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A champion for the downtrodden

It can feel challenging trying to keep up with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) final-year student Celine Koh. The Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours) undergraduate at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information keeps her schedule filled with activities she loves — photography, graphic design, sports and travelling.

But no matter how busy the Meridian Junior College alumna gets, she always makes time for volunteer work.
Over her four years at NTU, the NTU-University Scholars Programme (NTU-USP) scholar has undertaken an array of tasks such as taking care of students from social service organisation FILOS Community Services; cleaning up the homes of elderly in Lengkok Bahru estate; and helping to prepare teaching materials for refugees at the Fugee School in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Globetrotting education

Ms Koh, 22, is grateful for the many opportunities NTU-USP has provided her to delve into volunteerism and hone her leadership skills.

In addition to serving in posts such as a senior group mentor of Travel Overseas Programme for Scholars
(TOPS) and director of publicity and public relations of the NTU-USP Club, she also took part in the 2018 University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss global humanitarian issues with scholars from other countries.

“The symposium opened my eyes to the social issues that neighbouring countries are facing and how privileged I am as a Singaporean. It fuelled my interest in bringing about social change and led me to volunteer more back home,” Ms Koh says.

In her fourth year in university, she was nominated to represent NTU-USP in the Association of Pacific Rim
Universities Undergraduate Leaders’ Programme 2019 in Oregon in the United States. The two-week conference tackled health, environment and inequality challenges faced by local community agencies.

Ms Koh was involved in leadership training, skills development workshops and a hands-on research-based study with 50 other students from 13 countries. Her group clinched the first prize for an action plan to resolve education inequality in the local community.

“I left the programme feeling empowered to take on similar social dilemmas in Singapore,” she says.

One of Ms Koh’s favourite modules under the scholarship programme is Displaced Communities, Education and Opportunities, where she learnt more about displaced communities overseas and even interacted with former refugees over Skype.

She feels that the programme enables one to experience a wide array of modules from other disciplines and
develops one into an adaptable global citizen with critical thinking skills.

To new NTU-USP scholars, she advises: “Make the best of your scholarship experience by seizing every opportunity that knocks on your door. Be willing to step up to lead and serve others even if it may seem daunting, participate in soft-skills workshops that are offered and do not be afraid to question and challenge yourself.”