Friday, March 28, 2008

I could still remember how a stranger helped me lug my bags from Charles de Gaulle Airport to central Paris. From there, I had to find Rue des Bergers (where Amelie lived), to drop my bags off and then to rush to the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences-po) for the orientation talk cum French proficiency test. It was hectic preparing for my exchange programme to one of the prestigious universities in France. Finding accommodation in Paris was a headache. All the international hostels had been filled up, leaving me no choice but to bunk in with Amelie (a Sciences-po student who was on exchange in NUS) for about 2 weeks. I had to apply for visa, do the medical check-up, banking and other arrangements myself. To add, there was also the language problem. Although I could speak decent French but it was difficult understanding the Parisian accent. Besides, I was not proficient enough to comprehend all the political and economics jargons. What was I thinking when I applied to study in France? Either I was temporarily insane or just plain stupid.

“Yes, I am insane alright”, I uttered during the first Cour Magistral (lecture). I could hardly understand the lectures during the first few weeks. I was in a class of French and other international students. Everyone was so intelligent. Entry to Sciences-po Paris was extremely difficult and my classmates were all crème de la crème. I was the lone Singaporean in a school of 4000 students. There were no familiar faces that I could talk to. No one spoke English. Amelie was in a different year so I was left to fend for myself. Readings were in French as we had to submit an essay every week. Besides that, I had to prepare exposés (presentations) about the French political system as well as economic analyses. I was barely breathing. Besides trying to cope with schoolwork, I had to adapt to a whole new environment – different cuisine, climate and culture. Renting a room with a French woman and her six-year-old son allowed me to live a typical French family life. The first two months in Paris were the hardest and many a times I questioned my rationale studying in France. Weekends were spent doing countless plan rediges (essays) leaving me no time at all to travel around Europe and enjoy myself. Many tears were shed in frustration as I flipped through the dictionary trying to make sense of my lecture notes then.

As I sat in the Emile Boutmy Amphitheatre for my last exam paper, I felt a tremendous amount of sadness. I was actually going to miss everything about Sciences-po - the lectures of Jean-Luc Parodi who went on and on talking (sans transparencies), my distinguished economics professor Dominique Strauss-Kahn (the former minister of Finance for France), my economics tutor who questioned me during my economic presentations and my political science tutor who told the international students that the language barrier was no excuse for handing up his weekly essays late. Ahhh…… I even loved the classrooms in Sciences-po with its old chairs and grand mirrors. The small library with the long wooden tables and chairs, the winding staircases, the candle-like lamps and the old elevators made Sciences-po quaint. Although the students fretted about the lack of computer facilities, there were other aspects of the school that we loved. We loved the garden where we had lunches and discussions; and if the weather was not so cold, we even had our tutorials amidst the greenery. Sciences-po with their bon-chic-bon-genre students might appear very preppy and elitist to some but to me it is the best political science institution in Europe. Here, the lectures were interactive as the students were not afraid to argue with their learned professors. In fact, they were motivated and asked for more work, yes even during the optional language courses. Students were independent – having to live on their own and doing sports outside of campus. What we lacked in huge campuses was made up for in the intellectual atmosphere of the school.

As I bid my econs tutor au revoir, she asked “You are coming back, aren’t you?” My eyes grew watery. I had grown to love the hectic schedule where we would finish school only at 9.15 pm almost every night, the weekend lunches with friends from school, the fun but well-behaved nights-outs at the disco organised by the Bureau des Eleves, the helpful classmates who gave us the confidence to go through the tough syllabus, the forums by renowned lecturers, the political campaigns in school and even those 4 hour exams. Even our endless complaints about the heavy load were but sweet memories. Sciences-po has taught me independence, hard work and the value of a world-class education. It is to no surprise that all its graduates had become future leaders of France. Despite all the obstacles I had to go through, it was indeed a worthwhile experience. And if I have to go through it all over again, I will gladly do so.
[August 2000-February 2001]

Simply loved the way the above blogger writes. If only my english could be as fluent as that. And reading the above makes studying in a university that teaches in English just a little bit easier.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A résumé (North America), also known as a curriculum vitæ (CV) (Elsewhere), is a document that contains a summary or listing of relevant job experience and education, usually for the purpose of obtaining an interview when seeking employment. Often the résumé or CV is the first item that a potential employer encounters regarding the job seeker, and therefore a large amount of importance is often ascribed to it. [Wikipidea]

Always thought that it's just the admin part of employment. Only today i realise how important those pieces of paper are.

2 girls. 2 CV. I was asked for an opinion.

First thing that is natural is to see the Applicants' picture. It helps if u're good looking. Seriously. Who doesnt want someone who's an eye candy working in the same office? It may seem superficial but if all as remains equal, it will boil down to the looks.

Anws, just a decent picture will do. Do smile. If u hv nice teeth, by all means. If not, u noe, i noe. You musnt look like a terrorist. Nor must u look like a psycho. Look decent. Remember: First impression. Your picture in your CV should not be the same as the one u use for your Online Dating or Facebook account. It simply irritates the employer. Or in my case, certainly irritated me.

After the picture, i would read the things u write. The way your write speaks a lot about u. The layout of the CV speaks alot about u. It shows how much effort u put in. It shows how much u want the job. The ink on the paper too play a part. Remember: How much effort u put in shows me how much u want the job.

And if ure applying, for instance, a job in data entry ........ tell me what i want to hear. Say that ure good with computers, Microsoft word, Excel etc. Telling me u used to work as a McDelivery boy or a PizzaHut cashier will only make me laugh. But as ive realised, what is good is to first tell the employers what they want to hear and then, add your past work experiences etc. So at least i would know that u have what it takes to do the job and at the same time, ur experience as a PizzaHut cashier may come in useful in some other aspects

So once u convinced me(through ur CV) that u deserve to be given a shot, you may proceed to the dreaded next stage: THE INTERVIEW. Now i realise, the interview isnt really that scary. The employers know u have what it takes. Just convince them in person, answer whatever additional things they might want to ask, and hope the other guy eyeing the same job position cock up his interview.

And my tuesday nights have been occupied. Im teaching the kid from upstairs. Ive informed the parents' of the kids i teach that once i start schooling, i would have to see if i can still continue to perform this juggling act of mine.

Till next time!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

2 girls caught my eyes while i was on the train just now. They were talking with their hands. Could only imagine the feeling of hearing nothing since born.

I would be afraid. Seeing people talk and me not hearing anything, i would cry. Why is life so unfair? But of course, that's if i knew that there's such a thing as sound in the first place.

The littlest thing most of us take for granted.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The idea of being outside after 7 still disturbs me. Ive said this 2 years ago and im not surprised that im still saying this. I guess it is impossible to turn a mango into a durian even though i wish i could have both. I may want (or think that i want) to but there's something thats telling me it's just not right for kids not to be home before 7. If i keep telling myself now is not the time, then when is? And sometimes i seem to forget that im supposed to be turning 21 and act as though im just turning 12.

Army to civilian conversion course is almost complete. Now the dreaded transition.
Think that it is about time to begin the transition from work to school.Already having problems with my brothers' Additional maths. Let's not even talk about my own c-maths.

Still lacking something in respect of the social aspect of my life. But besides that, think im preety ok.