Overseas Exposure Much Coveted By Ngee Ann Poly students

By Rachel Yeo

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A group of students enjoying an ice cream break after a cycling field trip in New Zealand. Field trips are essential for students to learn out of the classroom. | Photo by Elizabeth Chua

RACHEL YEO talks to students about the benefits of The Christieara Programme

Imagine the opportunity to learn about a country’s environment, culture and government faraway from Singapore for three weeks through field trips, sessions with university professors and locals, all without paying a single cent.

Imagine no more, as such an overseas programme exists in Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Designed by NP’s talent development programme, The Christieara Programme (TCP), the Overseas Merit Fellowship (OMF) is a prestigious flagship programme for final-year TCP students. Selected students from different faculties get to embark on a 19-day fully sponsored liberal arts programme in countries like the United States, Denmark, New Zealand or Australia.

Each country focuses on different themes like governance, social sciences and the environment. It aims to enhance students’ critical thinking skills, broaden their perspectives and give them a competitive edge for future career and leadership roles.

“The idea [of OMF] was birthed in 2008 when we were given the challenge to extend and develop the talent programme,” says Mr John Chng, 44, the Assistant Director of TCP. Mr Chng strongly believes that teaching and learning does not just happen in the classroom, but through exposure in the outdoors and group learning with peers.

Top cities like New York, Copenhagen and Auckland seem to be the main draw for students to sign up with the programme. Michelle Goana, 19, a final-year student in Advertising & Public Relations strongly agrees. She was in the pioneer batch to visit Auckland, New Zealand, in September last year.

“I don’t think many schools and courses offer the opportunity to go to places like New Zealand as compared to popular countries like China,” she shares.

However, the programme is much more than faraway locations that set off wanderlust vibes. Students discover the importance of the themes their country focuses on, gaining an insight into current affairs and deep-rooted issues.

“I was pushed out of my comfort zone as I was learning about a completely foreign topic – American Society and Public Affairs. The lectures taught by knowledgeable professors and passionate guest speakers, and also educational field trips were truly insightful,” recalls Rachel Tan Shi Fang, 20, a participant of the New York OMF in 2014.

“I learnt so much about America than what I did in my past 19 years of life!”

Liew Zhi Xin, 20, embarked on the Denmark OMF last year. She and her team studied and compared Nordic and Singaporean models for social economic welfare, their education system and political parties.

“We were placed in an unfamiliar society with a different philosophy from what we know in Singapore,” she recalls.

The academic rigour of the programme adds to the challenge further.

“We would have lessons in the morning until the afternoon, spending the rest of the day doing company visits and going to new parts of Denmark. Then, we come back at night to start on our assignments,” Zhi Xin shares.

The team of 20, with the guidance of two mentors, push themselves academically, and learn values and life lessons. The impact of OMF lives on even after the trip ends.

“The trip has reinforced deeper core values like teamwork when I’m surrounded with my whole team. Being able to sacrifice your own time to help your team members and vice versa has restored my faith in young people,” says Elizabeth Chua An Qi, 19, a final-year Arts Business Management student who went to New Zealand last year.

Most students on OMF trips also get to enjoy another special perk – they receive formal guidance for future universities and careers through mentoring sessions.

“It is a very meaningful support system that TCP has put in place to help us students to discover the many pathways that lie ahead after our polytechnic education,” says Justin Chia Jun Xuan, 19, a final-year Accountancy student who went to Denmark last year.

“I have personally benefited as my mentor shared other plausible degree programmes with me, apart from my discipline in Accountancy through our one-on-one meetings.”

The personal meetings have also helped alumni like Zhi Xin to choose the right university.

“I was deciding between NUS and another local university at that time. So I spoke to my mentor and she helped to evaluate what I was really out for when it came to my university and experience,” she shares. Zhi Xin is now studying social sciences at the National University of Singapore.

OMF may be a positively impactful experience for most, but the programme will always strive to evolve based on a student’s needs in the future.

“I certainly hope that it will always be a multidisciplinary programme, where we challenge our students and increase their global perspectives. We also hope that more interesting countries can be included like South Africa where students can learn and focus on racial inequality,” Mr Chng shares.

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