For a young foreign student who was all excited to be given the chance to study at the National University of Singapore (NUS), it was certainly a tragedy that undergraduate Ms Jung Haelin had to end up falling to her death (Undergrad falls to death after being locked out; November 3, 2017, The Straits Times).
Working or studying or abroad comes with a wide range of emotions. Happy, excited and thrilled for the opportunity to live in another country and meet people of different races and cultures, but at the same time feeling homesick and grappling with separation anxiety later when the excitement wears down.
For foreigners, the most crucial part of adjusting to life in a different country is during the first three months. Some students will begin to show signs of homesickness after a while, and if NUS counsellors or lecturers are trained to spot these troubling periods, then the affected students can be given the emotional support they badly need.
It was reported that the undergraduate had the habit of using an object to wedge the door open when she was out. Perhaps if someone had been brought this to the attention of the counsellors, the tragedy could have been avoided.
It would thus be timely to caution students during their orientation as well as send reminders periodically to them that climbing through windows where their safety will be comprised will not be tolerated.
While local students can easily reach out to their families, it is more difficult for foreigners to do so as some could be bottling pent-up emotions. Thus, it’s vital for counsellors to constantly keep in touch with foreign students to give clear guidance and support, as well as to provide a buddy system so that they do not feel all alone.
In addition, security should be enhanced at NUS. For instance, surveillance cameras could closely monitor the areas where students have been known to climb through windows whenever they get locked out of their rooms. Sensors can be placed near the windows so that security personnel will be alerted if anyone attempts to climb through the windows. Security personnel should also patrol the hostels frequently – especially during the periods when lectures are over.
Raymond Anthony Fernando