Since she was young, Ms Charlene Goh always dreamed of being a marine biologist.
"I've always been fascinated by the sea. Watching TV series such as River Monsters and Coyote Peterson: Brave the Wild also intensified my interest further," the 22-year-old says.
However, as she was weaker in math and science subjects at secondary school, Ms Goh pursued a diploma in Communications and Media Management (CMM) at Temasek Polytechnic instead. "It felt like the most logical step since I am better at languages," she explains.
Ms Goh performed well in her course and graduated in 2019, having produced a variety of content from experimental passion projects to commissioned work for clients while working at an entertainment agency. But she could not see communications as a life-long career, and remained drawn towards a career as a marine biologist. So she opted to take a leap of faith.
"I began thinking long and hard about my career path. I decided to pursue my interests instead of strengths, and to see how it would pan out," she says.
Fuelled by passion
Ms Goh did extensive research on relevant university courses, and found out about James Cook University's (JCU) Bachelor of Business and Environmental Science (Majoring in Aquaculture).
While attracted to JCU's stellar reputation and stimulating environment, and its top research professors and lab managers, she also liked how the university's relatively small intake for the aquaculture major creates several advantages such as smaller class sizes and more one-on-one attention from the professors.
The multi-disciplinary programme, which delves into business and environment and marine science, gives students the knowledge and skill to do both, broadening their career choices.
As Ms Goh was still concerned about the risks of making such a major switch from communications to aquaculture at tertiary level, she sought clarity about JCU's financial support options.
During a phone consultation on JCU's variety of scholarships, she learned that she could apply for the JCU Merit Scholarship. JCU awards Merit Scholarships to high calibre individuals with outstanding academic achievement and well-developed skills in critical thinking and creativity. Bond-free, it allows recipients the freedom to venture into different companies or industries.
The application process was a smooth sailing one. Within two weeks of submitting the relevant documents, she received the good news and visited the campus to accept the letter of offer.
Bolstered by good support
The financial support Ms Goh receives from the scholarship has cushioned the impact of rising tuition costs. Ms Goh is also able to devote more time and energy to her studies, instead of overloading her week earning her keep as a part-time barista.
She now has the time to participate in more service-learning and volunteer opportunities at university. For example, she volunteers at the James Cook University Aquaculture Lab where her responsibilities revolve around the changing and washing of filter socks, water parameter testing, cleaning aquaculture tanks and measuring the ABW (Average Body Weight) of fish-stock. Ms Goh also dissects fish and collects tissue samples, which gives her the opportunity to improve her motor skills and learn more about the different parts of a fish.
Optimistic about what the future brings
Ms Goh is excited about making her mark in the aquaculture industry. She notes that sustainability in Singapore has always been an important goal, and one of broad and current interest. With Singapore's "30 by 30" target set to raise its food self-production level from the current 10 per cent to 30 per cent of total food needs by 2030, aquaculture is a key means of strengthening food security.
Ms Goh believes programme modules such as Sustainable Aquaculture, Introduction to Environmental Economics and Aquaculture of Tropical Species have more than prepared her to take on such future sustainability challenges. "These modules have equipped me to adapt and change with the times, for the longevity of my future career," she adds.
Click here to apply for the JCU Merit Scholarship.