Scholarship Education

Like I said before, I’ve been busy ‘spring cleaning’ my house these last couple of week – tossing out 30 years of junk is not an easy undertaking. As a result, I have come across a lot of old memories and treasures from the past. Surprisingly, I found a copy of my undergraduate scholarship offer letter in my pile of junk last week. That brought back a lot of memories.

Those were trying times – an emotional roller-coaster. I can still remember receiving the phone call during my SPM examinations, to double check my choice of course and destination country. It was on the day of my Biology II paper. That got me all excited for days, about the prospect of going overseas for my degree. Shortly after that, came the letter that brought me crashing back down to earth.

It was 1997 and our currency had just been devalued by half in the short span of weeks. Funds were running dry and budgets were cut. Due to this, our government had decided to cut the number of scholars flying off. Thousands of students from all sorts of agencies were affected. I received a letter right after my SPM examinations. It was short and terse. In it, it said that in-line with government policy, the scholarship programme was being cut, and I, with it.

Now, that sucked. To a 17 year-old, it seemed like the end of my hopes and dreams.

After that, I received a scholarship offer to pursue my degree at a local private university instead. So, things didn’t look so bad after all. I would still be able to get a degree and I was quite excited by the prospect of joining a new university. I’ve always liked being a pioneer and I looked forward to all kinds of new experiences at this young university. In the end, I got to do a lot of cool stuff, more than I would have had the opportunity to at any old foreign university!

Then, the SPM results were announced. I could still remember the look that I got from teachers as I walked into the school to get my results. They already knew what I was about to find out. I did not do as well as all of them had hoped. It was not just me. Turned out that my entire batch did not do as well as the school had hoped. There was only one person with an A1 in BM that year, which was an anomaly, and it wasn’t me.

For me, while it was a sad occasion to have let down the entire school, I did not think too much about it. It was soon time to pack and get ready anyway. I already had a spot offered to me at a university, where I joined hundreds of other stranded government scholars. Orientation week there was thoroughly depressing like an AA meeting. We would all introduce ourselves in the following pattern:

“Hi, my name is [name]. I am supposed to be in [country] doing [course]. Instead, I am here now.”

Life likes to throw a wrench in the works sometimes. We went on to have some of the best years of our lives. I think that having the shared experience of being hapless victims of the financial crisis really helped us to bond. For me at least, I found the entire 5 years spent, a meaningful journey. It taught me a lot about how to take what life throws at me and not to ask too many questions about it.

Although there has been several more wrenches thrown into several more works since then, I think that my life has generally been a smooth one, so far. I’ve had to fight a few battles, but nothing yet that I could not handle. I’m looking forward to living my life to its fullest.

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Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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