STB - Cultural Aspirations

Thanks to the STB scholarship, Magdalen Chua is now in a dynamic and flourishing industry that keeps her constantly motivated and challenged.

By Stella Seet

Candidate description
Magdalen Chua
Designation: Manager, Sightseeing and Attractions Cluster Development, STB
Studied: International Relations, Brown University
Postgraduate Diploma in Cultural and Tourism Studies, University of Perpignan
Master’s in International Resort Management, Institut Vatel

“Things are changing, and tourism has a high profile in Singapore,” says 27-year-old Magdalen Chua, a scholar with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). “It is something that has shaped the way a lot of people see Singapore, and it has also impacted the lives of Singaporeans.”

While studying Arts in junior college, Magdalen developed a strong interest in culture and communications, and a scholarship with STB seemed a perfect match for her inclinations towards the industry. However, to ensure she was making the right decision, Magdalen did her due diligence and thoroughly researched on the agency’s missions, objectives, and core business beforehand.

“I wasn’t interested in a structured nine-to-five job,” says Magdalen, on how STB’s vibrant corporate culture was a suitable fit for her effervescent personality. “When I came for the interviews, I got the sense that it would be a very dynamic industry.”

“I’m interested in different aspects of tourism,” she elaborates. “For example, the policies within it which looks at communications, cultural projects, the relationship between the government and tourism, how tourism can potentially change culture and heritage, and how culture and heritage could benefit from tourism.”

Under the STB scholarship, Magdalen pursued a degree in international relations from Brown University in the United States. In October 03, she went on to study a coordinated Master’s programme between the University of Perpignan and the Institut Vatel, Nîmes, a renowned hotel school. One year later, she graduated with an executive master’s degree in International Resort Management and a Diplôme d'Études Supérieures Spécialisées (DESS, otherwise known as a postgraduate diploma) in Cultural and Tourism Studies.

Vast opportunities
Indeed, the STB scholarship did not disappoint.

After her first year at university, Magdalen returned to Singapore in mid-2001 and interned at the former Food, Fashion and Lifestyle Department at STB.

During her summer break in 2002, she was given another internship opportunity at STB’s New York office – one of her most memorable experiences. There, she had the chance to participate in an exclusive dinner party hosted by the New York office for corporate bigwigs. With Singaporean cuisine being served, the dinner party aimed to present Singapore as an interesting and ideal destination for events and conventions.

Through these local and overseas internship experiences, Magdalen had the privilege of gaining first-hand knowledge of the type of work and interactions that take place in the industry, as well as the target market and operations of the local tourism board.

“I think it was because I was so new, there was almost a blank slate,” says Magdalen, on why the internships were so beneficial. “I was introduced to various aspects, so it was rather rigorous then, which made it really exciting. I think when you’re new, you make a lot of mistakes. Then it becomes exciting, because you learn.”

Words of wisdom
For Magdalen, every aspect of her job has been satisfying. As Manager of the Sightseeing and Attractions Cluster Development Department, her work has constantly been fuelled by her drive for the arts and culture creation. “Culture cannot be created instantaneously. It’s something that has to be nurtured. It’s not something that you can import by bringing in a foreign concept,” she states.

“My personal hope is that in the future, there would be different ways to see how culture fits within tourism. That everything is not simply something that is ‘blockbuster’ and that there would be an appreciation of Singapore’s creators, artists, musicians, or whatever we produce,” adds Magdalen, exuding a passion for Singaporeans to see greater value in local culture.

Doubly rewarding
For Magdalen, a fruitful career is made even more rewarding – STB has rendered opportunities for her to achieve many things which she would otherwise have been unable to accomplish.

“I think [STB] values people who speak their minds, who react quickly to things, who are not concerned about divisional boundaries, and who can approach people easily,” says Magdalen.

To aspiring scholars, she advises, “Tourism looks beyond what has been traditionally perceived as leisure tourism. So you can use your various knowledge and backgrounds to work within the tourism industry. If you are very clear that you want to join the tourism industry, then yes, you should consider the STB scholarship. The STB scholarship does give you tremendous opportunities.”