Lim Ngee Khoon Study Award: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity

29 November 2019

By Jiang Haolie


At Yale-NUS College, many students requiring financial assistance to pursue a Yale-NUS education benefit from the support of need-based study awards that have been established through the generosity of various donors.

One such award, the Lim Ngee Khoon Study Award, was established by Professor Tan Chorh Chuan, former President of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and a member of the Yale-NUS Governing Board. Since the College’s inception, the study award has supported a total of 16 students, including current student recipients Chau Nguyen and Miguel Ochosa (both Class of 2021) as well as alumna Natalie Tan (Class of 2017), enabling them to benefit from a Yale-NUS education.

“Receiving this study award has changed my life,” Chau reflects. Raised by a single mother in Hanoi, Vietnam, she grew up with ever-present financial constraints. Without the study award, she would have had to settle for an undergraduate education in Vietnam – a difficult transition to an unfamiliar system, having studied in England on scholarship up till then. Chau can still clearly remember the feeling of elation that she had shared with her mother on the day she received the award. “Even the bus driver noticed that my mother was smiling nonstop for the first time in months,” she said.

Chau Nguyen playing a game of bridge with the Yale-NUS Contract Bridge Society. Image provided by Chau Nguyen.

Now in her third year at the College, the Economics major has been relieved of the financial constraints she faced, and is able to focus on just being a student without the need to take on part-time work, which she deems a much understated privilege. She also had the opportunity to pick up film-making, writing and the violin, as well as participate in part-time internships. “None of this would have been possible without this study award!” Chau said.

Miguel, a third-year Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) major and Arts & Humanities minor, also recounted his delight on receiving the study award together with his admission letter to Yale-NUS, “I was in tears by the time I called my parents. This study award turned a dream into a reality!” Miguel is now at Yonsei University in Seoul for his semester abroad. Able to realise his dreams without worry for the cost of living and studying in Singapore, Miguel expressed gratefulness for the study award in lightening his financial and emotional load. He was also able to pursue overseas learning opportunities like the Global Strategy Institute at Yale without further financial strain.

Miguel performs at an Experience Yale-NUS Weekend (EYW). Image provided by Vaness Kow.

A familiar face to many, Miguel is an active and prominent member of the Yale-NUS community. Known for his artistic talent as a singer and dancer, Miguel has performed in numerous events in campus, and is a big part of the College’s dance community, even recently co-choreographing the Society of Yale-NUS College Dancers (SYNCD) Showcase finale. He also gives back to the community as a Student Associate of the Admissions Office, providing campus tours and assisting in key events such as the Experience Yale-NUS Weekend (EYW) for admitted students.

Like Miguel and Chau, Yale-NUS alumna Ms Natalie Tan, currently an illustrator, graphic designer, and freelance writer, remarked, “The study award took a huge burden off my family’s shoulders and allowed me to be bold with my decisions about the future.”

Ms Natalie Tan (third from left) and friends. Image provided by Ms Natalie Tan.

Receiving it back in 2013 as a student of the inaugural Yale-NUS cohort, Ms Tan described how she was empowered by the award to put her academic interests centre stage, without having to juggle the exhaustion of part-time work. She enthusiastically listed the foundational experiences she had at Yale-NUS, “I could go to Paris to learn directly from masterpieces. I got to hold sketches by Peter Paul Rubens and Rembrandt, to see the way the pencil pigments dip into the grain of the paper, and to speak to independent Palestinian museum curators about the Israel-Palestine conflict.”

Ms Tan illustrated her first children’s book in collaboration with local Tamil language poet Azhagunila. The book features playful rhymes about growing up in colourful Singapore. Image provided by Ms Natalie Tan.

All these opportunities were critical in her academic development and artistic practice and highlighted the powerful merits of a Yale-NUS education had for her: valuable ground experience and encouraging students to “ask the hard questions”. Working frequently with publishers like Ethos Books, Asiapac, and De Gruyter, as well as theatre and musical productions, Natalie is most proud of her recent project, பா அங் பாவ் or Pa Ang Bao, a Tamil language children’s book completed in collaboration with local Tamil poet, Azhagunila. Describing it as a labour of love, the publication was a response to the “disappointing” dearth of existing Tamil books for local Indian children.

Across the remarkable experiences of these students and alumni, the Lim Ngee Khoon Study Award has undoubtedly been an empowering and life-changing helping hand for many.