STUDENT STORIES

Meet Jocelyn at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore!

Name: Jocelyn Andrea Firmansyah
Nationality: Indonesian
University: LASALLE College of the Arts
Degree: BA(Hons) Communication Design
Current Year of Study: 2nd / 3

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10 Questions:

How did you choose your university destination and course of study?

I chose to study in Singapore mainly because my family wanted me to be close to my hometown, Bali, to make sure that if there was an emergency situation they could easily come and visit me. As my family didn’t want me to travel too far away, the destination I could go to for university was also quite limited due to the language barrier. Hence, Singapore seemed like the most obvious choice. Additionally, Singapore has a vibrant arts and design scene, something I discovered during a class trip to visit Singapore’s annual Art Week.

For my course of study, I chose Design Communication (similar to graphic design), because of my interest in the arts from a young age. As my parents’ business was also within the art industry, going to an arts school made the most sense. Although I didn’t have much prior knowledge of softwares such as Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, I believed it to be the “safest” option for me, as I can apply the knowledge I learn to many different jobs in the design field.

What have been the highlights of your academic programme so far?

Each week, we get a few different types of classes: one being a software tutorial class, a lecture on design culture, a discussion seminar, as well as design workshops and studio time, allowing for a more holistic learning experience. I also really appreciate the hands-on approach to learning, and the ability to easily get guidance from lecturers due to the student teacher ratio of around 20:1. Additionally, there are often class showcases, where all the students display their work, allowing us all to see the unique, creative outcomes we each have created with the same given brief.

LASALLE also has a lot of connections within the design industry in Singapore, allowing for unique opportunities such as guest lectures, and having our projects be seen by leaders in the industry. The highlight of my programme so far was the opportunity I had to showcase a photographic publication I created at the 2022 Bangkok Art Book Fair, the 2023 Cut Copy Paste Zine Fair, and the exhibition Page Break at the Singapore Art Museum. This opportunity was given to only a select few students, and I was very grateful to be chosen and have my work be seen by so many.

What do you enjoy most about living in Singapore?

Although Singapore is such a small island, even tinier than Bali, there is just something about the way of life and surrounding infrastructure that allows me to never get bored. First is all the food, perhaps all cuisines you could possibly want are available, often with affordable prices too, allowing me to eat out most days without veering from my monthly budget.

Then, the ease of access to all areas due to the impeccable public transport here. Another thing I also always appreciate is the plentiful parks and spots of nature within the city, a place to rest and relax (or exercise) during busy weeks.

And lastly, there is always an event happening somewhere: whether it is an art’s festival, an installation, a thrift market, a local food market, a book fair; it seems like every week there is something new you can explore.

How supportive is your university to international students?

I can roughly estimate that half, or perhaps more, of LASALLE students are international. As Singapore is such a diverse country, it isn’t surprising that the students in the university are too. In terms of my classes, my lecturers are very supportive of the different cultures and backgrounds, often urging us to showcase it within our projects. Rather than having us try to assimilate with the Singaporeans, they want us to share the things that make us unique!

What have been 3 of the main challenges you have faced during your time at university?

  1. One of my main struggles is definitely time management. Because my school projects are primarily project based with due dates set at the end of a term or semester, it’s easy to get swept up with all the “fun”, and leave my work for later on. I try my best to be responsible for the quality of my outcome by making sure that week by week, some progress is made to not leave it all till near the deadline. Thankfully my lecturers often set weekly progress benchmarks which definitely helps me stay motivated.
  2. Another struggle is keeping up with the older, more experienced students in class. It was very daunting for me to find out that most of my classmates were already recipients of a 3 year diploma (most related to the major), as well as had past work experiences in the design field as well! I often find myself comparing the result of my outcome against theirs, and with that, the great discrepancy that is visible between them. Sometimes it’s quite tough for me to see other’s work; it makes me feel a bit behind in terms of software knowledge and creativity in generating ideas too. However after talking to them, I was quite comforted to know that they don’t really know what they’re doing either; we’re all just trying our best.
  3. Lastly, a struggle I sometimes have is dealing with bouts of creative burnout. Because my major revolves around being creative all the time, I sometimes find it hard to start doing my work if I’m “not in the mood”. Even if I try to force myself to work during these times, it is just unproductive and the result isn’t as polished. To combat this issue, I try to work on other things I have that don’t require me to think creatively, for example updating my process journal, doing some research or working on my essay.

What activities are you involved in outside of your academic programme?

