This interview series seeks to introduce fellows and students of Tembusu College to the wider community on a more personal level, and to create dialogue between these groups of people. This week, Levonne Goh shares about how she spends her time on extra-curricular activities, hobbies, as well as her time in Tembusu so far.
Levonne is a Year One Political Science wannabe and hardcore Southeast Asian who entered Tembusu College in 2015. She is in Ora House.
What is your day in the life?
I wake up, brush my teeth and I go to school. This semester I have three 8am days and one free day…
Do you overload?
Yup, this semester I am taking six modules.
How can you overload and still have a free day?
That’s why I have three 8am days! Makes sense right?
Then what about your weekends? Do you do anything outside of studies?
This month is a bit crazier, because of the recruitment for my CCA, AIESEC. I also had the Yale-NUS College Asia-Pacific Model United Nations this month, so there were a lot of things to be done after school, so my responsibilities kick in after school ends.
Why do you do all of these extra-curricular activities? They all seem global-related, is that one of your interests?
For AIESEC, it’s more of leadership development and for MUNs it’s more of a hobby that turned into a full-time career after I got into Uni. In JC, I started doing MUN before I was the chair…
Before we continue, would you like to explain to the readers what MUN is?
MUN is Model United Nations, where you cosplay as a country’s diplomat and discuss about issues that are relevant in real-life, and you try to come up with solutions, but it’s really just cosplay.
Is there a point to it all?
It kind of makes you more in touch with international affairs, since you have to cosplay as a certain country’s delegate, so you know that specific perspective, and from there when you do it as different countries, you get kind of a whole worldview. It’s also kind of fun to do with this bunch of people who you know think on the same wavelength as you, because not everybody does MUN. Admittedly, MUN is not for everybody, so only the weirdos go for it. It’s kind of a weirdos gathering.
You said that it was your friend who pushed you into this?
Not really pushed, she was involved in the organising, so I went, that was how I got into it. At first, anybody would be intimidated, but afterwards you kind of get hooked on it, so you continue going for more.
So what hooked you in? Was it the relationships, or the experience that you get to portray a country, to talk on behalf of them?
I guess it’s really the people. The first time I went, it has always been about the people, because the people that you meet there all think about the same things as you, and it’s fun to find somebody, especially in a JC, who talks to you about international relations and world affairs, without it making to General Paper (GP). Like, they genuinely have an interest in these things, so that’s kind of cool.
Other than that, do you have any things that you are currently pursuing right now?
I’m trying to do a double major, that’s why I’m overloading, but I can’t say for sure whether I’m going to do it or not. I can’t do sports anymore, like tChoukball, because of my torn meniscus, that’s why I couldn’t play for ICG. I’m still trying to do sports, like dodgeball next term.
This would be a good time to bring in our first question from Dr Margaret Tan: What shaped you into the person that you are right now? What led you to become a student of Tembusu pursuing your interests?
I guess on the whole, the influence would be my parents, because they never put restrictions on me, they just allowed me to do whatever I wanted, to the extent that I don’t think they know what I’m doing in Uni right now! (Laughs) They don’t know what Tembusu is about, just that I stay in school. But that kind of gave me the freedom to do what I want, and they never gave me pressure, it was more of the school giving me pressure, and that was that. I started MUNning, so it has opened the international relations kind of thing, that’s another part. I also did meet-the-people sessions before, so that got me interested in public administration. That together combined into wanting to do political science.
How were the meet-the-people sessions? That seems like an experience that very few people in Tembusu would have.
That was something my school, River Valley, wanted to do. They had a tie-in with Taman Jurong and Choa Chu Kang, which were not where I stayed, so I went to where I stayed instead, and the MP was very nice. He is somebody who works behind the scenes, and is not the Minister, so people would see him really engaging with people on the ground, so that’s why I wanted to see how it looks like. The general feel there is that they are really like a family, the people working in MPS, because all of them are volunteers, nobody works there except the MP. It kind of shows you what kind of concerns the residents have on a day-to-day basis, and how people deal with these things, and the whole engaging with the grassroots manifests into reality when you go for a meet-the-people session.
Now that this is your second semester here, how is the life like? This is a question by Prof Lina Lim, and she’s the RF of Ora, so it’s coincidental that the first person we’re asking this question to is from Ora. How is the house like?
It’s kind of funny how the first person you ask this question to is someone who didn’t make it for House Capt. (Laughs) But that’s a weird twist of fate! Ora struck me as a big house, that’s one thing, because we have four levels. The other thing is that I felt that Level 11 itself was an ecosystem of its own, we’re kind of separated from other floors, but we are surviving fine. For me, coming into Ora wasn’t as scary as it would be for people who don’t know anyone in the house, because I know a senior, he stays on my level, so I’m not too scared of the whole Ora thing.
Being in Tembusu is fun since I live in a suite, but a suite is like a lottery, so I am really thankful for my suitemates. So, I think Ora has been a fun place to hang out with, and although I didn’t want to get into the lizard house, I can’t decide that. I wanted to go to Gaja! But I can’t change that.
I think Tembusu is especially conducive for people in FASS, especially people taking Global Studies and Political Science, because there are so many people doing them. It’s a very encouraging place, which is good.
