A couple of reflections

1. On going back to Singapore after my semester ends

Being in a master’s course where about everyone intends to remain in the States/Canada and work here after the course ends, I get responses of sympathy sometimes when I tell them I have to go back to serve my scholarship bond. Sometimes I nod along and agree that it’s a waste, as though if I had a choice I would stay in the States.

Inwardly I am absolutely glad that I don’t have a choice, because I long so much to be back in a place where the food I love is everywhere. It’s funny, the discovery that food matters so much to me. I want to be out at night, eating hawker food – all my South East Asian goodies that I never realized were rare in other countries. I love my hawker centres and my coffee shops and, in a very Singaporean way, my shopping centres. My shopping centres might have the almost the same shops everywhere, but they are so close to me wherever I am and so rightfully full of people at night. I love the bright busy nights and the convenience.

2. On choosing NUS

Back when I had freshly graduated from JC, I longed to study overseas in the most prestigious of schools. That was the general spirit shared by many of my junior college mates, and there would end up being a significant proportion doing just that, if they weren’t studying law or medicine. It felt as though without the badge of being accepted by an overseas college, doing any other degree would seem almost inferior, limiting.

Nevertheless, I did not, for a mix of reasons, some more trivial than others. The most trivial would probably be laziness. I found that I did not have a desire to study in the States, for some reason, and the high application fees put me off. I applied to the UK, but for psychology, sociology, and politics, which didn’t feel right in the end. The least trivial would be financial means. That’s the gist of how I ended up in NUS doing computing.

Now that I’m at this point in my academic career, I can safely say that I am glad that I went to NUS. I cannot imagine bearing a debt of more than $200k usd. To put things into perspective, I can buy a freaking hdb (that’s a flat, for non-singaporeans) with that amount. Maybe back then I would have tried to be idealistic, rationalize how I would pay it off in future, but now I’m just glad that I am graduating debt-free, on a four year bond instead of six year, with savings from my scholarship allowance.

Of course, there is the argument that the quality of education might possibly have been better. Maybe, but I was taught by some pretty amazing professors in NUS (and some shitty ones, of course). I think of the law of diminishing marginal returns – the exponential increase in cost is just, in my perspective, not worth it for that slight increase in quality. I speak from a middle-class background, so that has coloured my perceptions. I’ve never had to worry about eating or housing – I have my parents to thank for that – so I’m luckier than many others, and I feel it. It would probably be different if I had parents who thought of that sum as a trivial amount, but since I don’t, I am 100% certain that choosing NUS was correct.

Plus, my best mods include the one that gave me the love for coding, and you can never be too grateful for lessons of love.


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