Good evening, everyone. I am Joey*, a Year 4 Psychology student at NUS. I want to thank all the donors who have made education possible for me. I don’t think I would have become the person I am today without your help. I will now share a little bit of my story.

In every society, there will inevitably be people who fall through the cracks. I think I almost did because my circumstances made it so difficult to rise above. You see, I grew up in an abusive household. When my brother and I were children, we often fought. You know, normal sibling drama. One day, my brother and I were fighting over something – I don’t really remember what it was. What I do remember is that my dad rushed into the kitchen, took two knives, and gave each of us one, urging the two of us to kill each other so we wouldn’t bother him anymore.

When I was 11, my mum was diagnosed with cancer. When I was 13, I came home to her crying and my dad was shouting at her, asking her why she had to have cancer and use up all of his savings for cancer treatment. She said, “Fine, I won’t go for chemotherapy anymore.” And she didn’t.

As the days went by, my mum became more depressed, and frequently told my brother and me that she wanted to hurl herself through the window. My dad was unemployed, and because of his pride, he refused to find a job. We survived on the money we borrowed from family friends and relatives. He would have episodes of extreme anger. He punched walls, slammed doors, and shouted and screamed at us. I saw my mum break down and go on her knees, begging for him to stop and for God to just let her die. She was ashamed of her illness and thought that she was exactly what my dad said she was – a burden. She actually went around asking for a job at several nearby supermarkets. And that was when we could already see her fading away because of the cancer. She passed away in 2009. I was 14 and my brother was 12. We lived with my dad for another five years.

When I was 19, I finally plucked up the courage to leave. I thought, if I had stayed for another day, I was going to kill myself. My brother left soon after too. My first year at NUS happened around the time I left my home.

Looking back, I would say my dad is a broken man, and my mum was helpless. However, their brokenness and helplessness stop with me and my brother. I would say the thing that helps keep me sane is the open mind that a university education in the arts afforded me. In some classes, I had the opportunity to watch films that philosophised about the universe and how most of the problems in human life follow its laws. My problems are not special; they existed before me, and will continue to happen to other people after I am long gone. In other classes, I learnt about how childhood trauma shapes a person, and also the ways to overcome it, and how grit is highly correlated with success in life. My world became so much bigger – bigger than my childhood. In other words, I attained my mental strength via learning about the world. This is the magic of education.

I think it was easy to forget how my life could have been very different. In my third year of university, I got to go on a student exchange programme to Vancouver, Canada. I was there for a year. NUS awarded me a bursary that helped offset the costs. I went to the Canadian Rockies. I met people from all over the world, from Taiwan, Australia, Chile, London etc. We exchanged stories about ourselves and our cultures. I walked the streets of Vancouver at night with my friends. I hiked many mountains.

I remember one night at about 4am, I was having instant ramen with a friend from Australia and another from Chile. In that instance, I thought, while eating the ramen, “Oh my gosh, all these things happened. I went to Canada alone. Tell it to my 18-year-old self, and she would not have believed it.”

After the exchange, I felt like there was so much more I could do about my life. Therefore, through my experiences, I realised that I don’t have to be the person I was 5 years ago, a year ago, a month ago, or even a second ago. I started taking initiative for everything in my life. I sent my resume to about 50 companies for an internship. I got a research internship at Duke-NUS. Being in a research setting for the first time was humbling. I realised I knew very little and I was going to keep learning more and doing more. So I sought out research assistantships after my internship ended. Hopefully, with the research experience I’ve attained, I’ll be able to get into a PhD programme of my choice after I graduate.

So all this happened because I got into NUS. However, I would not have been able to go to school without financial assistance. A family friend took my brother and me in but she is a retired homemaker. We couldn’t possibly ask her to provide for us. The extra 400-500 dollars from NUS every month has made everything so much easier. I’m able to pay for my expenses and go to school. So thank you, to the people who offered me help unconditionally. Because of your willingness to help a complete stranger, it has made a big, if not the biggest, difference, to my life’s trajectory. Today, I am somebody who strongly believes in education. And I will hopefully make you think that your money is well-spent, via my contributions to society. Most importantly, I will pass this kindness on, because I am now able to.

*Not her real name