Meet Marcus Koh. A current student at Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), who is in his 4th term of Bachelor's studies in Engineering Systems & Design (ESD). Prior to entering SUTD, he graduated from National Junior College. And he is a local student from Singapore.
1. What school do you study in?
Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD)
2. Do you/others have a nickname for the school?
3. Why did you choose this school?
Based on what was presented and how the school carried out the marketing campaign. The impression I got was that it’s very hands-on and there’s a lot of project learning. One of the things mentioned was that you will graduate with a lot more finished projects under your belt than in other universities. I personally found that quite scary but it’s also a good learning experience. Students are thrown into projects after projects, and have to learn to be quick on their feet to solve problems. Students also have to manage things with minimal sleep, work under stress etc, as a lot of time is spent on projects. Large scale projects are spread across whole terms and students really start from scratch and build something from nothing. This instills the maker culture, especially during the freshmen year.
4. What is a scene that you often see in the school?
People milling about the lobby of SUTD and a lot of events being organized here, e.g. career fairs, global exchange programs.
5. What is one thing that you wish you knew before enrollment?
I think it’s important for students to know the rigor, not just the academic rigor. SUTD breaks away from the standard thinking that universities are for you to study and you struggle when you enter the work force. SUTD helps to develop students holistically in that sense.
6. Your school is great, but if you could change one thing, what would it be?
The school is still very new, so there’s a lot of stigma associated with the school. Management wise, they are in the teething phase. So there are many things students are not happy with but at least the school is trying to do something about it by working with student body’s feedbacks.
7. And if there’s one thing you’d never change?
I personally will not change the idea of having freshmen year. This is the year when everyone is altogether and students from different pillars meet and work together. This helps to build a close-knit community and gives us insights into a lot more things. When you work with people of different interests, it’s not so one dimensional. This also helps in final year capstone project when it’s really like the inter-department collaborations of the working world.
8. The unofficial uniform of your school is?
Dressing is quite diverse here; there are respective t-shirts for the different pillars, for their own student identity.
9. When you meet a new friend for the first time and you have to describe your school with one word, what would it be?
10. What is one place in the school that you are proud of?
Being a sportsmen I would say the field, where my team trains and I’m glad to see the amount of time that many are willing put in, and the passion for the sports.
11. If you could swap programs for a day, what would it be?
I’m currently in the Engineering Systems & Design Pillar (I haven’t decided on focus track) and I would swap to the Engineering Product & Development Pillar as it is interesting. You get to see the backend of the stuff which complements what I study in my current pillar.
12. What is a common myth of your school?
That we are a private university.
13. If you ever had to stay in school past 9pm, what would it be because?
Ultimate Frisbee training, or project meetings when deadlines approach (usually during term 2 design term).
14. What is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen in the school?
I haven’t seen, but I’ve heard that there was a period of high stress and at this weird hour, there was this person who shouted from the dorms, and people echoed it from around the school.
15. What is your one guilty pleasure you indulge in in school?
Nothing in particular but I think if there were a ramen shop here I would eat it everyday.
16. If you were given $5 million dollars to revamp the school, what would you do with it?
Wow, that’s an interesting question but I’m pretty happy with the school as it is. Everything has its own pros and cons and revamps usually come with its own set of problems. Nothing can be changed overnight, I think it’s the culture we need to build up.
17. In between classes, where can we find you?
In the library, because it’s usually hot outside.
18. What is a unique landmark in your school?
The library is one of them. It’s not just the books, there are projects of students showcased and there’s also a materials library for students to check out what they need for their projects, which I think is quite different from other libraries. Also it’s not a fully silent library and students are able to conduct discussions. Screens in library can also be used to display the presentations.
19. What is the best place to be as one with your laptop and lecture recordings?
Depending on what year you are in I think. If you’re a freshmen I would say the classroom because classrooms are allocated and it’s your own space. In pillar year, there are usually a lot of movements between classrooms and you don’t have one designated one so I will usually be in the library or crash in my junior’s classroom.
20. In the occasion that the school has to downsize till only ONE food place remains, what will it be?
Health Soup stall. Uncle is really friendly and he chats with you, frank and direct, and funny. Food’s good too. Pricey but good food.
21. For free electricity in the school, where would you go to?
Anywhere, there are a lot of hidden plugs in the school. Almost everywhere.
22. What program are you in?
23. Is this related to your dream job?
Not really. I don’t really have a dream job as of now. I wanted to be a pilot when I was young.
24. Do you know the actual value of your degree?
$48,000 for 8 terms.
25. Do you think a degree in your course is cost efficient in terms of the quality of education you are receiving versus what you are paying?
I think you can’t really put a price tag on that. It’s quite difficult to measure, unless you factor in the starting salary upon graduation etc. How much each individual learns is very subjective, I will only say I live in the moment and I learn along the way so yes, it’s worth it for now.
26. In your opinion, how much should a degree in your program cost?
Of course, if it’s cheaper it would be better. People would say free is best but we live in the real world and nothing really comes free.
27. What is the most unforgettable module you have taken?
I would say Term 2 Design Module. It’s the most annoying one but it feels the most rewarding too. You start from scratch to create a product, something that you think of with your own mind and with your own team. However, the product that one creates can be very subjective, if the graders don’t get it, they will not like it. So grades might suffer. For example, our own professor was very happy with our product and we got consistent "A"s for it but when other professors came in, they didn't really understand what it’s all about and it was quite demoralizing to the team when our grades dropped to B+ overall which was not what we expected.
