When COVID-19 first arrived on our shores, the authority sprang into action to convert some student residences here into government quarantine facilities. SMU’s Prinsep Street Residences (PSR) was one of the affected sites. Resident Seniors Su Myat Noe and Li Jiangbo were among those affected by the disruptions. They share their experiences of banding together and coping with the abrupt circumstances.
Nomads for a term
By Su Myat Noe, SMU PSR Resident Senior and Final-year Undergraduate, SMU School of Economics
Su Myat Noe (or Suzi, as she is known to friends, left) with fellow Resident Senior Andrea, at PSR Welcome Lunch at the start of 2020
On 26 January 2020, Resident Seniors including myself, were notified that our block at the PSR (Block 83) was to become a quarantine facility for Covid-19. This was during the Chinese New Year period, and many residents had to be recalled while they were visiting relatives and friends.
Though we had been pre-warned, there was no definite date given, so the sudden news caused us quite a bit of anxiety; we had to pack all our belongings and vacate our apartments within just three hours! As a Resident Senior, it was extremely pressuring as I had to maintain my calm and reassure my junior peers that everything would be alright, even though I was panicking too.
We were informed that residents from one apartment would move to another PSR block, while three all-girl apartments—including mine—would move to SMU Connexion, which fortunately had been completed in the nick of time!
Thirty of us girls were put up temporarily at The Bunks at Connexion which, as its name suggests, is a room of bunk beds. This was some time before Singapore imposed its Circuit Breaker so social distancing measures were not yet in place. But we had many other concerns—like how we would cope with our schoolwork and upcoming quizzes. It was a good thing PSR staff and the housing office did their best to address our concerns and also helped us to request for deadline extensions.
Over the next two weeks, the SMU housing office staff did a lot to help ease us into our new living arrangement. They provided us with microwave ovens, washing machines and food items like milo and cereal snacks which gave us a little comfort knowing that we were well looked after.
I must say we adapted quite quickly but at the back of our minds, we all had the nagging worry that we would have to move soon again as The Bunks was not a suitable place for a long-term stay.
After about two weeks, some Singaporean PSR residents moved home, so 20 of us were able to return to PSR. The rest of us were relocated to Lyf Funan, a co-living space on top of Funan Digital Mall, for the remainder of the semester. Even though my living stint at PSR this semester was a little nomadic, I am very grateful that our inevitable move was made as hassle-free and comfortable as possible by our very concerned and helpful SMU staff!
(Suzi returned to Myanmar on a relief flight in May.)
New friends and stronger bonds
By Li Jiangbo, SMU PSR Resident Senior and Block Leader, and Final-year Undergraduate, SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business
Jiangbo (back row, right most) and fellow Resident Seniors organised events and ensured the welfare of their PSR peers (photo taken before Circuit Breaker measures were instituted)
I went back to China to visit my family during Chinese New Year and this was when the virus had just begun spreading there. Thus, I had to be placed on a mandatory 14-day SHN in Block 83 when I returned to Singapore on 31 January 2020. Three other residents also had to serve SHN and the SMU housing staff provided us each with a necessity pack of soap, masks, detergent, biscuits, jam and fruits.
In order to restrict contact with fellow residents, we could not step out of our apartments, even to the laundry room to wash our clothes. So the housing office had to install washing machines in our apartments. Needless to say, it was a seemingly long and boring 14 days, but I did not feel neglected. On one occasion, we were even treated to a free McDonald’s meal by the staff.
After the end of my SHN, I was able to go back to my original room and life pretty much went back to normal. As I was part of the Residents Seniors team, we continued to look after the welfare of our fellow residents; we organised food and fruits giveaways, and also distributed care packs with essential hygiene items.
Before our plans were disrupted, another block leader and I were tasked to lead a team of eight to plan and organise PSR’s Open House. This was to be held in conjunction with the SMU Open House and intended to welcome prospective students and their parents so that they could get a peek into PSR’s co-living concept. However, because of Covid-19, the event had to take place virtually. With inputs from our fellow PSR peers, we produced an online pamphlet which featured the insights and experiences of PSR residents.
When the Circuit Breaker measures were implemented, PSR events had to adapt accordingly. PSR’s Academic Year End celebration, PreSeRve, became our first virtual event. Even though there was no physical celebration, we participated in several fun events via Skype and got to know each other better through the food and games—which we ate and played together virtually!
To ensure that residents were kept entertained and PSR’s lively vibe continued, many residents stepped up and initiated fun and creative virtual events for the community. It may have been tough not meeting each other physically, but we still managed to have fun!
Even though I was busy with internship and other academic work, and thus could not join as many PSR events as I would have liked to, I avidly supported several of them—like our virtual Masterchef, Prinsep’s Got Talent and a Tik Tok Challenge. I must say that in the end, despite the disruptions and inconveniences caused by Covid-19, we adapted, made the best of the situation and most importantly, stayed positive.
Ultimately, I learnt that even a global pandemic could neither stifle our creativity, nor leave a dent in our interactions. Conversely, we made new block friends and built stronger bonds than before—even if it was through virtual means!
Virtual Prinsep’s Got Talent (VPGT) – an online in-house talent competition organised for PSR residents when Singapore instituted its Covid-19 Circuit Breaker measures