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While I was still a student in Temasek Polytechnic, I joined an infamous club which goes by the name of Temasek Polytechnic Japanese Cultural Group (TPJCG). Many people belittle cultural clubs and that is understandable as sports clubs brings trophies and glory for the school while Culture-based clubs seem to simply exist for hobbyists and “free” SEAL points.
Many also believe that Culture-based clubs are disorganized, informal and simply lack activities. After all, compared to a Sports-based club, how interesting and interactive can Culture-based clubs possibly be?
From my experience of being in TPJCG, as well as having the privilege to climb the ranks of its student leaders, I can attest that all these misconceptions and false expectations are untrue.
TPJCG is in fact, a club which is heavily dependent on raising influential leaders, training members to excel physically and mentally, and forging strong connections.
The majority of the students in Temasek Polytechnic have three common misconceptions about the club.
The leniency of leadership roles in TPJCG,
The events hosted by TPJCG being unproductive and meaningless and
The pointlessness of commitment to a cultural club like TPJCG.
Misconception 1: Leniency of leadership
Through the sixteen years of TPJCG’s existence, the goal of raising enriched student leaders has always been the club’s top priority. Each year, a new batch of Subcommittee members, Main Committee members and Camp committee members are chosen with care as seniors and experienced alumni deliberate on the members of the next generation who will lead the club.
Often, bizarre and unexpected choices are made for the sake of the club.
Once, there were two freshmen who decided to sign up for an interview and the interviewer talked to them individually. The first freshman was a former leader in a club back in secondary school while the other freshman seems to have little knowledge in planning or leading. To the surprise of many, TPJCG seniors and alumni chose the second freshman and brought his name up as a potential subcommittee member.
Their reasoning was that the first freshman, though he had abundance of planning and leadership skills, was not susceptible to change. He had gotten too used to the previous club’s modus operandi. On the other hand, the second freshman was open to change and due to his inexperience, was able to give many more opinions and see problems from many more perspectives after taking the seniors’ prompting into consideration.
This incident that I experienced is an example of the unpredictable choices that leaders make to suit the club. It’s not always about finding the best fit for the job, sometimes it is about finding someone who has the potential to be moulded into a leader with great brilliance.
After choosing subcommittee members, there will be many schedules and programmes to attend in order to be fully accepted and labelled as a TPJCG student leader. An example of that is a probation period that lasts for 5 months.
During this time, members are given assignments, projects and proposals to fulfil; they are also required to meet weekly at a senior’s home for a run-down of the club and their responsibilities should they choose to stay after the probation period. There are also alumni (working adults) who might be called back to assist in evaluation and training; such is how seriously TPJCG is when it comes to student leaders in the club.
It is understandable to me why others have misconceptions about TPJCG leaders due to general reasoning that a culture-based club is less demanding and thus, lesser attention is put into leadership development in the club; however, as shown above, TPJCG actually takes leadership training very seriously and much effort it put into the process.
2: TPJCG events are unproductive and meaningless
TPJCG members are encouraged to attend multiple events that develops a student’s mental and physical health each week. TPJCG hosts events such as dance sessions, drawing sessions, shogi (Japanese chess) sessions and karaoke sessions; the events hosted are also specially modified to suit the needs of TPJCG members in terms of preference and skill. An example of this can be easily identified in the drawing and dance sessions.
In all dance sessions we have student leaders who can guide beginners on how to dance and a “free-dance” area for those who are already familiar with the movements; dance sessions are split into two rooms, the first is the “Anime and Manga” dance sessions which cater to fans of that particular Japanese culture, while the other is called the “Arts and Entertainment” dance sessions which seek to promote traditional and popular pop songs from Japan. These dance sessions help students improve physical coordination.
In drawing sessions, members are split into two groups. The first group is the “guided group” where students will be guided by a “sensei” or a hand-picked student leader who will teach them the basics of drawing. The second group is the “themed group” whereby members are presented with a specially picked theme for that week and they will have a time limit to draw according to the theme on the spot.
TPJCG does not only host events dedicated to improving students’ development, we also actively encourage participation in public Japanese-themed events like the Singapore Natsumatsuri Festival and the JAS (Japanese Association Singapore) Sports Carnival which are held once every year. Such events are meant to encourage outdoor activities outside school boundaries as a club, it also enables members to be exposed to Japanese events celebrated in Singapore.
The JAS Sports Carnival, in particular, is very well-known amongst TPJCG members, as they will be competing in games with other Japanese clubs in Singapore to win honour and speciality Japanese rice back for the club. There is the option of participation in such events, as well as volunteering behind-the-scenes as “helpers”, this ensures that all members will be involved in these outdoors events.
TPJCG is also engaged in exchange programmes with schools in Japan. Volunteers from TPJCG will escort Japanese students around campus and bring them to popular local food stalls around Singapore. Once, there was also a project to exchange greetings with Japanese students over Skype, enabling Japanese and TPJCG students to learn from each other about their different cultures and languages. These events help students develop their minds.
Many students outside the club have the misconception that TPJCG events are unproductive and meaningless to student development; this is due to assumptions that all TPJCG events are constricted to the theme of “Anime and Manga”, which is a prevalent part of Japanese culture. However, as shown above, TPJCG hosts and participates in a wide array of events which are educational and beneficial to a student, physically and mentally.
Misconception 3: Pointlessness of committing to a cultural club like TPJCG
TPJCG holds networking and communication in high regard and ensures that no graduating member will be fully disconnected from the club. When I graduated, I was offered the position of an Alumni Advisor to TPJCG. This means that I was to be in close contact with all the alumni, advisors and organisations who have assisted our club. In cases of emergencies, I had the responsibility to send out urgent requests for help and act as the bridge between the Main Committee of TPJCG and the other parties.
There are many cases where help is needed such as Orientation Camp training and volunteering, leadership training and promoting events. Alumni are often asked to return to the club to reunite with their freshmen and fellow graduates; this allows us opportunities to maintain good working relationships with them despite their busy schedules. Main Committee members will be encouraged to tap into the vast knowledge of their seniors and improve on their club operations.
Students who are not affiliated with the club may have the misconception that involvement with TPJCG lasts only for the duration of me a students’ year in Temasek Polytechnic and thus, it would be foolish to commit to a cultural club for a mere three years of their lives. However, as I have shown above, TPJCG membership goes beyond graduation and polytechnic years.
We are a family. Some leave as time passes, but at least we try.
Alumni are encouraged to assist in events and advice current TPJCG leaders with their vast knowledge and wisdom. With such continued reliance on alumni, the bonds between the generations will be lasting and strong.
In conclusion, TPJCG is not a group for merely fun and games; it is relatively respectable and prides itself on bringing up excellent student leaders, producing physically and mentally healthy members and maintaining good communication relationships with related parties.
Even today, I am keeping in contact with my friends from TPJCG and information from the club is still being passed on to me; I have learnt many things from the alumni who stayed to guide me and I am still an avid fan of Japanese culture due to my participations in TPJCG activities. From my experiences and examples given, I hope that TPJCG will no longer be misunderstood; instead, I hope that they will be respected for their complexity and effort.
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About the author
Sheryl Pang is an Anime Manga Subcommittee Member, Maincommittee Secretary and currently serves as the alumni point of contact. She loves all things pokemon and dreams of becoming a Pokemon Master one day, travelling the world with a Mega Rayquaza – It will happen eventually. If you ever need a favor from her, she can be easily bribed with Duck Ramen.