Doesn't it look so legit and cool!??! I mean yeah, it actually IS legit right? Amelia did this poster up recently for our FYP do...

Final thoughts on my Final Year Project


Doesn't it look so legit and cool!??!

I mean yeah, it actually IS legit right? Amelia did this poster up recently for our FYP documentary and when I saw it I was like fooyooooh. So real gurl.

I love this picture still. The light and composition is perfect and it's true how the light shines so goldenly at 5-6pm at Ang mo kio where our boy profile lives.

Seeing this film poster also reminds me of how I never thought I'd do a documentary when I first entered wkwsci. I'd just admire works by seniors when I was a freshie but it never crossed my mind that I'd be one of those broadcast kids who'd produce something like this. It's for real. And a bit unimaginable.

That's why I'd always say, that I grew up while I was in wkwsci. This FYP is like the icing on the cake after the foundations have been built throughout my 4 years. Many more cakes to bake before I can start a bakery and a franchise. What a huge stepping stone this has been.

I've come out of this Final Year Project experience with 3 learning points.

1) Being brave when faced with uncertainty

- I've learnt to take risks, be ready for uncertainties and face challenges. That statement sounded hella PR. But it is my exact sentiment. Remember how I lamented in a blog post how lost I felt when our initial profile pulled out of our documentary? You can read it again here.

I was frustrated, lost, mentally exhausted that I even started to question my faith (which is.. well, you gotta find that post i typed) haha. It was that insane. It was the first time I ever felt that lost. If you ask me, FYP was one of the toughest things I ever did in Uni but it's one of those tough hurdles that I came out of, feeling like a champion. Not everything I'd feel that way. Go-Far was tough but I didn't quite necessarily come out feeling the same way. But FYP... it's a whole new dimension. Such a rollercoaster ride.

It has certainly made me less fearful of what is out there. Philosophically and pragmatically. I seriously feel like I'm ready to take on anything. Because of what I've overcome.

And not only that.

2) Having faith in the people you work with.

I also learnt how important it is to trust your own teammates, your own friends. Trust is so important and I realised I underestimated some of my friends' abilities and coming out of this FYP, I've come to respect my friends' skills and capabilities a whole lot more. To trust and listen to their judgments. There are always different perspectives. Some you agree, some you don't. But I've found out how important it is to always hear out others' ideas and to give it a good thought, no matter how contrary they are to your own. Their ideas may go against the grain of what you'd usually do or think about. And I've come to value that. That's what a team is for. Tough at the beginning because of the differences in ideas but it is how you see the value in these differences and try to work something out that's meaningful.

It's important to hear out the devil's advocate. I thought Amelia was that devil's advocate and I thank her for that because it allowed for fine-tuning of ideas and ensuring that a plan is well thought out. At the start I was like what the heck man, we were clashing a lot in terms of ideas. I'd say something but she'd think about it and think against it. I would think why not? This is one of those moments when I had to take a step back. Time that I hear what the others have to say, go home, give a good thought. The next day, we congregate once again. And talk about it.

3) It's all about Communication, Communication, Communication.

That's what they all say. And it's true! It's the fundamental basis of all working projects.

We are all communication students, but that doesn't make us experts at communicating in practical, daily life. This project taught me the importance of it. And how miscommunication can be the bane of every working group's existence. I have seen that during internship and I cannot stress how important communication is.

There are two types of it, as a speaker. One is communicating your ideas properly and logically. The second is about sensing the emotional climate of discussions. The first is verbal while the second is non-verbal.

For the latter, I remember one time when I told my group I felt like crying because I couldn't sense what they were thinking and how they were thinking because there'd be moments of long, long, longggg silence during discussions and I was getting frustrated every time because we couldn't solve something before moving on to other things. Whenever I posed a question that needed solutions, I would be met with empty silence. Sometimes they were so long that I couldn't take it. I would give my opinions and suggestions but the others were shut. It made me worry and I wondered if they had confidence in a project that we were all working hard on. I needed a vote of confidence but I couldn't sense it. I knew they were thinking while keeping quiet. But they were not talking and I was going crazy. So I had to keep questioning them and asking them, "What are you thinking?". It got to a point when I told them, I can't read you and I had a moment of outburst that I needed to know what they were thinking because it felt like we were stalling every time we were trying to think of a solution. What's worse was that I thought they had stopped thinking of a solution and moved on, while I was still stuck at the same problem and it frustrated me. It was one of those moments when walls started to break down and we communicated. I found out from their perspective that it takes time for them to analyse and think before they speak. It seemed as if they had moved on because they hadn't spoken. They had in fact, left it to ponder about it for later. All the time I had misread that. They also found out that I was someone who needed to tackle the issue at hand and that the silences were making me uncomfortable. Turned out that I was the only one feeling the discomfort. I was the only one stuck in the same spot.

