Thu, Jun 25, 2009
The Straits Times
Should I stay or go?

Seeing it for ourselves

I RECENTLY bumped into an old friend who had just completed his degree in the United States.

He was due to return here to serve his scholarship with a local statutory board. However, his time overseas had exposed him to a plethora of alternative career options he never even knew existed. Too good to pass up, he found, was the rare opportunity to work in Tokyo as a computer science researcher.

Hence, he made the bold decision to terminate the scholarship and pay off the bond, heading instead to Tokyo for better pay and prospects.

Having lived in Singapore for most of my life, his cosmopolitan experience was indeed inspiring. His words to me were: 'If you never venture out, you'll never know what you're missing.'

While Singapore strives to be a hub for everything, our lack of natural and spatial resources will inevitably constrain us. Our tiny shores are not enough for some of us to fulfil our greater aspirations, be it in academic life or the arts.

We will never know if the grass is really greener on the other side until we go there and see it for ourselves.

Chew Zhi Wen, 21, has completed his first year in law at NUS.

Home ground is best

WHENEVER I tell friends I have never travelled in a plane, they usually react with disbelief. 'How can that be,' they stutter. 'Surely you must have gone overseas at some point in your life!'

Well, I've only been to Malaysia, but it's not because I'm afraid of flying or I can't afford a ticket; it's just that I've never felt the need to fly overseas for holidays.

Through television and the Internet, I'm fully aware that there's a host of experiences around the world that I've been missing out on.

Yet Singapore - this sparkling city of perfectly spaced trees, with rubbish bins around every corner - exerts a magnetic pull of familiarity that I cannot shrug off.

There is a comforting sense of security here, with a top-notch police force and professional armed forces. Law and order may not seem like a big deal until you find yourself in the middle of a riot.

There is also no compelling need to head overseas for studies: We have world-class universities here, and my primary academic interest is South- east Asian society. Besides, I can always go on short-term exchanges if I am really bitten by the travel bug.

For now, it is fine to stay.

Ow Yeong Wai Kit, 20, has a place to read arts and social sciences at NUS.

A life-changing experience

GOING on a student exchange two years ago for a semester at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in the United States changed my perspective.

Before that, I was largely content to stay in Singapore for the rest of my life, but now I do not think my life will be complete if I do not live and work overseas for at least a couple of years.

While living among the Americans, I was impressed by their passion and belief in causes. Many of them act out of a firm conviction in something, rather than out of obligation or for material benefit.

This gives their society a certain dynamism that Singapore lacks.

That made me realise that merely aiming to have the 'Singapore Dream' - scaling the corporate ladder, getting the 5Cs and starting a family is, well, a tad boring.

Living and working overseas, I am sure, will give me interesting stories to tell my grandchildren - stories I would never be able to accrue staying in one place for life.

So, after a few years of job experience here and once the global economy recovers, I will look to jet off.

Jonathan Kwok, 24, has graduated with honours in economics from NUS.

It's not all about location

I AM staying in Singapore for the foreseeable future to complete my tertiary education.

Nevertheless, I do not think that staying (or leaving for that matter) will have a significant impact on my life.

Yes, the weather is nicer in temperate countries, and I may earn more upon graduation in London or Hong Kong.

But I doubt one changes due to where one lives.

I am not saying those who go overseas will not learn something profound, I just wonder if location influences personal development more than other factors such as individual open-mindedness and a willingness to grow.

Without a keen eye, a person cannot mature no matter where he lives.

If you say an overseas environment is more conducive to growth, then you probably have not opened your eyes to what is in your own backyard, and probably will not develop to your fullest potential anyway.

Don't we all grow older and (hopefully) wiser no matter where we live anyway?

The world we inhabit is small, and it is not going to grow any bigger. Even if we move.

Eef Gerard Van Emmerik, 20, will read law later this year at SMU.

Heading out, growing up

IF I had the opportunity and means to go abroad, I definitely would, without a moment's hesitation.

While I acknowledge that both local and overseas universities offer the same opportunities and are equally competent, I remain inclined towards the latter.

The main appeal: richer cultural diversity and enrichment from immersing yourself in a foreign land - entirely different from hopping aboard a coach and zipping through key tourist attractions in a package tour.

A three- or four-year stint in a foreign college will definitely shape me as a person.

Removed from the familiar comforts of home, I would have to quickly adapt myself and learn to integrate into another culture - all to make me more independent and gain a global perspective.

In 10 years, such an experience would stay with me, long after current ranking surveys and lectures become outdated.

Geran Wong, 18, is a Pre-U Year 3 arts student at Millennia Institute.

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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