“What is Communication Studies?” is a question that I have been asked many times. It is typically followed by “What do you study there?” It is not an easy question to answer. But after 5 semesters in Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) in Nanyang Technological University (NTU), I feel that the best answer to “What do you study there?” is “I study communication.”
That is, of course, not at all a satisfactory answer. I would quickly resort to stating the 5 concentrations in the curriculum: journalism, public relations, advertising, broadcast and cinema studies, and communication policy and research. You do not have to worry if you have not decided which concentration you would want to do. The school would usually only require you to declare your concentration after spending two semesters. And if you think there is no particular one that suits you best, there is a so-called sixth concentration for you: inter-disciplinary, which allows you to tailor your choices to your needs.
The first academic year will help you in making this decision. Of course, the courses are meant to provide students with the basics of Communication Studies, such as “Foundations of Communication Studies”. The courses are designed to expose the students to aspects of various concentrations, while at the same time equipping them with the necessary skills to advance. For example, “Visual Literacy and Communication” taught me how to use a DSLR camera, a video camera, and video-editing. We had two assignments: a series of photos and a video. This exposure helped me to decide if broadcast and cinema studies was the right fit for me.
I would say that the curriculum has quite a good mix of theoretical and practical modules. You will gain sufficient knowledge about communication theories, but you also can learn various skills such as web design, public speaking, graphic design, scriptwriting, and how to do a magazine layout. We also have practicum modules. One of them is Nanyang Chronicle, which is a student publication done by Wee Kim Wee students that is distributed monthly to the NTU student body. The students can take on different roles such as writers, photographers, and editors. Other practicum modules allow you to be a radio DJ, create a publication for alumni, or to make your own TV programme to be screened around NTU.
All students are required to an internship for about 5 months in their third academic year. The school will guide you through it and would provide a list of companies and jobs to choose from. The final year would be a final year project that is usually done in groups. These final year projects include full-fledged campaigns, research projects, news articles, or even short movies. Some past final year projects have been featured in the newspapers. I think these projects are great as the students get the opportunity make an impact on the society even before graduating.
The curriculum also allows you to explore other things beyond Communication Studies. I could take approximately 15 electives from other courses in my 4 years here. Some of them could be Communication Studies modules, but that would be your choice. These electives have allowed me to learn about Japanese language, pencil drawing, astronomy, drama and theatre, philosophy of science, and many more. It is nice to have the options to pursue some interest or hobbies you might have.
WKWSCI is a nice place to be in. It has its own building, its own lecture theatres, computer labs, tutorial rooms, and even its own library. There are wooden benches outside the library where the students would hang out or even hold events. Outside the lecture theatre, there is also an area called “The Depression” (because it’s a depressed area) where we typically celebrate “Homecoming” (which has free music, food, and drinks) at the start of every semester to welcome freshmen, exchange students, or seniors who just returned from their exchange or internship. We also have other school events throughout the year.
The students in WKWSCI, who dub themselves WeeKids, are usually smart, creative, sociable, quite loud, extremely multi-talented, and very well-dressed. Overall, I find my peers quite intimidating. But it is the kind of intimidation that motivates me to be a better person. Honestly, being around this brilliant bunch more often makes me feel incredibly lucky more than intimidated. Not to worry if you don’t think you fit this mold, we are quite a rojak community who welcome a variety of styles and personalities.
Another good thing about the people is that the faculty listens to your feedback. Every year there would be lunch sessions you can sign up for so that you and your peers can directly talk to high-positioned faculty members to have a dialogue about how the school can be improved. They would even buy you a pizza for doing that.
I do hope that I have given you enough information about Communication Studies and WKWSCI. This may not contain everything you need to know, but I do hope that if anyone asks you “What is Communication Studies?” you will now have a better answer.
Photo courtesy of Nanyang Technological University Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information
 Rojak is a Malay food, in Singapore this particular name is used a slang to express the word“mix”