How financial aid empowered her to take to the stage

Many NUS students look forward to the vast range of opportunities in NUS, such as the Student Exchange Programmes (SEP).

But for Ms Melanis Tai Jing En, an NUS Arts and Social Sciences alumna who graduated in Dec 2021, such enhancements to the NUS experience were initially a distant dream due to the financial difficulties her family faced.

Growing up, Melanis faced the challenge of her family’s financial situation that required her to sacrifice time and energy and compromise on her interests and studies. The oldest daughter of a single mother and cancer survivor who single-handedly raised her three children, Melanis had to play her part in taking care of her younger siblings at home, while juggling part-time jobs like working as a front desk staff at a yoga studio for about three years.

As a result, she sometimes had to stay up late to complete school assignments, and forgo optional school activities.

Opened doors thanks to financial aid

All this changed when Melanis received financial aid in the form of the Chia Siew Wong Bursary during her time at NUS.

More help for students

Press release on how NUS’ Enhanced Financial Aid Scheme for needy students will help students make the most of their University experience.

Overview and eligibility criteria of the Scheme and other financial aid avenues. 

Contribute to the NUS legacy of giving by supporting the Enhanced Financial Aid Scheme.

For three academic years, the Bursary helped to offset her tuition fee loan and some of her living expenses, lightening her financial burden. It also opened doors for her, for along with the time freed up from working part-time less, it gave her the opportunity to focus on her studies as well as immerse herself in a diverse range of activities during her three and a half years at NUS.

She took on varied work experiences, such as interning at the Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group, and many student life experiences made possible by the Bursary.

One of the most memorable experiences that the Bursary empowered her to have during her undergraduate years was the opportunity to take part in the Miss Singapore Beauty Pageant 2019, where she clinched the position of 2nd runner-up.

She then went on to represent Singapore in an international pageant at Jeju Island, South Korea, as World Miss University Singapore 2019.

There, she spent two and a half weeks with about 50 contestants from other countries, attending various forums to present their thoughts on social issues such as the environment, peace, and gender equality, volunteering at an orphanage, and visiting various locales to try Korean cuisine. The contestants were also appointed World Miss University Peace Ambassadors.

“It was honestly a dream come true for me to represent Singapore in an international pageant,” Melanis recollects fondly. “This is one experience that I’m really grateful for; not only was it an honour for me to be able to represent Singapore on the international stage, I was also thankful to be able to make so many friends from around the world.”

“I got to learn and experience so much from that international pageant experience; for instance, I learnt a lot about how the other contestants’ countries tackle social issues during the forums,” she added.

She also had the chance to go on a SEP to the University of Sydney (USyd) in Feb 2020, with the Bursary funding some of her expenses such as plane tickets and the student visa. During the exchange, she befriended many other NUS students from various faculties, along with other international students at USyd.

“Even though I only managed to go over to USyd for one month of my SEP before it was suspended due to COVID-19, it was a wonderful experience. I was initially hesitant about the SEP due to my financial situation, but as my bursary could offset some of the costs, I took the leap and went!” Melanis said.

More students set to benefit

More financial aid is in the works for students from low-income households. The University has announced that from Academic Year 2022/23 full-time Singaporean undergraduates will have their tuition fees fully covered if they are from households with Per Capita Income (PCI) S$1,000 or less.

In addition, undergraduates from households whose PCI of $690 or less will receive additional financial support for living expenses, on-campus stay and overseas exposure.

“With the enhanced scheme, I hope that future batches of NUS students with similar backgrounds will be able to fully experience studying at partner universities across the world, without any worries,” said Melanis.

“It was truly an unforgettable experience that I believe every hardworking student deserves.”

In fact, inspired by the Bursary, Melanis has gone into the public service in order to give back to society, deploying the skill sets she has picked up from her Communications and New Media major and from her internship experience at the Prime Minister’s Office Strategy Group.

Asked what words of advice she has for juniors in similar financial situations, she said, “I’m sure many of you are juggling part-time jobs and studies as well. I used to even spend more time working part time jobs than I spent in school — but the Bursary has helped a lot and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the bursaries from NUS and the donors.

“It may be tough for us, but NUS and the donors do care for us – so remember to care for yourself too. Aside from excelling in school, try to get as many experiences as we can while we’re young – go for the SEP, join competitions, have a fulfilling student life and try to be the best that we can be.”

Read more about how NUS’ Enhanced Financial Aid Scheme for needy students will help students like Melanis make the most of their University experience here.

Read more about the details of the Scheme and other financial aid avenues available here, or contribute to the NUS legacy of giving by donating to the Enhanced Financial Aid Scheme here.