“There are many people who have helped me with my journey. The puzzling thing to me was why would people go all out to help others despite knowing they might not get anything in return,” shares Nelson Han Kian Ting, a recipient of the Rebeccca Sam Kwai Him Bursary at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Nelson was able to appreciate why people give selflessly when he met Mr Lam Kun Kin, the donor to his Bursary. “It was an eye-opening experience. Mr Lam was very humble and down to earth. He shared his reasons for setting up the Bursary. I was very touched and thankful to him for his generosity towards the University.”
Nelson’s journey to becoming a university undergraduate was not easy. He grew up in a single parent family. His mother worked long hours as a cleaner to make ends meet, so he often found himself alone. He started hanging out with secondary school dropouts and playing computer games. Unable to rise early for classes, he left school.
His grandfather was instrumental in getting Nelson’s life back on track. On his deathbed, he beseeched Nelson to return to school.
Today, Nelson is an Economics Major at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “I found my passion in Economics when taking a Diploma in Banking and Financial Services in poly,” explains Nelson. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in a treasury-related sector.
For Nelson, who from time to time takes on odd jobs, such as working as a waiter, to help with the family’s finances, the Bursary has made a huge impact. “My mother has not had many jobs recently and the Bursary came at the right time to alleviate any financial issues we might possibly face. My mother felt relieved, as she knew that there was a sum of money to tide me through my education.
“We know the Bursary is temporary relief so we keep on working as usual. However, it has helped us to cope better mentally as we do not need to be constantly reminded of how much money we would need to earn for me to continue studying,” he explains.
Nelson also went on an NUS Student Exchange Programme to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “A main factor of consideration was the money required. The cost of living over there is lower, so I chose it over other universities,” he admits. On the exchange, he took part in activities to help the local community, such as teaching English to the less fortunate.
What words of advice does Nelson have for future students who are worried about financing their studies? “I would encourage those who fear not being able to continue their studies to apply for bursaries. And, of course, please do not take these gifts for granted,” he says.