Wednesday, March 30, 2011

379. A scholarship in Political Science and Veterinary Science

E-MAIL TO DR SING DATED MAR 30, 2011 FROM AN AMERICAN VOLUNTEER
FOR HIS OLD UNIVERSITY FOR SCHOLARSHIP SELECTION OF ONE SINGAPOREAN

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to .... yesterday. You gave her a great deal of good information. I support your advice to her to think carefully about her career choices. A clever interviewer will be alert to people who are not serious and are simply fishing for some way to pay their university tuition.
MY COMMENTS
The girl from a brand-name school, Raffles Institution could easily get into the top colleges in the U.S, U.K or Australia. A great number of her cohort of 1000 would probably get 3As but she has 6As. That was an excellent academic achievement.

It opens doors to any scholarship but she was the only candidate with Science and Maths amongst seven short-listed for a US scholarship interview. The scholarship was for a liberal arts degree in a US university which the volunteer told me is a sister school of Williams College attended by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. When well known names are thrown in, it gets attention of the other party

So this girl attended would have got Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholarship if she would study Political Science, according to the volunteer whom I shall call Mr Baker.

Mr Baker was a volunteer but not an interviewer for his University which would offer 1 scholarship for each of the 11 Asian countries. I believed that this girl was top choice but she wanted to study Veterinary Science. Mr Baker said: "Political science is not veterinary science". He emailed to me to ask me if I would advise this girl by phone. Instead I advised meeting as phone calls were a waste of time if one is to advise a bright young lady on her career (as a volunteer).

Mr Baker arrived early by cycling from Clementi to Toa Payoh as I discovered later. I was surprised. "You must be one of those crazy and eccentric Ang Mos (Caucasians)," I was wondering how he could arrive at Toa Payoh Vets without sweat and how dangerous it was to cycle so far. I must say he was lean and fit at the age of 50 and could put many a younger 40-year-old man to shame in fitness.

The young lady arrived in a taxi on time. As my surgery was small in space, I suggested we had a talk at the coffee shop behind. A bespectacled fair lady with long bronze gold hair and of pleasant first impressions. We sat and Mr Baker offered to buy drinks though initially he planned to introduce us and go home. I insisted that he stay to "chaperone" me, not that I need one as it was a public place. Mr Baker with his receding forehead and baldness presents an energetic intelligent appearance and is the type who does not want to take up too much of my time.

Our talk lasted around 2 hours as Mr Baker offered to buy lunch too. We ate at the coffeeshop. So was this scholarly lady passionate about veterinary medicine? She has a dog. But not one substantial piece of evidence that she had cared for animals at the SPCA, veterinary surgeries or animal welfare groups or any activity related to animals in Singapore.

Her parents wanted her to study medicine or law as they considered veterinary medicine dirty. In any case, they can't support her to study veterinary medicine overseas and therefore she has to get a scholarship. In this modern age and in a developed modern Singapore, there are still Singapore parents who want their progeny to fulfill their dreams of not being able to become a doctor or lawyer! And to consider veterinary medicine as dirty! In the UK where I studied some 40 years ago, the demand for veterinary studies far exceed the demand to study medicine and I believe this is the situation in the U.S! Here, we have Singaporean parents looking down at a superstar academic who wants to study veterinary medicine.

Will she get the AVA veterinary scholarship? The 6As will get her into past the door into the interview room as this was what must have happened at the US university interview she attended recently. Academic excellence still give the best cherries despite some Singapore parents talking about over-stressing their children and asking for less pressure of homework in the Singapore tuition and education hot bed.

"But the AVA is looking for regulators and enforcers to check on far away farms in China and other countries to accredit them for export of meat to Singapore," I said to this girl. "SVA is not looking for practitioners in small or large animal medicine. You look kind of delicate," I said. She had said she was interested in farm practice with the large animals. Most vets have run away from rural veterinary practice and here she wanted to do that.

