Communities and Engagement

EnginBuddies create lasting friendships at Engineering Club

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26 October 2021

EnginBuddies is NUS Students’ Engineering Club’s inaugural initiative to help incoming students learn about different cultures and forge meaningful friendships. The programme took place over three weeks in August and invited students from different backgrounds to talk about their experiences in a small group setting. They were grouped in threes, with one local participant in each. Each group explored a different theme each week – ranging from food, culture to public transport and languages.

We caught up with four Year 2 Engineering students to learn why they chose to be part of EnginBuddies’ organising committee – Jermaine Basry, Muhammad Amal Muzaki, Tse Victoria, Mehedi Hasan Salim. Motivated by their own experiences growing up in two different cultures, they joined the organising committee because they could empathise with the challenges incoming students face, especially for the international students.

EnginBuddies organisers

Top row (from left to right): Jermaine, Amal
Bottom row (from left to right): Mehedi, Victoria

Victoria and Jermaine are Singaporeans who have spent at least half their lives overseas, and the other half in Hong Kong and Indonesia respectively. Both returned to Singapore recently to enroll in NUS. Settling in was more challenging than they expected. 

Victoria explained: “I didn’t expect the cultures of Singapore and Hong Kong to be that different, given that there are quite a lot of similarities between the two cities. I also come to Singapore quite frequently, so I didn’t think I would face any challenges at all. But I was wrong. When I travelled to Singapore previously, I always came as a tourist. This time, I had to look at it through a different pair of lenses - a student and a local, which admittedly took some time to get used to.”

While Jermaine did not find the adjustment “too hard” as she had studied in Singapore for six years before moving to Indonesia, she still felt out of place initially. “The slangs were definitely something to get used to and there were a lot of abbreviations that I didn’t understand at first, such as ‘rabak’ and ‘paiseh’. The cultures were starkly different too, and it took some time to get used to.”

Fortunately, they met friends who guided them in adjusting to the Singapore culture, such as Amal and Mehedi, their fellow committee members.

Amal and Mehedi have lived in Singapore for most of their lives and grown accustomed to the local culture. They also keep regular contact with their families and relatives back in Indonesia and Bangladesh respectively.

For Amal, having been exposed to two different cultures since young has helped him to understand the struggles people from different backgrounds face and develop a more nuanced, holistic and open worldview. “Because of my background, I can relate to the Malay/Muslim community here in Singapore. I also grew up learning Mandarin as my mother tongue and most of my friends here are Chinese. I try to see my unique exposure as a blessing and attempt to bridge the gap between the two races due to my familiarity with both cultures and languages.”

Similar to Amal, Mehedi also saw having access to two different perspectives as a strength. “I am more open in my thinking which helps me to understand why people from different races or religions do things differently.”

Together with six other committee members, the team successfully pulled off Enginbuddies! Cai Chenjing was one of the first-year students who joined the programme. “As a first-year student, I think it is always nice to step out and meet new people, and EnginBuddies makes it interesting because we get to interact with peers from the same faculty but from different cultures and countries.” During their group conversations, she shared about her life in China and Singapore, and learnt more about the United Arab Emirates from Sowmya Srinivasan, a fellow first-year student assigned to the same group. 

For Sowmya who is new to Singapore, “My Enginbuddies group members really helped me understand a lot about Singapore, everything from food, shops and transport to culture, festivals, tourist spots, even Singlish. The transport system discussion was especially helpful since I wasn’t even in Singapore at the time of Enginbuddies. The best part was definitely just getting to know Zihan and Chenjing, and we had good, fun discussions.”

As a year two senior, Wang Zihan joined the programme because he wanted to play a part in easing the first-year students’ transition to life in university. “I enjoyed all the sessions where we shared about our different cultures and life in our home countries. The most memorable one was when we had to sing ‘Let it Go’ from the movie Frozen in our mother tongues. It was really fun to see everyone trying their best to sing the song in one another’s mother tongues."


Office of Student Affairs, Community Engagement