Story and pictures by Deborah Choo (Read Deborah’s personal account on TOC Facebook)

Mr. Zhou Zheng, 24, a Chinese national, was found hanging at his balcony at Nanyang Heights Block 101C #04-05 last night, Friday, 6 March 2009 at about 10.50pm.

Liu Fan, 23, a Chinese national student who resides two levels below where Mr Zhou Zheng stayed,   told The Online Citizen that he saw two police cars and an ambulance at the residential area when he returned to his hostel at around 11p.m. yesterday. However, he only learnt about Zhou’s death today from online news. Both he and his friend, Ji Jian, 26, who had been in Singapore for eight months, said that they had never met Zhou, or even knew who he was.

Other students and staff living in the surrounding blocks were astounded, saying they were “shocked” over the incident, but none have met the deceased.

According to students, the President of NTU, Dr Su Guaning,  sent out a mass email with a brief note informing all NTU students of the incident this morning.

The school had earlier released a press statement saying:

Mr Zhou Zheng, 24, from Hubei, China, graduated with a 2nd Class Upper Honours from NTU Electrical and Electronic Engineering in July 2008 last year. He started work with a company right after graduation. NTU understands that the company sent him overseas for training. Two months into the training,  he was recalled along with other trainees and was laid off with a severance package. He joined NTU as a Project Officer on Monday, 2 March 2009.

On Monday morning, 2nd March 2009, David Hartanto Widjaja, 21, from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE), allegedly stabbed Associate Professor Chan Kap Luk, 45, from the same faculty. The incident happened at Block S1A at about 10.35am in the morning.     

Though both Zhou and Widjaja are from EEE, there is currently no evidence pointing to any other connections between them.

International students’ views

Mr. Yang, 30, is an international student on a one-year training programme in Singapore. He has been in Singapore for six months.

He admits that it is “challenging” for international students to integrate into Singapore society as the “ways in teaching, ways of learning, and the culture” are poles apart. Language barrier is also an eminent factor.

However, Yang mentioned that NTU’s teachers “are very helpful whenever we need help with assignments”. He feels that international students find more difficulties in dealing with self-induced pressure due to one’s own expectations, rather than those from the teachers.

Mr. Loh Choon Yee, 22, a physical and mathematical science undergraduate, is a Malaysian. He has been in Singapore for three years. He stated that there were no  discrimination against international students, and feels that the reason of the two suicide cases in NTU within a week boils down to the individual’s “personal problems”.

This view is echoed by  NTU students from China and Vietnam, saying that Singaporeans are often “friendly” towards international students like themselves.

 “NTU studies are really very stressful. I feel that foreign students are very lonely sometimes,”  said Ms. Tan Yi Yan, 23, a first-year computer science undergraduate. She concurred that there are no discrimination against international students.

No one to turn for help

A Chinese national, whose daughter has been working as a professor in EEE for the past two years, said that she hardly knows anyone from Block 101C where her daughter lives .

“People come and go after half to one year,” she said in Chinese, adding that there were “no activities organised in Nanyang Heights, so everyone basically kept to themselves. Neighbours seldom talk.”

International students TOC spoke to mentioned that there are activities organised once in a while for the purpose of “bonding”, but many find it difficult to attend due to mounting schoolwork.  Most local students TOC spoke to agree on this.

Mr. Loh, however, disagreed. He cited a friend who has faced family problems and turned to the counselling unit for help. He revealed that his friend is doing well now, and believes that students should approach them when they face difficulties.

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Read Deborah’s personal account on TOC Facebook

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