Like most Singaporean students, Ms Chong Wee Lin was initially lured by the glitz of studying at one of the big three local universities.
But she found herself gravitating towards social work and her wish for a practical-based learning experience led her to the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
Now, the 21-year-old cannot wait to graduate and be out in the field, to apply what she has learnt at SUSS.
“I wanted to study something that had direct application to my career and that was meaningful. Meaning is defined differently by everyone but for me, I think my life experiences have steered me towards social work,” says Ms Chong, who joined SUSS after she graduated from Anderson Junior College.
“The human condition has always intrigued me and having been part of the social service sector, both as a volunteer and a beneficiary in the past, I hope to make an impact on it as a professional in the future.”
While Ms Chong chose SUSS for its focus on practical-based and independent learning, that also posed some challenges when she was a freshman — she had to adapt drastically from the rote learning present in her primary school to junior college years.
She says: “We have been guided along for so many years and now, without that crutch, trying out different experiences really helped me define who I am, where my priorities stand and forced me to be more creative in seeking out opportunities for myself.”
This also meant trying out new things and being open to new experiences. She has had a busy one-and-a-half years as an SUSS undergraduate, during which she participated in case competitions organised by Heineken as well as L’Oreal, where she was a semi-finalist.
She also represented Singapore as a delegate in the ASEAN-India Exchange programme and founded a social enterprise called Kizuna Bento in 2018, which focuses on befriending and training differently-abled individuals through bento-making.
Ms Chong also squeezed in some time volunteering at Beyond Social Services and MINDS.
She says: “This was a huge change for me compared to life in junior college as I am now more actively pursuing my interests knowing that I have to take charge of my time. My focus now lies beyond getting good grades which I believe has helped widen my perspective quite a bit.”
“Beyond that, I definitely want to further my studies and contribute to the growing albeit lacking literature on social work in Singapore.”
Choosing their future alma mater can be a daunting decision for junior college leavers.
But regardless of which university they choose, Ms Chong advises students to take control of their higher learning years.
“Try new things and seize every opportunity that is presented be it overseas experiences, volunteering, competitions or internships and you might just find yourself enjoying university life more than you thought you would.”
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Feb 23, 2019.