A Beacon of Hope


Left: Lau Kin Mun | Right: Mumtaz Mohamed Yusoff

The OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship has been the gateway to dreams once thought unachievable, the light that illuminates the path to a brighter future. We talk to two OCBC scholars who tell us how the scholarship has enabled them to reach for the stars.

By Farhan Shah

“Happiness can be found; even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” Albus Dumbledore had said in the movie ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’. Our two protagonists in this story would understand this line better than most, having survived a difficult childhood to emerge stronger and wiser with the help of the OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship.

A Difficult Childhood
The warm smile that Mumtaz greeted me with hid a troubled past. “My parents got divorced when I was in Primary 6. After that was over, my mom and I didn’t have a place to stay and we had to shuttle between different uncles’ houses. It was quite tough on me, especially at such a young age,” the 21-year-old reveals.

Such difficult circumstances might have broken other people but Mumtaz was made of sterner stuff. Putting her heart and soul into her studies, Mumtaz worked hard to provide a better future for herself and her family. The midnight oil that she burned for the past 20 years paid off handsomely when she scored a place in the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine.

Of all the professions that she could go into with her stellar results, why did Mumtaz decide to venture into medicine?

The answer: Gratitude and compassion.

“Since young, I’ve had a lot of experiences that reinforced my decision to go into medicine. We didn’t have enough money to see a doctor when any of us fell sick, so my mom would nurse us back to health. I was also a member of the Red Cross in secondary school. This experience, coupled with my childhood, inspired me to show the same compassion to others,” Mumtaz says.

A Clearer Picture
With this firm resolve in mind, Mumtaz set out to find clinical attachments that could give her a better picture of what life in the sanitised hallways of a clinic would be like. She got her wish, getting attached to Dr. Aziz, a private gynaecologist, for a week.

Although brief, the attachment gave her a clearer picture of what the world of medicine would be like; a place filled with the joy of healing people and the sadness of relaying bad news to patients who would break down in front of her.

“I experienced a range of different emotions. On hindsight, it made me a stronger person and prepared me for what I would be getting myself into. There were a lot of good things I took away from the attachment and made me realise this was what I really wanted,” Mumtaz shares.

The only obstacle that stood between her and a career in medicine was the financial hurdle that loomed larger than life. Not one to give up easily, the Meridian Junior College alumnus scoured around for financial help and found the OCBC Scholarship.

“The scholarship’s bond-free nature and its flexibility greatly appealed to me as it meant that I would be able to pursue what I wanted in university without being fettered by the prospect of a bond or the shadow of financial burden,” Mumtaz says.

Great Ambitions
These two qualities of flexibility and freedom were also what prompted our second protagonist to apply for the OCBC scholarship. 21-year-old Lau Kin Mun is a man of many interests and with the flexibility of the scholarship, the Anderson JC alumnus had the freedom to choose what he wanted to do.

In the end, Kin Mun decided that majoring in Chemical Engineering was his best bet as according to him, engineering provides him with a broad base of knowledge that can be applied to other sectors.

“Because of [engineering’s] diverse potential, an engineering student is trained to analyse critically. These analytical skills that you gain as an engineer will be useful in professions beyond the engineering sector,” Kin Mun rationalises.

The NUS student certainly has many dreams; for one, he wants to shift the engineering landscape away from traditional sectors like manufacturing and towards new and unexplored fields like biomedical sciences and research.

“I’m particularly interested in biomedical research and I believe engineering will be able to introduce pragmatic solutions to problems in this field. For example, engineering can improve drug delivery methods and processes.”

Just like Mumtaz, Kin Mun didn’t wait around for opportunities to be served to him on a platter; he looked around and found a work attachment with the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, doing laboratory work in science research.

Towards a Brighter Future
Kin Mun believes it is this drive to make a difference that set him and Mumtaz apart from other peers and was also one of the reasons why the both of them were awarded the OCBC Scholarship.

“I want to be a leader and be the purveyor of change in my field of interest. My previous leadership experiences in Scouts prove that,” Kin Mun says.

Mumtaz agrees with Kin Mun, adding that having a clear purpose of what you want to do will also appeal greatly to the panel of interviewers.

“My passion to serve the community probably played a great part in the panel’s decision to award me the scholarship,” Mumtaz says.

When I asked the two protagonists what advice they would give to aspiring OCBC scholars, Kin Mun advocates having the ability to clearly articulate their ideas while Mumtaz says that they need to convince the panel that they will be an asset to society.

“The OCBC Scholarship has provided the both of us with a fulfilling university education and the choice of retaining our career flexibility. We can’t ask for anything more,” the duo echoes.

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The OCBC Local Undergraduate Scholarship is valued at $9,000 per annum and has no bond. Successful applicants will be a part of an elite group of scholars, past, current and future, and will receive internship opportunities with the bank as well as receive career-related advice from OCBC. For more information, visit http://student.brightsparks.com.sg/profile/ocbc/

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