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Discourse, Debate Give Christina Headstart In Work Skills

Discourse and debate give Christina head start in work skills - Article Image
Christina (red blouse) and student members of the Secretariat organising the Model UN forum

HAVING a strong theoretical foundation that would give me a head start when I enter the working world, and acquiring skills to survive in the competitive environment are what I learn in my SIM-RMIT Bachelor of Business programme.

Now in my final-year (2014) majoring in Marketing, a profession that I feel is dynamic and rapidly growing, I find that my time in SIM has been vibrant and fulfilling.

I’m writing this profile on a warm afternoon in the first weekend of 2014 at the reception desk of the Model United Nations forum. The event is organised by my friends Ali Ahmad Yaakub and Cheng Ee Shan and I, all officials of the SIM Discourse debating club.

Taking on intractable global issues

The two-day Model UN event held in the SIM campus attracted over 70 student participants from various secondary schools, polytechnics and universities. As students preparing our minds to take on the working world, we talked, discussed and debated world-ranging topics such as reforming the UN Security Council to abolish veto powers of the five permanent council members, an issue which has caused the council of powerful men to be helpless as children because of their fractious attitude and refusal to cooperate.

Such CCA activities may be time-consuming (imagine burning up two weekend days to argue over intractable issues like the UN) but I feel strongly that textbook studies should not be the only focus in school, especially when we’re young, with boundless energy to realise our dreams.

In my first year at SIM, for instance, one of my CCA participation was joining the RMIT Student Council, and helping to improve the welfare of RMIT students at SIM. Later, I shifted my focus to dance and joined the Salsa en Soul club, becoming the student Head of Operations in 2012. Some of the responsibilities I undertook at Salsa en Soul included booking of chalets for club members to have bonding activities.

Chance also played a part. Last year, I happened to see a poster about the newly-formed SIM Discourse Society started by Ali. I’ve always been interested in the elegant intellectual pursuit of debating and envy the skills of speakers who could eloquently express themselves and swing opinion to their point of view, so I did not hesitate and immediately signed up to be a member. I became vice-president and enthusiastically worked with the pioneer batch comprising Ali, Ee Shan and Ashok Kumar to organise events and design the club’s recruitment booth.

We participated in several prestigious contests such as the 2012 NTU Dorothy Cheung Debating Championships and the 2012 SMU Hammers Debating Tournament. More recently, I partnered a junior member, Devan Sabnani, in the 2013 SMU BPIV Debating Tournament and received an award for Best Novice Speaker (given to speakers with less than one year of debating experience).

Talk and win friends at UN

Other than debating, the Discourse Society also takes a keen interest in participating in Model United Nations (MUN) events locally and internationally. Such events simulate the actual procedures of various UN committees in Geneva, Switzerland. The students act as "delegates" representing specific countries. They use debating and reasoning skills to persuade and influence the agenda of the topics discussed in the committee, so that the outcomes are beneficial to their country. In the process the students learned and practise diplomatic and conversational tactics to manoeuvre and convince other sceptical or dissenting delegates to support their point of view in the committee's final resolution.

At the 2013 Singapore-wide Model United Nations event, the SIM Discourse team (Ali, Ee Shan, Alexander Harrison and myself) debated and argued against many other student teams. We influenced and convinced our way through four days of negotiations and meetings.

Eventually, Ali and Alex received an award for best position paper about the Security Council, while I received an honourable mention as a judge from Serbia in the International Court of Justice. Our president Ali also won the Best Delegate award of the event, no mean feat considering this was his very first time participating in a MUN event.

Our club currently has 30 members, and we are on the lookout to buttonhole unsuspecting new students who are too tongue-tied to say no to sign up as members.

I don’t spend all my leisure time jawboning about the state of the world, though. I also enjoy watching meaningful movies, and reading.

Exploring unconventional education

My favourite book is Totto-Chan by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, an autobiography about the author’s mischievous ways while growing up and how an unconventional teaching method helped her adopt good habits and also inculcate a love of nature. The book also narrates how her kind and open-minded headmaster motivated her to be good just to make him happy, a childlike trait that would eventually evolve to become a desire to make herself useful and be of service to others, the way her headmaster was to her.

I like this book because it quietly yet forcefully puts across the difficulties faced by children who might not be inherently bad, but suffer the criticism of adults because the children do not respond to conventional methods of teaching and discipline. The book also explores the potential of using alternative types of education to nurture these children and let them have fun while shaping their character positively. As one critic said, it is a quiet indictment of sterile education.

My favourite movie would be Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro. The story talks about humanity’s efforts to fend off attacks by gigantic monsters, and how humans use technology to create giant machines to combat these monsters. The movie is personally inspiring as it gives me the confidence that we have the ability to adapt to changes and we will rally together to meet external threats.

In my final semester in 2014, I’m planning to fly down to Melbourne, considered by most people as the most liveable city in the world (except Sydney residents who think their city is better). I’ve been accepted into the main Melbourne campus of RMIT to complete my degree, with the option of pursuing an additional Honours course. I plan to add a minor in Criminal Justice to satisfy my desire in understanding the criminal legal system, something that has fascinated me since I began my business studies.

– Christina Tjen, 21, comes from Indonesia. She’s in her third-year at SIM-RMIT, published online January 2014