Integration For A Different U

People call SMU a “Different U”, and that’s true in many ways – but for freshmen, “different” means one thing:

Confusing. 

Looking back, my early days in SMU were turbulent yet enjoyable. Freshman year was full of uncertainties: bidding for modules, making new friends, surviving class participation… The list goes on, and I remember feeling quite overwhelmed by this new environment.

Luckily, SMU has several programmes to help freshmen along, and one thing that really helped to smoothen the transition and make sense of it all for me was the Freshmen Teambuilding Camp.

I know what you’re thinking: Milo pond. At this juncture, you might well be shaking your head furiously. But I hope that you will change your mind and agree with me by the end of this blogpost!

As we know, Freshmen Teambuilding Camp – commonly and (sometimes) affectionately known as FTB Camp – is a mandatory 3-day-2-night camp held at Sarimbun Scout Camp. This means a few things:

  • Sand
  • Dirt
  • More sand and dirt

You might think (as I initially did): “Why does SMU subject all freshmen to such possibly tortuous experiences?” That’s because of the last thing that defines the essence of the FTB experience:

  • Fun

In fact, I enjoyed my FTB experience so much that I came back a second time in my sophomore year to be a facilitator (or ‘faci’!)! When you’re not focusing on the discomforts of the great outdoors, you develop a renewed sense of appreciation for the experience: showering facilities are aplenty, catered meals come free, and on top of all that, you get plenty of exercise through the creative activities that the FTB Org Comm spent their entire summer planning.

But FTB is more than just the Sarimbun experience – its benefits go way beyond those three days.

First of all, it’s easier to walk into an unfamiliar class when there’s a familiar face in the front row! The new social circles you form as freshmen are invaluable: meeting newfound friends in class or even as you walk along the Concourse made my freshman year less daunting than it otherwise could have been. 

My FTB Group in Year 1, ‘Captain D’!

Meeting up for ice cream after a long day at school

Second, with two ‘facis’ who have gone through at least a year of SMU life, your FTB group is a great support system you can count on. Don’t know how to bid? Ask your facilitators! Don’t know where to get a cheap and good lunch? Ask your facilitators! You can even ‘jio’ your whole FTB group along. Your seniors will be more than happy to answer any of your questions (and pass you their notes), having gone through the same confusion themselves. Better yet, even if you didn’t sign up for your respective faculty camps, you’ll have some guidance from FTB. 

Lastly, FTB provides us with a sense of identity in SMU, guided by values that the University wishes to inculcate in all SMU undergraduates. During FTB, SMU’s CIRCLE values are introduced to you and your fellow freshmen: commitment, integrity, responsibility, collegiality, leadership and excellence. By the end of their SMU journeys, all SMU graduates would have not only developed a rigorous intellectual foundation in their respective disciplines, but also a strong, common ethical core founded upon the CIRCLE values ingrained in them. It is this exact set of values that guides us when we are facing uncertainties and challenges in SMU. 

Your time in SMU (especially your first year) can be a bumpy ride, whether you’ve just graduated from a junior college, a polytechnic, or finished 2 years of National Service. You’ll find yourself having to make not just one, but many choices that will define you.

But thanks to SMU’s initiatives, you can count on the ride to be as fulfilling as it is challenging! FTB Camp is but one of them. You’ll discover the rest in time as you embark upon your SMU journey, and live a (college) life you will remember ☺