President's Scholarship

Ex-Sota student feels right at home in navy

President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, with this year's President's Scholarship recipients (from far left) Allison Tan Sue Min; Siow Mein Yeak, Yue; John Chua Je En; and Muhammad Dhafer Muhammad Faishal at the Istana
President Halimah Yacob and her husband, Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee, with this year's President's Scholarship recipients (from far left) Allison Tan Sue Min; Siow Mein Yeak, Yue; John Chua Je En; and Muhammad Dhafer Muhammad Faishal at the Istana yesterday.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

19-year-old President's Scholarship recipient embraces sense of belonging in armed forces

Many people may feel that joining the Republic of Singapore Navy after studying dance at the School of the Arts (Sota) is a huge leap.

But not for Midshipman (MID) Allison Tan Sue Min, a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) scholarship holder who received the President's Scholarship alongside three others at the Istana yesterday.

The 19-year-old said that once as a young dancer in primary school, she watched a group of dancers huddle nervously backstage before a performance and she was touched by the sense of belonging and closeness. "I found that same spirit in the navy," she explained.

Her interest in the SAF was piqued after reading about it in a scholarship guide, despite growing up without much exposure to the SAF as she has only one younger sister. She signed up for several engagement events by the SAF.

At the Mindef Experience Programme in June last year, a speech by one of the commanders left a deep impression on her. "He came up and said, 'I'm not going to convince you to sign on; in fact, I'm going to tell you all the reasons you should not sign on,' " she said.

At the end of the speech, he told the attendees that if they could look past those reasons and still find the drive to serve the cause, then the SAF was for them, she said.

MID Tan will be studying international relations in a four-year integrated master's programme at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, beginning next year.

Four 19-year-olds received the President's Scholarship at the Istana yesterday. Ms Allison Tan Sue Min is a dancer from the School of the Arts who has joined the navy, while Mr Siow Mein Yeak, Yue (third from left), from Victoria Junior College, will
FOUR STUDENTS RECEIVE PRESIDENT'S SCHOLARSHIP: Four 19-year-olds received the President's Scholarship at the Istana yesterday. Ms Allison Tan Sue Min is a dancer from the School of the Arts who has joined the navy, while Mr Siow Mein Yeak, Yue (third from left), from Victoria Junior College, will study mechanical engineering at Imperial College London. Meanwhile, Mr John Chua Je En (left), from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), and Mr Muhammad Dhafer Muhammad Faishal, from Raffles Institution, credited their fathers for their decisions to join the public service. Mr Chua's father runs a social service agency, while Mr Dhafer's is an MP. The President's Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate scholarship offered by the Public Service Commission. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The other President's Scholarship recipients this year include Mr John Chua Je En, 19, from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and Mr Muhammad Dhafer Muhammad Faishal, 19, from Raffles Institution, both of whom will be pursuing the liberal arts in the United States. Mr Chua will be heading to Harvard University this year, while Mr Dhafer will attend Stanford University.

Mr Siow Mein Yeak, Yue, 19, from Victoria Junior College, will be studying mechanical engineering at Imperial College London in Britain, starting this year.

Both Mr Chua and Mr Dhafer said their fathers played a role in their decisions to join the public service.

 
 
 

Mr Chua's father has been running social service agency New Hope Community Services, which helps the homeless here, for more than two years now. "He would go out on night walks at 2am to find rough sleepers," said Mr Chua. "There are so many people with urgent needs in the community and (I feel) I cannot live for myself."

Mr Dhafer learnt the importance of ground engagement in policymaking after seeing the work done by his father, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education and Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, and grassroots leaders.

"I learnt from my dad that even though the work is tough, especially in terms of policymaking, that not everyone may agree with you and the policies you are creating, it's really about the purpose you're going in with and the kind of impact (there is) on people," he said.

President Halimah Yacob, in her speech at the scholarship ceremony yesterday, said: "Our forefathers helped to build a strong foundation and we have benefited from it. Now it is your turn to play a role in helping Singapore forge ahead for the next 200 years."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-Sota student feels right at home in navy'. Print Edition | Subscribe