Humans of CN Yang – Zenn Tan

Many of us might be familiar with the famous Facebook page named Humans of New York. An initiative started by Brandon Stanton in 2010, he interviews random individuals on the streets of New York and features a selected quote or response of the interviewee with his or her photograph. Currently, the page has garnered more than 13 million likes and continues to offers personal and often emotional perspectives of the daily lives of humans that we often meet on the streets but otherwise have little chance to speak to.

Inspired by the movement on social media, the CN Yang Press & Publicity Team decided to start its own initiative with a similar idea – the Humans of CN Yang! We hope to feature individuals from the CN Yang Scholars Programme and have a deeper understanding of their lives through a photoshoot and a short interview. To start off this segment, we had the privilege to interview one of our outspoken and well-known members! He is none other than Zenn Tan, the President of the CN Yang Scholar’s Club (7th Executive Committee) and an incoming Year 3 student currently enrolled in Mechanical Engineering.

Without further ado, here are the questions and his responses!


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1. Why did you decide to join the CN Yang Scholars Programme, as compared to other programmes? What were the challenges that you faced in this program?

Out of all the other scholar programmes available, I feel that CN Yang was the best programme as compared to USP (University Scholars Programme) because I was more inclined to science. Furthermore, it was the highest tier scholar programme that I was aiming for. Unfortunately, our education did not prepare us for the rigours of university math and science!


2. What course are you currently enrolled in? What are some interesting things that you learnt in your course?

Something people might not know is that I was previously enrolled in Aerospace Engineering. However, I switched to Mechanical Engineering after Year 1. I realized that Mechanical Engineering is very broad and can be divided into different categories. For instance, I prefer Solid Mechanics as compared to Thermodynamics and Fluid Mechanics. Furthermore, I chose the path of engineering as I am a person that prefers to apply my knowledge directly. As I am not inclined to Chemistry or Biology, some of the engineering courses were not suitable for me.


3. Being the President of the CN Yang Scholars Club was no mean feat, what inspired you to take up this role? Were there any difficulties you faced in your position?

I wanted to serve the CN Yang Scholars community and I enjoy being part of it. I wanted to serve in a way that I could contribute best, which is in terms of leadership. The hardest part about being a president is that you become a multi-tasker and there are a lot of things that must be concurrently managed. This gave me more experience of working from the top-down (hierarchy). I oversee and push everything forward at the same time. I usually focus more on the execution of the event rather than the planning stage while Qin Hui focuses on the initial stages of planning. I would usually find the person in-charge during the event itself and try to make its execution more efficient.


4. Many of us enjoyed the FOC (Freshmen Orientation Camp) that your batch organized. Can you share your experiences or reflections as a FOC chairman?

From the committee’s perspective, there were still things that could be improved upon. When executing an event, you might not be able to notice every flaw, and I realized that it is very important to get the feedback from external sources and not merely the committee, as the committee focuses on the event and not looking for loopholes. If you are able to justify what you are doing, you can move forward with the planning and execution, and not hesitate during the planning stages.


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5. Share with us your activities that you enjoy outside of the curriculum. For instance, we know that you joined Sailing as a CCA, what do you like about it? Are there any drawbacks about having a CCA, for instance in terms of the time spent?

My history of sailing began in J1 where I joined it in Dunman High School, it is an uncommon sport that has a good mix of tactical knowledge and physical prowess. To me, sailing is not just about racing, it is a combination of knowledge and physical exertion. As I continued sailing in university, it becomes a more specialized role and I learn a lot more as everyone’s actions are intertwined. Joining a sports CCA is something new as I also learn to work as a team. Sailing is time consuming as I have to travel to West Coast Park for training. Furthermore, the professional gear is costly and few people can take up the CCA without the school club. The travelling time and the time spent under the sun sailing means that the day is wasted as you would also need the rest of the day to rest.


6. We understand that you enjoy puzzles, is that true? What puzzles do you play and what makes you enjoy it? What is the most expensive or special puzzle you have ever bought?

I like physical puzzles as well as puzzle games you can find on the (smartphone) app store, I like games that make you think rather than action/reaction games like shooting or Flappy Bird. I started on a 3×3 Rubik’s cube, followed by a 5×5 Rubik’s cube, I learnt how to play a Gear Cube, and so on. The puzzles that I bought are around the $30 range, and I like anything that changes the physical shape of the puzzle as it adds a whole new dimension when I play it. However, they are costly and hence I haven’t bought other puzzles other than the Gear Cube.


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 Why play Flappy Bird when you can be one yourself?


7. With two time consuming CCAs and the rigorous curriculum, how do you manage your busy schedule?

My phone’s calendar helps me a lot and prevents me from forgetting things in the short and long term. I note them into my phone to remember things, and I delegate time to the activities that are really important, but my schoolwork does suffer. While I try to attend lectures, I am unable to complete my tutorials and I will leave it aside for later until a common test comes up before catching up.


8. Do you have any philosophy or motto that keeps you motivated in life?

It is important to be happy and it is something that I gave thought to, and I chose to follow it. Whatever I do, whoever I meet, I make sure I am happy and it affects my performance, as I can take care of others if I take care of myself. Furthermore, it is important to care for others, as it is easy to only care about myself, but the former requires a 2nd level of consciousness and deliberate action to make the world a better place.


9. If you had the chance to change your life and choose something that you really wanted to do, what would it be?

I’m already doing what I like to do, perhaps I would like to pick up another sport, but to add on to what I’m doing, I do want to take part in engineering competitions as I think it would benefit my career opportunities and develop me as a person and thinker.


10. Bonus question: How would you describe your fashion sense?

To me, I became more aware in the time period after J2 to the start of university that appearance is important and you cannot cut corners on portraying a good first impression. I make it a point to wear at least a “lab attire” to school, including long pants, T-Shirt and covered shoes. As we get older, we are expected to attend more formal events as well, and hence I read personal grooming articles online. We have seen people who don’t place emphasis on attire and it is cringe-worthy, and that is something that I do not want to be.

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Definitely looking fashionable there, Zenn!

To end off, the CN Yang Press & Publicity Team would like to sincerely thank Zenn for the interview! We would also like to wish everyone an enjoyable and fruitful semester break and we hope to have more opportunities to interview other individuals in the coming semester!