Home voices My Learning Diaries: Having supported my family through my career in ICA, I finally entered NUS at age 26

My Learning Diaries: Having supported my family through my career in ICA, I finally entered NUS at age 26

My Learning Diaries: Having supported my family through my career in ICA, I finally entered NUS at age 26

The fast-changing nature of work has prompted many Singaporeans to upgrade their skills to stay relevant. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts of young Singaporeans who have recently done so to give their careers a boost, or even pursue new paths in life.

In this instalment, Ms Goh Xin Yi, 28, a management executive at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, recounts how she put her dream of furthering her studies on hold to support her family. A Ministry of Home Affairs scholarship enabled Ms Goh to fulfil her long-held aspiration  — she is now pursuing a Sociology degree full-time at the National University of Singapore. 

Published June 18, 2023 Updated June 18, 2023 Bookmark Bookmark Share WhatsApp Telegram Facebook Twitter Email LinkedIn

As a young adult, I have always considered pursuing higher education after obtaining a diploma in Integrated Events and Project Management from Singapore Polytechnic in 2014, but my family’s financial situation did not permit this. 

I put my aspirations on hold to support my family while my elder brother did his National Service and attended university. I worked in sales and marketing for a few years and took on a few temporary jobs before joining the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) as an assistant management executive in 2017. 

My duties included providing various services such as school and nursing home identity card (IC) registration. 

I later became a leader of the IC unit correspondences team, which answers enquiries from the public regarding IC matters. 

Little did I know my career path would lead me to fulfil my long-held aspiration of furthering my studies.

A casual conversation with my senior officers in 2020 presented me with the possibility of applying for the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) full-time degree scholarship. 

Applicants were required to possess strong leadership qualities and serve a four-year bond after graduation. With my bosses’ encouragement, I took a shot, and to my delight, I secured the scholarship in 2021.

Excited and optimistic, I enrolled that same year as a Sociology major at the National University of Singapore (NUS) through the adult-learner admissions pathway, Advance@NUS, which took into account my work experience.

Why sociology? As a civil servant, I have had the privilege of meeting people from all walks of life and wanted to improve the quality of services provided to them. 

I remember once receiving a call from an elderly woman who was struggling to renew her IC online. While spending close to an hour guiding her on the process, I realised that some individuals may still face difficulties in accessing our services and are unable to obtain help from others due to social isolation. 

That experience sparked an interest in me to better understand the people I serve, and I believe that studying sociology could empower me with deeper insights into our society. 

My time at NUS has been nothing short of eye-opening. 

Modules like gender studies have broadened my perspective on gender identity complexities, giving me the tools to support those who identify differently from the gender binary with sensitivity and offer appropriate aid, for example, in their applications for identification documents. 

Meanwhile, modules on ageing have provided me insights into the challenges faced by seniors, allowing me to be more empathetic and to be able to suggest improvements to our services when I return to work.

Beyond soft skills, the programme has also equipped me with technical know-how in data science. I was taught to use Microsoft Excel and statistical software to analyse large and complex datasets. 

In one of my group projects, we performed qualitative and quantitative research to understand the phenomenon of underage drinking in Singapore. We interpreted the data and findings using sociological concepts such as functionalism, which explores the functions that different aspects of society play. 

These skills are transferable to decision-making in areas like data collection and analysis, which is crucial for tasks such as reviewing application processes.

Of course, pursuing further studies is not without its challenges, as it requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. One challenge is to keep up with the academic rigour of coursework at a university level. 

To overcome this struggle, I put in extra time and effort to read up on the course materials and seek guidance from my professors when necessary. I will also have to sacrifice some leisure time to ensure that I meet the demands of the coursework.

But for me, I believe the long-term benefits outweigh the costs. The knowledge and skills that I have gained will undoubtedly continue to shape and guide me in my future endeavours.



Ms Goh Xin Yi, 28, is a management executive at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority. As part of her career development, she is now pursuing a four-year bachelor’s degree in Sociology at National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, supported by a Ministry of Home Affairs scholarship.

If you have an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.