Image designed by Eunice Hee

Why my 1st week of Hyper Island was like space travel

One of the scariest things in the universe is going back to school as an adult.

You should’ve seen me on day 1 of my Master of Arts in Digital Management program, I was panicking like a moonwalker who’d just lost her helmet. But, spoiler alert: that quickly changed.

Here are 5 reasons why I felt my 1st week of Hyper Island (more famously known as Hyper Island Way Week) was as exciting as space travel.

1. There’s intelligent life everywhere
From the get-go, I knew I’d be studying with cosmically cool people. Everyone who’s anyone has been to Hyper Island. Still, I was in total awe when I met the other members of Crew 9. My classmates are creative directors, lecturers, entrepreneurs, business owners, as well as movers and shakers who work at Google, Amazon, PayPal, et cetera.

At first, I felt like an alien who didn’t belong. But after hearing everyone tell their stories so vulnerably, I spaghettified my insecurities by throwing them into a figurative black hole. I realized that being the dumbest person in the room is actually the smartest thing to be. So, I changed my mindset, and now I’m ready for an astronomical amount of learning.

2. We trained like astronauts and cosmonauts
If you want to boldly go where no man has gone before, you can’t just sit on your butt, read books and listen to lectures for hours. It’s not enough. Luckily, Hyper Island believes in learning by doing. That’s why classes seemed to fly by like a UFO.

Similar to astronauts and cosmonauts, we were launched into exercises that had us moving around, and even working our intercostal muscles during a balloon tower team building activity. Though we didn’t have to worry about zero-gravity, there were times that things did get a little topsy-turvy. Thankfully, our amazing facilitators, Peachy Pacquing, Romulo Castilho and Yeng Wai Leong, helped guide us back to earth.

3. It’s clear men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus
Philosopher Cordelia Fine says that the Testosterone Rex (a nickname for the view that men and women are inherently different) is extinct. This theory was proven after our “River Crosser” exercise, where we had to rank characters from least to most wrong, in groups. Our answers varied and we couldn’t decide which person we wanted to send on a one-way trip to the sun. Any gender stereotypes that I might’ve subconsciously had before the exercise ceased to exist, as though offed by a Dino-killing asteroid.

4. Experiencing a supernova made us stronger
With so many stars, it wasn’t surprising that there’d be a collision. On the 3rd day, we were told to come up with a manifesto for our crew. Most were happy with a particular option, but some didn’t feel like it resonated with them. Houston, we had a problem.

Not wanting this unfavorable experience to eclipse everything else, we went back to the drawing board. Each of us wrote down a word that we individually felt was important to the crew, and words that were mentioned multiple times had to be incorporated. Instead of having everyone craft the line, someone suggested that the copywriters should take it on.

Honestly speaking, I initially wanted to sit this one out. I wasn’t stoked about going up against seasoned creative directors — but my classmate, Sarah Naeem (founder of The Moon), believed in me more than I believed in myself. She nominated me to take a stab at it and helped me brainstorm together with Wenyi Huang and Jeanne Lim. I was happy when a line I wrote was chosen, but even happier when Crew 9 showed that we could navigate conflict effectively.

5. There’s always a galaxy of possibilities
One of the things Jarrod Howe, Global Director of Academic Affairs, mentioned that stood out to me was that there was rarely a right or wrong answer at Hyper Island. The Hubble Space Telescope might only be able to take black-and-white images, but life’s definitely not as straightforward as that — it’s got different shades of gray. That’s why we need to adopt M-level thinking, a concept that Jonathan Briggs, Co-Founder and Academic Director, introduced us to.

A board game activity we did emphasized how there can be more than one solution for everything. We were asked to sit on a make-believe advisory board for a large digital consultancy, whose world was turned upside down due to Covid-19. In teams, we had to make tough decisions to save the company $30 million a month. By the end of it, it was obvious that there were many creative ways to tackle the problem.

Melanie Cook, Managing Director, also held an impromptu session during lunch on nonviolent communication, when one of us asked her about how to deal with toxic leadership. I was impressed by how fast she pivoted and went beyond the curriculum to illustrate how there are a number of ways to react to negative situations.

These are just some of the few reasons why Hyper Island Way Week is like nothing on earth. If you’re looking for an adventure that’ll take you light years ahead, I highly recommend exploring the Master of Arts in Digital Management.