Chandra joined Warwick in October 2016 as one of our first Singapore Trust scholars. Follow his blog below to find out how he's getting on!
Oh, how time flies! It seemed like just last week that I was writing the last blog post about looking forward to Term 3 and graduation season, and here we are already. This term, I have not only studied for exams, but it has also seen me confirm my post-graduation plans, both for my career and leisure.
While I have been through 2 previous exam seasons at Warwick, this year has been significantly different (read: tougher). Having to prepare for 7 exams, all of which were harder than the modules in previous years was challenging enough - but the various changes in timetabling took it to the next level. Regardless, I worked on setting out a clear study plan with allowance for changes, and that helped me cope. This exam season has not only challenged me to work more efficiently, it has also taught me to surround myself with the right company. Especially in final year, many of my friends took different modules from me, so I decided to study with other peers who were more talented academically, and that helped me keep myself on track. I am thankful for these study mates as it reminded me that I was not alone amidst this exam season. Ultimately, the exam season came, and just like that it ended - voilà, I was finally done with exams!
During the exam season, I also continued to focus on my job applications, as I wanted to have concrete post-summer plans. I am elated to say that I have been offered a job in London, at one of the firms I most wanted to work with. I am thankful for all the friends and seniors who have helped in any way by giving advice, or looking over my cover letters. More than anything, the moral support that I have had has been monumental, and I look forward to doing the same for my juniors. There is now the whole excitement of looking forward to living in London, which is a dream come true for me! Now, my biggest worry is where to travel with my family after graduation ceremony - an entirely different set of problems than before.
My time in Warwick has been an absolutely blessed one, and I cannot be more grateful for the scholarship which has given me this opportunity to make my university experience the best one that I could ask for. I have had laughter, made tons of new friends/ memories, and even had tough times, but when all is said and done, it has definitely been an unforgettable and unique experience. To think that I have now joined the ranks of the alumni of The University of Warwick gives me great pride and joy, and I cannot think of a better way to end my Undergraduate experience. Till next time!
The saying goes, 'in a blink of an eye', and that is exactly how I would describe this spring term. In the past 3 months, besides focusing on academics and career plans, I found the time to travel and spend time with friends new and old, and all around had the best end to an academic term I could ask for.
In December, I was fortunate enough to get the chance to visit the city of ROme, as well as Naples (the birth place of pizza!). Being a massive foodie myself, I chose to go with friends who appreciated food as much as I did - it turned out to be one of the best experiences in my life to date. Rome boasted so much beautiful architecture, and Naples simply was home to the best pizza that money could buy. One commonality between both Rome and Naples was the kindness that our Airbnb hosts showed us. In Rome, Luca, an architecture academic at the University of Rome, was more than happy to put aside his work and check in on us or just chat with us about our day - he chatted with us for a couple of hours the first time he met us and and we did not even notice time pass by. In Naples, Jeanette redefined hospitality for us from start to finish. From accompanying us to the supermarket (even though she was in a hurry to get home to have dinner with her family), to negotiating with the pizzeria to get us our order earlier than others and giving us a mini tour of the area, she practically treated us like family. The lesson I took away from this, an impactful one, was that who you are does not matter so much as how you treat the people around you.
Throughout the term, I was also fortunate enough to be able to reconnect with friends, both new and old.
Since I attended Warwick's MNight last year, I decided to expand my cultural exposure by attending the MNight in Leeds instead this year. It was such a great experience to watch friends perform with their heart and soul. While watching the show, I found myself appreciating the effort put into the show so much more because of my involvement in the Warwick Singapore Society production for the past two years, both on stage and offstage. Without it, I doubt I would have recognized the beautiful nuances of the play, and for this I am thankful.
Further down the term, I took the chance to attend a close friend's birthday at a Michelin-starred restaurant in London. Between the ambience of the private dining room, the staff who waited on us hand and foot, and most importantly the exquisitely prepared dishes, Dinner by Heston proved to be quite the fine dining experience, especially since it was my first. The famous tipsy cake (a dessert cake with spit roast pineapple) and the triple cooked chips did not disappoint, and I would definitely go back for just those dishes, if nothing else.
