By Loh Su Jean (19A01A), Moh Jin Yin (19A01A), Phang Yeu Yeou (19A01A), Eugene Chua (19A01B), and Li Ze Hua (19S05B)
“A man can do all things if he has but wills them.” — Leon Battista Alberti (Italian author)
600 years ago, this quote from one of the most accomplished Renaissance figures inspired one of the core aims of the Global Studies Programme (GSP) today: to develop students into modern “Renaissance men and women” capable of accomplishing anything they apply themselves to.
Now, you might be thinking that a Renaissance man is simply one that learns several languages, plays a musical instrument or two, writes poetry, and discusses politics, amongst other polymathic pursuits. Rather, the Renaissance figure is one that pursues excellence in more fields than one. The programme seeks to broaden our understanding of the world through a keen focus on breadth over depth, and to sensitise us to connections between disciplines. It may sound daunting, but as newly-minted 21st century-renaissance people, we promise you it’s also a whole lot of fun.
Mondays with the programme are dedicated to expert sharings and classroom discussions. Sessions start at 8 (but it’s best to come in at 7.55) and end around 9.30, giving us a full hour and a half to learn about a wide variety of disciplines. Topics of the week are manifold, and can range from environmental conservation to cinematic theory, and from urban design to migration. These topics are scoped with a focus on how we ought to think, rather than what to think. Sessions typically involve a presentation by the speaker on the focus topic for the day, with a follow-up Q&A segment where we get the chance to launch into thought-provoking discussions and challenge our preconceived world views in an informal setting.
An example would be a presentation by Mr James Koh on “how to talk about literature”; Mr Koh teaches Raffles Academy Literature to Year 3 and 4 RI boys. While our backgrounds in the subject were varied – some students had only taken 2 years of it, others 5 – the talk was structured such that everyone was involved. Essential tensions within the subject were neatly packaged into five clear oppositions (think “author’s intention vs. reader’s interpretation” or “meaning vs. style”) to frame our understanding of what literature is.
Ask any former member of GSP what the highlight of the programme is, and doubtless they’ll answer that it’s the year-end trip to Japan at the tail-end of the year. Over the course of our 7D6N stay in Tokyo last November, we explored different parts of the metropolis, soaking in its rich history and discovering its technological wonder in our short sojourn. We had a taste of Japanese culture during a serene tea ceremony, then got lost in the urban whirlwind of Akihabara. We attended academic dialogues with organisations affiliated with the United Nations, and even took touristy photos in front of Tokyo Tower. True to the spirit of the programme, we did a little bit of everything!
Though the main focus of the trip was to better appreciate local culture and observe interdisciplinary and transnational connections there, we were given ample time to enjoy the best of what the city had to offer: its food, shopping, and culture. If you’re interested in sneaking a peek at what we were up to in Tokyo, check out our trip video here.
Have we piqued your interest yet? Before you take the plunge and decide to apply, however, do consider if you would be a good fit for the programme; after all, you’ll be dedicating nearly 20 Monday mornings and a week of your life to it. From past experience, we can say that it’s vital you come in prepared to learn and ready to change. The teachers are rather particular about punctuality and for good reason: so that we can all gain as much as possible from the limited time we have during sessions. So, are you curious, energetic, and able to contribute well to a discussion? If your answer is a resounding ‘yes’, you’ll have a great time in GSP!