President's Scholarship 2017

Blazing a trail for Sota

She dreamed of becoming a professional ballerina when she enrolled in the School of the Arts, Singapore (Sota) six years ago.

But along the way, while studying dance theory, Ms Cheri Wee Jin Ting became interested in how people behaved and thought.

"Somewhere around Year 3 or 4, I learnt that the arts is a lot more than performing on stage," said the 19-year-old, whose father is a civil servant and mother is a housewife. She has a younger brother.

"Dance involves theory, anatomy, history, physiology."

Ms Wee, 19, who is the first President's Scholar from Sota, will be reading psychology and philosophy at Oxford University in Britain.

"When I found out about Sota, it was a big moment for me. I spent a lot of time at the dinner table talking to my parents about why I wanted to join Sota," said Ms Wee, who is an alumna of Rosyth School's Gifted Education Programme.

She had joined the Chinese dance co-curricular activity in primary school, and would - of her own accord - watch videos of ballet on YouTube and read books on modern dance.

"Sota wasn't as established back then; no one had graduated (yet)... It was a leap of faith, to try something different," she said.

"Sota wasn't supposed to be a vocational arts school - it offers a breadth of experiences," said Ms Wee, adding that she is interested in writing dance reviews and will continue to watch dance performances abroad.

She was inspired to join the public service as she saw how her father, who works in the Ministry of Defence, found meaning in his work.

"It's not the knowledge of dance that will help so much... but studying dance alongside maths and science gave me a holistic view of issues. I think that's important for public servants - to keep an open mind and engage people of different backgrounds."

Amelia Teng

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2017, with the headline Blazing a trail for Sota. Subscribe