Most importantly, I was happy to host a couple of close friends who were on exchange in UK/Germany and who came to visit me! I first met these friends through either JC/National Service, and it was nice to see all of them come back to visit. It made me think deeply about the quality of friendships that I forge in university as well. The networks I build here will definitely be beneficial for me in the future, because where else can I find people who are interested in extremely different things, yet be on perfectly amiable terms with all of them? If I ever needed to know more about a wide variety of subjects, my friends from university would naturally be the ones I would go to, and this has inspired me to continue building strong networks.
I mentioned earlier that I had the best academic term I could ask for. With a grand CNY celebration, a second visit to the scenic city of Barcelona to indulge in its food and people, and most recently the screening of Army Daze 2 by the Warwick Singapore Society, how could I describe it otherwise? Not only am I determined to not take this rich experience for granted, I am also determined to make the most of whatever time I have left in university and enjoy the peaceful campus/student life. This spring, I am truly looking forward to taking a break from the hectic pace, and then consolidating my knowledge for the summer exams. While it has been a busy yet fulfilling term, I welcome this break with open arms and am eagerly looking forward to graduation!
Term 1 of my final year has been one of the toughest ones I've had to go through, simply in terms of balancing academic workload and non-academic commitments, including job applications. Yet I cannot help but be grateful for the challenges that have come my way - as cliche as it may sound, I truly believe that that diamonds are only created under pressure. Through every experience I have only learnt and sharpened my problem-solving/time-management/critical thinking skills.
The first obstacle that I had to face (and currently am still facing) is the job application process. After answering countless motivational questions and taking various data interpretation/logic and reasoning tests, it can be very draining to have to go through the same process for each firm that I apply to. It definitely does not get better when the rejections come pouring in, sometimes even within minutes of having completed tests and video interviews. However, one thing that this has taught me is to persist, and to focus on working within my circle of influence, rather than worrying about the things outside of my circle of influence. It has also taught me that the outcome of situations is 20% based on what actually happens, and 80% based on how I respond to the situation. These push me to focus and do better every time. As I continue to apply for jobs, both in London and in Singapore, this will be at the back of my mind.
The next set of obstacles that I have had to face came from my sole non-academic commitment, AIESEC. At the start of the academic term, I had to organize a recruitment drive, complete with an assessment centre, in order to cherry-pick the students who we thought would best fit into and contribute to the organization. This in itself was pretty stressful, but this had to happen while 3 of my 4 Vice-Presidents had stepped down, for various reasons. It took a lot of willpower and determination to scramble together a new team (releasing applications, encouraging current members to step up and take on leadership positions within my team, interviewing, and then finally selecting them!), guide them throughout their transition process to learn about their roles, AND to carry out a successful recruitment and onboarding process.
However, bit by bit, we managed to introduce some structure into our teams, and set some basic rules for us all to follow such that our teams function effectively. It got to the point where I also managed to find a successor for my own position as Local Committee President. We even had such a huge member base that we did a Christmas dinner with a Secret Santa gift exchange - nothing could have made me feel warmer that night than knowing that this community was built by my own effort and by my very own team.
Throughout this whole process, the one thought that has kept me going is the fact that if I was not able to deal with this scale of problems at this stage, how would I be able to deal with larger, more complex problems in the workplace? This experience has taught me so much more about personal management and team management than I would have thought possible, and I could not be more thankful.
Of course, my term has not only been full of obstacles - I've managed to build closer relationships with many more groups of friends! Over the reading week break, I travelled with a bunch of friends to Amsterdam, to attend my first-ever music festival. Amsterdam is a beautiful country, and I was glad to have had the opportunity to explore it with my friends in a chill setting.
Halloween and Christmas were also both great opportunities to bond with my housemates - all of us dressed up as inmates escaped from prison, complete with cuffs and masks! We also managed to cook a massive Christmas roast - we enjoyed a wide selection of dishes, including roast vegetables, cauliflower and cheese, and a variety of roast meats.
I was also in the UK while my family celebrated Deepavali back home. So I grabbed a bunch of friends who missed home as much as I did and cooked a massive Deepavali feast.
Although it has been one of my toughest terms at Warwick, I believe strongly in playing as hard as I work - as I type this paragraph, I am sitting in the balcony of my Airbnb in Marsaskala, Malta, enjoying the cool 17-degree breeze while sipping on a mojito, and of course, munching on some authentic Italian pizza. I love travelling, and everytime I get the opportunity to do so and wind down, I am greatly thankful for the opportunities that have been offered to me and the challenges that I have had to overcome to be where I am and to be who I am today. It has truly been a great start to my final year at Warwick, and I cannot wait to be home with my family for Christmas!
