SINGAPORE - A hospital visit when she was in primary school inspired Ms Gayatthiri Ramesh to become a medical professional.
After watching healthcare workers in scrubs attending to her mother, the Cedar Primary School pupil had the dream of working in a hospital when she grew up. She even dressed up as a doctor for show-and-tell at school.
During the circuit breaker last year, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) student took the leap and secured a seat in Republic Polytechnic's (RP) Pharmaceutical Science diploma course through the Early Admissions Exercise (EAE), impressing the admissions team with her conviction and hard work.
Getting into the programme at RP was a long-held dream for the 20-year-old, who was not able to join ITE's nursing course after her N-Level examinations in 2016.
Back then, Ms Gayatthiri was offered the Nitec in Info-Communications Technology (Cloud Computing) course and it left her feeling disheartened.
"I saw my cousins go off to polytechnic and I felt left behind. I also did not have an interest in the Infocomm course but my mother encouraged me to give it a try," she said.
Ms Gayatthiri made the most of her time at ITE, joining the student council and embarking on community service projects, including an overseas school-building stint in Nepal.
While she put her dreams on the back burner and focused on her studies, she still found herself drawn to medicine.
She watched medical documentaries and played an active role in caring for her grandmother, a seizure patient.
"I realised that the reason I was so attracted to medicine was that I wanted to help my family, and those from underprivileged backgrounds, who deserve good care and treatment," she said.
In the second year of her two-year Higher Nitec in IT Applications Development course, Ms Gayatthiri applied for the EAE.
She also got to work on a dream chart, noting all the steps that would eventually lead to the National University of Singapore's medicine programme, and becoming a paediatric surgeon.
The most memorable moment of the admission process was when she was asked to name two medical drugs and their uses during her interview at RP.
"I named Anarex, which is used to treat pain and body aches and Keppra, my grandmother's seizure medication. I remember the interviewers were quite amazed I knew about such details despite my educational background," she said.
In September last year, she was finally offered a place at RP.
"When I saw the admission outcome, I had a complete breakdown - but one of joy. My family was so supportive when I told them, because they knew how much this meant to me after years of struggling," she said.
Even as she steps into a new chapter of her life and begins classes at RP on Monday (April 19), Ms Gayatthiri is mindful she has fulfilled only half of the goals on her dream chart.
She said: "I still have the other half to work towards. I want to advise others like me, who may be holding back from their dreams, to go for it. The journey may not be as direct as you think and it may take you some time, but you can achieve what you want if you put your mind to it."