Poly graduates on finding their true calling
Poly graduates share how pursuing interests helped fulfil their dreams
Growing up, she dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.
But when the time came for her to pick her desired polytechnic course, Miss Vienn Han, 21, put Early Childhood Studies at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) as her first choice.
Miss Han attributes the 180-degree change to her father's foresight.
"He's seen me since young being very comfortable with children. Looking back, I think he is a very wise man," she said.
Of his daughter's decision to become an early childhood educator, Mr Han Chee Kwang, 61, said: "I'm happy she's chosen a job which is suitable for her character."
She was a speaker at the Beyond O Level Seminar on Jan 9.
Miss Han said: "It was a difficult decision that required a lot of courage.
"Even my aunt, who is a fashion designer, told me I should go for Early Childhood Studies.
"I came to the conclusion that what I learn in the course will come in handy anyway, since I'm going to be someone's mum one day."
By the end of her first semester, Miss Han knew she had made the right choice.
"I have never been academically inclined, but once I started (school), I got really good results. It just came naturally to me. Everything seemed to fall into place," she said, her eyes lighting up.
During school holidays, Miss Han took up relief teaching "just to be sure of my ability to communicate with children".
"It all felt very natural to me," she said of her relief teaching stints, one of which was in a private preschool and another in My First Skool..
Miss Han received the PAP Special Industry Foundation Award for her excellent performance during her internship.
She went on to secure a $25,000 scholarship from the Early Childhood Development Agency and NTUC First Campus.
After graduating in 2014, she started work at My First Skool, NTUC First Campus' childcare arm.
Miss Han said the children sometimes inspire her to look at things from a simpler, different perspective.
"Some things, like how the tables are arranged, are done in a certain way. We don't think of changing it, but one day, the children suggested arranging them in a different way.
"I found myself thinking, why not? Since then, they have been coming up to me with various suggestions," she said.
When asked if she wonders how different life could have been if she had pursued design, she simply shook her head.
"If you don't think of what could have happened, I think it means you truly love what you're doing," she said.
A-level results deterred her, but mum kept faith
She thought it was all over when she did badly for her A levels.
She thought that her dream of earning a spot in the National University of Singapore's Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine was gone forever.
But Miss Amalina Ridzuan, 23, eventually made that dream a reality.
After completing a Biomedical Sciences diploma course at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), with a grade point average of 3.98 out of 4, she applied for NUS' medical school and was accepted.
Miss Amalina, 23, is now a first-year medical student.
She said: "Many times, I felt like I was not cut out for medical school. I later realised that some people just take a longer time."
The madrasah graduate said that she grew up playing doctor with her two brothers and two sisters, aged 12 to 21.
A newspaper report about a cancer patient, which she came across while in secondary school, cemented her dream of being an oncologist.
"I knew it was competitive to get a place in the medical school, with over 90 per cent of the students from junior colleges.
"I thought going to a JC would be the most appropriate route. But I couldn't adapt well at all," she said.
A day before her A levels, something in her snapped and she broke down.
"I told my mum I was really sorry. I thought she would scold me, but she told me it's okay," Miss Amalina said quietly.
While she declined to reveal her exact grades, she said it was not enough to get into NUS.
Peers told her to try her hand at something completely different and for her to be more practical.
But her mother saw things differently.
"Since you were young, I knew you'd be a doctor," she had told her daughter.
Encouraged by her mother, Miss Amalina started afresh with a Biomedical Sciences course at TP.
The course turned out to be a gateway of opportunities, including an internship stint at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), where she worked on cancer biomarkers.
She then mustered up the courage to apply to medical school.
"I just thought I'd give it a try," said Miss Amalina.
While on a graduation trip in Lombok, Indonesia, she received the acceptance e-mail from her dream school.
Miss Amalina credits her success to her 47-year-old mother, who has always led by example.
"She stopped her education last time to work to support us.
"Recently, she graduated with a business-related diploma.
"I think she wanted to prove to us that no matter when or where, as long as you put your heart and mind into it, you can do it," Miss Amalina said.
She is keeping her options open about what to specialise in.
"I'll see how things go, but I definitely want to do something that can help people," she said.