"Mens et Manus:" These words that are the MIT motto properly summed up my 10-week stint in Cambridge's Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made possible through the Global Leadership Programme offered in Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) as well as thegiven to me by the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS).
"Mens et Manus" is a Latin phrase for "Mind and Hand". So why mind? Mind because the whole experience has not only increased my engineering know-how, it has also broaden my horizon when it comes to cultural awareness. This was the first time I was able to set foot in the United States, and the whole experience was truly an eye-opener. I was privileged to be able to interact and work together as a group with some of the MIT students in making a small-size electric go-karts, and their work ethic as well as creativity were really admirable. MIT is well-known for defying convention and innovating, and these were clearly evident in the many unconventional go-kart designs that we came up with during our time there. The most outstanding trait that I truly admire, perhaps, was their outgoing nature. It would be normal, in Singapore, to take a long time for the "ice to break" when two strangers meet (and usually it requires either ice-breaking games or food). When I first met the MIT students, however, they were instantaneously friendly to me, initiating conversations and genuinely show interest in what we have to say.
The next question would be, why hand? Hand because the lessons I attended there did not only stimulate our mind in terms of our knowledge, but also required us to get our hands dirty and work hands-on. For one I had to build the go-karts together with my teammates from scratch. However, that was not the only instant I had to literally use my hands. I also attended classes such as Architectural Drawings and Ceramics, and both of these required me to pick up my pencil or clay, and really use my fingers to create something out of nothing.
The tying knot to both of these aspects was the whole American culture experience that I had. With the sum of money provided by the NSHSS, I was able to fully immerse myself in the experiencing the culture of Boston, Cambridge as well as New York. Having developed a passion for the performing arts, my friend and I decided to sing with the Harvard Summer Chorus, and we performed in two places: the Sanders Theatre and the Monadnock Festival. I also watched two back-to-back shows by the Improv Asylum with my Singaporean and American friends, and we really had a good laugh back there. The most breathtaking experience was catching the Les Miserables Broadway show in Times Square. We were lucky to get the Orchestra Seat at half the normal ticket price, and the experience really redefined my definition of who I consider to be an amazing singer or performer.
In short, it was truly a life-changing experience – to be able to learn the MIT spirit, the American culture, and experience it firsthand. It is only fitting for me to now share what I gained with others back in Singapore, and around the world. May this entry be a small step towards achieving just that.