Orientation Camps: Yay or Nay?

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“We hope you are as excited as we are!”

FOP 2018 Official Logo, Source: NUS Computing Freshmen Orientation Projects

It’s that time of the year again for university (uni) orientation camps!

I am way too old to join one, but I thought it would be nice to share my personal experience as a participant back when it was pre-uni for me. I joined NUS School of Computing’s Freshmen Social Camp (FSC) back in 2018. The camp fee was $87 and it was a physical 4 days 3 nights camp held in NUS.

Why did I sign up for the camp?

Make friends, that’s it (duh). Most of my friends from Junior College were heading to FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) or Business and I didn’t know anyone who was in my course of study before school started. It was certainly scary entering a new environment without knowing anyone at all … so I thought that going for a orientation camp would let me find my “uni clique” and we would sail through school together. Talk about foresight 🙂

Another reason for wanting to join my faculty camp was to know seniors in my course. I think knowing a few computing seniors would be really helpful because I could reach out to them when I needed guidance, especially as a blur freshman. In addition, most uni camps also have academic briefing(s) to share with attendees some frequently used resources (like nusmods.com), so that when uni officially starts we are not as lost and overwhelmed.

How my camp experience actually went

Yes, I had fun! We had amazing race and night games, not forgetting beach day too! Thankfully, I met quite pleasant seniors who shared tips for surviving uni as well.

However, one issue I realised in retrospect was that we were grouped according to region of stay. For example, people who stayed in Tampines region were grouped together. So in one orientation group (OG), there was a mixture of people taking different computing majors. For mine, there were only 3 other IS majors in a group of 10+ people. This was not a very ideal situation for me because that meant that when uni started, I would at best only see 3 other camp mates in the modules I took. It was indeed hard to maintain contact since the curriculum between majors differed significantly.

Looking back, I also experienced a “cultural shock”. Logically speaking, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the gender ratio in computing is quite skewed towards males. Yet, coming from a school where the gender ratio was 3:1 or 2:1 of girls to guys, it took me quite a while to get used to being the “minority gender”.

Besides the gender ratio, my “cultural shock” also came from knowing people from more varied walks of life. Everyone’s background and stories were so different and really opened my eyes to more facets of society. I believe that this experience would be quite relatable if you came from a largely homogeneous community.

& I also had late suppers every night and joined an elaborate drinking session right after the camp ended too. So I think I spent close to $150 in total??

Post-camp experience

Alas, I didn’t find my “uni clique” despite attending an orientation camp. I didn’t take the same classes as my fellow IS OG mates and gradually lost contact with all my OG mates. Occasionally we would see each other in school and say hi, but that’s pretty much it. I was quite disappointed for a while as I felt that I had wasted my money attending that camp. But hey, sometimes you’ve got to experience some things to know what works and what doesn’t. Now that I’m closer to graduation, I still don’t have a ‘’uni clique” and that’s okay!

Parting thoughts

If you’re looking to make friends from orientation camps, keep an open mind and don’t stress yourself out over who to interact with. If your OG mates turn out to be the ones accompanying you on your uni journey, that’s great! But if that doesn’t happen, don’t beat yourself up about it. My best friendships in uni were forged in classrooms and nurtured with true care and support for each other! 😄

Oh and if crowds are not really your thing, camps may trigger some anxiety, so be careful for your mental health 🙏

If you are keen to join NUS Computing’s freshmen camps or projects, check out this page: https://nuscomputing.com/freshmen

Thank you for reading!