When Ms Iffah Adawiyah Azman, 21, applied to the University of Warwick (Warwick) in her last year at the School of the Arts (Sota), she believed it was something of a pipe dream.
"I was interested but I wasn't sure how I was going to fund my degree," she said. But thanks to several Warwick alumni, Ms Iffah, along with another scholarhip holder, Mr Chandra Prakash Dhanabal, 22, has been able to go bond-free to study in Britain.
Established in 2015, the Friends of the University of Warwick in Singapore scholarship is the combined initiative of the university and its Singaporean alumni. It is run by a group of eight trustees, six of whom are Warwick alumni.
Through donations and fund-raising activities, the trustees have raised enough money to send Ms Iffah and Mr Chandra on full scholarships, and will send another recipient, Ms Hayati Bee Kamaludin, 21, this year.
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Fees to study at Warwick are about £17,000 (S$30,500) a year and the scholarship covers board as well. The trustees hope to continue to send one or two scholarship holders annually.
One of the trustees is Mr Gautam Banerjee, chairman of investment and advisory firm Blackstone Singapore. He attended Warwick from 1974 to 1977, reading management sciences as well as accountancy and finance, before going on to become a chartered accountant.
"Going overseas at a young age, being in an environment that is dissimilar from my own background forced me to be self-reliant, and really shaped my personality and outlook," he said.
Aimed at students from underprivileged families, the Warwick scholarships are offered only to students who can demonstrate that they are the first in their family to experience international higher education.
Students must also come from households where the gross family income is less than $2,500 per month, or with a per capita income not exceeding $625 a month.
They must also be on financial assistance at their current school or from the Ministry of Education and must have received an offer of an undergraduate place from Warwick before applying for the scholarship.
UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK
Located near the city of Coventry in England, the university consistently ranks in the top 10 of all major domestic rankings of British universities.
Entrance is competitive, with around seven applicants vying for a place for undergraduate study.
Warwick was founded in 1965 as part of a British government initiative to expand access to higher education.
OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
While you're in Singapore, you are so used to your friends. You don't really mix with people with different ways of thinking, different ways of approaching problems.
MR CHANDRA PRAKASH DHANABAL, a scholarship holder who is now reading business and accountancy at Warwick.
"Courses in Singapore are good but more than two-thirds of the students will be locals as well, and you won't get to experience the same level of diversity."
The trustees felt that although there were many corporate or government scholarships available to Singaporean students, there was more that the community could do to give back. "If you've benefited from something, like we (the trustees) have, and are now more settled and established, it's up to you to give back and allow others to experience it," said Mr Banerjee.
The opportunity has so far been life-changing.
For Mr Chandra, who studied at Raffles Institution and is now reading business and accountancy at Warwick, the experience gets him out of his comfort zone.
"While you're in Singapore, you are so used to your friends. You don't really mix with people with different ways of thinking, different ways of approaching problems," he said.
Ms Iffah, who is now reading politics and sociology, has had a similar experience.
For Ms Hayati, it was Ms Iffah, her senior at Sota, who inspired her to try for the scholarship. "I never expected to be able to study overseas but when I heard from my Malay teacher that Iffah managed to get it, I decided to try for it."
She will be going to Warwick this year to study for a law degree.
"Because nobody in our family has had the experience of going overseas, it's easy to be daunted or intimidated but I feel that if you just go for it, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose," she said.