NUS exchange student to Cambridge KOH YAN TIAN is proud to study at two prestigious universities
I COUNT myself lucky to have found great interest in subjects that some of my peers thought were boring because these have led me to where I am today. Mathematics, physics and chemistry were subjects that caught my attention and fuelled my curiosity when I was growing up because I used to wonder how everything worked around me.
|Having a good time: Dining at the Cambridge dressed in formal college gowns sort of made me feel like I was in a Harry Potter novel, says Ms Koh, who also had an opportunity to attend other social activities|
This was also the beginning of my fascination for learning more about technology and enjoying how much these lessons reveal to me. And, when the time came to choose my major for university studies, it was a natural progression to take mechanical engineering at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Entering the Faculty of Engineering has proved to be my best choice as it is exactly the kind of education I had in mind; one that provides students with an excellent learning environment to build a solid foundation in engineering skills and principles while getting a unique global learning perspective.
For me, the overseas opportunity to interact and better hone my skills came in the form of the unique Shell NUS-Cambridge Student Exchange Programme. I was successfully chosen as one of the two NUS students in September 2010 to exchange places with two Cambridge students.
In the five months I have been in Cambridge, I have gained a much deeper insight into how engineering is viewed in Europe and have also realised that what I learned in NUS has grounded me in adjusting to the various demands that Cambridge students are expected to meet.
Although the idea of living alone for the first time in a foreign land was difficult to get used to as I initially planned for the one year away, I did not let this hamper my decision to study engineering in a prestigious overseas university.
But there was no lack of hurdles I have had to cross.
As a second-year NUS engineering student studying third-year modules at Cambridge, there were certain fundamentals that I had not yet mastered. This meant I had to muster up a lot of courage and effort to seek additional tuition and help from professors and friends to teach me everything so that I am up to speed on the curriculum.
Bridging the gap
The academic and emotional support I encountered was most overwhelming. In no time, I'd managed to bridge the gap and am much more confident about my final examinations now. It also took more effort at the beginning to negotiate the difference my Singaporean accent presented to my English lecturers' accent and vice versa as well.
But because of these situations, I was even more fired up that I should savour these precious experiences that Shell Singapore, NUS and the University of Cambridge have awarded me with.
In addition, Cambridge has many unique and fascinating traditions that I have grown to love.
The unique one-on-one mentorship with the professors greatly facilitated a swift learning process. Residential living at Cambridge is fun and, for one thing, dining at the Formal Halls dressed in formal college gowns at a long table to enjoy a hearty three-course meal is always a great way to meet new friends and sort of made me feel like I was in a Harry Potter novel.
Another was the popular activity punting, which basically means to boat in a punt. I am also taking the opportunity to pick up Ballroom Dancing and Salsa as part of the Cambridge Dancers' Club.
My college, Christ's College, also offers many opportunities to serve for the welfare of students. So I am currently one of the Christ's College Welfare Officers who volunteers to help students facing issues at school - this is especially meaningful for me.
With my remaining time at Cambridge and at NUS, I am more inspired to keep going because when I graduate at NUS, I would have experienced two prestigious university engineering programmes instead of one.
I am grateful for this programme as I believe the sum of these two has given me great aspirations. I am also confident in challenging myself when an opportunity arises because I can achieve more than what I set out to be.
Just as Thomas Alva Edison's quote reminds, I strongly believe it now that 'if we did all the things we were capable of doing, we would astound ourselves'.
The writer is a second-year undergraduate from the National University of Singapore's Division of Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Engineering