Last week, I officially graduated from NTU, Singapore with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, and had the good fortune to be chosen Valedictorian of my cohort.
Looking back, the past 4 years have been a journey of maturity and growth, fuelled not only by the excellent technical education and skills I gained, but more so by a supportive community of friends, family, mentors, and connections.
Our degrees may have our names on them, but hidden between the lines are the stories of our communities. Through my speech, I wanted to highlight the importance of building and growing our communities. I also wanted to thank all those that stood by me and supported me as I navigated the ups and downs of university life.
Read on for the full transcript…
P.S. You can listen to the actual speech on YouTube.
Madam Pro-Chancellor, graduates, ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon and thank you for being here. First and foremost, Class of 2019, congratulations for graduating, and thank you for choosing me to represent our batch.
When I first came to Singapore, I was an 18-year old international student, leaving my home and my comfort zone for the first time. The past 4 years have been a journey of maturity and growth for me, as I’m sure they’ve been for all of us. Today, I’d like to share something important I’ve learnt along the way.
Something that the degrees conferred on us today will not mention.
Something that no resume can reflect.
I want to talk about Community: the community we inherited at NTU, the community we built over the years, and the community of our shared future.
At NTU, we are a diverse student body: all of us have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs. But the differences are what make it such a great environment for us to come together, learn from each other, and thrive, as a community.
I’m talking about large communities: our classes, our halls, our student clubs; as well as small communities: our project groups, our mentors, and, of course, our friends.
Over the past 4 years, it’s these strong, organic communities that shaped us and helped us go far beyond our own expectations. Today, I invite all of us to travel back in time and recall our NTU community.
I’ll go first.
I was fortunate to find a likeminded community through attending and organising events with student clubs. It all started with the IEEE Student Branch, who organized iNTUition, NTU’s first annual hackathon: over the past 4 years, we pulled multiple all-nighters, wrote thousands of funding emails, and lugged so many pizzas across campus. And we successfully grew the hackathon from 70 participants in its first iteration, to over 250 today.
Next, the hackers at the Open Source Society, who held free programming workshops week-after-week, and the attendees I met at the workshops: your passion to constantly learn something new, and your enthusiasm to share it with the world inspires me every day.
As I started becoming interested in academic research, I was lucky to find mentors at SCSE who took the time to guide and nurture me. Professor Sinno: your Machine Learning course gave me a direction to pursue in university. Professor Cambria: you held my hand as I entered the research world. And Professor Bresson: you became a mentor not just in research, but also in life.
Most importantly, I found lifelong friends in hall and in the classroom. You guys kept me sane through the 4 years of lectures, quizzes and assignments. Today, I have the confidence to stand here because of you, and countless others.
This was my NTU community.
Now, I also want to take this moment to appreciate the SCSE leadership and staff for creating an environment of freedom for young people to go beyond the classroom and form their own communities.
Looking back, I believe that for most of us, our focus, what we spent most of our energy on, has always been something outside the classroom: clubs, exchange, internships, volunteering.
I think this helped us find our individual sense of purpose and ambition. I think this environment of freedom is by design: A testament of this vision is the fact that seated among us today, are not only brilliant technical people, joining the best engineering companies and research labs; but also those of us heading to the biggest banking or consulting firms; or those following their creative passions in design and music; or others among us starting their own companies.
I see future leaders from every field, and I am lucky to represent such a diverse and talented community!
Finally, I want to thank all those that blindly believed in us and cheered us on at our lowest points: when we faced a terrifying exam after MC-ing all the quizzes, when we got rejections from our dream internships, and when it was already week 10 and the MDP robot didn’t even start!
In these moments, the strongest, most supportive community is usually the one at home: our parents, our grandparents, our guardians, our family. This is your day as well.
Graduates, let us rise, turn around, and give them a round of applause for their love and support.
I’ll end this speech where I began: our degrees may have our names on them, but hidden between the lines are our stories and our communities, which we are here to celebrate today.
As we begin the next phase of our lives, let’s continue supporting and motivating each other, and keeping the spirit of the NTU community alive.
Congratulations for graduating and good luck for the future!