Unfortunately Lasalle doesn’t have any clubs within the school, but sometimes they hold workshops and activities for us to do together. Recently, I joined a group of students to try out bouldering at a nearby rock climbing studio. It was a sport that I had always been interested in trying out, and as it was led by the university, they hired trained professionals to guide us through, step-by-step.

Currently, my friends and I are enjoying trying out different workout classes that are available around the city during our free time!

How easy is it to find accommodation? Can you describe your living arrangements?

Accommodation is definitely the highest cost of living in Singapore. As there is such limited space in the country, the two most common choices for accommodation are either HDB flats (public housing) or private condominiums. Their prices are usually determined by their amenities, proximity to public transport and overall location. It may be quite difficult to find housing in central areas, as it can be very expensive, even for a single room. Most students in Singapore live in shared apartments, where they have around 2-5 housemates, and share the common areas; finding an affordable studio apartment is near impossible.

Currently, I’m living in a shared apartment with 5 other housemates. Each of us have our own rooms but together we share the bathrooms, kitchen, washing machine and dining area. I was very lucky to be referred to this apartment by my friend as it is very well located (just minutes away from my school) and quite affordable too. The only downside is that the building is quite old, and doesn’t have any amenities like the previous condominium I rented had (pool and gym).

Although housing is quite difficult, it is not impossible. A plus of Singapore being quite small, is that distance isn’t the biggest issue as long as you can spare time for your commute!

Do you think your university experience is preparing you well for the working world and do they offer support with finding jobs and internships?

In this second year, there are quite a few workshops and talks being held to guide us in things such as portfolio, resume and cover letters and interviews. Lasalle also provides career consultations that students can schedule to have one on one advice on their resume, job search and overall career direction!

Our lecturers are also very much involved in the design industry, so they can provide us some insight and guidance into what to expect and do in terms of finding jobs and internships in Singapore.

What opportunities have you had to travel and explore during weekends and vacations?

Thankfully my friends love to explore Singapore just like I do! Despite visiting Singapore countless times before university, there were so many different, unique places I never realised existed until I moved here! I live in central Singapore, and that is where my university is located too, so I often visit the famous spots such as Orchard road, Sentosa, Chinatown, Marina Bay Sands and such. During my free time however, I like to explore different parts of Singapore, and I find that each area has its own charm and feel! Neighbourhoods such as Punggol, Katong, Ang Mo Kio, Tiong Bahru all have unique parks, stores and cafes to visit. Some places I really love visiting include East Coast Park, MacRitchie Reservoir, Tanjong Pagar and Marina Barrage!

There are also very many weekend trips you can go on such as to the surrounding islands St. John Island or Pulau Ubin, or perhaps even cross the border to Johor Bahru, Malaysia or Batam, Indonesia!

What are the top 3 pieces of advice you would offer an international student thinking of coming to Singapore to study?

  1. Weather. Singapore is a tropical country, where the weather ranges from being hot, to extremely hot, to rainy. I will say, the rain here is really unexpected; a sunny morning can suddenly be greeted with pouring rain that can last the whole day. It’s really crucial to always bring an umbrella everywhere as you never know when the weather will change. Another note is that although it may be extremely hot and humid outdoors, indoors it is almost always cold. And because of this, it’s very common to see people walking around in this heat with long pants and sweaters to prepare for the freezing buildings
  2. Hustle culture. The fast paced lifestyle here is something that I’m not used to, especially as I had lived all my life in Bali. Everyone seems to be walking at a fast pace, and taking too long to order at the hawker centres can get you scolded by the aunties at the stalls. In university, I noticed that the local students are extremely hard working and driven, often going above and beyond with their projects, and always staying back after classes to study. Although the culture of high competitiveness in Singapore can be very encouraging and motivating, it can be very draining and discouraging to see people around you doing “better”; you must do things at your own pace in order to do your best work.
  3. Being comfortable with being alone. Moving to a new country, away from the comfort of your family means that there will be lots of times you will be alone. Whether that is during your commute, in your room, or going out to do errands. Sometimes I struggle with going out alone too, especially when eating in restaurants and cafes; I always worry that people are judging me when that really isn’t the case. Doing things alone allows you to go at your own pace, and to see things that you may not have noticed before without any distractions.

Find out more on the links below

LASALLE College of the Arts

You can connect with Jocelyn at @jocelynxandrea

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Birthday lunch at a cozy cafe in Chinatown!
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Early morning hike to the Singapore Quarry
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I was given tickets to watch the annual Singapore National Day Parade (the first after two years!)
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An afternoon at East Coast Park
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Cycling around the coast for photography class
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Class critique and sharing session
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Spending our Lunar New Year holiday at Universal Studios
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