A Long Road Ahead

Going there feeds an appetite, but what you do with it is up to you.

– Sharon Chan, Deputy Director of NUS Overseas Colleges

Week 7 had proven to be a very trying week for me. With 3 mid-terms and 2 submissions, I was a little stressed out, to say the least. Not to mention I was still going to work, albeit leaving slightly earlier on Thursday to squeeze in more study time. “Isn’t it mid-terms week?”, a colleague of mine asked. I nodded back while rushing out a design, and she couldn’t conceal her dismay, or maybe it was a worry. Should I be spending more time to study?  More time would have been good, but going MIA from work just to study, didn’t sit comfortably with me, especially when this period is crunch time for the office too. Nonetheless, part of me felt guilty, while the other tried to be reassuring. That’s why you started revision early. You got this. With my hectic schedule this semester, time management has played a big role in keeping me sane. As cliche as it sounds, it’s true. We only have 24 hours in a day, and what we do with it is up to us. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about spending more time on studies, or how I’m spending less time than my peers but I feel like this is really how I wish to spend my time. So far, I have enjoyed my internship and I’m learning new things each day.

Which brings me to my next point: my current thoughts on NOC. Last Saturday was NOC connection– a gathering of the NOC alumni, out-going and prospective students. The day left me and my fellow NCSG 25 batchmates excited and anxious for what was to come. Crazy work hours, intense workload, and oh yes, you need to manage your academics too. I can’t even begin to fathom how it will be next semester, but I’m eager for it to come. I guess that might be part of the reason why I chose to step up as the batch representative. I really want to make the most of my experience, and that includes my batchmates and their experiences too. We’re going to be in the same boat for 6 months, hopefully, we can help each other swim to shore even if we hit rocky waters. In the weeks to come, I hope to share more about the placement process and hopefully some good news of my own placement too!

You’ve Got It All (NOC Application Results)

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work. – Hebrews 6:10

After a whirlwind of a weekend, I finally decided to check my email. It’s strange because I usually check it every day. The one time I don’t, I actually get an important email– my NOC application results!

Well, here it is:

NUS OVERSEAS COLLEGES, JANUARY 2020 INTAKE

Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been offered a place in the NOC Singapore intake. 

In a matter of two lines, I got the results. It took a while for me to process the words, the feelings. To be frank, I had only ever considered my first two options (Israel and Munich) until recently when more and more reasons started to arise for me to want to stay in Singapore. I have been pretty blessed to have everything come full circle in this way. Drawing near to this date, I think there has always been a small nudging in my heart, “Maybe I wouldn’t mind staying in Singapore.” but I always thought that would be because I get rejected from the NOC programme entirely.

In a nutshell, for anyone who is reading this that may have a genuine interest in NOC programme, the curriculum for the overseas programmes and SG are practically the same. They both focus on teaching you the works of being an entrepreneurship, the only major difference seems to be that the SG programme carries slightly more modules (28 MCs vs the 20MCs for other 6-month programmes). From Figure 1 you can see that the main difference is in the last two modules, the start-up case study and the seminars. Notably, all the modules for NOC SG are credit-bearing, so if the ante isn’t already up for you, here it is.

Screenshot 2019-09-29 at 9.14.27 AMScreenshot 2019-09-29 at 9.14.35 AM.png
Figure 1. Curriculum overview from NUS Enterprise website

Independent and communal living seems to be a big part of the NOC experience so similar to the other programmes where you would be finding an apartment/flat with your programme-mates, for NOC SG you’ll be living on campus with the rest of the NOC SG programme attendees and alumni. The accommodation this time is in N-House, located at Sheares Hall, likely because it is near BIZ and NUS Enterprise making travelling for seminars and workshops a breeze. I’m looking forward to staying back on campus, even though it has only been one semester of being home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents but I definitely embraced the independence of campus life.

So at the end of the day, my thoughts are this: I’ve been given all that I wanted and maybe even more by accepting this opportunity, I’d be a fool not to accept it. When life gives you lemons, squeeze the hell out of it or make do, no? I’m happy to say that I have accepted the offer and we are already having our first briefing this coming Friday. Exciting times ahead, so for you dear reader, if you are considering your choices now, please consider what you want out of the NOC programme. Is it just to travel overseas? I’m telling you now that, I can already feel the pressure of what’s to come, but I tend to thrive off difficult situations. Your perseverance and personal motivations will bring you where you need to be. Don’t worry child, you’ve already got it all.

