Mr Benjamin Chan is on a mission to put a smile on the faces of the elderly and help them feel less lonely.
Even though Covid-19 put a halt to many activities for students like Mr Chan – from lessons on campus, socialising with peers, and embarking on an adventurous semester overseas – the 24-year-old found ways to give back.
As his capstone project, the Singapore Management University (SMU) Global Impact Scholar and his team collaborated with a seniors’ care centre to create elderly-friendly instructional guides.
The project was a module under SMU-X, a university-wide programme where students take on real-world challenges by collaborating on projects with corporates, non-profit and government organisations. Such experiential learning modules are part of the curated core curriculum for Global Impact Scholars, which features two modules, designed to nurture a new generation of leaders who can solve complex global and local challenges and meaningfully impact society.
SMU scholars can curate their exchange experience by charting their own exchange destinations.
Due to social distancing measures, seniors at the care centre were required to stay at home. Unfortunately, their unfamiliarity with video-conferencing software meant that staff had limited opportunities to engage with them.
Mr Chan’s team also noticed that many seniors accidentally used mobile data instead of Wi-Fi for data-intensive activities such as video streaming and virtual chatting.
Thus, they came up with instructional guides for digital platforms, including WhatsApp, Zoom and Google Suite. They also created interactive mobile data calculators which recommended an optimal data package that took into account their usage patterns.
“Seeing their smiles made all the hard work worthwhile,” says Mr Chan. “The pandemic may have had massively unequal ramifications on different demographic groups, but we can collectively work towards a more inclusive society.”
As part of his scholarship, Mr Chan also got to visit Hua Tạt, a small mountain village in Vietnam, in 2019 to teach English and promote sustainable tourism.
A VIRTUAL EXCHANGE
The Bachelor of Business Management undergraduate at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business (SMU) says that the most difficult decision he had to make during the pandemic was cancelling his overseas exchange to Canada last year.
“I had drafted a detailed itinerary, only to miss out,” says Mr Chan. SMU scholars can “curate” their exchange experience by charting their own destinations and community service projects.
Even so, the two-time Dean’s Lister has managed to make the most of the situation by participating in a virtual student exchange, where alongside his SMU courses, he attended video classes at his host university.
In lieu of the exchange semester, he is channeling the scholarship’s overseas education fund to cover his Chartered Financial Analyst and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst certifications, which will complement his SMU degrees.
The scholar is concurrently working towards his Master of Science in Applied Finance as part of a combined degree programme that allows Global Impact Scholars to complete both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the same time. He also aspires to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in the future.
SURVIVING AND THRIVING
Despite the challenges wrought by the pandemic on his education, the cheerful Gen Zer remains upbeat.
“Virtual classes and work-from-home arrangements during my internships have saved me travelling time, which allowed me to pick up chess and table tennis as well as learn French,” he says.
In his three and a half years at SMU, Mr Chan has joined four co-curricular activities (CCAs) – an eSports club, a pool club, a student publication and a student managed investment fund – as well as six student camps. He hopes to join a sport-related CCA before graduating next July.
“Covid-19 has been tough on students,” he admits, with CCAs and gatherings – the “highlights of campus life” – cancelled, and projects and discussions brought online, limiting social interaction. However, Mr Chan says he is adjusting well to the new normal.
“However much we yearn for familiarity, it is imperative to accept change as part of our lives,” he says. “Adaptation is key. Successful people are the ones who get to grips with change the quickest.”
He dreams of one day setting up a charity foundation and offering scholarships for students like himself.
“I hope to be remembered for the positive change and impact I have made on others’ lives, and not by material achievements,” he says.
Visit admissions.smu.edu.sg/scholarships for more information.