At the height of his teaching career, Liu Liwei made the bold move to enrol in a full-time nursing programme at the Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies (NUS Nursing) in order to better take care of his father, a dialysis patient.
He is the oldest full-time undergraduate graduating from NUS this academic year.
Liwei was compelled to become his father’s main caregiver when the older Mr Liu was diagnosed with end stage renal failure and had to undergo dialysis almost immediately. Not only did he take a step back in his career, he also had to adapt to attending school all over again at the age of 33.
“I had to rewire my brain to treat my classmates as friends and not the students I was so used to disciplining,” said Liwei, recounting the culture shock he had when he found himself surrounded by classmates who were much younger than him.
But Liwei was not deterred by his age. He set his focus on surpassing himself instead of trying to outperform his younger peers just because he was older. He was also constantly motivated by his supportive family who saw nursing as an equally purposeful job as teaching, as well as the tremendous effort his father puts in to adjust his lifestyle in order to manage his condition. These factors enabled him to perform even better than he did for his first degree in Life Sciences 11 years ago.
In fact, Liwei finds himself youthful enough to blend in with the younger students and has learnt new things from them — that it is perfectly fine to experiment in life and make mistakes as long as you learn from them, for instance.
Liwei will be graduating from NUS with a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) on 15 July. With a nursing background, Liwei can now further understand his father’s needs as a patient, and is able to translate medical jargon in a way his father can better comprehend. He plans to specialise in renal nursing so that he can home nurse his father and help him to cope with the later stages of dialysis. He also hopes to become a nurse educator eventually, which would give him the opportunity to apply his expertise in both education and nursing.
To other mature-entry students, Liwei’s advice is to “stay true to yourself and never allow societal expectations to dictate your path or validate your worth. While mature students may win in terms of life experience, the journey of learning is infinite and one should always keep an open mind.”