Like many others, Amanda had little idea of what the University Scholars Programme (USP) entailed when she was reviewing her university options. She only came to know that USP is an academic programme – and not a scholarship scheme – during the selection interview itself. Nevertheless, Amanda took up USP with a conviction that its opportunities, community and inter-disciplinary modules would enrich her life in university.
For one, Amanda took great pleasure in attending USP classes, and admired her professors’ commitment to education. She recalled her time with Associate Professor Barbara Ryan, who taught “Singapore Studies: Nationalism and the Arts”. As someone who is more soft-spoken by nature, Amanda shared that she appreciated the welcoming classroom environment which Associate Professor Ryan had fostered so as to “give everybody a space to speak, even the quieter ones.” Most importantly, she believes that the module led her to grow both intellectually and emotionally, to be more personal and humble in her interactions with people and ideas. “USP gave me this room to take a step back and to be quiet for a moment, to think about things before I speak,” she added.
Moreover, USP offered Amanda more than just an enriching classroom experience. In her second year, Amanda travelled to Istanbul, Turkey for the Inter-Civilisational Dialogue. This highly sought-after USP International Programme allows USP students across different majors to spend a week abroad learning about and experiencing different cultures. Prior to the trip, Amanda sought to understand the region through reading Turkish literature. Her knowledge of Istanbul was further enhanced when she attended seminars and cultural activities there, and even had the opportunity to speak with Catholic and Muslim religious leaders. Sharing about the Inter-Civilisational Dialogue, Amanda said, “It was a safe place for us to all learn from each other, to throw out any stereotypes... and re-learn.”
Indeed, Amanda’s university journey has been unconventional thus far. Her willingness to try “small, new things” took her on a road that was far from mundane. While many strived for illustrious summer internships, Amanda chose to work at Woods in the Books, a children’s picture bookstore. Her time there enabled her to gain insights into Singapore’s literary scene and the current trends in children’s literature. This unusual experience helped her tremendously when she later interned for local publisher, Epigram Books, such that she had the opportunity to publish a children’s biography of the late President, Mr SR Nathan. Amanda attributes her inroads into the literary scene to her USP experience, which has allowed her to meet people who understand and support her interests and beliefs.
“You don't have to follow the crowd,” she advised, noting that USP allows for different groups of people to flourish. “There are always people here who understand you... so there’s a place for everyone in this community.”
In her last year of university now, the English Literature major has published a children’s book, and co-written a research paper on community mapping, amongst other diverse involvements. Now, she sees herself joining the social sector and perhaps continuing to pursue writing on the side.