In terms of your activeness, since you’re doing AIESEC and MUNs, is that a lot more than what an average student does? Since you may be considering a double major as well, why pursue all these, what fuels that?
For me, discounting MUN, because that was something I just had to continue from JC times, coming into Uni is supposed to be a way to reinvent myself. I don’t know if you guys are familiar, but in an IP school, it’s a six-year course, your perception or image in school is determined from your first year. So, if your first year people decide they don’t really like you, you can’t push yourself forward, so a lot of leadership experiences that I ran for, I didn’t get it, so the max I went was chairperson, but I knew I could do more, I want to do more. So coming to Uni, there are so many opportunities available, you just jump at it and give yourself that challenge.
For now, I would say it has been a fulfilling first semester, and while the first month of the second semester has been hectic, it has been fun, but I wouldn’t encourage the weak-hearted to try out this lifestyle, because it is really very hectic! I’m running from UTown to Arts to Biz on a daily basis, it’s kind of crazy.
Do you find it’s worth it, with all the hecticness, is it sustainable? What’s your view on having such a lifestyle, or is this just a phase you are going through to reinvent yourself, and in the future you will tone down again?
I think for now it’s really two things. Firstly, am I doing something which is pushing my own limits, which I don’t think I am, so I will continue developing myself. Secondly, it is the people that I’m working with. And truth be told, I think the people I am working with now are all awesome people, so that’s what pushes me to continue doing what I do.
Of course, when reality sets in in Year 3 and 4, that’s when you have to tone down, but I think it also depends on yourself and the nature of your work. The nature of my work has been online mostly, so I can just do it in my room. It’s not so much of having to go out, so that is one plus point, that you can handle so many things at the same time.
This may seem a bit of a side-track, but this is a question by Dr John van Whye: How are you wasting your time?
I feel like I’m wasting my time hanging out with friends maybe? Because I could be doing my readings but I’m talking with friends. But I don’t feel it being wasted in the sense that at least I’m connecting with people, and these are friendships worth keeping, so I’ll just waste it all I want, after all, time well spent is not time wasted, right?
I’m also wasting my time on the internet, who doesn’t? But I want to kind of waste more time reading more non-academic stuff, since I have a lot of books to read that I want to read, but FASS doesn’t allow you this kind of indulgent lifestyle.
I think that segues very well into our follow-up question: What are some hobbies and pursuits that you want to try out?
Learning more languages is one. I bought this online language learning portal that I haven’t touched for a while, which is bad because I paid for it. Another would be to spend more time with my family, which isn’t a hobby, but more of a commitment. One of the reasons why I stay in Tembusu is because my grandma lives really close by, and by right I’m supposed to go back and accompany her every week, but because of my commitments I couldn’t, so I would want to go for that.
Could you give us a bit more insight into your Taiwan MUN?
I was a delegate in the Taiwan MUN, so I was the one cosplaying. My council was about sustainable development in cities, so I went as the city-mayor of Madrid, Spain. One special thing about that is that it was in Taiwan, and it was a pure Chinese council, and everything was in traditional Chinese. My computer can’t type in traditional Chinese, but it was a pair thing and my partner could, so that was a good thing. In the end, we managed to win, I don’t know why until now, (laughs) but it’s really a shock. I won best delegate, it’s weird because we didn’t expect to win. Me and my partner stayed up till 2am in our apartments to come up with solutions to propose, but we didn’t claim credit for it, we just took whatever solutions we had and gave it to people saying: “Just take, just take, I’ll give you for free”. That’s how we managed to work our way into every solution that passed. But at the end of the day, it’s a learning experience, I doubt I will go back for that, but the people that were very nice.
Are you looking for further challenges within the MUN thing? Do you feel like you have reached the peak already?
I just started chairing, which is facilitating the whole debate in a council. I just finished one last week, and I’m doing two more, so beyond that, maybe go for a more secretariat level by organising, or on the conference level side, instead of just doing the academic side of MUN. You can’t retire from that.
You mentioned you had a couple of books you wanted to read, care to name a few of them? What’s on your reading list?
I just finished JK Rowling’s mystery series, I just finished the last one and I’m waiting for the next one to come out, because it’s so addictive. I also want to read the Kathy Reichs series. There are also still Chinese books that I haven’t touched yet.
Do you have a favourite genre that you like to read? You seem to like detective novels.
For now, I have a renewed passion for detective novel. I grew up with Nancy Drew, so detective and detection to me is fun and it kind of helps that I’m doing The Detective IEM, so I’m forced to read detective stories. But I like it, I like being played around in my head, when they throw you different clues, and at the end you come to a very satisfying conclusion. I guess I like things with a good conclusion, so if there’s any drama or show that doesn’t have a conclusion, I will be pissed off!
To end off, what question would you ask the Fellows?
Would the Fellows be willing to participate in THG and ICG with us? (Laughs) I know Dr John van Whye cycles, so if there’s cycling in ICG, we’ll definitely win!
This interview series was conducted by Ong Kah Jing and Isaac Neo, with images from Levonne’s personal collection.
Thumbnail image by Ong Kah Jing.