Having an interesting life depends on you, not where you are (Alexis Wong)
Submitted Apr 2023
As a student at Hwa Chong, as I am sure most of you currently do, I had very high hopes for my life after school. During my A-Level Prelims, I remember writing my personal statement for Universities in the UK, intending to major in Sociology in a University far away from Singapore. I was 18 and wanted to see the world. I was young and did not know an interesting life depends on you, not where you are.
I ended up completing my Undergraduate degree (in Sociology and English Literature) in Singapore because my parents were unwilling to remortgage our house for a degree with limited financial prospects. 4 years later, I agree they made the right choice. I spent a long time resenting being stuck in Singapore. It was not until a good amount of my Undergraduate years had passed that I realised I was the only reason I was having a miserable experience. So I made an effort to live the kind of life I wanted.
NUS, indeed anywhere you will go, has a wonderful cache of opportunities but only if you are open to them. I joined student societies and got to moderate a panel with local authors I respected on publishing in Singapore. I started volunteering, and got to meet a variety of people both within and outside the University. I tried things way outside my comfort zone, like theatre (I did not enjoy it, but at least I learned something about myself!). I did internships in a variety of fields and organisations, from which I learned very much and forged great relationships with people I now consider friends. I also got to have the time abroad I had yearned for at 18 - I did a Semester Exchange Program in Dublin, where I met and lived with people from all over the world, travelled alone, and learned to care for myself.
Most importantly, I got to study two things I loved, and got the opportunity to pursue causes and interests with no worry about financial viability, because I had not incurred student debt that needed tending to. It has been a privilege and freedom I have emerged incredibly thankful for.
I am not saying you have to make the same decision I did. It was right for me, and only because I made an effort for it to be. What I am saying is, it does not matter, really, where you end up. Your undergraduate degree does not have to determine where you end up, but it can shape you in inconceivably significant ways if you allow it to. I have changed my mind more times than I can count about what I thought I wanted since I was 18. It is okay to be unsure sometimes. What matters is the effort you give to wherever you go, and how open you hold yourself to the opportunities and cards you are dealt. Let it lead you to unexpected places. I promise you will learn to enjoy them.