Mature student took the road less travelled to achieve a childhood dream

At the age of seven, Lek Ju Ying took a ride in his father’s lorry and when they were travelling along Ayer Rajah Expressway, he was awed by the NUS Kent Ridge campus. This led him to set a personal goal to study in NUS and became the impetus behind his arduous 12-year journey from Institute of Technical Education (ITE) to NUS.

Despite scoring 168 in his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and not attaining a full GCE ‘N’ Level certificate as he did not meet the passing requirements for English, Ju Ying worked relentlessly towards his goal. Today, 31-year-old Ju Ying is a proud graduate of the NUS College of Design and Engineering, receiving a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical Engineering) with Honours (Merit).

Continuing his father’s work

Ju Ying draws inspiration from his father in more ways than one. Working as a diver in the maritime industry for more than 20 years, the elder Mr Lek’s job requires him to be out at sea three-quarters of a year, away from the family.

Ju Ying’s father often spoke about his dangerous job of laying cables on the ocean bed to bring energy to users. This sparked Ju Ying’s keen interest in electrical engineering and led him to pursue a degree that would enable him to develop sustainable solutions to enhance people’s lives and continue his father’s work in a different way.

Daunted but undeterred

Life, however, does not always go as planned. As Ju Ying did not fare well in PSLE and N-Levels exams, his only option to continue his studies was to enrol in ITE. Looking upon it as his “last chance”, Ju Ying gave it his all. The hands-on education at ITE turned out to be well-suited for Ju Ying, who is adept in grasping knowledge through experiential learning. With an impressive grade point average (GPA) of 3.97 and at the recommendation of two ITE teaching staff, Ju Ying applied for and was granted a scholarship offered by SP Group. 

He went on to Singapore Polytechnic where he completed a Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with a GPA of 3.9. Upon graduation, he worked in SP Group as an Operation Officer with the Distribution Control & Customer Service team in Electricity Operations for two years, and was recommended by his supervisor to apply for another scholarship with the company to further his studies. Ju Ying was selected for the scholarship and was on his way to his dream school.

“My academic journey in NUS has been an eye-opener. An NUS education is like teaching us how to fish, and once you learn the skill, you can shape your own future. The teaching approach at NUS makes me want to find out more to further my understanding. The knowledge and skills I have gained in NUS will definitely help me in my future career,” said Ju Ying.

Paying it forward

Life may have thrown Ju Ying a few curve balls but he remains appreciative of how fortunate he has been, and is determined to give back to the community.

“I have never thought that I would be able to get into NUS... With guidance and support from those around me, as well as opportunities that were given to me, I managed to achieve a breakthrough,” he recounted. 

Ju Ying’s way of giving back is to set up study groups to help his peers who are experiencing academic challenges. At NUS, he initiated a study group with 10 other students in the same major during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group members have continued to support one another in their academic studies and mental wellbeing. In his polytechnic days, Ju Ying brought together a study group of 12 students, and at ITE, he rallied almost the entire class of 40 students to study together. These study groups also enabled him to form lifelong friendships.

Not one to keep the good things to himself, Ju Ying also recommended two members of his Final Year Project team – who are also in his study group – to apply for scholarships under SP Group.

While waiting to start his full-time job at SP Group in August as an Engineer under the company’s Engineering Development for GraduatEs (EDGE) programme, the former resident of Prince George’s Park Residence (PGPR) is currently a student assistant at Helix House, previously known as PGP R4. His contributions include sharing insights and suggestions from a student’s perspective on ways to enhance the living-learning experience at Helix House.

Soaring to greater heights

Ju Ying is not resting on his laurels. He is planning to apply for registration to be a professional engineer, and will also be pursuing a part-time Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering.

This story is part of NUS News’ coverage of Commencement 2023, which celebrates the achievements of our more than 14,700 graduates from the Class of 2023. For more on Commencement, read our stories and graduate profiles, check out the official Commencement website, or look up and tag #NUS2023 on our social media channels!