My Parents Told Me No

“We are never in lack of money.

We lack people with dreams, who can die for those dreams.”

– Jack Ma

My father was outraged when I told him I would be going to Pulau Ubin for 21 days. My mother cried when I informed her I would be staying on campus for 2 years. All my life, my parents have been very protective of me, but that has not stopped me.

I was constantly berated by my parents for wanting to do things that they deemed “girls shouldn’t be doing” such as sports and outdoor activities. Even as I was about to enter University, part of me still felt like a small girl, scared and unsure of what I could achieve. At that point, I knew I wanted to change their perceptions of me, and their perceptions of what a girl could and could not do. And so began my journey to prove them wrong, to relearn and rediscover the kind of person I want to be. Although it was painful to see them angry hurt initially, I wanted to seize the opportunities in front of me and I still do.

While I continue to walk this path of self-discovery each and every day, I know what fuels me is my desire for adventure and challenges. These two areas breed discomfort and uncertainty, of which push me towards excellence. I can never be better than I was yesterday if I don’t choose to challenge myself and open myself up to opportunities for learning. Gravitating towards experiences that further my personal growth, I one day want to be in a position as an entrepreneur to inspire other ‘small girls’ to take control of their potential.

Why I decided to start a business

“Pursue your passion they say, follow your dreams they say!” But what if you didn’t know what that dream or passion might look like? Often times, as young people we mould our ideas and perspectives based on whatever is around us. So like most Singaporeans going through the public system of education, I was surrounded by the idea that STEM was the way to go. I was good at it, liked it, and was convinced that I loved it.

In Singapore, there is an abundance of research/STEM exposure for pre-tertiary students. Personally, I’ve participated in Math Olympiads, and research symposiums during my secondary school days (high school equivalent). And I really did enjoy it. I could see myself doing that as a career- or so I thought at the time. Currently, I’m coming to the end of my second year in university, doing a major in Life Sciences. While I still enjoy what I learn, these past four semesters have allowed me to open my eyes to what I am good at and what I am genuinely interested in. I had come to university with the end in mind: study life sciences with a minor in psychology. That’s it. My STEM background in secondary school and junior college (pre-university) had really shaped my motivations in what I wanted to pursue. I could not imagine myself doing anything else, because how could I when I did not know what else was out there?

Now comes the meat of this post, why I decided to start a business or more precisely what changed my career perspectives. So in my first semester, I took what has now become quite a dreaded module for all ‘non-computing’ undergrads: CS1010S. CS1010S is basically an introductory course to programming methodology, in my case it was taught in python. The ONLY reason why I took it at the time was that it was a compulsory module for all faculty of science undergrads. Let me tell you, as someone who was never exposed to the idea of computing, it was a pure nightmare. And it was not just because it was difficult for me to learn, but there seemed to be a stigma towards the subject in the first place. The other students from the faulty of science that were taking the course with me had a very discouraging attitude towards the module. It seemed that everyone was taking it for the sake of completion. I guess I picked up the same sentiments along the way. After the module, I knew I enjoyed learning about it but I told myself I wouldn’t touch computing again.

Fast-forward to my second semester, I was seriously considering a change in my major. I questioned why I was still studying what I was studying. A friend of mine was going through a similar crisis and we talked about what we would seriously consider doing after graduation. Would I be satisfied with doing research? Why am I afraid to venture elsewhere? Those were the questions in my head and that was the beginning of some serious thought into becoming self-employed. And so it began: the two of us started throwing business ideas back and forth, but nothing concrete was ever done. Dreamers on a cloud. Another semester passed, and I was still lacking direction.

Finally, enough was enough. I was either going to stop dreaming and do something about it, or stop dreaming and move on. I chose the former. I actively sought out ways to improve myself in terms of the technical skills I would need to start a business, interestingly enough that included taking another programming module in my third semester. Despite struggling to learn Java (a whole new world beyond what I did in my first semester), I was so glad I did because it really got me interested in the power of technology in businesses and problem-solving.

January this year, my friend (now business partner) and I have started on our milestones for this year. We began our marketing research, which is a topic for another day. I switched my plans to a business analytics minor.

Now, why I’m sharing this is also partly to document my journey but at the same time, I hope to encourage young people (in Singapore especially) of two things.

  1. Don’t be boxed in by what you choose. (There’s still time to explore other options.)

  2. If you want to do something, make small steps towards achieving those goals. (As cliche as it sounds.)