The two recent deaths of NTU students have turned the spotlight on stress that foreign students face. NTU student Melissa Lin offers her take on the situation.
In the space of one week, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) made it to the news twice, but for all the wrong reasons.
On Monday, 2 March, an Indonesian student David Hartanto Widjaja, 21, stabbed Associate Professor Chan Kap Luk in the back, fled and fell four storeys to his death in an alleged suicide.
Five days later, on 6 March, project officer, Zhou Zheng, 24, a Chinese national from Hubei, was discovered hanged in a staff apartment on campus. He is believed to have committed suicide.
There has been widespread speculation on and off campus on what sparked these tragic events. Fingers quickly pointed to stress after news that the student had his scholarship revoked last month broke. Conspiracy theories have also appeared on blogs and websites such as theonlinecitizen.com.
Both deaths point to academic stress in Singapore and, in particular, the stress foreign students face here. I asked some NTU students for their opinions regarding the incidents.
“I think it’s quite scary, you’d never think such a thing will happen in a Singapore school,” said Foo Jieying, a first-year communication studies student from Singapore. “It’s like a milder version of the Virginia Tech massacre, how it reflects the amount of stress we are put under.”
But foreign student Sharanya, also a first-year communication studies student, had a different opinion. She arrived from India last semester and is here on a scholarship. The deaths baffle her. “I think Singapore life is easy to adjust to, but it’s also because there’re a lot of students from India. Is it stressful? No, I don’t think so. Anyway everyone has to study, right?”
Most that were interviewed felt that having someone to talk to would help to relieve stress.
Welyon Sutjipto, a second-year Indonesian student who has been in Singapore for 11 years, said, “I don’t think anyone will kill themselves over their Final Year Project. I think the stress level can be managed, depending on your school, and also on the support of your family and friends.”
Providing an environment for strong support are City Harvest Church’s campus ministries and social support groups. In NTU, students who are also members of CHC meet up occasionally for prayer. Such groups provide a listening ear and a source of encouragement for students who may be overwhelmed by school work or other personal problems.
Sandra Ng, a final-year accountancy student and member of CHC, said, “[With the campus ministries and support groups] you have people to turn to, people who give good advice. Even when I fail at my studies, I know that there is more to life. I know God has a better plan for me.”
The CHC campus ministry and social support group at NTU welcome all students looking for support and friendship.