Make new friends, learn about other cultures and countries to broaden your horizons: Lawrence Wong

DPM Lawrence Wong (on screen, centre) at a virtual event titled "Singapore @ Home" on Aug 6, 2022. PHOTO: LAWRENCE WONG/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Having the opportunity to go abroad for a semester or a year as a student brings exposure that is tremendously useful, especially at a young age, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Saturday (Aug 6).

"You can make new friends, learn about new cultures and understand more about other countries to broaden your horizons," he said.

Mr Wong was speaking at Singapore@Home 2022, a virtual event organised by the Singapore Global Network to celebrate National Day with overseas Singaporeans.

The network is part of the Economic Development Board, and aims to connect with and engage Singaporeans around the world.

In the Ask Me Anything segment held via video call, Mr Wong answered questions from several people tuning in to the show.

Mr Noel Ng, who returned from Australia in 2019 and is chief operating officer at a law firm here, asked him if he had any regrets studying overseas, and if he had any tips for Singaporeans studying abroad.

Mr Wong said Singaporeans should find chances to do a stint abroad as students, if possible. He noted that there are now more opportunities for local students to spend a semester overseas on exchange programmes.

The minister also said he gave up the chance to pursue law at the National University of Singapore so that he could study in the United States.

His experiences abroad included busking with his American roommate while he was studying economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a Public Service Commission scholarship.

"When I was a young boy, I had never travelled further than Malaysia. I had not seen the world, and anyone at that age wants to see the world... I applied for an overseas scholarship and thought that this was the chance of a lifetime," said Mr Wong.

Ms Rikhi Roy, a systems safety engineer who is working in the US, asked Mr Wong what his vision was for Singaporean communities - both at home and abroad - as the world heals from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Wong said the pandemic has shown that it is the "shared humanity" of Singaporeans that binds them together.

He said the global community is living in a world that is "increasingly uncertain, fractured, turbulent".

"We should hold on to that commonality and strengthen that sense of solidarity when dealing with any challenges that we face as the people of Singapore," he added.

The show, spanning more than five hours, was hosted by actor and comedian Hossan Leong and actress Siti Khalijah, with live music performances by Taufik Batisah, Joanna Dong, Kartik Kuna, Annette Lee and Benjamin Kheng.

There were short films about Singaporeans who have ventured abroad to pursue their dreams and interactive games on Singapore trivia.

The show will be available on demand until the end of Tuesday (Aug 9). Those interested can register at this website.

Mr Andre Ong, 39, who works in business development in Indonesia, asked Mr Wong for his thoughts on the National Day Parade.

Mr Wong said he looks forward to this year's parade, which will be the first full-scale celebration after two years of muted activities.

"I think there's tremendous pent-up demand just to come out and celebrate and be with one another," he said.

He also had a few words for overseas Singaporeans joining the show, and thanked them for joining in the celebrations.

"I just want you to know that wherever you are, anywhere in the world, you will always have a special place in Singapore, you are always going to be a part of our Singapore family," he said.

"Always remember that you are a valuable member of the Singapore family. And we look forward to your many contributions to shaping Singapore's future together."

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