Pros: You really get to work with and around people because everyone's schedules are different and you learn to compromise and make the best of it.
28. If you could be exempted from any module in your program, what would it be?
I would say Biology. We need to do all three science subjects in our freshmen year. I was bad at it because people in this school are generally not good with sciences, even though I got decent grades for Biology in the end. It’s quite ironic that I liked it the least but I got better grades for it than for Chemistry and Physics.
29.What advice would you give to future students about module selection and planning?
I think for SUTD, the most important thing is time management and knowing whether you can afford to do certain things. You need to have a rough schedule in your mind. When you get stuck, you need to be flexible and adjust your schedule, as there are many different obstacles and you need to adapt.
Create time buffers for yourself such that when you complete what you need to complete, you still have some time left. When you get a curveball, you have time to recover. For example, one of the teams I know had to modify their product the day before the exhibition and even during the exhibition they were still making changes. This is, in my opinion, due to the fact that they didn't include any buffet time when they were planning out their project schedule.
30. If you had to choose one, would you advise a Singapore Junior College (JC) or Polytechnic (poly) student to join your program?
For my pillar I think JC students would be better as there’s a lot of math involved. Poly students may struggle in their first year but they would enjoy what they do subsequently, i.e. dealing with hands-on projects that they have accustomed to in polytechnics.
31. In what scenarios will any student be exempted from any modules?
If they have completed similar modules overseas during global exchange, they can apply for exemptions back here.
32. Theory vs. Practical. In what ratio would you say your program content is?
I’m in Term 4 currently and as of now, it’s more like 3:1 but the practical part will grow in proportion in the future terms.
33. On a scale of 1 – 10, how employable do you think students from your program are?
34. Name 3 job fields people from your program go into.
Financial Analyst, Investment related jobs, Industrial Engineers.
35. Favorite Professor?
It’s a tough one. There are two and they teach the humanities electives: Alastair & Michael. Each term we have to take at least one humanities elective in addition to the core subjects.
36. What is one thing that most people don’t know about your program?
I would say that it’s more than just related to the financial sector. Many have this misconception that it’s a lot to do with financial sector more than anything else but it involves other things like supply chain management as well.
37. Ideal tutorial class size versus reality?
Reality: 50 (first year) decreases over the years as people start specializing. For ESD at least, core modules are assigned so everyone in the pillar is involved and class size eventually depends on how they divide the students.
38. Given a chance to go on exchange, which country would you choose?
Anywhere is good as my program can go into many directions including manufacturing and financial sectors. United States is good.
39. Common exam formats include:
Presentations, open-ended questions, math-related questions. Science papers are quite standard, similar to those in “A” levels examinations.
40. Outside of the curriculum, do you have any other commitments in school?
41. Would you say that it is difficult to manage both studies and other school activities?
Currently no, but it requires discipline in creating schedules and working around it.
42. In your opinion, are there enough clubs & societies in school for students to choose from?
Plenty. I think because of the nature of the school and the culture they want to create, there’s always room for students to build their own clubs. Students can submit proposals to create new clubs and get management to support them. School usually tries to help if there’s a big enough group of students who want it.
43. How do you think a Extra-Curriculum Activity add value to a student's overall experience?
It helps to provide a different point of view and expands your network. It helps you to take your mind off things. Although sometimes it can be taxing but if you enjoy what you do then it helps to break from the monotony of study. If you have a lot of problems adjusting, the club may function as some sort of support group as well and the seniors in the club may be able to help you as they tap on their own experiences.
44. The most memorable school event that you have attended would be:
Concerts that SUTD bands have put up. Every year there are two concerts on average. It’s really a time for them to let loose and allow people to see the vibrancy of the school.
45. If you had to pay to NOT attend a particular event in school, what will it be?
The learning celebration carnival is quite dreary to attend. It showcases what you have done over the summer. I think that forcing us to go for this benefits more for the freshman (for them to understand what happened over the summer) but a lot of time they are just looking and not really trying to find out more. In other words, it’s extra work for us but we don't get credits and we are doing the management’s job for them.
46. Is the school doing enough to engage students?
I think the management is trying to engage students, based on the student initiatives they are nurturing. But I’m more of looking from sidelines without actively participating.
47. Do you stay on-campus?
Yes during my freshmen year, as it is required.
48. Name 5 adjectives about your hall/hostel.
Only one: convenient
49. Would you sacrifice an “A” for one of your core modules to secure a spot at hall/hostel?
No. It’s not exactly the cheapest place to stay.
50. How would you describe hall life in a phrase?
Vibrant but restrictive. With respect to the things that happen within the grounds, I don’t think there should be so much control. For example, if we have an upcoming deadline for tomorrow and a project member does not stay on-campus, he/she cannot utilize the study space in the hall as he/she is not a resident. It’s good for security I understand but it’s not helpful for students.
51. Are the amenities in the halls comprehensive?
Yes and no. Yes as in the bare essentials are there. But there are things we hope that can be better. We do not expect to live as comfortably as at home. But there should be more space in the room for a student to do his work, and more shelves etc. So the room is quite well designed but small, in my opinion.
52. If you can only bring one electrical appliance to hall, what would it be?
53. Worst roommate ever? If not best?
One that doesn’t know the boundary. For example, I had this overly social one that was always in your face. Not the best of people to have around especially if you were not having a good day. I had to stay away from room until bedtime avoid such a room mate.