By Loh Qiu-Lyng, Lin Zicheng, Liu Hongzuo & Wong Yeang Cherng
At last, they have made it to the finishing line. As we remember the joy and tears of yesteryears in NP with our graduates, npTribune talks to the four top students of 2009 and see how they made it past the rest to be the best.
Nadia Shah – The Steady Marathoner
The Ngee Ann Kongsi award is known to be exclusive, epic in proportions and elusive to many who dare dream of bagging the coveted prize.
The only girl among the top graduates this year, Mass Communication golden graduate Nadia Shah, 20, scores it big with both the prestigious Ngee Ann Kongsi and the Lien Ying Chow awards under her belt, all while staying sane and sanguine.
“I knew about [winning] the Lien Ying Chow award, but when I heard I won the Ngee Ann Kongsi award, I was shocked. I just sat there and went, ‘Oh, okay.’ But it was good because I wanted to go overseas [for further studies],” Nadia says.
The Ngee Ann Kongsi Gold Medal is awarded to the top student of NP each year, who can then opt to pursue any degree from any university in the world on an all-expense paid, bond-free scholarship. The Lien Ying Chow Medal is awarded to the most outstanding graduate from a non-technology course in NP.
Currently, Nadia has plans to further her studies in the United States of America, either taking a double major in Television, Radio and Film, and Magazine at Syracuse University in New York, or major in Print Journalism at the University of Southern California. In the future, she hopes to be a feature writer, or produce and host for television documentaries.
Despite her lofty ambitions and dreams, Nadia was not expecting all the academic prizes at graduation.
“My GPA is around 3.77, so I didn’t expect much.”
It was a confident attitude and scores of hard work that brought Nadia her big wins. As Mass Communication lecturer, Ms Koh Joh Ting, who taught Nadia for two modules, says, “It goes to show that in our school, hard work and intelligence pays off.”
Ever the music aficionado, Nadia recalls having to sacrifice time to finish her assignments instead of taking part in her favourite hobby.
She says, “I used to jam with my friend, but I often had to cancel last minute because assignments would pop up.”
When stress levels seemed too overwhelming to bear, Nadia would either work it off at the gym or talk to her friends and family.
She says, “I was lucky because my classmates were different, so I could go to each of them to de-stress.”
She adds, “One time, there were just more and more things coming in, and I went home and talked to my brother. He said something that I thought was very true. He said, ‘Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.’”
Richard Kong – The Compassionate Conqueror
Electronic & Computer Engineering graduate Richard Kong is one step closer to his dream of being a technopreneur after bagging two distinguished awards.
The former Institute of Technical Education (ITE) valedictorian received the Lee Kuan Yew Award that is awarded to the top graduate of an electronic course, as well as the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal, which is awarded to the best graduate, formerly from an ITE.
Although from a humble school background, Richard did not let the negative energy interfere with his dreams of distinction and success. Instead, he used it to spur him on to reach his goal.
In fact, according to Richard, ITE provided him with “a good platform to go overseas”, inspiring him to build up confidence in whatever he does.
This also raises an interesting question: How did he do it and from where did he draw inspiration?
He says, “I remember on enrolment day, there was this list of awards that students had won previously on display. It gave me a dream to be up there in that list, a push to achieve my goals.”
All this did not come easy for Richard, who did not just spend his time studying. He was also actively involved in two CCAs – the Electronic & Computer Engineering Society and the Toastmasters Club.
In fact, the list goes on. Due to his passion for the community, he spends any free time doing volunteer work.
When asked if he has ever felt suffocated, he says, “I don’t think it felt tough to me. I worked hard, but it’s not just for the sake of studying.”
“These three years have been very enjoyable for me, especially making new friends and doing community work.”
He notes that there is “more openness in NP”, where anyone can pursue their dreams “as long as they’re passionate about it”.
Richard’s most memorable experience in NP was participating in WorldSkills Singapore 2008. Going up against other polytechnics and ITEs, his team spent about nine hours in preparation for the competition of technological skills. Their dedication eventually secured them a third place.
Mr Sunarto Quek, a senior lecturer at the School of Engineering, who has known Richard for close to two years, has nothing but praise for Richard’s conscientious efforts and attitude.
