Friday, November 27, 2009

MFA Talk

I shan't be talking about prom because well, there's not much that needs to be said when everyone's talked about it already. Instead I'll talk about something else that same day. It begins with a long walk from Gleneagles Hospital, past the golf courses and alongside the private estates, and ends at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. One bugger walk just for an 'informal interview' for an internship. And really, the informal interview was more of some guys trying to talk a lot and acting like geniuses.

The first impression you get of MFA if you walk in is really a place that reeks of higher-up-ism and a sense of condescension. Walking between private estates and a golf course just to get to a place doesn't really give the 'homely and welcoming' feel, and the completely marble interior doesn't help much in this regard.

Enter the first building on the right through the glass doors and you end up in a lobby that might as well have been a hotel. Look to the right when you enter and you see two couches with students chatting. Unsurprisingly, half are Rafflesians. In fact, I'm the only non-rafflesian male there, 1 out of 4. Figures, huh? As if I didn't need to be alienated even more than this, everyone around was talking about the A-Levels. Physics MCQ was the day after, though the person who had the paper wasn't studying for it (a queer Rafflesian right there. Oh, the stereotypes!)

We moved into the meeting room where we were supposed to have the informal interview (More of a discussion, to be precise) and sat down - 4 guys on one side, 4 girls on the other. The 3 guys to my left talk about RJ stuff and class stuff (all 3 were classmates) and the girls opposite talked about exams, then scholarships, and other internship interviews (EDB mainly). Then they talked a bit about anime and scholarships in Japan (the Monbusho one, actually. How convenient to have learnt about it, and from an anime blog of all places!) About half speak a 3rd language - two French, two Jap (me included). The rest unsure. I guess MFA's a good place to find trilingual people or something.

The discussion itself ended up centred on three things: Bureaucracy, Singapore-ASEAN Relations, and Singapore-US Relations (pertaining to global warming). To some extent it was a rather boring discussion except for a few notes:

1. Everyone thinks with the mindset of a student. To someone no longer in school like me, it's amazingly obvious how rigid they try to set their frameworks of thought. "As a History student I..." "As an Econs student I..." "I'm only J1 so I haven't learnt about..." "I'm not a History nor an Econs student but I..." Man. The first thing that one of them thought about when economic integration within ASEAN was mentioned was the problems with a single currency, and cited Eurozone. It's as if there was some innate need to prove that you recall what you learnt in school or something. Pretty disturbing.

The person got shot down immediately on the single currency thing, but it felt kind of "Do I get plus points for this" and "let's make the obvious sound cheem" when the guy shot her down. It's like telling someone that heat can't flow from a cold to a hot place spontaneously because the probability of transferring heat energy from a particle that isn't vibrating much to a madinsaneparticlevibratingmadlylikethisssss is far lower than vice versa. Whether you're correct or not you should've just said that it bloody goes against the 2nd law of thermodynamics. >_>

2. They talk about bureaucracy in a very neutral (sometimes positive) manner. It jars very much against what I recalled at Syinconnect with the WTO (that's Toilet, not Trade) feller complaining about how people can be so smart and turn so stupid the moment they enter the bureaucracy. I find myself aligning more towards the latter here, but then again I suppose I'm not the kind of person to find myself in this anyway. The guy who was saying he was fine with it and wants to be the kind of person who could make changes in the bureaucracy upon entering it and know the right decisions to make on the spot reeked of arrogance and pride to me. Maybe it's to do with pedigree. I'd never know.

3. There was so much 'cooperation' and sucking up to each other amongst friends it almost felt wrong to me. Saying you learnt a lot especially from listening to your friend (while conveniently forgetting the other 6 people in the discussion) is pretty blatant in my opinion. I can't ever picture myself doing this even if I had close friends at any interview. Shit needs to get shot down, and it needs to get shot down whether the shit spewer is a friend of yours or not. Shit don't discern between friend or foe, yo.

4. There was some queer idealization and oversight going on. Talking about Singapore being so awesome and being capable of being a voice and leader on global warming in the ASEAN region so as to prove its significance in the world, yet in the same breath mentioning that Singapore shouldn't do anything about its carbon emissions since it's such a small country and doesn't contribute much to global warming, and should care about its national interests more? And after that you explicitly state that there's nothing wrong with this 'apparant' hypocrisy because other world leaders on global warming (USA and China) don't do much about their carbon emissions either? And if that wasn't bad enough, to continue talking about how 'enlightened' nations will see Singapore as a leader in promoting change in regards to global warming rather than accuse it of superficial things like, I dunno, not being an NX-1 nation due to national interests? I swear the entire thing felt like a bad attempt to suckup to the US. The convenient excuse for completely ignoring ASEAN in this entire thing? "The topic was about Singapore-US relations, and Singapore-ASEAN was just now". (Ok, to be fair he didn't say that ad verbatim.)

When the interview's over and we were making our way towards the bus stop, I hear one of the girls on the phone saying that the interview didn't go too well because "there was a guy dominating the entire discussion" and then after that mentioning that she disagreed with so much of his points but couldn't think of a way to rebutt properly. Then she talked with another girl about applying for the interview experience so you know how to do things correctly (a nice way of saying "know how to dominate the conversation when it counts"). Everything's about the portfolio to the two of them, apparently.

When I think about it, the discussion felt pretty damn bureaucratic and sickening to me. It taught me more about the mindsets of better-off students than it did about MFA and foreign policy. Well, at least I went for it, I guess.

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