Sim Xi Zhe is DTVM’s top student this year and is the first from his course to be admitted to YALE-NUS. He also made history for DTVM because the documentary produced by Xi Zhe and his team called ‘The Invisible Migrant’, was chosen to represent Singapore in a festival in Vienna. He tells us his highs and lows of being an SP student.
1) How do you feel about getting into YALE-NUS?
I am immensely thrilled and humbled to be accepted by Yale-NUS. Over the years, I have always had an equal amount of interest in arts and science. Over at Yale NUS, I no longer have to choose one over the other. The college blends both fields into their curriculum, allowing us to understand how they influence each other in a macroscopic viewpoint. I am really looking forward to integrating into their tight community and picking the bright minds and differing perspectives there!
2) What would you say are your achievements after completing your 3 year course?
Opening up to people, and having people open up to me.
In a particular example, I co-produced a documentary short film, The Invisible Migrant (which also won the award for ‘Best Documentary’ at the DTVM Awards 2015 in March 2015), with my classmates Haikal Latiff, Shalyn Kan, and Qaisarah Seiw in Year 2. That project required me to step way out of my comfort zone, having to approach foreign workers who were strangers and barely spoke the same language, strike up a conversation with them, and hope they let us into their lives. It wasn’t easy at first, and honestly, it still isn’t easy now. But following in Haikal’s lead, I plucked up the courage to approach complete strangers and persuade them to share their stories. And so, this little bit of character development was an achievement to me.
Xi Zhe (seen above in glasses and blazer) and his team mates who co-produced, 'The Invisible Migrant'
3) How much your life in Singapore Polytechnic was what you expected and which parts totally caught you by surprise?
To be honest, when I came into SP, I had no expectations. But what surprised me was the sense of kinship and belonging I felt from being part of my course, Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media (DTVM). Everyone here came from different walks of life, but we were a motley crew bonded by our common quirks and motivations. Even towards the end of my three years, I managed to forge some invaluable friendships with people and juniors I never really spoke to for most of my three years here. That was one of the pleasant surprises in my polytechnic journey.
4) What were your favourite moments about being in DTVM and in SP?
a) Building a toilet in rural Shangri-La County, China as part of an Overseas Community Involvement Project in Year 1. Thrown into harsh conditions with people I’ve only just met, it was a trying experience. But by the end of the two weeks there, having faced what we did together, we were family.
b) Watching a FIFA World Cup match at midnight with a lecturer and some classmates after a few gruelling days of documentary production back in Lombok, Indonesia.
c) Telling my grandmother that I was the course medallist when I visited her in the hospital after graduation. Seeing the pride shine in her eyes was better than any prize I could have ever gotten.
The DTVM family at a picnic
5) Which were the least favourite moments?
There were times when I had to make the difficult decision to choose work over family and friends. I felt horrible for having to make some of those choices, but they were always made with (what I felt were) the best intentions.
6) What will you miss most?
It’s the little moments that I will miss the most. Waiting at the CASS benches before an 8am class with my classmates. The breakfast breaks we get during some classes. Pulling our hair out over looming project deadlines. After graduation, we will definitely still keep in contact with our close friends, but little moments like these are lost forever. The people I will miss the most are not my closer friends, because I know I will stay in contact with them; but the ones I’m not as close to, because I know I may never see them again. Above all, I will miss my lecturers. As some say, behind every good student there stands a great teacher, and these great teachers of mine have guided me every step of the way.
7) What do you hope to go into once you complete your studies?
As the Chinese saying goes, 船到橋頭自然直, so I will cross that bridge when I get to it. But currently, I am considering foraying into current affairs production and journalism. Real life tells the best stories.
Xi Zhe at Lombok with a local child
8) What makes you happy, now that you know yourself much better?
Two main things: making people smile, and when people are comfortable to share their lives with me.