Not going to university is Ya Hui's 'biggest regret' but she still wouldn't do it now — here's why

Not going to university is Ya Hui's 'biggest regret' but she still wouldn't do it now — here's why
Ya Hui at the premiere of Seven Days.
PHOTO: Instagram/Ya Hui

Going to university is a rite of passage for some of us.

Getting to study what you want, engaging in after-school activities and dorm life — while many of us look back at those memories fondly, one person who never got the opportunity to do so is local actress Ya Hui.

In a recent interview with AsiaOne, the 35-year-old said: "Not going back to school is my biggest regret. I wish I got the chance to study in university and experience hostel life."

Yet, despite leaving Mediacorp as a full-time actress after 15 years in February, going back to school isn't on Ya Hui's priority list.

"I think, at my age, I'd rather focus on something I can do — a totally different business rather than going back to school, because it'd take another three, four years," she added.

"I don't have so much time left, it's not like I'm 20-plus years old. I want to grab hold of every chance and just treasure the time that I have to do something."

Ya Hui joined the talent scouting competition Star Search in 2007 fresh out of junior college, where she became one of the runners-up and the winner of the Miss Telegenic title at the grand finals.

'No regrets' about Mediacorp career

While she may have regrets about not going to university, she doesn't have any about her long career with Mediacorp because everything she learnt during her time there "was important".

"Every part of the journey was very important in moulding me into who I am, be it success or failure — it's part and parcel of life," Ya Hui added.

"I'm very grateful, because in Singapore, getting a chance to enter the industry is so important for everyone who dreams of becoming an actor, and because [Mediacorp] is the only platform you have to try and perform."


Despite leaving Mediacorp, Ya Hui still hopes to win more awards at Star Awards' Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes category. She currently has seven, and winning 10 makes her eligible for the All-Time Favourite Artiste award the following year.

"I already passed the halfway mark, so why not?" she mused.

While she stressed that "we shouldn't focus 100 per cent" on getting accolades, she also conceded: "Who doesn't love awards?"

"After I entered the industry, it actually took me seven years to get my first Top 10 award," she added. "In the past, when I wasn't even nominated or didn't get the award, I kept telling myself that our work is more important than the award.

"But of course, getting the award is a bonus for everyone."

What's next for Ya Hui?

Ya Hui's latest movie Seven Days, also starring Ayden Sng, Henry Thia, Peter Yu and Xuan Ong, will be out in cinemas soon. She told AsiaOne the movie came during a time when she was "looking for some directions in life".

Seven Days revolves around Aishi (Xuan Ong), a ghost who has been wandering in the world for 20 years until she accidentally occupies her brother's body (Ayden Sng) and embarks on a seven-day journey to fulfil unfinished matters.

Ya Hui plays Ailing, a career woman who quits her job to find meaning in life. The story had Ya Hui thinking about her own purpose in life.

"There's this line from my character, 'What do you want?' What is the most important thing in life that you are searching for?" she continued. "It made me think deeply about what we all should look for. Is it happiness or just money? Travelling? There are a lot of factors to think about."

Despite her contract as a full-time actress having come to an end, Ya Hui has had no time to relax in the last two months — she's also working on a long-form drama until November — and doesn't have concrete plans about her next steps yet.

When asked if she would like to work overseas, perhaps somewhere with better work-life balance, Ya Hui immediately said: "To be honest, as an actor, I think there's no work-life balance.

"You have no public holidays, you have no weekends. It depends on how much of your life you want to contribute [to acting] and timing it. You can't find work-life balance as an actor, unless you work nine-to-five.


"But even for those kinds of jobs, nobody is getting any work-life balance. I see my friends working until 11-plus, 12am — their bosses will still be emailing them, asking them for presentation slides. It's very hard to achieve in Singapore."

She compared our lives here to Australia, a country she visited last August with veteran actress Chen Liping, where she said "everybody was so chill".

"Why can't we do the same thing as other countries?" she continued. "We are all so stressed, and all the mental health issues are arising. People are so stressed, people are so miserable and the cost of living is getting higher and higher.

"I think it will drive people crazy. The government needs to do something to save all of us."

While balancing work and leisure may be challenging for Ya Hui, she looks forward to travelling again after wrapping up her current project in November.

"I have no plans yet, but I really wish to travel somewhere where I can see the northern lights," she said.

Seven Days releases in local cinemas May 12.


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