Return of On-campus Physical Events: Missed Opportunities and Regrets

Share this post:

Since the semester started, I’ve stood among crowds of students, looking at CCA booths during the annual Student Life Fair, gathering in UTown Green to jam out to the SUPERNOVA concert, watching performances on stage with friends during the HERE! Arts Carnival… all of which I’ve not experienced since I was a freshman, three years ago. Back then, with all these events signalling a vibrant start to the academic year and to my own university life, who could predict that it would be another three years before these events would bring back full-scale student life on campus? It was within my expectations that these events would be held every year to look forward to, as they were every past year before. Watching my first performances on campus, I had even set my own goal of performing in these events myself one day. One day turned out to be my final year and my last chance to do so.

Participating in these events with my friends, as we did in Year 1, once again marks the beginning of my final academic year here, just as it did at the beginning of my first year of university. It feels almost the same as it did so many years ago, it’s hard to believe that there was a three-year pause in between when it felt like there was no student life at all. Speaking to my international friends, who had missed the opportunity to experience these events before this year, they felt like they’d lost so much of their university life. “We’ve travelled so far and for what? We don’t even get the full university experience,” they lamented. Those of you who have been attending NUS for less than four years might be able to relate.

Then again, what of my seniors? How many of them have missed opportunities, how many of them thought, oh I can do that next year, only to have what they wanted to do be held just out of their reach? With so many of my friends, be it those in Singapore or on exchange sending me daily updates and posting about their campus lives on Instagram, I can’t help but think of those who have already graduated; They would no doubt have hoped to experience our current campus lives again before graduating. Instead, all they could do was leave their university lives behind with their lost opportunities.

I’m lucky I still have this last year to seize any opportunity I come across and do what I’ve wanted to do since Year 1. And it seems like I’m not the only one. I’ve seen others doing as much as they can now that they’re able to— My friends, agreeing to every chance they get to perform on stage; My juniors, accepting any request to do something they haven’t had the chance to do before. And with how many more new members have joined the CCAs I’m in, it looks like many people are not letting any new experiences slip away again. 

It’s been such an experience adjusting back to my normal life 3 years ago, and while I haven’t missed the cramped buses and canteens, I’ve missed going to classes and eating with friends. I’ve missed seeing their maskless faces, whether tired or smiling. I’ve met more people in the last few weeks than in the last two and a half years of online classes.

I can see my friends performing in real life on stage again, instead of just my phone screen. Sometimes I lament that I should have been able to do this every year! How many experiences have I lost!

The caveat is, I’ve felt burnt out lately due to everything being physical, and it seems like many people can relate. Physical classes and meetings have made me feel so tired lately. I will admit sometimes I do miss when everything was online, and I could have meetings and discussions while lying with my laptop in bed. I could sleep more and save time that would have been used for travelling to class. 

Still, I’m so happy to have my final year return to full on-campus physical events and classes again. If my course was only three years, would I have regretted not taking every chance I had to do all the things I wanted to? Nobody could have expected that so many activities would be put on hold so suddenly. Nonetheless, I believe I would have had thoughts like: 

If only I had agreed to perform for that event even if I might have done badly;

If only I had asked my tutorial group mates for lunch after class even if I didn’t know whether they would agree, 

If only, if only…

Despite my regrets, I’m glad they motivated me to seize the opportunity to perform at the Student Life Fair this year. While Year 1 me thought I still had another three years to improve and thus declined out of fear that I wasn’t good enough, Year 4 me took the chance and enjoyed every second of it. Did I make any mistakes? Yes, but at least I can say that I made mistakes during my performance, instead of saying I didn’t even take the chance to perform.  

While I celebrate how the campus is alive with events and people again, I also regret all the opportunities that I missed. My advice to my past self and to you, now: seize any opportunities you’re interested in, provided you have the capability. If you’ve also had regrets in the past due to missed opportunities, that’s okay. From now on, go on and take the leap, and do not let opportunities today turn into regrets tomorrow.