Saturday, November 8, 2008

learning reflection

Time flies. It has come to the final week of the semester. I look back and ask myself what I have gained in ES2007s? I try to recall the things that had been covered in this module.

One of the main topics that I can remember is the understanding of the intercultural communication skills. Before taking this course, I did not realize the importance of understanding others’ cultural background in building up effective communication skill. For instance, I used to think that if I can do it, anybody else can do it also. As a result, I expected the same kind of attitude from others when working together. It often led to some tense situation when we have different values in minds. However, through the articles online, discussion in class and the blog post, I have gained a better understanding of the components of the intercultural communication and begin to appreciate the importance of its role.

Blogging is one of the major emphases of this module. I also learnt the usefulness of blogging, it helped me understand better from other people’s perspectives and have more interactions with classmates.

One thing that I like about this module is the concept of having peer-review before the actual submission. I felt that it is very useful when you have other people providing you with the suggestions to improve on your work.

My overall learning experience is quite satisfactory. I have literally gone through the complete process of job finding to job interview, report preparation and presentation. I would say that I have gained a micro-view of the effective communication, and have came to know the different areas that I need to work on in order to improve my communication skills.

Finally, I would like to thank Brad for being so patient and spending so much time to read through all the blogs, reports, letters and many others things and provided many constructive feedbacks. And also, thanks to all the classmates for all the help provided.

Note: The picture is extracted from

Saturday, October 18, 2008

My Biodata

My name is Aung Thein. I am currently a third year undergraduate student in National University of Singapore (NUS). I received Diploma of Civil and Environmental Engineering from Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) in February 2007. At the same time, I was awarded the Silver medal graduate among the batch from Year 2007. With the excellent academic records at NP, I managed to secure an undergraduate place in Civil Engineering in NUS to further my study.

I have a highly independent and self-motivated personality. In addition to be excelling in my studies, I also work constantly as part-time employee in various jobs in order to support my own living expenses and to gain more experiences in different fields. During my tertiary studies in NP, I worked as a sale assistant in Cold Storage supermarket for more than 2 years. And, I had gained many experiences in the area of customer service and managing stock in a service department from that job.

Soon after I got my diploma, I joined a local engineering consultant firm as an Engineer’s Assistant. My job scope included drafting structure drawings, doing design calculations and coordinating architects and contractors with engineers. Although, I only had 5 months of service time in that company, I have learnt many practical experiences relating to structural engineering and, also, many business aspects of engineering. After resigning from my full time position, I was offered a part-time draftman position by my Manager as a recognition of my dedication in the job.

My career’s goal is to become a professional engineer in the field that I pursue. Because of the working experiences that I have had, I realize more values in studies from a more practical point of view and that is also the main motivation that drives me to perform my best.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Reflecting on Research Project Experience

After going through this 5-weeks-long research project, my overall experience is positive, even though most of the time, I have to rush to finish my share amount of work.

I personally feel that the time frame given to the project was a bit short. It requires more time to prepare a fairly good report. However, I learnt the fundamental basis of preparing a research report. I also appreciated the whole preparation process from the initial stage of setting up research question to the final stage of writing conclusion and recommendation. It provided a comprehensive overview of what is expected from a research report.

I am lucky to have group mates who are highly initiative and task-oriented. We always managed to finish the tasks on time. I have also learnt many things, by working together with them, in the aspects of cultures and languages.

During the whole research period, the communication among the group mates was mainly through MSN online chat room, email and face-to-face meeting. Despite the limitation of meeting online, we managed to discuss the agenda of the meeting. Thus, I consider the communication was quite successful. However, there were times when messages got lost during the meeting which were mainly due to overload of information in the meeting.

Finally, I would like to conclude that the whole process of doing research project was a positive learning experience to me. I also found that it is very important to have group mates working together as a whole to produce a quality report and of course this have be achieved with the help of good and clear communication within the group.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Intercultural behaviors of students

I often experience different intercultural behaviors in a foreign country. They could be related to the individuals’ cultural values, beliefs, and languages etc.

