By Nabilah Husna A. Rahman
For Sim Kwang Mong, the world is a municipal learning ground. This 45-year-old and National University of Singapore (NUS) alumnus embodies the significance of lifelong learning and is an inspiration to many.
Kwang Mong, currently a full-time engineer at an agency of scientific research, shares that his desire to remain current was his impetus for pursuing a part-time degree in NUS after 20 years in the workforce.
“One of the main driving forces for me was to keep up with current technology and be connected,” he explains. “The part-time Bachelor of Technology course that I took up in NUS was relevant to my work.”
Some professionals would be hesitant, albeit keen, on diving back into education after securing careers in the workforce. But for Kwang Mong, learning is a lifelong practice. He believed that by furthering his education in NUS, he would become a more valuable asset to both his company and the industry. “NUS has a good global standing, being one of the well-recognised universities in the world. Taking a course there will add to your skill sets.”
“One of the reasons why I chose NUS was because the lecturers there are helpful,” Kwang Mong adds. “You can look for them after class or interact through email. Whenever you find that you need some clarifications, they’ll be able to help you. They are readily available.”
His noble aspiration of lifelong learning helped him surmount the difficulties of working full-time and studying part-time. Time-management was certainly a challenge. Having to juggle his career, studies and family was not an easy feat. In fact, beyond work, he spent most of his time on campus, not only on weekdays, but on weekends as well.
“Before I even started the programme, I was already thinking about the high stress levels, and whether I would be able to complete the course,” he recalls. “The key is to always set yourself short-term objectives and to meet them, so in a sense, you are pushing along.”
“It was kind of a training ground for me to push on year after year until I graduated. In fact, somehow it helped to build my relationship with my wife and daughter,” he grins. The opportunity to bring his 14-year-old daughter to NUS was one he relished, as he believed the brief exposure to the environment at an institute of higher learning would motivate her to achieve strive for more, academically.
Despite the age gap and being the oldest student in class, Kwang Mong was able to build bonds of friendship with his peers. He also admits that he sometimes plays the role of the ‘fatherly figure’ amongst his fellow students. “I can show them that, yes, this ‘old guy’ is doing some studying and you should continue learning too,” he says.
When asked to impart advice to fellow working professionals who are considering a mid-career education, Kwang Mong says, quite simply, “Believe in yourself.”
After all, that mantra has worked well for him.