It's one of those moments of realisation when it hits you that hey, nobody is right or wrong. We just had different perspectives and now that we understand how the other functions, the team can get going again.

We came out of that discussion with a few solutions. I understood what their long long silences were, so I would give them time to think and if a solution wasn't presented, another time to talk about it could be a better time. They also told me that whenever I felt like I needed answers, I should persist by asking them how they were thinking and that would serve as a cue that I need to be let in on some of their thoughts that were still under-construction mid-way. At least satisfy my need for some form of confidence.

It was quite revelatory in a sense that I learnt how to manage different working styles and conflicts. It was just simply a matter of different ways of working and communicating. I've found out earlier on during Go-Far that it takes time to understand a team mate and how he or she functions. But through this project, I've found out you can never fully understand someone by a certain time. It's a continual process, like every relationship. I have to manage and find out as we go on, and that's how it works. Constantly understanding and adjusting to each other's differences.

With that said, after so many discussions to and fro during FYP, I've learnt one of my weaknesses and that is communicating my ideas effectively. Seeing from the earlier conflict, my friends are good at analytically thinking through an idea and thus whenever they spoke, they spoke clearly. While I, whatever that came to my head I would say without much careful planning. I've come to realise I need to learn how to speak concisely and clearly by organising my thoughts clearly and quickly. It's so so so important and it's a skill I've yet to master. Something I need to learn from my friends. It helps with persuading others with your ideas and simply, letting others understand your point of view. That is the fundamental need for communicating clearly. For others to understand you, you need to speak clearly. Otherwise problems surface and I've noticed it's always about how you communicate and bring across your ideas. If you can't articulate well enough, people will never GET you. You'd think it's their problem when it actually is... yours. And that sucks.

So, the basis of a working group is... That's right, communication. As humans, we are interdependent and we must learn to work with one another. So to communicate, that's the most important thing ever.

People need to understand why people like US, study COMMUNICATION. It's not a lame major alright. A skill often overlooked.


Other than the work of the FYP itself, I have had an emotional connection with our boy profile. You must be interested in his story and who he is.

The title of our documentary is 'Away from Ayah'. Ayah means 'Father' in Malay and our profile's father was recently incarcerated early this year.

His sister calls him by a nickname, Ipin, and that's how we address him in the documentary so as not to reveal his identity. We can't reveal his identity as a deal we made with the organisation who helped us with finding a story to film. We cannot thank them enough for making our docu work. That was one of the turning points in our FYP. Otherwise we'd still be left stranded.

We were introduced to Ipin and his family. He was surprisingly not shy at all, very chatty and I think that was the reason why we were introduced to document him in the first place.

Filming him was quite easy. Super cooperative, which is unusual for a boy his age - He's 12 y/o.

It was difficult interviewing him however, because he started shutting off emotionally when probed about his dad and stuff like that. It was difficult for him. And it was difficult for me. You can read in my earlier post about interviewing him on his thoughts about his father and my moral dilemma as a documentarian here.

A lot of people have asked us, "How is he like?". How is he REALLY like?

Amelia and I were talking about this, and we realised what people were actually trying to find out. Is he a naughty kid? Usually children of incarcerated parents - we'd see them as naughty kids because they haven't had the nurturance of parental love. The Chinese call it, 没有家教。His elder sister takes care of him and his younger sister. Mom doesn't come home and dad is in prison.

Let me just say that, Ipin is a very good, kind and clever boy. I'm not saying this because I'm biased after working with him. In fact, I had the same pre-conceived notion of kids who haven't had the care and love of parents, as many others. "Oh they must be so naughty, noisy and well, naughty." Noisy, yes coz well they're kids. Naughty? I really have to say no to that. I want to at least debunk that stereotype.

I am now a volunteer and I see him every week for an hour and a half to keep him company and be a friend to him. He does household chores at home every single day and fetches his sister from school back to their home by foot every single day. No bus, just walking. It takes about 40 minutes in total to and fro.

When I first knew that, I had respect for this kid. Who would do that as an elder brother? Not many boys I tell ya.

That's him waiting for his younger sister at school. She's 8.

I've had the privilege to walk with him to school to fetch his sister every time I meet him. It's been this way the past month. And I would carry her school bag for her, otherwise he'd usually do on his own.