Typically and stereotypically, most bright Singaporean lady scholars completing their A levels spend most time studying very hard and therefore they are fair and delicate looking. At least those few ladies who applied for internship with me gave me this impression.

Will she get the AVA scholarship? She had to write 2 articles. What was her most important achievement and why she wanted to study vet medicine? Without supporting evidence, I wonder how she wrote about in the 2nd article required by AVA?

We hope she will get the scholarship. The kind gentleman aged 50 gave some advices like student loans, working for a few years first. He got a scholarship from the GI bill which provides scholarship for Americans who had served in the US Army. I thought he was the average man as he had retired and had said during our meeting: "I have one foot in the grave". Men who are past 50 and who tells me they have one foot in the grave don't impress me.

I said to this kind gentleman who is actually a top scholar at Harvard or some top US university and an inventor in military engineering after I asked him more about his background: "If you have one foot in the grave at the age of 50 years, I must be having one and a half foot in the grave as I am 60 years old!" Men who are in their 50s do think that way. I wonder if women of similar age do think similarly?

I say he is a kind man because he spent time to help this stranger, a girl with 6As to know more about veterinary science by contacting me. He was not happy with the interviewers of his old school wanting to direct this girl to study political science and thereby giving her the scholarship. Americans are always brutally honest and into your face if they like some behaviour?

In the end, the scholarship went to another girl and from what I know, this girl had the passion for the arts which included writing, literature and education as I was told that this girl with fuzzy hair (I think it was fuzzy hair) gave education classes at the School of Thought. Have you ever heard of such a school or have I got the wrong name?

Political science is far removed from veterinary science. But I would take the political science scholarship if I have 6As and study in the US. Excel in this scholarship and then get a scholarship to become a veterinarian if my parents have no money to sponsor me. After all, how many young Singaporeans can have a chance to study in a top liberal arts school in the US?

If a young adult has passion in veterinary medicine and the parents don't have the S$300,000 to pay the tuition fees, taking this US scholarship will broaden her mind and make him a better all rounded veterinarian if she studies vet medicine as a mature student.

But a lady with 6 straight As can have her pick of scholarships. So what if she can't get the AVA scholarship? She has others. So, does she have the passion for veterinary medicine or not? Was she fishing for the best scholarship? Most of her 100 friends in Raffles Institution want to be doctors and so I expect lesser competition for her.

Based on her lack of animal activism veterinary and welfare work in her past years at Raffles Institution, it would be hard for her to get the AVA scholarship if there are others with track records.

P.S
1. According to the kind gentleman, the Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholarship Program provides expenses for a 4-year course to study "Political Science", not "Veterinary Science" for one exceptionally able Asian student annually from one Asian country. So, he was quite pissed off when the interviewers asked this girl to study Political Science instead, did some research and e-mailed to me to advise her about veterinary medicine.

In any case, the Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut provides a liberal arts education. The Freeman Foundation provides the scholarship. Sadly, he told me that Mr Freeman, an original founder of AIG group has just passed away.

Selection criteria included academic achievement, intellectual curiosity, a high level of discipline and commitment, strong personal qualities, extracurricular involvement especially community service and English language ability.

2. Williams College, a highly selective private liberal arts college, Massachusetts.

3. Volunteerism is human kindness. Mr Baker is not paid by his University. In fact, he paid for the drinks and lunch. Volunteerism also open doors to meet other people when you help somebody.

4. Mr Baker appeared fresh and clean after cycling from Clementi to Toa Payoh because he changed his clothes at the Toa Payoh Swimming Pool. He has 3 engineering inventions of great interest. He must have graduated from a top engineering University in the US when I implied that in some unknown manner that he graduated from some average university after studying at Wesleyan University. Never judge a book by its cover! His inventions were in military engineering and quite impressive to me as a veterinarian. Actually if you think of it, his inventions to protect naval ships from small terrorist ships ramming with explosives are the equivalent of antibodies (with spiked attachments) fighting against antigens (foreign invaders like bacteria or terrorist)!

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