Meet Yan Zhi – USP Recognition Award Winner 2013 (Part 2)

By Charmaine Yap
After hearing Zhe Wen share about his experiences in USP in the first part of this special feature, we now shine the spotlight on Yan Zhi, our second USP Recognition Award winner!
Yan Zhi (second from left) and Zhe Wen (third from left) at the USP Awards Ceremony 2013. Photo courtesy of Lionel Lin
Yan Zhi (second from left) and Zhe Wen (third from left) at the USP Awards Ceremony 2013. Photo courtesy of Lionel Lin

About Yan Zhi

Yan Zhi is a Year 3 Pharmacy student. He is currently serving as the Chief Ambassador in USP Ambassadors. He is also the Deputy Coordinator for the USP Mentorship Programme for the Science Faculty, and will be heading this year’s iteration of Forgotten Communities. 

Going right back to the beginning, what was it that drew you to USP?

Actually I didn’t really know why I joined USP. It just happened that I had several options. Then when I chanced upon USP, the whole idea of a multi-disciplinary approach really intrigued me. So I was very drawn by it. I decided to apply, and luckily I got in. I wasn’t influenced by anybody; there wasn’t anybody who told me what USP was about. It just so happened that I did some slight research, and found out that this programme existed. I happened to apply, and got in.

What are some of the activities that you have been involved in since then?

In Year One, I was in the MC. I was the cultural activities director. In my first year, I also joined USP ambassadors, which started out then. My batch was one of the pioneer batches.

In my second year, after I ended my MC tour, I continued with USP Ambassadors, serving at an exco level. I also joined the USP Peer Mentorship Programme. I was the coordinator for the small faculties, which are Law, Architecture, SDE, Computing and Pharmacy.

This year, I started to lead the Ambassadors as the Chief Ambassador. I continued with the Mentorship Programme, but switched my role, so I am now the coordinator for Science.

I was also involved in a quite a few international programmes. In the summer of Year One, I participated in the George Washington University-USP Twin Cities Dialogue. Last December, after Year Two Semester 1, I went for the Overseas CIP trip Niềm Vui Việt Nam to Vietnam (now Step Up Project – Cambodia). And last Februrary, Year Two Semester Two, I went for the PICSIM Conference.

In America for the George Washington University-USP Twin Cities Dialogue
In America for the George Washington University-USP Twin Cities Dialogue

What are your thoughts on having received the Scholars Programme Recognition Award?

I found out about it when I received a message from Prof Albert Teo, one day, asking me if I would be free on this day, where I would be presented with the award. I was actually quite shocked, because I never expected myself to be nominated for, and to receive the award. So that was my initial response, because I never knew that this would happen.

Shocked but grateful - Receiving the USP Recognition Award. Photo courtesy of Lionel Lin
Shocked but grateful – Receiving the USP Recognition Award. Photo courtesy of Lionel Lin

Anything particularly memorable that you can share with us?

USP Ambassadors has really changed how I do certain things. Initially, I joined because when I heard misconceptions about USP in my home faculty, I sometimes felt offended because they don’t really know what USP is about. Instead, they base their views on what they have heard, instead of actually having been in the programme themselves. So that was what spurred me into joining USP Ambassadors. I got to represent USP at certain formal events like Open House, which is a big part of what we do.

Representing USP at a scholarship talk in Hwa Chong

The whole of process of learning how to speak is an art. This process has changed how I carry myself, how I speak, and how I think. While I cannot pinpoint exactly what was memorable, I have enjoyed this entire process, and it has been one of the key highlights of my USP life.

Having participated in all these activities, what is your greatest take-away?

I learnt to be more grateful for what I have. I guess partly why I decided to participate in all these activities was because there was something that I gained out of it. I wouldn’t say it is a calling, but rather it is a sense of wanting to help and to give back. I would say my greatest take-away is to try to be more grateful for what I have received. That is something I haven’t really reconciled with until right now.

Is there anyone, in particular, that has inspired you?

Prof Teo is inspiring in so many ways, especially though the things he does. He was the faculty member who went with us on trips, so I got to know him better. After that, I did an Independent Study Module with him, and we continued to interact along the way. So I think it is through all these unofficial interactions that you get to know a person better.

"He's inspiring in so many ways" - Prof Teo (second from right) with Yan Zhi at the USP Awards Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Lionel Lin
“He’s inspiring in so many ways” – Prof Albert Teo (second from right) with Yan Zhi at the USP Awards Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Lionel Lin

I drew a lot of inspiration from some seniors too. Some of them really coached and talked to me, so I was really grateful for that. They were a substantial part of the whole USP experience. I would actually like to see more of these senior and junior interactions happening – something that’s kind of difficult.

