Filled with nerves, a turning tummy, a typical T move of being incredibly unfashionably early – was how I entered the Basement level of the School of Law, an awful forty minutes early.
A quick look around gave me a feel of my fellow contenders, all but one were girls, and all but a handful in professional court attire (minus the blazer). Immediately my brain took a full 360 as I questioned my ability to read, my lacking memory, did the e-mail they sent out a week ago mention anything about attire? (A later conversation with my interviewee-mate answered this: no)
A rushed shuffle as some Law seniors registered my name and NRIC, I was then directed to a room full of nervous 19-year-olds. Another look around and I could recognise no one, something I was relieved about, but also made me wonder if I would have felt less worried if I saw a friend. Sitting in that room was probably the worst 7 minutes of the entire interview process, with the fear of the later interview to come and the unfamiliarity between interviewees.
Another rushed shuffle, the Law seniors called our names one by one and brought us to the room next door, where we were separated into groups. C, a girl I knew immediately would be a strong competitor. She seemed intelligent, calm and prepared. L, a girl who confused me. She was extremely talkative, obsessed with food and baking cakes…more later. We were introduced to even more Law seniors who tried to teach us the tricks of the trade. To be fair, they were trying really hard to calm us down and tell us some info on the professors, but I’m almost certain no one in my group was listening.
Then came a time for chit-chat waiting outside the interview rooms. L was not like anyone I had met before. She talked about everything under the sun – her horrible grades in school, how the teachers reacted on her A level results day, her hunger 24/7, her tardiness to the interview and hence how she was forced to run, how she turned up for the NTU interview the previous day in casualwear and was the odd-one-out, how her father was a lawyer but she shared a different dream, her nervousness, her discomfort in heels. I looked to the side at C, who like me was only half listening, and half preparing her memorized interview answers.
Q1. Tell me about yourself. Your strengths, weaknesses, etc.
I spoke first on this question as there was an awkward silence. I produced exactly what I had rehearsed, my adaptability. C brought up something different, mentioning her love for planning and organising. L…she loves to bake.
Q2. Let’s go back 1000, 2000 years ago, before technology. Say a man sees a herd of cow in a grass field and makes an agreement with the owner of the cows to purchase one for $30. The next day, the man comes with the $30 but the owner gives him the reigns of a three-legged cow. Is this fair? Who’s right?
Surprisingly this question was purely hypothetical, as I know for a fact that most interviewers tend to ask on topics relating to current affairs (some topics include Trump’s “Muslim” ban, LGBT rights, maid abuse, COE prices). While answering this question a few points we brought up were on the definition of the cow, which we said was a four-legged animal that produced milk. You can only imagine what the interviewers said in response to this. Nevertheless, the interview-turned-discussion ended on a good note with the interviewers nodding along and thanking us for our time.
I think one of my greatest takeaways from the interview was learning how to speak coherently under pressure. Yes, it’s intimidating to have people so experienced in their field staring you down as you utter complete BS. But it’s part of the learning experience and I’m grateful for it.
As for the journey home, I ended my day with a nice lunch with the birthgiver at our favourite Korean restaurant.