So much has happened since I last updated my blog. Besides sitting for my penultimate year exams, I got work experience in the form of summer internships, and also travelled to a couple of places. This summer was rather unique as I spent time not only back home with friends and family, but also in London, and that was quite the experience! It was also a summer of many firsts for me.
Firstly, I did a month-long internship with Tolaram Group at their HQ in Singapore, under the Group Finance Manager, Sampada. Truly a global conglomerate, they manage 19 brands and have business in 75 companies, ranging from industries like FMCG, real estate, textiles, and even financial services. This was a truly enriching experience, as it was my first work experience besides army and teaching tuition to younger kids, and also one that was a lot more aligned with my career plans. The bulk of the work I did with Tolaram Group came from learning how to analyze the accounts of Tolaram group's subsidiary companies, and it was fascinating to see the things that I learn in university being employed practically in the working world.
However, it was not all work and no play - beyond doing birthday celebrations every last Friday of the month, Tolaram Group also invited everyone to watch a football match live (Arsenal vs PSG) as a company cohesion event. As it was my first time ever watching a match, you can only imagine how excited I was to attend with my colleagues. Needless to say, we had a great time and it was definitely an event to remember!
My next internship was in London, with Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), an education technology company. They are known globally for releasing the annual QS university rankings, something that I myself referred to extensively while deciding which university to apply to. As such, it felt really satisfying to do an internship with them - in my time there, I understood what other services they provide, besides just having a platform for rankings. As a company that is committed to helping motivated people achieve their fullest potential through educational achievement and career mobility, I can entirely relate to their mission and as such, it was highly meaningful to have worked there. The bulk of the work I did came from producing a business development report regarding the restructuring of their sales divisions, and the subsequent ramifications to the company. Being personally mentored by the COO of the company, Peter MacDonald, was an eye-opening experience as I got the unique opportunity of shadowing him at meetings with other heads of departments as well as the CEO. For a company with a massive annual revenue of £20 million, I expected much more of a hierarchical structure, but that was not my experience when I was there, and I am really thankful for that. I can safely say that everyone in my team (and even those in other teams) took it upon themselves to welcome me and make me feel at home during my month at QS.
Across both internships, I believe that what I learnt and applied the most was how important it was to work in a team - I realized that even if one person in a team slips up, someone else in the team is usually there to pick up the slack. by building this atmosphere of encouragement, there is no leaving anybody behind and everyone grows and develops together. It was also beautiful to see that employers cared for the employees beyond just whatever work is done in the office, and instead took the effort to bond with each other outside of office hours. Furthermore, it was enlightening to speak to people who were very far into their careers, and to hear their piece on how I should approach my own career. It was also insightful to hear from them what they would have done differently, given a choice - it forced me to question and reconsider my own career plans.
My brother also graduated this summer from National University of Singapore (NUS), obtaining a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy! My family and I could not be more proud of him for blazing the trail when it comes to education, and in more ways than one, he has been a role-model figure to me as well.
When I attended his graduation ceremony, and listened to him talk about his career plans, it inspired me to get my own plans in shape too. It was also an excellent exercise in visualizing my own graduation ceremony, and how I want to feel when I get there.
I have also been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to travel quite a bit this past year. Visiting friends in new places has always been an exciting prospect for me, and this time, I visited Bath and Bristol in the UK. In Bath, besides the beautiful old buildings, we also visited the eponymous Bath Spa - with 8 different rooms and different effects in each one of them, it was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Bristol, we visited the Clifton Suspension bridge - situated 75m above ground, it was built in 1864, and still stands sturdy as a toll bridge, an incredible feat, and an iconic sign native to Bristol.
Right before the academic term began, I also attended the Summer President's Meeting (SPM) in Glasgow, Scotland, in the capacity of Local Committee President of AIESEC in Warwick. This was amazing as it gave me the opportunity to catch up with my buddies from other universities who have gone through the same obstacles as me over summer - ultimately it gave me an avenue to release stress and reflect on my experience.
Recently, Iffah, Hayati and myself were also invited for a photoshoot by the Warwick Scholars' Programme for the official website - there could not have been a better way to mark this milestone, the end of second year. I'm really excited to have Jade with us in the next photoshoot.