Balancing between USP and their home faculty is a common problem that USP students face. Being so involved in USP, are there any difficulties in balancing that dual identity?  Are there any trade-offs that you have made?

I somehow aligned myself more with USP than with Pharmacy. This is something I would never advocate. But it just so happened that with the activities that I took part in, I found myself more inclined to this group of individuals. This shaped my identity and recognition.

But juggling between USP and my home faculty, in terms of school work, is something that everyone does. There’s nothing specific about that. I may have a lot of things to memorise in Pharmacy, but similarly a business student would have a lot of projects to do. In terms of activities, I try to do some things in Pharmacy too. It’s just about how you balance your time. I don’t actually know how I did it. Retrospectively, I just wanted to join USP, and somehow I managed to balance the two.

As an individual, how different are you from that freshman who just entered USP two years ago?

I am different because of the kind of exposure that USP has given me. And this is what I tell people during Open House, that I really wouldn’t be what I am now, if not for USP. USP gave me the exposure to do things that would otherwise not be available to me, if I were only in Pharmacy. And this is not only programme-wise. It spans a lot of things – the academic programme itself, the people I grew close with, the administrative staff I worked very closely with, the professors who nurtured and inspired me. It exposed me to a multitude of things, and you have to be involved in this whole process before you can take something from it. So how I am different from then, I would say it is the breadth that I have because of this programme. I am exposed to certain things I wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to do, and this is in terms of many different areas.

Meeting new friends while in USP!
Meeting new friends while in USP!

Looking forward, what are your plans for the next two years ahead?

Actually, every single year, I tell myself I shouldn’t take part in so many activities. But somehow it just happens. So there isn’t a specific plan right now. I just hope that I will be able to contribute back to the programme, in the ways that I can, over the next few years. Because of certain experiences, I would be more inclined to join certain activities, and to contribute back in certain ways. I probably wouldn’t be trying out new things. Next year is my final year, so I should really not do as much. I would definitely continue with Ambassadors if I can, but perhaps not in a leadership role. And if I can continue to contribute as a peer mentor, I will.

Beyond USP, I would definitely like to start volunteering more. But there has always been this inertia. Because I have been inspired by many professors, especially Prof Teo, I want to try out more activities that allow me to go out to see and appreciate what the real world is like, and to do more community work. But that being said, I don’t really know whether I’ll do it, because procrastination is always an issue.

To end off the two part segment on our 2013 USP Recognition Award winners, we quiz Zhe Wen and Yan Zhi about life in UTown!

1.     Favourite Utown mugging spot?

Zhe Wen: Lounges.

Yan Zhi: Friend’s suite, or we would colonise a lounge.

2.     Pet peeve at RC?

Zhe Wen: Refrigerator theft. The fridge has become a place not to store stuff, but for your stuff to be stolen.

Yan Zhi: We use to be able to put our shoes outside our suite. So there was one day where the OHS people came into our suite, and they were just walking around. I was really angry, because they should have seen that we left our shoes outside. Especially after the cleaner has cleaned the whole suite.

3.     Favourite dining hall breakfast?

Zhe Wen: Coffee. It is so insanely thick, it’s not so much for drinking pleasure, but for staying awake.

Yan Zhi: Mee siam.

4.     One WCT survival tip?

Zhe Wen: Discuss your WCT paper with your classmates. It is very obvious to me when my paper is discussed out because they can critique and give you constructive comments. My own mind is never as bright as a group of people’s.

Yan Zhi: Talk to your Prof more, really understand where he’s coming from. When you get your draft back through email, you won’t understand what he is trying to say. Even though you have consults, you will have pre-drafts before the submission. When you have a lot of doubts, just approach them. The profs in USP are very approachable. As long as you go in with an idea of what you want to propose and what you want to ask him, they are generally patient enough to talk to you.

5.     Most recommended Utown food?

Zhe Wen: Koufu chicken rice. Specifically 烧鸡尾, 起骨, 加菜. 烧鸡尾 is the roasted chicken thigh, which is the nicer part. 起骨 means that they will remove the bones for you. 加菜 means to add vegetables, for a more balanced meal! (For all you non-mandarin speakers, the order to give the Uncle at the chicken rice store is shao ji, qi gu, jia cai!)

Thank you Zhe Wen and Yan Zhi for sharing so candidly your thoughts and experiences, and all the best with pursuing your next goals in USP and beyond!

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