Assistant Manager
NUS Overseas College (New York)

Fast Times in a New York Minute

Leong Kah-Yan has been with NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) office since August 2016. She managed NUS Overseas College Silicon Valley from October 2016 to December 2018, and subsequently NUS Overseas College New York from January 2019. 
Prior to NUS, Kah-Yan was quite an adventure seeker, having backpacked through Central America some years back. 

1. That’s a lot of the world you’ve taken on. Tell us more about your gap year in Central America.

My first job with a local statutory board was to manage a community project with residents of rental flats in Singapore. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my work and found it meaningful, I wanted more international exposure. I found myself backpacking through Central America for my “gap year”, after leaving my job. Surfing at Mexico’s pipeline - Puerto Escondido allowed me to challenge my limits. 

Next, I felt like I had gone through a time tunnel to arrive at a city with gothic architecture and antique cars in the middle of Havana, Cuba – where I experienced life in a different political and economic model.

In Guatemala, I did a homestay with a local family in Antigua to brush up on my Spanish, and got to witness the most breathtaking sunrise while I climbed La Nariz. Then, I headed to Utila, Honduras to be certified as a rescue diver. Nicaragua was next on the list, and this is where I developed strong bonds with solo travellers I had met on Lake Ometepe, many who remain my friends till this day.  
Sunrise at La Nariz, Guatemala

The whole Central America expedition was a series of beautiful experiences and unimaginable exposure that I will cherish forever. It showed me the endless possibilities to explore in the world as long as you are game to venture beyond the comfort of home. When I returned to Singapore, I was determined to find a job that would provide me with similar international exposure, and not long after, I found myself taking up a position at NUS Overseas Colleges. 

2. How are the NUS Overseas Colleges different from coast to coast?

With the NUS Overseas Colleges, I have had the good fortune to manage both the Silicon Valley and New York Colleges, hence experiencing US coast to coast, and in two of its largest tech hubs. Even though both cities are hyped with innovation in an ever-changing tech environment, they are vastly different in terms of their landscape, lifestyle and culture. In Silicon Valley, you will find many Mark Zuckerberg wannabes, strutting around in signature start-up hoodie and jeans attire. In contrast, the New York start-up folks tend to suit up, looking more like your typical Wall Street financier. 
NOC at Silicon Valley

New York, as the second largest tech hub in the US, is booming with more funding and a wide variety of companies from fintech to food tech and retail tech. The biggest difference you will find in these two tech hubs is their clients and clientele base. Most of the East Coast start-ups have European clients, in contrast to an Asian client base at the West Coast start-ups. 

3. What is your favourite food or experience in the United States?

Living in New York means living in the world’s best city – known as a melting pot – for food. My favourite food, which some may find questionable, is the artichoke pizza! It is almost like having a bowl of creamy mushroom soup on a slice of pizza. The texture of grilled artichokes goes hand in hand with the richness of melted cheeses – it just brings out the mild nutty undertone of the vegetable. Nothing beats the bliss of holding onto a warm slice of heated pizza in the cold New York weather! 
Artichoke pizza from Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

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