Are grades the be all and end all of the poly experience? Or is there even more to explore beyond GPA scores? With their keen passion to learn, many poly students often take learning into their own hands through Overseas Community Involvement Projects, Design Thinking activities and other SP offerings. In the process, they gain invaluable experiences, enrichment and exposure.
Learning Goes Beyond the Classroom
Micah Lee, a student from the School of Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering and SP Engineering scholar, believes that learning means actively seeking out opportunities beyond the classroom
Learning is always a journey, and often, you’ll find that it leads you far beyond the classroom.
That’s the view of Micah Lee, a final year Mechanical Engineering student in the School of Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering. He is an SP Engineering scholar and also in the Singapore Polytechnic Outstanding Talent (SPOT) Programme.
He feels that “learning and studying are polar opposites. And my learning is my responsibility.”
This is why, above and beyond his diploma modules, Micah passionately seeks out new learning opportunities through SP’s numerous programmes. For instance, at the end of his first year in SP, in 2012, Micah signed up for SP’s Overseas Community Involvement Project (OCIP) programme.
His project saw him head to the war-ravaged northern part of Sri Lanka, and he will never forget a deeply scarring experience he encountered while there. On a field trip, he visited a school and orphanage for rescued child prostitutes. The conditions there were deplorable. They were living, cramped and huddled up, in a converted chicken coop. During lesson time, groups of students had to share a pen for their class work. Yet, Micah shares that they still managed to top their region in the A-levels exam.
“I came back from Sri Lanka with a better understanding of what it means to have a purpose in life. If there is something you want to do very much and you have the determination, put your mind to it. You will realise you can achieve your goal, and more.”
Micah’s passion to seek out new learning opportunities intensified after that trip. He was eager to expand his horizons even more, and he successfully applied for SP’s inaugural Youth Creativity, Innovation and Sustainable Leadership (YCISL) workshop, which was held in the hallowed halls of Stanford University in California.
Not one to waste such a precious experience, he made every effort to network and build relationships with the Stanford community, all on top of applying himself fully at the workshop. These efforts so impressed the professor there that when the next workshop was planned in 2013, the professor personally invited Micah back to help out as a Teaching Assistant, all fully sponsored by Stanford!
As he moves towards graduation, Micah brings with him lasting and meaningful memories of his experiences while at SP. To him, the poly route is “hands-on and a good exploratory way to learn” and he hopes that future students will similarly make the most of their poly journey.
“Go out there, have fun. Never stop asking why, keep looking for opportunities to better yourselves,” he encourages.
“If not for SP, I might not have gained the enriching exposure that I did. There are a lot of possibilities here, and the opportunities are out there for a person to find.”
Happily, Micah’s story is one shared by many students in SP. This is a key reason why youths often do everything they can to get into SP courses.
All Aboard the SP Learning Journey!
For Leon Ling, Diploma of Biomedical Science, a wholistic education means looking beyond your own discipline to learn from the strengths of others
Take Leon Ling, for instance.
He had always wanted to get into SP to study biomedical science. However, his O-level grades were not up to par at the time.
Not one to give up on his SP dream, Leon entered the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), intending to use the ITE Higher Nitec (National ITE Certificate) in Biotechnology as a “stepping-stone to SP.”
His passion and dedication paid off. Leon excelled and emerged as a gold medallist in the course, thus paving the way for his entry into SP, where he is currently pursuing a Diploma in Biomedical Science in the School of Chemical & Life Sciences. And just as Micah did, Leon has gained plenty of knowledge via SP’s learning opportunities.
He shares: “SP has given me plenty of good memories - not only in education, but also in co-curricular activities that have allowed me to discover more about myself and the world around me.”
In particular, Leon remembers going on the very first Friendship Express programme in 2012. This is an annual student trip helmed by the Singapore International Foundation (SIF). It brings together students from Singapore’s polytechnics, as well as those from Malaysian and Thai universities, on a train journey across Southeast Asia.
“Throughout this trip, the students utilise Design Thinking concepts to come up with solutions for projects to help rural peoples improve their living conditions and generate more income,” Leon explains.
The programme, which was inspired in part by the Design Thinking skills methodology that SP introduced in 2010, enriched Leon immensely. He was able to “learn more from students in other disciplines” and “effectively develop solutions as a multi-disciplinary team.”
“The Friendship Express experience served as a backbone of knowledge for me. Design Thinking is an essential skill that has truly inspired me. After this trip, I became even more eager to seek further opportunities to learn more.”
Learning for Real, for a Lifetime
More than simply studying for good grades, Monica Ng, Diploma in International Business, believes that moving beyond your comfort zone and gaining real life experiences is when you truly start to learn
Lest you think you need a passport to explore your learning passions to the fullest, fret not – horizon-broadening learning opportunities are also available aplenty on campus. Going further afield while still staying on home turf is Diploma in International Business, SP Business School student, Monica Ng.
Her initial poly days had been a “school-home, school-home” routine, but Monica soon grew hungry for more and decided to exit the comfort zone that she had established.
“My comfort zone was doing what I am familiar with. Studying and maintaining my GPA. I stepped out of it by telling myself it is fine to spend the night at a networking function instead of mugging off my textbooks. It is okay to take up additional projects on top of my own graded projects. It is all right to not have a perfect GPA. Because these sacrifices have allowed me to meet people from all walks of life, be it someone of seniority level or my own peers. This network of contacts that I am steadily building, will and already have opened up many opportunities for me to become more than who I imagined I can be.”
Monica thus found herself joining the on-campus UnboxED Student Agency, where SP students get to take on real world industry business projects for some of Singapore’s biggest companies.
“The word ‘real’ was what attracted me. I wanted to put myself to the test,” says Monica.
A wealth of unbridled practical learning quickly followed. Monica gained the enviable opportunity to work closely with one of the leaders in Singapore’s restaurant businesses, JP Pepperdine. There, her appetite for learning was more than amply sated.
“Being able to present to the management, understand a company’s operations, and taste the company’s latest cake offering before they went to market were just some of the experiences that made the journey so worthwhile. Working with real clients has no doubt taught me a lot about Design Thinking and how businesses work,” she says.
Go for it!
At SP, possibilities are indeed plentiful for those with the passion to learn, as evidenced by Micah, Leon and Monica’s many poly memories. Whatever your interests are, you can be quite certain SP has something special for you to discover. So why not go beyond your comfort zone and find some time to explore SP’s many enriching programmes? Lots of learning and memories are just waiting for you to discover and make into your own!