Environmental Earth Systems Science
NTU CN Yang Scholars Programme
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My university application journey
Throughout JC, my university plan was to enter NUS, major in Life Sciences, with the University Scholars Programme (USP). However, where I am now is none of those three things!
After A Levels, I decided to explore my interests and get a job while waiting for university to start. I used the NYJC ECG portal and saw a job listing for the National Parks Board. I worked at the NParks National Biodiversity Centre as a temp staff for 6 months from January to June 2018.
Through this experience, I was able to find my true passion -- in the environmental sciences. I loved conducting fieldwork and educating the public about our local biodiversity. I also had the opportunity to discuss my university options with my co-workers and managers, many of whom pursued similar studies. By interacting with both current NUS Life Sciences students (interns), graduates, and an NUS Environmental Studies graduate at my workplace, I realised that Life Sciences is not perfectly what I'm interested in studying. I preferred focusing on the natural science aspect rather than dive into cell biology and biomedical sciences (which are compulsory in Life Sciences). It made me realise the importance of speaking with current students to learn more about the course I would be applying to.
I visited the university open houses too, and much preferred the course "vibes" and syllabus of the NTU Env Sci programme compared to NUS'. I was eventually accepted into both NUS Environmental Studies and NTU Environmental Earth Systems Sciences (NTU E2S2 had a IGP of AAA/A in 2018), and here came a difficult decision I spent many weeks contemplating.
In the mean time, I was accepted into NUS USP after a grueling interview about diversity in nature and society in Singapore, but was rejected from any NUS scholarship. On the other hand, I was offered the highest tier NTU scholarship, the Nanyang Scholarship, along with NTU's research-focused premiere scholar programme, the CN Yang Scholars Programme, after a few interviews too. CNYSP would provide many opportunities for research, and allows students to build a strong portfolio should they wish to enter academia in future.
My parents were against me entering NTU, because they believed that NUS was more prestigious. However, I weighed my options carefully, and eventually chose NTU. Firstly, though the programmes sound similar, NTU's seemed to have a greater focus on science, while NUS emphasised the arts aspect. Secondly, the sense of community in NTU E2S2 was much stronger. Thirdly, the scholarship would lift a great financial burden off my family, and give me the freedom to focus on my studies. It also provided many opportunities, such as overseas learning trips, research attachments throughout my undergraduate career, and priority for semester exchange placement.
I enrolled in August 2018, and have just completed my 2nd year. I have no regrets joining this course, even though it was totally different from what I had planned five years ago. I have had many great experiences, and am glad I focused on the facts to make that important decision in 2018 to choose NTU!
Life after NYJC
It's been fantastic!
I've embarked on two research projects so far. In Year 1 Semester 2, I conducted a study on Singapore's mammals in tropical rainforests by setting up camera traps and studying the footage. I wrote a research paper and presented my findings. Currently, I'm also involved in a study of our local Nature Ways to assess their effectiveness in supporting pollinator biodiversity.
In May 2019, I went on a 2-week Bali field course with my batchmates to climb a mountain, Mt Batur, to study geosciences and landforms; we interviewed locals to learn more about the culture of Ubud and other historical sites; and went snorkeling in Blue Lagoon Beach of Padang Bai, where we conducted both a benthic survey and an ecological survey (saw parrotfish, triggerfish, and butterflyfish!). It was an amazing experience that allowed us to see our textbook examples and theories come to life. Originally, I was scheduled to embark on another 2-week field course to Sri Lanka this May, and a 10-day overseas learning trip to Australia's University of Queensland in June, but both were cancelled due to the pandemic situation.
For the past year, I was also heavily involved in my CCAs. I was the Honorary General Secretary of the CN Yang Scholars' Club, where I supervised the rest of the committees in their events planning. I also joined the Nature Guiding portfolio of NTU's environmental club, EarthLink. I got to share my passion for local biodiversity with members of the public, as I shared about the flora and fauna in Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve. Back in hall, I represented my hall in squash in the Inter-Hall Games, and my team managed to cinch the 2nd place. It's been an exciting year for my CCAs. :)
I'm also looking forward to my semester exchange to King's College London in the United Kingdom in January 2021. Fingers crossed it's not cancelled!
My Future Plans
I'm hoping to go in to academia, to further research on Singapore's tropical landscapes, with a potential focus on entomology (insects). Otherwise, I would likely join organisations such as NParks to conduct further research and enact policies to better protect our biodiversity.
Tips for Juniors
Study hard, but also consider your university choice carefully. Start research as soon as you're done with A Levels and fully explore your options. Internships are useful -- they can reveal to you your passions, or otherwise what exactly you would not want to pursue in future.