By Soumili Basak, Undergraduate, SMU School of Social Sciences
My peers and I from the Freshmen Orientation Moves Online (FOMO) 2021 Organising Committee sat back and admired the fruits of our labour: cheery faces (and raucous laughter) beaming back at us through our Zoom windows. From the looks of our enthusiastic participants, the event – titled FOMO 2021: The Case of the Missing Medallion – appeared to be quite the success!
Put together by 29 student organisers, FOMO 2021 saw about 1,750 freshmen (out of a total cohort of 2,450) participate in its three separate runs (21-23, 28-30 July and 4-6 August 2021). This was the second consecutive year we’ve had a virtual orientation camp due to the pandemic, and we were grateful to have the guidance of staff managers from the Office of Student Life (OSL). They provided us with valuable advice based on their experiences mentoring the student team from last year’s maiden FOMO. In all, conceptualising, brainstorming, planning, troubleshooting and then executing the event lasted nearly half a year from start to end!
During our second run this year, we even had the privilege of hosting SMU Provost Professor Timothy Clark, Dean of Students, Professor Paulin Straughan and a number of SMU staff, who joined us for a game. It turned out to be an absolutely enjoyable session for everyone!
SMU Provost Prof Timothy Clark, Dean of Students Prof Paulin Straughan and some SMU staff join a Peralta team challenge
Induction of freshmen-turned-novice-sleuths
Our team had opted for a detective-themed programme for this year’s FOMO, where we introduced and ‘inducted’ our freshmen participants as novice sleuths into the CIRCLE Academy (named after SMU’s values of Commitment, Integrity, Responsibility, Collegiality, Leadership and Excellence). The story goes that the academy’s prized medallion – microchipped with top-secret information – mysteriously vanished, so all trainee detectives must take on a series of missions to find the medallion within three days. Freshmen detectives were divided into four squads – named after famous historical detectives Conan, Drew, Holmes and Peralta – and then into teams of 15.
The freshmen also took part in various activities on Zoom as well as via an interactive FOMO microsite. Some of the innovative website challenges included: interactive FOMO microsite. Some of the innovative website challenges included:
- Mystery Auction: A game for teams to bid for detective items to help them in their quests, this activity was based on SMU’s bidding online system (BOSS) which all students need to know, and correctly execute in order to successfully “chope” academic classes for the upcoming semester
- The Finer Details: A Spot the Difference game with a whodunit twist where teams had to activate their intuition and put their meticulousness to test
- Cross Connection: Teams had to complete crossword puzzles based on information related to the different SMU administrative offices’ webinars
- Arcade Games: Adapted arcade games where freshmen could participate, win points and prizes
- Riddle of the Day: A game at the end of each run-day, where participants could attempt a last-minute snag to get extra points
A team from Conan attempts a challenge in Cipher – one of the many innovative FOMO 2021 games with a detective twist
An orientation like no other
Aside from the exciting games planned to forge friendships, FOMO’s main aims were to orientate freshmen to their new study environment, introduce them to the SMU culture and impart the University’s CIRCLE values.
FOMO 2021 also had 141 senior student facilitators and 24 student game masters who worked very closely with the Organising Committee to bring the event to life. Student facilitators ably led and motivated their freshmen teams, while game masters helmed the virtual activity stations and ensured that all participants had as fun and engaging a time as possible – despite everything being online!
On top of team-bonding activities, website games, informal chit-chat sessions and periods for personal reflection, FOMO 2021’s packed, eventful schedule also included informative webinars to introduce SMU’s physical campus, key administrative offices, SMU culture and the University’s CIRCLE values. Each freshman also had a cool welfare kit comprising a water bottle, umbrella, tablet stand and laptop camera shield – essential everyday items for school – delivered to their homes.
Daryl Matthew Ang Jia Hao, a School of Computing and Information Systems freshman who participated in Run 3, recollects: “I was initially sceptical about joining a virtual orientation, but I found myself genuinely enjoying myself through the games. I’ve learnt that we can make the best out of unfavourable situations if we challenge ourselves outside of our comfort zones and I’m so thankful for the tremendous effort put into organising FOMO!”
Lee Kong Chian School of Business (LKCSB) freshman, Marcus Yeo Jun Hao, was impressed by how FOMO introduced SMU life and its culture with a fun yet welcoming vibe. He said: “Whether one is introverted or extroverted, FOMO made sure to be inclusive for all. The well-structured programme introduced SMU’s core curriculum and emphasised the importance of character growth and holistic education for each and every one of us!”
Leading with heart
Planning for FOMO 2021 was not all smooth-sailing, and there were occasional roadblocks and hence additional brainstorming sessions that lasted through many late nights for the Organising Committee. But working in a team proved that more heads were better than one, especially since putting together such a large-scale virtual event was a new experience for all of us, since we only had last year’s edition to refer to and build on. But our collective goal to put up a successful and memorable event for our juniors kept us going.
FOMO 2021 Programmes Director and Year Two School of Accountancy student, Trisha Tan, recalls: “I joined the FOMO Organising Committee as I wanted to play a part in creating an amazing experience for our freshmen. It was stressful and hectic at times, but the experience was definitely fulfilling. We were very blessed to have the guidance of the OSL staff and a great team. Communicating virtually most of the time did not stop us from achieving our goal, and in the end, we exceeded our own expectations!”
FOMO 2021 Chair Sara Tan and Vice-Chair Kaizen Koh, both Year Two LKCSB students, are in unison that this was indeed an achievement for their team. “Over the past few months, we worked closely with our peers and OSL staff to develop an unforgettable orientation experience for the freshmen. One of our greatest takeaways is that leadership begins with the heart, not head, and this flourished through the meaningful relationships made within the team. We have all grown personally and professionally through this experience and are certainly proud of our entire team!”
The FOMO 2021 Student Organising Committee with a few staff mentors from the Office of Student Life in a wrap-up Zoom meeting
At this point, you might wonder whatever happened to the missing medallion. Well, truth be told, the intention was never about finding the medallion; the actual prize was making new memories and friendships in each of those three FOMO runs.
As FOMO 2021’s Marketing Director, helping to introduce our freshmen to SMU through navigating the complexities of university life and forging friendships have definitely been a worthwhile investment of my time. FOMO might have ended, but I gained many lessons in the process: I learnt how to lead a team, communicate effectively with a variety of stakeholders, and create meaningful virtual experiences. Very importantly, I also made friends that I will not forget for a long time to come!
Thank you FOMO – for the experience of bringing freshmen together, friendships forged, fun times and memories that made my summer vacation truly unforgettable!
This article was written with contributions from the FOMO 2021 Student Organising Committee.