Aiming for Success

Former Mechatronics student, Leong Wai Kit, who graduated in May 2014, blogs about his 3- year journey in Temasek Polytechnic (TP), recalling some significant events – namely his involvement in Archery and the Overseas Community Project (OCP) he participated in – which have touched him and have had a positive impact on his life to this day.  

My stint in TP was indeed a long daunting journey.  First, was the choice of the diploma. After my ‘O’ levels, it was a tough call to make, because I knew my choice would determine my future.  In the end, I chose the Diploma in Mechatronics because it covered a wide range of subjects from automation, robotics, electronics, intelligent computer control and even aerospace, which would give me a broad based foundation and allow me to venture into many fields.  

The second daunting task was manoeuvring myself from one place to another when I first came into the School of Engineering.  Even after the Orientation, I still had no clue on how to get to my first class of the day, which required the best problem-solving skills I could muster.  Added to that was my fear of people.  I was an introvert then, so even though I was lost, I had no guts to approach anyone for help to get to the class. 

That was back then.  I somehow made my way to class and managed to overcome my fear of people and my self-confidence grew progressively.  I became more open and sociable, which is a good thing.  My course gave me many opportunities to work in groups and through this I learnt to speak up and I made many new friends as well.  Studying in TP has taught me that nothing is impossible, as long as you put your heart in it.  I felt a great sense of satisfaction when, in my 1st year of study, I was put on the Director’s List, our School’s roll of honour for the top 10% of academic achievers.  You reap what you sow.

My group of friends during Director’s List Award ceremony

The last of the difficulties I faced was in the choice of a Co-curricular Activity (CCA).  My inspiration came from – would you believe it – the movie, “Lord of the Rings”.  After observing how Orlando Bloom pins the many ruffians down with ease with the bows, I wanted to emulate him.  So I joined the TP Archery Club.  Boy, did I find it all pain and no glamour!  Handling the bow was a challenge in itself.  It took me many months of intense practice to get it right.  The seniors were shouting at us like drill instructors.  All that pain has paid off and well, although I still don’t shoot like Orlando Bloom, I would say that at least I can now handle a bow and arrow anytime, anywhere. 

Being in the Archery Club was very cool.  I mean, not many schools offer Archery as a CCA, not to mention allow you to handle the bow that soon!  Being in the Archery Club also allowed me to make many new friends from all over TP and I felt that it was the best CCA I had in my life.  We were like a big family together!  Although Archery is tough, we had our seniors to motivate and encourage us when we felt like giving up.  I have to admit, though, that it’s not like, you shoot the arrow and it hits the bull’s eye 10 out of 10 times!  Many times when my arrow did not strike the centre, or worse, it flew over or outside the whole target board, I felt horrible.  I felt that the CCA wasn’t for me, and wanted to give up and switch to another CCA with goals that are easier to achieve!  But I am very grateful for my seniors and coaches who urged me on.  Without them, I would probably never dare to watch another “Lord of the Rings” movie!

Team TP Archery Club

Another extremely memorable experience in TP was going for my first Overseas Community Project (OCP), dubbed “SOLAR 8”.  The OCP is an optional programme that students can join, whereby they perform community service in third world countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.  The OCP which I joined took me to Cambodia, under the banner of “Operation Hope Foundation”.  There, I carried out projects to improve the lives of the children, helping to install solar lighting in a village where electricity does not always run, and where water does not always flow when you turn on a tap.

During the trip, we learnt a whole lot from the village children there.  Having seen how these kids live life to the fullest kind of made me ashamed as a Singaporean.  We in Singapore do not know how fortunate we are to have such a high standard of living, and still complain about every single thing that does not go our way!  It would not be an exaggeration to say that we Singaporeans are indeed spoilt and pampered.  We are the “Strawberry Generation” as they call it.  Strawberries look fabulous but they are soft and get crushed easily.  In other words, nice on the outside, but not tough under pressure, and definitely not resilient, unlike tough people like these Cambodian kids.

I feel that in 3rd world countries such as Cambodia, the children there are much stronger – both emotionally and physically.  Through our interactions them, I realised that these simple-minded village children are easily satisfied and happy with what they have, despite having so little; whereas we in Singapore are often dissatisfied with what we have, despite having so much.

Playing games with the Cambodian children

One of our roles at the Cambodian village was to install solar powered lamps, which could store the energy from the sun during the day to provide lighting in the night.  This would definitely make life better for the villagers, as electricity is only available during specific hours each day, and even then, for a very short duration.  For us, it was a good learning experience as well, and I felt glad that I could put what I have learnt in my diploma course to good use in helping others. 

One of our first tasks was to find suitable locations to erect the lamppost and the solar cells to tap energy from sunlight, as it had to be a spot which had ample sunlight for most of the day.  After identifying the locations, we then installed the lighting, and connected the circuits.  After much troubleshooting and testing, the job was done! 

Testing the solar lighting

When it was time to leave, the villagers thanked us and even though it was hard work, I felt that the “Thank You” they gave made my day.  It was just a simple gesture, yet heart-warming.  I am not someone who is particularly crazy over kids, but the village children were oh-so-adorable and it was heart-wrenching when we had to part and say goodbye. 

I was really glad that I actually got a chance to go for this OCP with my friends.  Not only did I get to know new people from Cambodia, but I also got to know my fellow Engineering students better through working closely with them.  Despite the lack amenities and resources, of the comfort and bounty seen in Singapore, the villagers did their ultimate best to make us feel at home; their hospitality and sincerity was simply first class.  The experience in Cambodia was a lesson in humility for me.  I have realised that in everything that we do, we should never take anything for granted.  We should appreciate what we have, and treasure our family, friends, and those dear to us.  We should sit back and imagine… what if we no longer have them?  Similarly, any success that we encounter in life must not be taken for granted; instead, we should ask ourselves, “What have I done right to get this positive result?” and then strive to do it again so as to achieve further success.

Our OCP contingent from TP

Overall, my journey in TP was a journey filled with wonderful memories and inspiration that provides enough fuel to power me in my endeavours in the next phase of my life.  I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my parents for all they have done, for, without them, I would not be here today.

I leave with you a quote from Henry David Thoreau, which I hope will inspire you, just as it has inspired me: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.”

(Adapted from Leong Wai Kit’s valedictorian speech at Graduation 2014)

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