While his wife and children were enjoying each other's company in their Tiong Bahru home, recent graduate Jon Tan recalled spending late nights cooped up in his room, alone, studying.
"It was very difficult," said Mr Tan, 40. "I would be finishing my assignments and thinking how I could not spend time with my children."
Since 2011, he has had to juggle work, family and school while studying for a part-time degree at SIM University (UniSIM), a tertiary institution known for its role in providing courses for working adults and mature learners.
It paid off last week, when he was one of 2,400 students who received their degree scrolls at the 11th UniSIM convocation. With a cumulative grade point average of 4.3, he was one of the top students in his communications programme.
At the graduation ceremony in its Clementi Road campus, UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat addressed the graduates: "In completing your programme, you showed that qualification upgrading can occur after one has gone to work first; that the continual cycle of work and learning is natural and beneficial; that it is possible to juggle busy work and life schedules with studies; that learning can be done at every stage of life and at all stages."
PROOF IT CAN BE DONE
In completing your programme, you showed that qualification upgrading can occur after one has gone to work first; that the continual cycle of work and learning is natural and beneficial; that it is possible to juggle busy work and life schedules with studies; that learning can be done at every stage of life and at all stages.
UNISIM PRESIDENT CHEONG HEE KIAT, addressing graduates at the graduation ceremony at the Clementi Road campus.
With over 50 part-time degree programmes, UniSIM, which was established in 2005, has seen more than 13,000 part-time students from various backgrounds and of different ages in its classes in recent years. Their average age is 30.
Mr Lee Kam Hoong joined UniSIM's translation and interpretation programme in 2013 while working as an administrative and technical executive at Asia Pacific Research Centre. The 46-year-old had been doing consultancy work - providing courses for client companies to enhance productivity for over 20 years.
In the course of his work, he was asked to translate training materials from English to Mandarin for clients in China. "I also followed my boss to China as an interpreter and I realised it was something I was interested in," he said.
Despite his initial interest, he hesitated before deciding to take the degree plunge.
"It took me much consideration to go for the course. In my poly days, I did not do very well, so I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to finish the course if I took it," said the engineering diploma graduate.
He finally took up the course after deciding that he wanted to break out of his comfort zone.
He said his long career between polytechnic and university allowed him to truly discover what he wanted to study.
Today the Bachelor of Arts graduate is open to potential career options in the translation field.
"It is a new door of opportunities that I can explore."
Last week, it was proposed by the Government to make UniSIM Singapore's sixth autonomous university.
UniSIM would receive government funding and be subject to oversight, but it will still have flexibility to set its own direction.