It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 10 years ago, I started the first semester of my undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences here at NUS. I had always wanted to be an archaeologist since I was a kid, but archaeology is not offered as a major anywhere in Singapore; the closest proxies that I took among the list of first-year courses were three exposure modules - HY1101E: Asia and the Modern World, SC1101E: Making Sense of Society and SE1101E: Southeast Asia. A Changing Region. My training as a history major would eventually ground me in the skill of narration, while I was inducted on the importance of social theories in the understanding of human societies in my brief exposure to sociology; but it was my introduction (or rather, reintroduction as a Singaporean) to Southeast Asia that set me on the path to study the history and archaeology of this amazing region.
SE1101E really piqued my interest to study more about Southeast Asia, a region which I (and many other Singaporeans of my generation) knew or understood very little about. Through the course, I learnt about and came to appreciate the multitude of ethnic and cultural diversity reflected in the art, archaeology and histories of Southeast Asia, as well as the complex cultural interactions within the region and with the rest of the world. The recurring emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches to a wide variety of themes and ideas explored about the region opened my mind to new and exciting fields of study in academia. While the lectures stirred my increasing passion for the region, I was invigorated by the challenging discussions and engagements I had about various subjects in my tutorials with my tutor then, Dr Effendy, and my fellow classmates. This course prepared us for the academic rigor and expectations ahead as an undergraduate student, and in my case, postgraduate studies in the history and archaeology of Southeast Asia. This introductory, but fundamental course gave me the foundation to build upon a strong framework of analytical skills; skills which I’m still drawing upon as I embark on my PhD research in the archaeology of social complexity in Iron Age Cambodia and Mainland Southeast Asia.
More importantly perhaps, as I look back into the journey that I’ve made, SE1101E reinforced my own identity as a member of this fascinating region – a Southeast Asian-Singaporean – an identity that I hold very close to my heart since I moved to Australia three years ago. This identity continues to fuel my passion in Southeast Asian history and archaeology and will continue to drive me on this path of discovery for – hopefully – many years to come. It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That step, for me, is definitely SE1101E.
School of Archaeology and Anthropology
Research School of Humanities and the Arts
College of Arts and Social Sciences
The Australian National University