What's funny is how people and other parents would always stare at us because it's so unusual for a Chinese girl to be talking to these 2 young Malay kids as if they were my own. They must've thought I was a young mother but then again, no. So they're conflicted whenever they see me. Maybe some dangerous stranger befriending them.

What I love about these walks is how they would tell me random things about their lives. Especially Ipin. He'd tell me random stuff - sometimes I get zoned out coz they're stuff about Transformers and Avengers. Boy stuff. Other times, he'd tell me about what his friends say, what he thinks. When LKY died, it was fascinating to hear how much he knew about "Mr Lee Kuan Yew". "Mr Lee Kuan Yew this, Mr Lee Kuan Yew that." The facts were all right. He knew them all. He even quoted what LKY said, "I've built this city from mudflats to become what it is today - A Metropolis". Wow, when he told me that, I was stunned. Well maybe kids these days are getting smarter, but the fact that he takes interest in Singapore history and could tell me about the Brits and the Japanese... I don't think any 12 year old would be able to tell me about that.

He doesn't do well at school though - fails every subject literally, except Math, which he proclaims proudly is his best and favourite subject. He even won Best-in-Progress in class for it. It's quite worrying, especially since he's taking his PSLE this year. If you say that the stereotype of these kids is that they're not smart, you might see it that way academically. But in other ways, truly, he is a smart kid. Very understanding, knowledgeable and curious about the world. Once again, not every kid is like that. And I wish that society based intelligence not on grades. This way, maybe teachers would start treating every kid the same way and in turn, would give equal attention to kids who are floundering and blossoming academically. I believe teachers have their inherent biases...

I remember once when I asked him, "What if I lose your Transformers toy? Will you be angry with me?"
He said: "No."
I said, "But why? It's your favourite toy. Why won't you be angry with me? I lost it leh. Your ABSOLUTE favourite toy."
He said: "It's okay. I won't be angry. I'll just go and find it."

That made my heart shatter a million god damned pieces.

I'd imagine him to scold me, hate me and scream at me. But he said this with so much confidence and honesty, and I believed him.

His younger sister and him bicker a lot though. He'd annoy his sister and she'd say she hates him. Oh younger sisters... I bet I was the same when I was younger. I've had to quell their fights so many times. Ok, actually I don't. I just leave them alone and they get better. all. the. time. Just kid fights really.

I told them yesterday when I met them while they were playing and screaming at the playground, "you know.. actually y'all will miss each other when you don't have the other. actually you will miss his fun and you will miss her fun. if you all don't have each other, you will be sad one...."

I read their faces and I'm sure they knew I was right because they went silent but were happy.

The younger sister is quite spoilt, as all younger sisters are, but she can be such a darling. Unlike Ipin, she would ask me about me, wanted to find out about me. She's asked about my scars on my knees twice, mainly coz they look gruesome but she'd ask "What happened?" She would ask for my name and address me by my full name, Si Hui, while Ipin just calls me Sue coz I said it's easier that way. She held my hand yesterday for a reason I forgot. I think it was after Ipin tried to scare her and do some crazy thing that stupid elder brothers do.

Girls are always darlings. Sweet by nature.

They're both good kids. Who happen to grow up in difficult and different circumstances. They're still young and have so much to learn, and I only hope that they'd grow up well. I respect their elder sister for taking care of them. I feel like I'm quite kawan-kawan with the family already.

What saddens me is that I'll have to leave them momentarily for the few months that I'll be in Myanmar. By the time I come back, that relationship built over the past month and month ahead might crumble. I'm not awkward with them and they're not awkward with me anymore, and it saddens me that I'll have to be away for that amount of time. I don't want to give the impression that I'm like everyone else, who leaves them as and when they want to. I want to be a constant~

At the same time, I have the confidence that the relationship has been built strong enough so much so that it'll be just the same when I return. I intend to write them letters while I'm away.

I know what will be different when I come back though. No more walks to school with him because his sister will be old enough to walk home herself. And he'll be in Secondary One. He's gonna be this older boy who might be different altogether and perhaps a changed person when I return.

I'll miss these moments. But I'll cherish them while they last in the meantime.

These are just some of the experiences I've gotten out of FYP and I treasure all of them very much. It's quite crazy just looking back on all the things that have happened. How much I've learnt from the people around me - my team mates and children I've made friends with. Everyone I've come to know and everything that has happened to me, serendipitous or otherwise, have taught me so much. So cheesy, yet true.

I have just spent 3 hours writing up this post. I'm tired. But hey look, I'm keeping up with my posts ; )

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