I was in track and field in Junior College. I normally ran alone back then because most of my buddies converted to sprints halfway through. Maybe the training was too boring, or maybe Usian Bolt was more a household name than Haile Gebrselassie. Sprints (and in fact most ball sports) will always have an allure that long distance running cannot conjure. But in any case, there was no complaining, only training and fighting it out on my own. It was fulfilling at the end, but the process was a lonely one.
I didn’t want the same to happen to me in Yale-NUS College. I spent my first semester out due to injury and observed my predictions come true. There was no competitive running team except for the period nearing the Inter Faculty Games (IFGs) and Inter Collegiate Games (ICGs). There were some morning runs now and then, but even those fizzled out as we got deeper into the semester. As my leg healed, I emailed the NUS cross team midway through my second semester to ask about trainings. I remember them warmly welcoming me to the team, telling me about training timings. I knew this was it.
When I finally recovered, I walked out of U-Town and to the NUS track. I felt like a complete stranger for the first few weeks, but the thought of running again kept me going back. I met a bunch of NUS students that I’ve since become good friends with, talking and shouting during long runs and hoisting each other back up after we come crashing through a workout. Of course, easing back into training was tough at first but I soon got the hang of it. I was running four times a week before long, having dinners with the team afterwards, coming back to campus late, studying afterwards. The cycle would repeat. In those few months I never felt my campus life to be more fulfilling.
I think there is some value in staying away from a repetitive environment. Again, this is by no fault of the student body or the faculty or any efforts of the school administration. It’s just the very structure of a small campus. You meet the same people every day, have the same food and sing to the same tunes. They become your good friends, know all your secrets and all your routines. The intimacy was welcome at times, but occasionally stifling as well. If it didn’t get to me by the first year, it certainly started to in the second. To say I needed to escape would be too extreme, but suffice to say, to ‘get out there’ was certainly on the agenda. I speak for only myself, and by no means was this the primary goal of joining an NUS team but one of the pleasant side effects. For four times a week, I was able to break the monotony of a routine. I was able to find out what the ‘NUS’ in our school name was all about. And I did that all while being able to run.
My advice for anyone who is thinking of joining a sport or organization outside of Yale-NUS or is already doing so, is that balance is possible. Having a support system outside of school is important, but being too involved outside of school would be less than ideal. As students of an institution our unspoken duty is still to contribute to it to the best of our abilities. Joining an NUS team didn’t mean that I couldn’t do that. In fact, I split my time between managing a college newspaper and running in a university Cross-Country team.
There is a lot of talk about us being a new institution and the demand for every student to give all their energy in defining a school culture. But giving all your energy doesn’t mean giving all your time. It means balancing your life well enough so that your contributions inside and outside of school are exuberant and wholehearted.
Only in that way can we serve at our best, and feel at our best in the process.
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