Illness spurred return to academic journey

She still had unfinished business.

That was what went through Mrs Nalini Sregantan's mind after the 55-year-old recovered from breast cancer about a decade ago.

As a teenager, she had to stop studying after taking her A levels.

"I had to put aside my aspirations and get into the job market quickly because of my family's financial needs," she said.

Life went on.

Mrs Sregantan, who is head of administration at The Straits Times, busied herself with her career, fell in love, got married and raised a family with two sons.

"I forgot about my dreams until the illness hit," she said.

 "I could not have done this without the support of my family, friends, boss and close colleagues".
Mrs Sregantan all dressed up for her convocation last week. She said of graduating from UniSIM: "I could not have done this without the support of my family, friends, boss and close colleagues". PHOTO: MANOJ SREGANTAN

"It set me thinking. I had done my duties as a daughter. So I thought it was time for me to fulfil my duties to myself.

"I thought that once I retired, I would want to give back to society. So I chose to study psychology with sociology."

Mrs Sregantan "studied proper" at SIM University (UniSIM) in 2012. She had signed up for classes earlier, but had to put lessons on hold because of several health scares.

After resuming her studies, she decided to "(step on) the accelerator and just move on".

And she was determined to do what it took, even returning to the office to complete her tasks after class. " I had two (sets of) deadlines, office ones and school ones. When I had homework, that's when the going got tough. Sometimes I did not sleep until three in the morning."

Last week, Mrs Sregantan graduated from UniSIM.

In spite of it all, she is modest about her achievement.

"I could not have done this without the support of my family, friends, boss and close colleagues," she said.

Her colleagues celebrated her graduation at work. Now she hopes to inspire them.

"At no time did the teachers and my fellow classmates make me feel my age," she said. "Education is a lifelong process - if you put your mind to it, you can do it."

Rahimah Rashith

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2016, with the headline 'Illness spurred return to academic journey'. Print Edition | Subscribe