Left: Gene Chua, NUS Merit Scholar,
is currently in Year 2, pursuing a Bachelor of Computing (Computer Science) at the National University of Singapore. He hopes to focus on security software during his studies at NUS, to help keep cyberspace safe.
Right: Muhammad Nur Akashah Bin Anwar, NUS Global Merit Scholar, is currently in Year 3, pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering) with a second major in Innovation & Design at the National University of Singapore. He dreams of becoming a racecar engineer in the motorsports department of an automotive company within Europe, because that is where the heart of motorsports is.
Few countries can be as proud of their national universities as Singapore. National University of Singapore (NUS) is considered the pinnacle of tertiary education in Singapore, and youths from all over the region aspire to join its student ranks.
But what is the NUS student experience exactly, and how is it so decisively different? Just before term started, NUS Merit Scholar Gene Chua and NUS Global Merit Scholar Muhammad Nur Akashah Bin Anwar got down to the details of life at NUS.
First off, why did you choose NUS?
Muhammad: I chose NUS for the very simple reason that NUS is the only Singaporean university which participates in the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) competition held annually in Michigan, America. There is no other university within Singapore which gives you the opportunity to design, build and race your own open-wheeled Formula-style car using an internal combustion engine. The choice was obvious to me as to which university provides the best automotive opportunity.
Gene: Because I was determined to jump into Computer Science and I wanted a degree that emphasises technical skills. NUS is one of the most recognised institutions of higher learning, not just in Singapore but all over the world, and that became a huge factor in my decision to choose NUS.
Muhammad's in the third year, while Gene is in the second year in NUS. How has the experience been for you so far?
Muhammad: It has been really fun, and also really stressful. The lectures allow you to experience the beauty and thought processes within the field of Mechanical Engineering; some professors even use props to demonstrate certain engineering concepts! For instance, using a 30cm plastic ruler to demonstrate the effects of bending on a rigid, solid beam. Additionally, NUS provides us with very concise and straightforward lecture notes, which sustain my joy in learning.
Other than that, my life in NUS generally involves many visits to the NUS libraries, which has seats that are well-cushioned with back support and very comfortable by the way, and my FSAE workshop. The workshop is where I get my hands-on experience disassembling and assembling automotive components, and I gained skills such as manufacturing carbon fibre, drilling, milling and turning there.
Gene: It's been amazing! NUS has given me such good exposure in terms of both academic and student life.
I'll start with student life. I'm in the University Scholars Programme (USP), staying in Cinnamon College in NUS University Town. Being part of a community on campus, I've been so inspired by many of my peers who are very hardworking, driven and curious. They're people who inspire me to just keep on learning about the world and pushing myself to be better as a person, as a leader and as a friend. The opportunity to participate in student activities such as USP Productions and NUS Dance Blast also gives me the freedom to explore the non-academic side of things.
And then on the academic side, the modules that I took were really rigorous. They push me to think computationally and hone my programming skills. My favourite module was Data Structures and Algorithms, where we got to apply algorithms in many real-life scenarios which really honed my problem-solving skills.
What do you hope to achieve from your time in NUS?
Muhammad: I hope to learn advanced Computer-Aided Design (CAD) skills because this skillset will be very relevant in the line of work that I plan to pursue. And NUS is able to provide the opportunity for this to happen. For example, the NUS Society of Mechanical Engineering liases with an external organisation for us to undergo a training course for the Certified Solidworks Associate (CSWA) Certification. The best part is being a student of NUS Mechanical Engineering, the Society of Mechanical Engineering allows us to do this course at a discounted rate!
Gene: First of all, I want to help people the way I've been helped in NUS. So, I've signed up to be a Teaching Assistant for one of my computing modules, and I'm also a Peer Mentor for two students. As much as I myself am learning, I want to continue this culture of helping others by teaching and mentoring.
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What advice do you have for those considering NUS?
Muhammad: Give yourself a fighting chance by gathering real-world working experience – this advice is especially relevant for those coming from the polytechnics. I've always felt inferior to the JC students, especially those who come from the elite ones. I never believed a mechanical engineering polytechnic graduate was able to get a top-tier scholarship from NUS.
But the truth is, NUS Professors don't really care about how much you know; rather, they are more interested in how you can apply what you know. Of course, this is more important since Engineering is about the application of concepts to the real world anyway.
The NUS Scholarship will also open doors for you; for example, I got offered a place in the Esslingen University of Applied Sciences in Germany under the NUS Student Exchange Programme (SEP) and I was also offered an interview for the NUS-Oxbridge Exchange Programme. So, go for it! You have nothing to lose by applying for an NUS Scholarship!
Gene: One of the key qualities of a scholar is his or her ability to be disciplined and self-motivated, and good grades are a good indicator of that. So, you definitely need to embody those qualities and have a high level of excellence.
But don't get too fixated on grades, either. Explore and pursue your passions at a high level, and have a heart for the community. Use the skills that you have to help others in any way that you can.