Tan Yan Shuo

Going Native: The Pros and Cons of Studying Overseas

Some students relish in the idea of ‘breaking free’ from the supposed confines of local education at university level, while others prefer the comforts and familiarity of the Singaporean lifestyle and academia. We find out exactly what appeals to both groups, and why.

By Tan Yan Shuo

An overseas university education in Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) or the United States of America (US) can easily set you back by several hundred thousand dollars. In comparison, the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) all charge an annual tuition fee of less than S$10,000. Yet, every year, thousands of Singaporean students flock to universities in these countries.

You may be considering studying overseas too. However, before you jump on the bandwagon, it is important to examine your motivations for wanting to do so, and to ask yourself if they are justified. And most of all, to make a better, informed decision, you need to be elucidated on the major differences between studying overseas and locally.

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SLA: Everyday Heroes of the Logistics Industry

What is it like to be in the fast-paced logistics industry? Three SLA scholars share their experiences in the respective organisations in which they work.

By Tan Yan Shuo

For diploma-holders Edric Chen, Paul Wong, and Yee Cheng Foong, becoming a logistics professional has been amongst the best decisions of their lives, as it provides them with a challenging career in one of the fastest-growing and most exciting sectors in Singapore. Little did they expect, however, to one day become the first batch of Singapore Logistics Association (SLA) scholars.

SLA is an industry association that provides many services for logistics companies, one of which is grooming industry talents by facilitating their professional development. Starting this year, it will award up to six scholarships annually, funded by SPRING Singapore and IE Singapore’s Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) initiative, and with recognised companies as co-sponsors.

Edric, Paul, and Cheng Foong were all high-fliers in their respective companies, but none were satisfied with what they had – all dreamt of greater things to come. Upon receiving news about the SLA scholarship’s inception, they jumped at the opportunity, and were nominated by their companies to undergo a battery of interviews and tests. Eventually, the three young men did themselves and their companies proud by becoming the inaugural recipients of the scholarship.

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MHA: The Frontrunners of Security

At the Ministry of Home Affairs, a range of career prospects await these professionals who help Singapore remain safe and secure. Four members of the Home Team tell us more about their professional journeys, challenges and triumphs.

By Tan Yan Shuo and Nabilah Husna A. Rahman

Central Narcotics Bureau
The Movement Against Drugs

It was his unmistakeable passion for excitement that galvanised Brandon* to pursue a career with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

“To many people, money is the root of all evil,” the Senior Investigation Officer observes. “But to me, drugs are the foremost evil ones. I can’t imagine the future of young Singaporeans being ruined by drugs. I want to be at the forefront in the fight against drugs and hope that every little effort would have an impact on the drug situation.”

His commendable sentiments are backed by the steps he and his department take to curb drug abuse in Singapore, which involves “thorough investigation and prosecution of drug offenders”.

While Brandon’s work might bring to mind thrilling car chases and house raids, he assures that investigations and arrests are not all there are to it. His job scope also focuses on extending the anti-drug message across society, which allows him to interact with not only the public, but also officers from the other Home Team agencies.

“As an enforcement officer, work is not all about arresting drug offenders and putting them behind bars,” he reveals. “That was why I was assigned to be one of the Community Safety & Security Programme Officers to help spread the word of preventive education to the community.”

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A Long and Winding Road

The process of applying for scholarships can be a complicated one. But with a few good road signs to point the way, it can also be a breeze.

By Tan Yan Shuo

A scholarship can be your ticket to a dream career and an otherwise elusive overseas education. Being awarded one can easily be the defining point of your life. It is disappointing, therefore, that so many students take the application process so lightly.

In the days following the release of the ‘A’ level results in March 2009, hundreds of students flooded the BrightSparks Forum with questions such as, “What scholarships should I apply for?”, “How do I improve my chances?” and even “What should I know about scholarships?”

Having never considered these questions before, they were confused, disoriented and distressed. Given that the closing date for most scholarship applications was merely two weeks away, it was also too little too late. They were neither able to make the best decisions nor submit the best applications that they were capable of.

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Is Studying Overseas Worth It?

Before you can answer that question, you’ll first need to know how studying overseas differs from doing so locally.

By Tan Yan Shuo

An overseas university education in Australia, the United Kingdom (UK) or the United States of America (US) can easily set you back by several hundred thousand dollars. In comparison, the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) all charge an annual tuition fee of less than S$10,000. Yet, every year, thousands of Singaporean students flock to universities in these countries.

You may be considering studying overseas too. However, before you jump on the bandwagon, it is important to examine your motivations for wanting to do so, and to ask yourself if they are justified. And most of all, to make a better, informed decision, you need to be elucidated on the major differences between studying overseas and locally.

Prestige and Career Opportunities
It is a myth that our local universities are less well-perceived by employers than their foreign counterparts. In a recent survey conducted by The Straits Times, three out of four public-listed companies said they had no preference with regard to employing local or overseas graduates, with the rest preferring candidates who studied in Singapore. Furthermore, both NUS and NTU have been ranked highly by The Times Higher Education, coming in 30th and 77th respectively in the 2008 World University Rankings.

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And the Best Scholarship is...

…whichever is most appropriate for you. But how do you decide that? Here, we tell you how.

