All clued in with FOMO and VIVACE

Freshmen channel inner sleuths during a detective-themed orientation to kick-start their SMU adventures.

After nearly six months of brain-wracking, sleepless planning nights and troubleshooting by student organisers, SMU’s much-loved rite-of-passage for its new undergraduate intake finally went underway. Freshmen Orientation Moves Online (FOMO) 2021: The Case of the Missing Medallion is the second consecutive virtual orientation day camp since the pandemic began, and took place over three runs in July and August.

For the 1750 freshmen – which included 95 international students – who took part in FOMO 2021, it was three exciting days of sleuth work, with their teammates as they pit mystery-solving skills with each other and between teams. If there’s one key thing they learnt while dissecting clues, it is that creativity rules!

In line with this year’s whodunit theme, freshmen were “inducted” as recruit detectives into the CIRCLE Academy (intentionally named after SMU’s CIRCLE values of Commitment, Integrity, Responsibility, Collegiality, Leadership and Excellence) – tipped “the world's top detective academy and home to the world's finest detectives”. When a prized medallion, microchipped with top-secret academy information goes missing, recruits – divided into four squads named after famous historical detectives, Conan, Drew, Holmes and Peralta; then further subdivided into teams of 15 – must unravel clues, and engage in serious sleuth work as they go through challenges and activities to solve a series of mysteries as a team.

FOMO 2021 was put together by a 29-member student organising committee, guided by 10 staff members from the Office of Student Life. An additional 141 senior students took up the roles of facilitators – who led teams of 15 freshmen each, while another 24 student game masters helmed the virtual activity stations.

Aside from a variety of entertaining team-bonding games and reflection periods – signature activities at many of SMU’s key orientations camps to inculcate experiential learning through fun, FOMO 2021 also included webinars which introduced SMU’s physical campus, SMU culture and the University’s CIRCLE values. There were information sessions by staff from key administrative offices to familiarise freshmen with SMU’s support services should they require assistance or guidance. Freshmen were also presented with a FOMO welfare kit prior to their participation dates. These comprised items like an umbrella, water bottle, laptop camera shield and tablet stand, among others. 

Another element of FOMO 2021 was its interactive website where freshmen could take part in additional activities by themselves or in teams to win prizes, or check the leader-board to find out their team or squad’s standing. There were a couple of innovative games which fused important information about SMU into them, such as Mystery Auction, where teams had to bid for detective items to help them in their quests. This was based on SMU’s bidding online system (BOSS) for students to “chope” academic classes for the upcoming semester. In Cross Connection, participants had to complete a crossword puzzle based on information presented at webinars by the different SMU administrative offices.

During Run 2, a team from Peralta also had the privileged company of SMU Provost Professor Timothy Clark, Dean of Students Professor Paulin Straughan as well as a number of SMU staff when they Zoom-ed in virtually to join the freshmen during a game segment called Telepathy. Everyone was given a keyword and 30 seconds to find an item that best represented it. An assigned guesser then had to guess the word based on the presented items. Despite the best sleuth work, not all words were identified and there were hilarious blooper moments, but our guests definitely had an entertaining time with laughs all around!

As part of their orientation package, freshmen also got to check out over 150 co-curricular activity (CCA) clubs at the University’s annual mega CCA fair, Vivace 2021, held on 12 and 13 August.

Following closely with FOMO’s sleuth theme, CCAs were categorised into seven detective “agencies”, each representing a particular activity genre grouped under their respective parent fraternities or constituent bodies, namely: arts, sports, adventure, special interests and student leadership, international culture, school and academic-based CCAs and independent or registered societies. Freshmen got two full days to engage in the fully immersive online event via its specially-created interactive website, find out which of SMU’s CCAs their passions most aligned with, and registered their interest to be potential club members.

Organised by a team of 40 senior students, Vivace 2021 attracted more than 3500 visitors and over 10000 unique page views. What was remarkable was that visitors “flew in” from all around the world (a total of 33 countries to be specific!) to take part in Vivace’s many fun activities. These included CCA introductory classes and beginner workshops, “live” discussions in CCA chatrooms where freshmen got to hear members’ personal CCA experiences, a broadcast stream which featured performances, showcases and interviews, as well as arcade-styled games and TikTok challenges where participants stood to win prizes such as Sennheiser wireless earbuds. Participants also received goodie bags in a tiered system where more gifts were thrown into their bags if they took part in more activities or joined more programmes.

Like the maiden virtual FOMO and Vivace versions held last year, some freshmen were initially a little sceptical about joining these online orientation events, assuming it would be less impactful and fun given the lack of physical interaction. At the end of FOMO and Vivace however, it was more than evident that these orientation programmes had not just achieved their goals to introduce SMU life to its newest intake but managed to gain enthusiastic followings too.

School of Computing and Information Systems freshman Daryl Matthew Ang Jia Hao was glad he was able to take part in FOMO 2021, despite the challenges of Covid-19.

“I genuinely enjoyed myself in the activities and I've witnessed that we can make the best out of unfavourable situations if we challenge ourselves out of our comfort zones. I’m super thankful to the organisers for the tremendous effort they put in to planning FOMO,” he said, summing up a popular participant sentiment.

Such feedback definitely brought smiles to the student organisers – to know that the countless hours spent brainstorming, negotiating roadblocks and executing the event was worth it. They were doubly grateful to have gained some pretty nifty lessons in the process as well.

Said FOMO 2021 marketing director and third year social sciences undergraduate Soumili Basak: “Being able to craft our freshmen’s SMU introductory experience, navigate the complexities of university life and help them forge friendships made my summer vacation very meaningful.”

She added: “I also learnt how to lead, communicate effectively with different stakeholders, create interesting virtual experiences and very importantly, make friends that I will probably hold on to for a long time to come!”

At the end of the day, student organisers attributed their events’ successes unreservedly to great teamwork – in particular, committed peers who stepped up beyond responsibilities, delivered 110% but also had each other’s’ backs while learning and bonding on the job.

Vivace 2021 chairperson and second year business student Monish Vasu summed up his experience succinctly: “Leading the event has been most insightful, fulfilling and humbling. I had an opportunity to put together a major university event (for freshmen) and am so blessed to have had a passionate and driven team with me!”

Check out: FOMO Run 2 Highlights.

Read more about what SMU has to offer for its new academic year here.