My parents became bankrupt when I was very young.
My dad is rather entrepreneurial but his businesses failed often. From a young age, I was always told by my parents that they had no money, so I learnt not to ask for things.
I was in Secondary 2 when I got my first job during the school holidays, selling shoes to earn $7 an hour. I made $200 to $300 during that short stint and I gave my family a treat by taking them to a meal at a zi char eatery. It cost $50.
That was a big sum of money to me, but my dad said I had to give my family a treat with my earnings. I saved the rest.
I'm the second of four children. I would always work during the school holidays so that I could earn some money.
In my first year at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), my dad left us. I thought he wouldn't do this to us, but he cut off all ties with my family and me.
I felt anxious and lost and we didn't know what to do. My mum wasn't working then and she became depressed. Later, she found a job as a promoter at supermarkets to pay the household bills.
It was the most difficult time of my life. I thought my dad would always be there for us but I learnt that we cannot depend on others.
I told myself that there was no use crying. I started working as a waitress. In my first year at NYP, I worked 20 hours a week and I used my salary to pay my school fees. I had no time to go out with friends. No time for TV or computer games. My only leisure activity was sleep.
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I worried about how to pay my school fees, which cost about $1,300 a year. I was studying hospitality and tourism management.
I told myself that there was no use crying. I started working as a waitress. In my first year at NYP, I worked 20 hours a week and I used my salary to pay my school fees.
I had no time to go out with friends. No time for TV or computer games. My only leisure activity was sleep.
I didn't feel I was missing out on a lot but I felt envious when I saw my friends go on holidays every year. To them, $2 was nothing, but it was a lot of money for me. Some people think I'm money-minded but they don't understand what I have been through.
But at least I still had a roof over my head. And I was building my own foundation to get ahead in life.
My only indulgence was a $1.80 cup of bubble tea once a week. Having something good to eat makes me happy.
To keep myself going, I would google motivational quotes like "determination wouldn't fail you" and "don't let your problems limit you".
Shortly after my dad left, I thought of quitting school to work and help my mum with the household expenses. But I knew that if I didn't have a diploma, I couldn't get a better job.
So I finally asked my course manager at NYP for help. I was afraid that I would burn out and not be able to keep up with my studies if I had to work as much as I did.
Just asking opened so many doors. I received bursaries from the Government and NTUC Income OrangeAid. I was also awarded a scholarship from Mainly I Love Kids, a charity. The bursaries and scholarship took a huge weight off my shoulders and covered my school fees and expenses.
In fact, I have not asked my mum for an allowance since I was 17 years old. Now, I can give her some money to help cover the household expenses.
Once I didn't have to work and worry about money so much, I started to volunteer as a tutor to children from poor families under the Chinese Development Assistance Council. I wanted to give back. After all, all the bursaries had helped me.
Last year, I graduated second in my cohort of 167 students.
I also won a bond-free scholarship from ARA Asset Management to study business management at Singapore Management University (SMU). I started on my degree at SMU in August last year and it has been stressful but enriching at the same time.
I'm also working as a part-time private tutor to earn some money to cover my expenses and to contribute to my family. I don't want to have any excuses not to do my best. When I look back, I'm very proud that I braved the storm.