Like some of the students you may have met in school, I do not come from a well-to-do family and have had to take a few extra steps to ensure I could land myself in a degree course in Singapore. I decided to take 2 ‘gap years’ after National Service, working at a couple of places to earn extra allowance and to partially pay for the upcoming University fees. Those times I spent out of school brewed in me a huge hunger to learn as much as possible, even if it meant that the knowledge gained was intangible and non-academic. Meeting a spectrum of personalities outside school also helped strengthen my curiosity and my regard for ‘empathy’ – I learnt to keep conversations going each day and that led to my genuine interest in caring and listening to whatever stories the people I met, had to tell. The formula was simple; the only criteria I had to maintain were the need to stay open-minded and the patience to really listen intently. Eventually, I entered SIM, and this mentality continued to stay deep-rooted even as I regained touch with my academic years.
In year 1, I remember accompanying a friend to the waiting room of an interview for the UOL Student Council. I liked the notion that the student council thrives by meeting their objectives especially when centred upon good leadership. The curiosity to learn got the better of me, and before I knew it, I found myself immersing into council activities for two years. Being the Vice President of Operations in my second year, I saw the importance of having good working relationships with fellow councillors, who are the backbone of successful events. When any team meets for discussion and planning, there are bound to be disputes over the smallest of issues. Once everyone sees eye-to-eye and is able to compromise for what majority perceives as best for the team, we’re able to, ‘clear the pipes and keep the sludge constantly moving.’ My attempt to sustain and grow positive ties among student leaders, was an enriching, yet humbling experience.
Upon reflecting on the voluntary behaviour of students who worked hard towards a more vibrant school life for the student population, I always find myself stumped. Were the student leaders also overflowing with empathy towards other students whom they do not personally know? At the end of the day, I am certain that students who did not allow the fear of failure or discomfort to prevent themselves from grabbing opportunities, were able to have greater confidence in their decision-making as well as develop resilience. While I wish students all the best in attaining good grades and eventually graduating, I would like to urge all to remain alert to the various opportunities that surface. All we need to do, is teach ourselves to embrace these serendipitous doors and then seize the potential each of them holds.