Fresh out from High School (or National Service), choosing a suitable college or university – staying local or going abroad – can be one of the most perplexing decisions for a young student. In my opinion, a generalised discussion on the disadvantages and merits of an education in Singapore or overseas is considerably meaningless: first, different schools and varying specialisations are extremely diverse across the board; second, individuals should make independent decisions based on their personal desires and expectations, instead of relying pedantically on the evaluations of others.
Through this piece, I hope to articulate some of the reasons for choosing to further my studies in Singapore; at the same time, share some of my struggles, arguments and justifications. As aforementioned, all my opinions are by no means representative; in fact, the point I wish to highlight is this: do not allow stereotypes to manifest, because you – yourself – should choose your own path of advancement.
Financing An Overseas Education
I come from a middle-income household, so financing a long-term overseas education is not as straightforward as it seems (besides tapping into the family’s savings and making sustainable plans, study loans would be necessary). Applying for a scholarship would appear to be the obvious option under these circumstances; unfortunately, beyond the rigour of the selection processes, one has to be mentally-prepared for the commitment and bond that comes with the awarding of the scholarship. I was not.
My performance during the last round of examinations was fair, so pragmatically it would have been an uphill endeavour to also gain entrance into an overseas institution.
The incontrovertible truth is that heading out of Singapore would present an assortment of benefits, including attainment of a prestigious degree and interactions with people, events. Sometimes, I do rue the missed opportunity to broaden my horizons in another country (anecdotally, my friends are having a great experience in their respective colleges, and have made great acquaintances). Nonetheless, sacrifices are imperative, and the entire decision-making journey inevitably involves a certain degree of give-and-take.
Strengthening Commitments In Singapore
Education should go further than the academic or scholastic dimension; naturally, it is my perspective that one’s college years should also be dedicated to activities and projects in the community. Other than continuing my personal commentaries here on this website (the rhetorical expression of change), I would love to sustain my involvements with the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) and United Nations Association of Singapore (UNAS). At AWARE, we will continue to run a body image-eating disorders campaign; at UNAS, we will work on Model United Nations (MUN).
With Singapore’s fledging civil society, it would be constructive for individuals interested in making a difference to heighten their levels of holistic participation.
Above all, I believe that spending quality time with my family in Singapore – especially as a single child – is of utmost significance (which is why I am slightly apprehensive when it comes to staying at a school hostel). These moments are innately precious to me.
Some Last Words
In August later this year, I will be pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration and Masters of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Amongst my counterparts from my school (Hwa Chong Institution), there was this constant, immense pressure to pursue an overseas education regardless. Unsurprisingly, when I was contemplating my decision early on – in my relentless ambition to head to the “best” school for the “best” education to do my “best” – my eventual resolution to pursue my degree in a local university did imbue me with a mild sense of inferiority.
However, it is not about wanting the “best”; it is about what I wanted for myself.
My friend expressed it most succinctly when he said: “The inferiority complex can work both ways. Some might desperately want to pursue an overseas education, in a bid to assuage self-doubt and notions of inferiority that they might have … but ultimately, the university degree is not the measure of the man”.