College-style living for private school students

Students from China (from far left) Xiang Jialiang, 25; Li Ruotong, 17; Tan Wenhao, 18; Wang Zhenyu, 23; and Liu Xingda, 25, learning to make popiah at a mystery supper session.
Students from China (from far left) Xiang Jialiang, 25; Li Ruotong, 17; Tan Wenhao, 18; Wang Zhenyu, 23; and Liu Xingda, 25, learning to make popiah at a mystery supper session. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
The student hostel at 47, Tessensohn Road (next to unit 45). It is decorated with Singapore motifs and Singlish words (above) to help students get acquainted with local culture.
The student hostel at 47, Tessensohn Road (next to unit 45). It is decorated with Singapore motifs and Singlish words (above) to help students get acquainted with local culture.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Hall master Wilfred Lee holding a session on preparing for exams with the students.
Hall master Wilfred Lee holding a session on preparing for exams with the students.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
The student hostel at 47, Tessensohn Road (next to unit 45). It is decorated with Singapore motifs and Singlish words to help students get acquainted with local culture.
The student hostel at 47, Tessensohn Road (next to unit 45). It is decorated with Singapore motifs and Singlish words to help students get acquainted with local culture.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
A figurine of a Samsui woman at the student hostel.
A figurine of a Samsui woman at the student hostel.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Hostel operator offers them classes, sports and cultural activities too

Singapore's main universities have residential halls and colleges that provide a living and learning environment outside of lecture halls and tutorial rooms.

Now a student hostel operator has gone into providing residential college-style living for students at private education institutions.

Besides providing boarding, Homestead Halls, which runs two hostels in Tessensohn Road and Serangoon Road, offers its students classes, sports activities and cultural evenings.

It is also looking to tie up with local companies and start-ups to offer internships for its students.

The hostel's monthly fees range from $780 to $1,000, similar to other student hostels that provide just room and board.

FUN AND EDUCATIONAL

I have close friends who are from India, China and Myanmar and I have learnt so much about their countries and cultures... The workshops and visits to the museum - all these activities are not only fun, but also educational.

'' VIETNAMESE STUDENT VO NGOC THANH, who has been living at the Tessensohn Road Hall for the last six months.

Mr Low Jeng-tek, chief executive officer of Homestead Group, said the idea is to create "vibrant, learning communities" in the hostels.

Mr Low, an Insead MBA graduate, said: "We talk about the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world and the importance of building 21st-century competencies such as cultural literacy, teamwork and communication skills. Residential college- style living is one of the best ways to nurture these qualities."

Instead of advertising directly to students, Homestead Halls prefers to work with institutions and tailor classes and activities for students and institutions, he said.

One institution they worked with was James Cook University, Singapore. Homestead Halls is also in discussions with two other institutes of higher learning, including one of France's "grandes ecoles", Essec, to provide residential halls for their students.

Mr Wilfred Lee, a former secondary school teacher who is hall master for the two hostels, said activities are planned carefully to get students to interact with and learn from one another.

A recent workshop he conducted was on preparing for examinations. This was followed by a "mystery supper" where students were introduced to Singapore food like Peranakan kueh and popiah.

Mr Lee said: "This led to an interesting discussion on how popiah or spring rolls come in many forms in Asian cultures."

Mr Low said the spaces within the hostels are designed to encourage interaction and collaboration. "Millennials are into collaboration in a big way. So, in the hostels, the bedroom is just for sleeping. We provide a lot of co-working, living spaces that allow for maximum interaction."

On providing work stints and internships, he said it was important to get students to be job-ready. "That's also an important part of their university education and we are in talks with start-up firms."

Vietnamese student Vo Ngoc Thanh, 25, who has been living at Tessensohn Hall for the last six months, said she has made many new friends.

The 25-year-old, who is doing a master's in business administration at James Cook University, Singapore, said: "I have close friends who are from India, China and Myanmar and I have learnt so much about their countries and cultures.

"The workshops and visits to the museum - all these activities are not only fun, but also educational."

Mr Yao Mingjiang, 26, from China, who is taking English classes before enrolling in an MBA programme, is thankful for the academic support from the hall staff. "The classes on grammar rules and oral presentation are helpful. And because we all come from different countries, we are forced to speak in English.

"My English has improved."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'College-style living for private school students'. Print Edition | Subscribe