On 20 Apr 2022, Year 1 Chinese Media and Communication (CMC) students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic met their new celebrity coursemate, Dennis Chew, for the first time online.
“When he turned on his camera, everyone thought it was CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery),” said Chin Yi Liang, 18, who was in the same breakout room as the popular actor-DJ during their online orientation programme.
Even as Dennis started introducing himself, Yi Liang said everyone just went “AFK” (away from keyboard), thinking that it was a “prank”.
Audrey Tan, 18, thought the showbiz veteran was going to be a guest lecturer. “I caught a glimpse of him talking but I didn’t think he would be our classmate.”
Only when Dennis appeared in school for the icebreaker games the next day did she realise that “it was real”.
Dennis didn’t make known his study plan until a few days later – after he bagged the All Time Favourite Artiste Award at Star Awards 2022. He asked his new classmates not to post any updates until his official announcement, and they obliged – although many were too excited to keep the news from their parents and closest friends.
Yi Liang said the 48-year-old actor-DJ has blended in well with his Gen-Z classmates so far.
“He’s very open and easy to talk to, unlike other 48-year-olds like my mom,” he quipped. “You usually don’t share school stuff with your parents but you can talk about it to Dennis. It’s just different.”
The only thing he has to take note of when texting Dennis is to avoid abbreviations. “I asked him if we should do projects online or IRL (in real life), and he went like ‘What is IRL?’”
Dennis has been a hardworking and responsible groupmate so far, said Yi Liang. Not only does he contribute ideas and share the load, he also invites his team to work at his maisonette flat, where food and drinks are always available.
“He wants to do everything to the best of his ability. He wants to be a good role model and set a good example of how everything should be done,” Yi Liang said.
Another teammate Gwen Lim agreed. “Working with him feels very productive because we did a lot of work and if there are any questions, we will ask him.”
Dennis also hosted the whole class during the recent public holiday. “He bought pizza for us and we were playing with his KTV set,” said Yi Liang. “He also shares stories about his life.”
Now, everyone in class has also received a T-shirt featuring Dennis’ cat, Furby, from him. “Dennis gave them to us,” said Jovin Zhou, 17. “There were 4 different designs and we chose the one we wanted.”
This rare opportunity of having a celebrity classmate is one to cherish for Gwen. “I should take this opportunity to learn more from him because he is so wise and experienced,” she said.