Now that I'm back at Warwick for my third, and final year, I find myself reflecting a lot more on my time in the UK - I've made tons of new friends, gained a new perspective towards higher education abroad, and also managed to expand my worldview (and of course, tick some items off the bucket list) through travelling! But I've also learnt a lot about my own strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and that has been an invaluable experience.
Within the first few days of being back at Warwick, Iffah, Hayati and myself arranged to meet Jade for a quick dinner amidst settling back into our routines. While it was a quick dinner, it felt so satisfying to catch up and hear the interesting stories that everyone had to share from their summer! I also find myself looking upon the younger scholars with much pride and reminiscence when I hear their thrilling plans for the year ahead - having been in their shoes before, I'm more than happy to help give advice and tips as and when necessary.
That being said, I am definitely looking forward to making the most of my last year at university - I cannot wait to see how this year will unfold, and what new experiences this year will bring me.
This spring term, I have been challenged to stretch my capacity further than I ever have been before, and still it has been one of the most enjoyable terms yet.
My first challenge was coming to terms with my new position in AIESEC as Local Committee President, on 1 February 2018. Having to face an entirely new set of challenges and working with a new team, I called for a team trip to Brighton. Doubling as a bonding-planning trip, it was the first trip for all of us and Brighton did not disappoint - we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! I could not be prouder to have chosen and to lead a team of such capable individuals – we are definitely looking forward to what we can achieve together for the rest of our term.
Furthermore, the presidents of the other AIESEC entities in the UK have been extremely encouraging and supportive of one another, and I am grateful for such a group of people. With time, it has been rather easy to see that going through a similar set of challenges with very different perspectives and action steps can yield a totally different set of results, and I am thankful that I am able to capitalize on their knowledge and experience as well. While we get along extremely well (all 20 if us), the only downside is that our only touchpoints are at National Conferences and National President’s Summits, where we share our thoughts, concerns, successes and failures!
The next major challenge was to ensure that the Singsoc Annual Production ran on smoothly, and that none of the behind the scenes administrative work was compromised. As much as everyone had their own busy schedules, it was extremely heartwarming to see all members of the cast and crew pull out all stops to ensure that we put up a show that we can be proud of. From organizing meetings just to memorize lines to prop suggestions, I’m happy to say that the cast truly supported each other and enjoyed themselves - one of my main aims for them this year. On the day of production, a cast member, Joshua, came up to me and said something that meant a lot to me: “Chandra, I honestly think I am going to miss being a part of production. What else am I supposed to do on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at 7pm?”. Same sentiments here, Josh.
“Those Who Can’t, Teach” is a uniquely Singaporean play about the challenges faced in being a teacher as well as a student, and questions the audience as to what it truly means to teach. Centred around quality education, an issue that I sincerely believe in, it was certainly intriguing, emotional, and entertaining all at once, and I am proud to have produced it in my capacity as Cultural Officer for Warwick Singapore Society.
Along the same vein, I also attended the annual Malaysian Night (abbreviated as MNight), and it was truly a feast for the eyes. With cultural dances, talented singers, and even a modern element of rap, the play inculcated a highly futuristic theme and posed questions about national identity and friendship, which brought the audience through a thought-provoking journey.
However, wanting to make the most of the halfway mark of my university experience, I also attended other events as a delegate – first of which was the Warwick ASEAN Conference 2018. With numerous high-profile speakers, such as Dr. Sophal Ear (Associate Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs at Occidental College, Los Angeles) and HE Ms Foo Chi Hsia (Singapore High Commissioner to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), it was interesting to see their perspective on the ASEAN region in terms of economics and politics. I was also fortunate enough to land a spot in the case study lunch workshop with Maybank, informally pitching a business idea over lunch. Being the largest student run conference on ASEAN in Europe, it attracted students from all over UK, and it was nice to catch up with some friends who attended the conference too!
TEDxWarwick 2018 was another event that I attended, listening to speakers on a wide range of topics, including self-confidence and image issues (Harnaam Kaur, the first lady in the world to have a full beard), gender inequality (Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, a CEO of a leading global gender consultancy firm), and many more! As always, the content brought up was great food for thought and I am excited for next year’s event!
After having been through this gruelling term, I am looking forward to the spring break – as I write this, I am at a café in Lisbon with a group of friends. I cannot wait for the rest of the break. Till then.