As a Second Year National University of Singapore (NUS) student, Sneha Iyer sailed around the world with Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu along with more than 600 students from different countries. On her journey, she visited Ghana, South Africa and Vietnam, where she touched the lives of many children – from taking malnourished children to the doctor to taking care of those gravely affected by Agent Orange, a herbicide killer used during the Vietnam War. This invaluable experience was part of the Semester at Sea (SAS) programme, a multiple-country study abroad programme that offers hands-on experience and meaningful engagement in the global community. Currently, NUS is the only educational institution in Singapore that enjoys this partnership with SAS.
Now a Final Year student at NUS Business School, Sneha, a Dean’s Scholarship recipient, says, “The Scholarship has enabled me to participate in exchange programmes and save up for my Masters. I have had the opportunity to take part in international programmes – such as going to the US for conferences and India for internships. I also went to Cambodia as part of a class. These were all very good learning opportunities.”
Scholarships recognise and enable the academic achievements of NUS’ most promising students. Gifts to scholarships help NUS attract the best and brightest and offer them the opportunities and experiences that mould them into tomorrow’s outstanding leaders and citizens. Since 2005, NUS has been increasing the number of scholarships it awards. In 2011, NUS awarded 1,242 scholarships thanks partly to private support, up from 375 in 2005. In addition, the Singapore government offers 1.5:1 matching for gifts to scholarships, furthering the impact of gifts.
Sneha says, “I think the best experience NUS has offered me is the Semester at Sea. It gave me the opportunity to meet and work with people living in under-privileged conditions. It let me understand the consequences of globalisation and has opened my mind to a lot of things.”
During her round-the-world trip, Sneha obtained the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and respected academics to start an Amnesty International Club to educate people on human rights issues. She also conducted a write-a-thon – where students were encouraged to write letters to either governments to petition against human rights abuse or to political prisoners to encourage them – in conjunction with Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest. The write-a-thon garnered more than 300 letters and was nominated by Amnesty International as one of the most unique write-a-thons of that year.
Archbishop Tutu was so impressed with Sneha’s efforts that he invited her to be present when he spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi on the phone following her release. Sneha says, “That moment gave me immense happiness. I am very proud of the small impact that I have been able to make in people’s lives. Many students I met during SAS have gone back to their home universities and joined Amnesty there. They have continued to be passionate about human rights issues.”
About her plans for the future, Sneha says, “My dream job would be to work for an international organisation such as the African Development Bank, UNDP, World Bank, Gates Foundation or UNICEF doing development work.”
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