Monday, June 22, 2015

From Sec 4 to Year 0

My name is Germaine, Germaine Leow. Currently two months into my first year at Nanyang Polytechnic, I would be classified as a “freshie”. Here’s the catch though, while the other freshmen can remove the “freshie” label after a year, I will be spending two years in NYP as a freshman. Why? I am a Year 0 student and no, you did not read that wrong. Indeed, Year 0 students are not common and rarely heard of in campus. In fact, majority of the student body is probably not aware of us. Let me briefly introduce you to what Year 0 students really are – PFP students.

PFP stands for Polytechnic Foundation Program. In other words, Year 0 is a foundation year in polytechnic. Upon passing all foundation modules, Year 0 students will move on to Year 1 the following year. PFP is a scheme implemented for Normal Academic N(A)  students to bypass Secondary 5, and move on to tertiary education right after their GCE N Levels. I am amongst a small group of N (A) students who qualified for PFP. Therefore, you could say I enrolled in polytechnic a year earlier than my peers in secondary school, which also means I will be able to get more knowledge of NYP before I formally begin Year 1.

Amongst the freshmen in NYP, Year 0 students would be considered out of the norm, and even then, I would also consider myself a little different from them. This is because I came from an all-girls secondary school. I was also in an all-girls primary school.

Undeniably, integrating was challenging. While most of the freshmen had no problems with socialising, I had forgotten how I made friends when I was in primary one 10 years ago. I was even unaware of the fundamentals of socialising – exchanging contact numbers. I left my Freshmen Orientation without any of my new classmates’ contact numbers or social media accounts (my first mistake).

Most people experience their first day of secondary school independently while my first day of secondary school was spent catching up with my primary school friends. Yes, my primary school is affiliated to my secondary school and most of my peers and I moved up to Secondary One together. I spent 10 years in the same school, surrounded with the same people. I was comfortable and did not experience any first-day-jitters. 

This time, however, I started out in NYP alone, foreign to my new classmates. I did not fancy the initial solitude and it was actually rather intimidating. Needless to say, I made new friends over the weeks and could proudly strike my very first challenge off the list.

Before I could comfortably call my new classmates my friends, I had to be independent, a very important characteristic. Unfortunately, my previous schools sheltered me too much and I lacked independence. I figured most teenagers would gain independence through the transition from secondary school and polytechnic, and I should not be any different. I learnt how to deal with problems alone and basically abandoned the need to have a friend around me wherever I go. Believe it or not, in secondary school, I even needed a friend to accompany me to the restroom.

Things are different now, or you could say, I am different. Polytechnic lifestyle gave me a taste of the real world out there. Secondary school life was amazing but it was not enough to prepare me for the real world. There was no way I could be ready enough being around teachers reminding us about homework every day. In polytechnic, we have to be independent enough to get the information ourselves. My form teacher back in secondary school would remind my classmates and I to tap our cards for attendance whenever it slipped our minds. Now, if we do not tap in within ten minutes after our lectures begin, we will be considered absent immediately.

Of course I could not leave out the most important part of the transition – the change in environment. From a moderately big secondary school which was rather easy to navigate to a way larger campus. It is no surprise I got lost on Orientation Day. I was stuck inside the campus for a good 30 minutes, unable to find my way out. It was thanks to a group of friendly seniors, that I found my way out. Alas, they led me to the wrong exit. I always look back on that day as I confidently navigate my way around the school now. From someone who asked for directions around school to someone giving directions, wouldn’t you consider this a tiny achievement?

The physical surroundings was not the only thing that confused me, the timetable was pretty hard to understand too. What’s written as “Mathematics” in my secondary school timetable would now be known as “EG501F TUT22 PFMTH1 B.306SBM” in Poly. I wouldn’t deny the initial intimidation. I would say I adjusted pretty well to the changes. The timetable is no longer an enemy of mine!
My favourite change would definitely be the fact that classes start later in Polytechnic. In secondary school, we start at 7:25 am. Now, it usually starts at 9 am or even later! When classes start later, it means we get to sleep longer and let’s be real, who would not fancy this change?

Another bonus is that we have only two to three classes in a day, unlike in secondary school, where the time table is packed with back to back lessons and very short breaks. On the contrary, the breaks in Polytechnic are almost an hour or more and I do not have to rush through my food upon hearing the school bell.

Having graduated and officially left my secondary school, I can only look back on those good old days, and promise myself to never forget the fond memories I made.

I look forward to moving on to my next destination in life – getting my diploma in Mass Media Management.  I, Germaine Leow, will be spending four years in Nanyang Polytechnic and I am determined to make the best out of these years. 

By Germaine Leow, Year 0, PFP

Alongside her interests in writing and photography, Germaine aims to provide the best campus updates during her 4 years in NYP. With a Mass Media Management Diploma waiting for her at the end of her polytechnic journey, she promised herself to never forget the importance of hard work, for God gives the hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.  

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