I remembered the time when I just came to Singapore. Things were so different to me; building infrastructures, food, languages and almost everything else. Living in a cosmopolitan city like this was a very huge transformation to me. It took me more than a year to adapt to the student’s life in school and two years to appreciate the local foods, and now I am still in the process of learning and exploring new things.

Among all the differences, the local teaching style was the most influence to me. Generally, Singapore’s education system motivates students to lead others, express themselves, adapt to different environments and, of course, it also motivates many other aspects. On the other hand, Myanmar’s education system is very conservative. Students are taught to follow. They do not get chances to present their own ideas. Furthermore, students are not encouraged to be creative but to follow the tradition in Myanmar.

I could still recall the first semester of my study in Singapore, I was given some school assignment projects for the first time in my life. I was very nervous and totally lost. I had no idea how a project should be done. It was also a first-time-experience of doing presentation in the class. In my mind, I was thinking that these were just some basic requirements of the higher education. However, I saw that the local classmates were very skillful in handling the projects and presentations, and they were also very capable in expressing their thoughts and ideas. Then, I started to realize my disadvantages in those aspects of work and I also got to know that “it is the culture of Singapore, the way students are educated.”

Those were major cultural transformations for me; moving from conservativeness to a more proactive attitude. The expectation on the students, to be more creative and self-reliance, is very challenging. I really had a hard time adapting to it in the beginning, and yet still in the learning process.

To summarize it, we are always trying to integrate into the environment we live in. In the end, we find ourselves being a part of it and losing or forgetting some parts of our own native cultures.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Students’ knowledge and attitude toward 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle)

The 3Rs started to get my attention a year ago. It was during the time when the government authorities and business organizations promoted “the importance of conserving environment” enormously via different channels all around Singapore. Because of the influences from the advertisements, I realized the severity of the problem and felt the urge to practice 3Rs.

I was very much initiative in the beginning. I reduced the usage of plastic bags and recycled them. However, it did not last for long. My attitude towards the issues gradually decreases with time. Eventually, I practice the 3Rs only when I am convenient. Since then, I wonder how effective the campaigns and advertisements were and how we can make the public more deeply aware of the severity of the issues so that they are willing to change their life styles to practice 3Rs. As the objective is to find the individual attitude towards the problem, the survey will be an appropriate way of collecting information.

Hence, I would like to post my research project topic as “Students’ knowledge and attitude toward 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle)”.

General research question; “What is the students's attitue and concern toward 3Rs and how many of them actually practice 3Rs on daily basis?”

Hypothesis; “Most students are aware of the severe impacts that wastes can cause to the environment and they practice 3Rs when it is convenient to them.”

The objective of this study is to analyse the attitude and concern of students toward 3Rs and thus provide helpful suggestions and feedbacks to the related organizations and individuals to solve the problem.

The objectives of this report are; to re-inform the students the importance of 3Rs, provide students with the statistic of the cohort’s efforts in reducing waste which thus give them some moral support to practice 3Rs and finally, to provide the statistic to related authorities and organizations to inform the effectiveness of their efforts.
edited (07-08-08)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Resolving interpersonal conflict

The following is a summary of some ideas and methods suggested in the two reference books. I agreed it is a bit long, hopefully you find some ideas useful.

Tillett(1991, p.7) defined conflict as “conflict exists when two or more parties perceive that their values or needs are incompatible”. Conflict is inevitable in our every day life. Since there isn’t any correct way of handling matter in most cases, we can always get it “done” with some other means because we all have our own beliefs and values. Hence, things can easily happen in an unexpected way and this unexpected result will anger us easily. If we do not release this anger, it will build up and eventually “explode”.

Many recent research studies are focusing on resolving conflict. Scott (1990) suggested that if we want to resolve the conflicts, we should regard them as problems to be resolved. He also pointed out that anger and mistrust are the major sources of conflict. Hence, we should analyse the problems and think of some possible ways to resolve them. We should start by learning to control our anger. Regarding the trust issues, we should take up a strong position or belief in the early stage, so that we will not end up investing lot of time and energy in the wrong relationship.