By Tan Yan Shuo

Scholarships come in all colours, shapes and sizes. To choose what’s right for you, you must understand how they differ from each other. In other words, you must first have a basis for comparison. While some of these dimensions are obvious (e.g., approved universities and courses, monetary benefits, bond duration), there are other more subtle differences relating to the nature of work in the sponsor organisation.

Choosing a scholarship is akin to choosing a job, which requires some jobseeker knowhow. As a junior college student, you are unlikely to have experienced working life before and may baulk at this reality. Although the amount of useful information regarding making career choices is enormous, it is impossible to equip yourself with sufficient knowledge to find your bearings and attain that dream scholarship.

Sector and industry
Sponsor organisations in Singapore can be broadly categorised according to the public and private sectors. The public sector is usually concerned with some aspect of Singapore’s advancement and offering services to Singaporeans. On the other hand, organisations within the private sector are almost entirely profit-driven and focus on increasing competitiveness. Therefore, while both sectors may share equivalent job positions with similar day-to-day work, the work done in each is of different significance.

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SPRING: A SPRINGboard for Business

A career at SPRING is the ideal platform for introducing you to the world of business and entrepreneurism.

By Tan Yan Shuo

Imagine you are taking a walk at midnight, and you spot two people playing tennis in the dark. What is the first thought that creeps into your mind?

“It immediately struck me as a business opportunity!” shares SPRING scholar Chew San Lee. “I went back to research on whether there is a market for glow-in-the-dark tennis balls, and I realised that there are a lot of people who want such a product.”

Palpably, San Lee lives and breathes business, and admits that her dreams were sparked by the business endeavours of her father.

Shaping dreams
“My father works in a biscuit company. Biscuits don’t seem like something creative, but I saw how my father innovated to create biscuits nobody else could think of. That was really inspirational to me,” San Lee recounts.

Fellow scholar Ng Wee Leong shares similar sentiments. “My dad runs his own renovation contracting business, helping HDB and private houses do renovation work. However, he wasn’t very successful in the later years, because he didn’t move up the value chain in time after HDB started pushing out premium flats, and there was very little need for renovation contractors. This made me have a keen interest in business development, how businesses work, how different types of businesses run, why some succeed, and why some don’t.”

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SPF: Lights, Sirens, Action!

Get into the thick of the action as two SPF Overseas Scholars share how their work enables them to make a difference in the lives of Singaporeans.

By Suzi Salleh and Tan Yan Shuo

Beacon flashing and sirens blaring, the police car cruises down the highway, weaving in and out of traffic before pulling over beside a dingy compound cordoned off with blue and white tape. The engine dies, and two officers clad in blue uniforms emerge. They wave a quick greeting to their colleagues at the scene, stride over to where the body lies, and begin business.

The quintessential cop story told in movies and television serials may have attracted many starry-eyed youths to join the police force, but not so for Chin Ming Jun and Chong Zunjie. Both took up the Singapore Police Force (SPF) Overseas Scholarship with eyes wide open, and many years hence, neither would have had it otherwise.

Ming Jun and Zunjie prefaced their careers with education at prestigious overseas universities. Ming Jun obtained a bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering followed by a master’s in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University, while Zunjie studied Economics at University College London, before taking a master’s in Criminology at Cambridge University.

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SingHealth: For A Greater Cause

The healthcare industry is driven by passion, patience and perseverance – all towards the greater cause of benefiting society. Two youths share how they discovered their calling and what spurs them on.

By Tan Yan Shuo

Tan Wan Ru and Wang Yu Yan are vivacious young women who have much in common. Both hailed from Temasek Junior College, were members of the Leo Club, and volunteered for the Community Outreach Programme for the Elderly, which arranges for students to visit the homes of needy elderly.

More importantly, both are SingHealth scholars who have found their calling in geriatric care. And like others in the healthcare industry, they are continually driven by passion, patience, and perseverance.

Early signposts
As a volunteer, Wan Ru gained first-hand experience of geriatric care – a service which became increasingly meaningful to her over time.

“When I first visited her, she was able to cope with day-to-day tasks, so initially we just helped her with her housework,” she recalls of the old lady whom she used to help. “But subsequently, she started to lose her memory and her vision started to deteriorate. She couldn’t see telephone numbers, so we wrote the numbers bigger. Eventually, she had difficulty walking, so instead of just cleaning her house, we brought her out for medical appointments in her wheelchair.”

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PSC: An Opportunity to Serve

Two PSC scholars share how a career in the public sector is all about serving Singapore and fellow Singaporeans.

By Tan Yan Shuo

A Public Service Commission scholarship is not for the faint-hearted. It comes with high expectations and many challenges. Scholars Mark Tan and Thomas Wong can attest to the many times they’ve felt like a rookie in the ring with a seasoned opponent, learning how to roll with the punches. They are, however, acutely aware that the fight is not for their own glory, but for the well-being and progress of the nation.

To them, nothing is more important than contributing to the country and seeing tangible results.

Their journey began when the scholarship took them away from the comforts of home to two renowned overseas universities. Mark studied Economics at Cambridge University, while Thomas read Electrical Engineering at France’s Grenoble Institute of Technology.

“When I first set foot in the country, I did not know a word of French,” Thomas recounts. “I was alone in an alien country surrounded by people with whom I could not communicate. It was a daunting experience.” Nonetheless, he laboured to master the language, and eventually got over his culture shock.

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