Daring to dream

In the first of a three-part special, Emily Goh reveals how the SIM-LSE Summer School scholarship marked a turning point in her life
SIM-LSE Summer School scholarship student Emily Goh
Motivated to face life’s challenges: Emily Goh
Now I am on a path that is totally out of my expectations and beyond my wildest dreams

I once remember myself as a young individual who was driven to be the best she could be. Though she started out in the worst secondary 1 class, hard work and determination enabled her to enter into the best class the following year. In the last day of her secondary school, she was awarded as the most improved student in the whole cohort. Moreover, she managed to enter into the junior college of her choice.

Things were looking good for this bright, young spark. However, time in junior college was the toughest period in her life; she fell from the pedestal, face flat, when she was retained in her first year. Though she managed to pick herself up and completed her A levels, she had always felt that her academic potential peaked during O levels and went steadily downhill from then. She limited herself in abilities and became a person who was less idealistic, who did not dare to dream big and was significantly less driven.

Years have passed since then, and now at the age of 23, I am a very easy-going girl. People may think, “Oh, easy-going is good!” Well, I know it may be healthy for people who are too intense, but for me it was a problem. I continued to set goals for myself, but frankly speaking, they lacked the motivation and drive behind it. More often than not, I find myself giving “discounts” to my goals, cutting myself some slack and in the end, totally missing the mark. When that happens, life just seems more discouraging for me. As it went on, I just gave up on setting goals and challenging myself, but instead relegated to the notion that I am just an average girl, leading an average life, and just being contented with everything being average.

This was my comfort zone. It was only in my third year of University that I suddenly felt like doing something to add a unique experience to my otherwise lacklustre University life of books and exams. So I chose to enroll in the SIM Summer abroad program to LSE. Little did I know that this seemingly normal decision would actually be a turning point in my life.

"Those that I interacted with had direction, well-set goals, motivation and drive, something that seemed so foreign and long ago, but started to stir up some nostalgia in me."

Emily Goh

Most students (apart from the Singaporeans) attending the Summer program were young, aged only between 19 to 21 years old. However, underestimating their maturity just because they were younger was a big mistake on my part; those that I interacted with were young adults who knew exactly what they wanted to achieve in their life. They had direction, well-set goals, motivation and drive, something that seemed so foreign and long ago, but started to stir up some nostalgia in me. When they talked about their dreams, it was with gusto and confidence which put the inner cynic in me to shame. I was very impressed by the idealism that their youth naturally brings. People may say that being too idealistic is bad but at the same time, in spite of being at a young age, they were mature enough to realistically and carefully plan steps in order to reach their goal.

Before I start to put most Singaporean youths aged 19 to 21 to shame, I have to clarify that their goals are not huge, worldly ambitions like wanting to be the President of their country or to discover the medicine that can cure AIDS. It can actually be something relatively simple, for example aiming to qualify for a position in a particular company because they like the benefits that comes with it; or just wanting to be in a certain occupation because they discovered that they have the talent for it.

However, the important thing is, while most people their age are thinking about relationships and having fun in University, they are already one step ahead with a long-term goal in mind. Any decisions they make, for example choosing an elective, are steps to help them reach their goals eventually. Interacting with them just made me realize how easily contented and easy-going I was with my own goals, how my laid-back attitude has resulted in me standing at a crossroad now after graduation, not knowing which direction to head to. I was ashamed, but was also motivated by these youths to face life’s challenges head on instead of always choosing the easiest way out. I may be late in picking up my momentum and drive again, but it is definitely much better than never realizing it.

"Deloitte gave me a chance for an interview and offered me the position thereafter."

During the interview for the SIM-LSE scholarship, I mentioned that after graduation, I was most likely going to enter the small audit firm that I have been interning at during my school holidays. Now looking back, that was the girl who was always choosing the easier way out and who was too unmotivated to begin the tedious process of job searching since an offer was already given to her on a silver plate. However, after meeting all those youths in LSE, I decided that this was the time to challenge myself again.

Emily Goh with friendsI said previously that I was going to pick up my momentum and drive, so what better time to do that than now, when I am standing at the crossroad of my life, figuring out where to go after my graduation. My parents have always encouraged me to try applying to the Big Four accounting firms, but I have laughed it off, thinking that it was impossible for me. Only now do I feel the courage to take up that challenge.

Naturally, I was afraid and apprehensive; after all, I spent years thinking that I am not good enough. But my LSE experience and the fact that SIM EduAbroad decided to award me with the scholarship, taught me that I had to have more confidence in myself. With this in mind, I applied to three of the Big Four as an audit associate, attaching a cover letter and my resume, both of which I had carefully drawn up. I was rejected by two of them (and had my fair share of disappointment), but Deloitte gave me a chance for an interview and offered me the position thereafter.

"For anyone who is considering whether to go for the summer abroad program, I urge you to stop hesitating and go for it. You never know what you could achieve and learn from this whole experience."

I literally jumped up from my chair when I saw the offer of appointment and started calling my parents and close friends to share the good news! A few days have passed since I received the offer but I am still in a state of shock. I wanted to go for the LSE Summer School just for the simple reason of achieving a more holistic student life, but one thing led to another and now I am on a path that is totally out of my expectations and beyond my wildest dreams!

Therefore, for anyone who is considering whether to go for the summer abroad program, I urge you to stop hesitating and go for it. You never know what you could achieve and learn from this whole experience, and thus be in for a pleasant surprise.