In addition to anger and mistrust, role and responsibility can also trigger a conflict. For instances, the argument over the matter of who should be responsible for the consequences and who is in the role to ensure that things go smoothly could trigger a conflict. Conflict can further be divided into some different levels according to its threatening level over each person’s needs. Maslow (1943, as cited in Tillett, 1991) suggested that human needs can be divided into four different levels. The list from top to bottom is; “altruistic needs (like self-esteem), social needs (like affiliation and affection), security needs (like shelter and clothing) and survival needs (like water, food and air)” (Tillett, p.80). Thus, it is important to analyse the problems based on these criteria to address them in the right level. To illustrate that, conflict between two students could possibly be threatening the social needs only. But if it is between an employer and his employee, it could be threatening the survival needs of the employee.

As a summary, to resolve a conflict one needs to be always creative while looking for solutions, be prepared for unexpected outcomes and always control the anger. Finally, one should always tackle the problem from the right angle (level).


Tillett,G. (1991). Resolving conflict – a practical approach. Australia: Sydney university press in association with Oxford university press.

Scott, G.G. (1990). Resolving conflict – with others and within yourself. Oakland: New Harbinger Publication, Inc.

Case study

I witnessed the incident below during my summer holiday’s full time job.

For background information, it is a relatively small engineering consultant office, where we provide consultation services for building and construction. There are 4 persons including me, initially, in the whole office. It is a partition-separated-office with some meeting rooms. The boss stays in the same room as the staffs.

The conflict was between a 30-year-old Singaporean male named “B” and a 37-year-old PRC Chinese lady named “L” (the ages are estimated). L is an engineer who came to Singapore a decade ago for career advancement and she joined the company 2-3 years ago. B is an engineer’s assistant. He joined the company 5-6 years ago. There is no post assigned to the staffs (as there aren’t many staffs also), and the boss treats everyone fairly and with respect. According to B, the conflict started not long after L joined the office. B used to take care of all the administrative matters before L joined the company.

After L joined them, B started to complain that L never pick up the phone to help him answer the calls when he was busy, L’s working attitudes made it very difficult for him to cooperate with her and L did not pass the whole complete set of information to him to proceed with his work most of the time. As a result, he had to do additional job to collect the information from other parties himself.

B built up anger and unsatisfactoriness towards L as time went by. As a consequence, every thing she did became irritating to B. B had brought up the issue to the boss for a few times, but ended up with no improvement each time. B finally got fed up with L and laid out all the anger and engaged in a serious quarrel with L. They started to air out a list of unsatisfactory things over each other and almost ended up in a fight. A few months after the incident, L resigned from the job.

From the above incident, what should be done to resolve the problem?
Was it because B complaint too much? Or
B had difficulties in controlling his anger? Or
B cannot handle the pressure of increased work load? Or
B had the mindset that he has a senior role in the office and wanted to be treated in a more favorable way? Or
B thought that it is the responsibility of the boss to make sure things are going well in the office? Or
B felt that his survival need was threatened by L and he wanted to protect himself? Or
B just took it too personally; maybe he should think in the position of L, L didn’t answer the calls because most of the calls were regarding administrative matters or she might had a hard time during her working processes and couldn’t manage her emotion well and so on.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Effective communication skills

Those who know the ways to communicate effectively dominate the world today. We were brought up by our parents, and then sent to school and finally joined the workplace. Living in a society, we always have to rely on one or another, thus effective communication skill becomes an essential tool to the success. I believe that by having the skills of how to built-up and maintain a good relationship with the society will put us in an advantageous position and take us to a higher level eventually.

We will enjoy the benefit of getting the right messages through or sending the right signals at the right time if we communicate effectively. For instance, buying food from an acquaintance will be different from dealing with stranger. The advantage is obvious that the probability of getting a good deal with an acquaintance will be higher. Hence, the question is how do we make sure to have a good deal with the stranger as well, the answer is to close the deal with the satisfaction of achieving the best interest of both parties and this can only be achieved with effective communication skills.

In this multination country, most of the time, we will have to work with people from different countries. This makes things more challenging; dealing with people having different values, cultures and interests of their own. Again, effective communication is the key to create a win-win situation for all the parties involved in the project. This will then create more business opportunities for ourselves in the future.

To summarize, if we know the right ways, channels or skills to communicate with others, we will definitely be given a lot of opportunities to promote ourselves in the future.

edited on 9th Nov