Friday, 13 November 2009


This has been a great term for me as a couple of things have happened, and sometimes quite revelatorily.

In no particular order, the first (and possibly most significant because it might somewhat prelude the rest) is my decision to drop organizational behaviour and human resources (OBHR) as my second major and instead adopt political science as my second major.

This decision wasn't made overnight. In fact, the decision to pick up political science was possibly influenced from a long time ago when I started embarking more seriously on political and philosophical thought. Professor Rahul Sagar had probably quite a great deal to do with it, as the magical world of political sciences and history came alive under his introductory classes. I had always been fascinated by the discipline prior to university, but never thought I was competent or driven enough to dabble in it. I've even mentioned before that I worried that if I studied political science seriously, I would end up hating it. I started reading more related stuff after that and found that my thoughts on psychology, philosophy, politics and even economics had links and connections which I simply couldn't ignore. Those insights fascinate me so much that it would be a dream come true if I could just spend all my time deliberating on them.

Furthermore, the decision to drop OBHR was egged on by my growing impatience and intolerance towards business-related modules. I don't even really know where to begin on this. For one, bidding for OBHR mods was like a vomit-inducing process, because absolutely nothing fascinates me. Seriously, Training and Development? Human Capital Management? Management of People At Work? It takes some very specific passion to like and want to learn something like that and then apply it to work later on, and I know clear as day that I don't have that passion needed to do this. And nothing revolts me more than biting my lip and then putting a bid price down on choosing classes I've no drive to go for. It's too much lying to myself to get through, and I'm just not willed enough for that. Plus, I could really do without the next three months of feeling like I could've spent my time doing something else. On top of that, I've had far too many negative experiences with business-related modules and I'm too critical about it to pass off as tolerant of corporate behaviour (or even pre-corporate behaviour), so all I'm gonna end up doing, if my bids are successful, is to flunk all my OBHR mods. And I've really nothing against business, it's fine if there are people on the other side of the fence who think that social sciences is fluff, nonsense and intolerable themselves too, my disliking for business is just me and I've made my choice. I've sat through introduction to marketing and other business modules too and I can't see it without the critical glare of the social sciences getting to me, such as the psychological exploitation of the corporation that's going on, so I think I'm not just being narrow minded here and I've definitely made an informed choice.

The moment this drop-OBHR-do-political-science decision was made in my head, everything became a thousand times clearer. Everything I did and every decision I made suddenly had a boost of purpose. I went through the term doing social cognition, sociology of food and international political economy and I've never felt happier and more carefree studying. I did negotiation and conflict resolution too, the last OBHR mod I chose to do because I bidded for it before my decision to drop OBHR, and I was really lucky because I had the honour of studying it under an academically-driven professor, Dr Michael Benoliel, who was truly passionate about the subject and was honestly interested in imparting the knowledge of negotiations as a skill we can use in future to be successful in whatever we do.

Secondly, I did my internship at Pearson Education South Asia, which was the local publishing branch of Pearson. My time at Pearson wasn't the most pleasant, and I usually joke that if there's anything I really took away from my internship, it would be never to work at Boon Lay again. But Pearson became a valuable addition to my resume as it strengthened the perception of my competence in writing and in things related to media and publishing. If I don't make it in life, at least I know I'll always have editorial as a back-up job to do, which really isn't all too bad. It's great being able to earn money doing something you enjoy doing or don't have to put in effort for. In this case for me, it's writing and copy-editing (i.e. correcting people's English and grammar), something I would do anyway without remuneration. Just ask those I've frequently irritated by being grammar anal.

Next, I joined the social sciences publication team and, on what was really my whimsical suggestion, came up with the concept of Socscistan: the first ever faculty magazine for our very own social sciences faculty. During my stint there as a writer and illustrator, I wrote psychology articles and created designs, illustrations and comics for two issues, further cementing my credentials in the field of writing and publishing which will prove to be handy later on. Now as I begin move on into the twilight years of my undergraduate life, I've accepted the offer to take on the role of content editor for the magazine, and will be finding contributors rather than writing next time and deciding on the content for future issues.

With these events of my life in motion so far, I began to strongly give post-graduate studies a serious consideration. With my writing portfolio and aspirations to pursue academia, I decided to look at teaching and research assistant opportunities to bolster my experience and credentials, and strengthen my chances of applying for further studies through my academic resume and professor referrals. I ended up working with Professor Tobias Rettig on developing a website for disseminating information on the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam, and am looking at potential working opportunities with social psychologist Jennifer Tong and evolutionary psychologist Dr Norman Li. The potential of working with Dr Li is especially exciting since he's a figurehead in the academic industry now and I'm very interested in evolutionary psychology. Further, my articles on Socscistan also piqued his interest in the idea that I might co-author some work with him, so it won't all just be research assistantship. It is so exciting that I get goosebumps just thinking it. This whole process and situation where I'm immersing myself so deeply in interacting with like-minded people who are passionate about knowledge feels like home.

Just as things couldn't seem to fall more in place, SMU recently announced that it will be opening a PhD programme for psychology. Suddenly, everything seems to be falling so much in place and for the first time in my life I feel like I really have a place to be. It hasn't been easy holding on to these ideals while going through life where you're always told you should be doing something else 'more important' - study sciences, it's better for you; study business, it's better for you; don't waste your time thinking about 'unnecessary, unimportant academic stuff' that won't earn you money, it's better for you - and for once I've got a real career choice in research, writing and academia I can spearhead myself towards. We've been warned that it's going to be four years of non-stop research and academic work, but I could seriously do that happily every day; in fact I already am doing that right now being the geek that I am, just that undergraduate stuff such as exams and project work from elsewhere keeps disrupting my focus. Finally, this!

I had a great time bidding for next term's mods - evolutionary psychology and political philosophy - and I'm in such an anticipatory mood. I will also be going to Guizhou for SMU's first ever political science study mission where we will be studying development, underdevelopment and poverty in one of the poorest provinces in China.

School couldn't be any better, life couldn't be any sweeter.

What is, indeed, the icing on the cake though is that I have a wonderful sweetheart who believes in me and my dreams and wants to see me through all of this.

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