Breakfast at Changi with kakis from NUS

First posted in NUS’ “The Change is Me“, 24 Feb 2012

These past few Sundays, I have been meeting kakis (= friends) at Holland Village MRT at 6.30am and cycling down to Changi Village for breakfast via Lornie Road and Tampines. We meet other kakis who begin their shorter ride at a more leisurely pace from the East Coast park C1 along the Coastal Park Connector at 7.00am. Shortly after 8.00am, we were all chomping on pratas and dosais and catching up!

To think that all of this began in 90’s with my NUS biology classmates! As we rode together over the years, some of our juniors in NUS whom I taught or shared a lab with joined in and eventually we also linked up with other friends. A relaxed bunch, we treasure the journey and feeling of freedom most of all, and call ourselves Zendogs.

And yes, we even have a blog!

Zendogs 2.0 - It's the journey not the destination
Classmate, juniors, friends and my mentee have
breakfast at Changi Village, 29 Jan 2012!
Photo by Kevin Lim

I had a lovely time in NUS and met many people. It was in biology that I was to be especially lucky for we had a very good time during field trips with a hardy bunch of people and some would go on to become very good friends. Over the years, I am still enjoying occasional cycling trips, forest hikes, RISK sessions, nature guiding and other activities with them. And Facebook has helped me reconnect with quite a few more!

Thus it is with great delight that I see our first year undergraduates in LSM1103 Biodiversity, a core module for Life Science students, get reasonable exposure in the field with their classmates.

These days though, the class size has almost reached 300. It certainly is a challenge ensuring we can maintain a small group environment to facilitate learning and safety in the field.

Happily, the Chief TAs have managed to recruit a very precious crop of Teaching Assistants – honours and graduate students in biodiversity with a motivation to share, facilitate and inspire!

LSM1103 Group B Animal Diversity Practical (21 Oct 2011)
Animal Diversity Lab – can you sort out the fish and amphibians in three minutes?

LSM1103 AY 11/12 Sem 2 Kent Ridge Practical
Identifying plants and animals on Kent Ridge after a rain.

LSM1103 Group B Changi Practical (28 Oct 2011)
Seining in the waters off Changi Beach for fish and invertebrates

The first lecture with the first years in Semester 1 for this module is a precious session – it is here that I explain, amongst other things, the complicated arrangement of classes for this particular module to a group of students new to the whole university setup.

Last year, I lost that scheduled lecture slot to a public holiday. Desperate, I tried but failed to find an available Lecture Theatre for the make up lecture. I finally decided I would run two 2-hour sessions at Lab 7 instead. As is typical, this turned out to be a blessing – we were able to allocate time for groups to get to know each other, a very precious thing to do!

As students chattered away in the class, the Chief TA for the module, Xu Weiting, and myself, took a photo of every group for the module’s Facebook page.
Students went on to tag themselves and some went on to create group pages to continue the dialogue over the semester.

I hope the chatter will lead to friendships and that some of them will still be cycling together, like we still do, after two decades.

Here’s to friendships, from NUS and beyond!

AY2011/12 Sem 1 group photos!
LSM1103 AY2011/2 Sem 1 groups

I’m blogging on NUS’ facebook account from Feb to May 2012.

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