He says, “Richard is a very hardworking, very consistent student. I’ve never known him to hand in late work, and his work is always outstanding.”
Richard has since been awarded a scholarship at NTU that recognises freshmen who have achieved outstanding academic and CCA records, while possessing leadership qualities.
Ang Jin Hui – The Fun-loving Winner
The boy has it all – the brains, charisma and a body to boot. After Graduation 2009, Information Technology golden graduate Ang Jin Hui, 21, now has one more accolade to his name – the highly regarded Lee Kuan Yew Award.
A notable figure in his own right, the easygoing Jin Hui attributes his success to keeping a delicate balance between work and play, even when the hectic work schedules sweep in.
“I found schoolwork really enjoyable actually,” says Jin Hui in a muted manner, when asked about tackling a daunting project. “If we [the project team] get tired of work, we’d just take a break, and continue on work later.”
Even with two Lee Kuan Yew awards to his name (the first awarded to him for topping the ‘N’ Level Examinations in 2003), along with a gold certification in his CCA amongst other awards, Jin Hui is a big fan of having fun, citing “slacking” as one of his pastimes. It is hard to believe that a self-proclaimed merrymaker like him is a winner on so many levels.
“I slack with my friends during free time! Going around, tasting good food around campus or hanging out at the library or Ourspace@72,” says Jin Hui, who is a happy-go-lucky person, ready for anything that comes his way.
“I also go out with my friends, catch a movie or do some silly things and have fun,” he adds with a cheeky grin.
Besides taking it easy at the right time, Jin Hui also believes in staying in the pink of health.
His favourite activities include going to the gym at least once a week, jogging with his friends and serving the community by helping out at the Red Cross Home For The Disabled.
With whatever free time left, he takes up snorkelling as well.
“I would like to try diving in the future too,” he says. “My dream job is to be a motivational speaker.”
So what does this budding speaker have to say to motivate his peers in NP?
“You have to prioritise your time. Don’t overload yourself if you have many projects on hand, don’t take on more. Most important of all to learn and enjoy at the same time.”
Daniel Low – The Ambitious Realist
Strike up a coversation with Marine & Offshore Technology golden graduate, Daniel Low, 20, and he will come across as being opinionated and meticulous, with a calm disposition and a logical flow of thought.
“Daniel is very analytical. No matter what he does, he’s a very application-oriented person,” says Mr Subrata Chanda, course manager of Marine & Offshore Technology.
Working with Daniel for two modules and his final-year project has given Mr Chanda sufficient opportunities to realise how Daniel is one who “if you’ve met him, you’ll like him”.
“He’s a likeable person and he mixes very well with people,” he adds.
Daniel’s affable personality is streaked with the ability to handle pressure that stood his way during his years in school. He cites picking up a hobby as his solution to stress.
Moreover, Daniel is an advocate of good sleeping habits. While other students may burn the midnight oil in a mad rush to finish work, he chooses to “try and sleep normal hours”.
“I think sleeping is part of a good lifestyle. I don’t think very well once I don’t sleep, and I become quite cranky. The important thing is not to study hard, but study smart,” he says.
Fun and sleeping habits aside, Daniel is a realist. As part of his “study smart” policy, he makes certain that he does not get too caught up in competition.
He says, “Quite frankly, whatever you learn in NP is going to be outdated by the time
you come out of army or by the time you go to university and come out.”
“But, what you can bring with you,” he adds, “is the ability to process and think in a manner that is different from the rest.”
Essentially, it boils down to being proactive when taking steps to greatness.
“Once you’re in poly, you’ve got to recognise that you’re in poly. You don’t expect to be spoon-fed. Don’t expect opportunities to land right in front of you and don’t expect teachers to come and beg you to go for overseas trips,” says Daniel.
The ambitious “inventor of sorts” in the marine industry will continue to pursue a degree related to his current course of study in Newcastle University, a NP-affiliated institution.
Whatever the future might hold for this zealous individual, he says that he will go with the flow.
“Hopefully, I can have a post-graduate [degree]. But, let’s not look too far. Let’s just do one thing at a time.”
As Daniel readies to begin the next chapter of his life, he describes his time in NP as one great lesson learnt.
He muses, “You don’t really have to be good at doing everything. Just know what you want and what you are good at doing and then, make the most out of it.”
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