Hello, my name is Michelle, 28 years old and from Singapore. I have recently been accepted to study at St. George’s University for a 6-year M.D. programme in January 2020.
I didn’t think of pursuing medicine when I was very little because my mother and I lived in a rented single bedroom flat; being frugal in every way we lived our lives were all we can think of. Our expenses, our food, our lifestyle were all far from lavish. We didn’t have much but I was content because my mother stuck her neck out every single day so she can shield me from reality. Or so she tried. I still saw all the fights with her boyfriend every other wee mornings, I saw when he beat her up for money, and while that happened a few metres away, I would cry quietly in our bedroom because I didn’t know how to help her or stop him. One night, I did. Maybe it was the phone he raised to strike her, maybe it was the crying myself silly out of helplessness and anger, but I ran out of the bedroom, all two foot of my tiny being, screaming at the top of my lungs in the middle of the night at the scoundrel to leave the apartment, to leave us alone. I may have effected that night and that fight, but I wasn’t able to stop a next fatal tussle between them. I was made to understand that while they tried to escape the unforgiving flames through the kitchen window, she descended into a fall that claimed her short life.
At an age any child would be naturally inclined to a single parent, I definitely didn’t grow up the same as I would have after. After her passing, my father came back into my life for a short while. We must have driven past the hospital I was born at and I recall him saying something along the lines of, “...that’s why you should be a doctor there.” I don’t think for a second, when my father said those words, that he was ever going to bear the weight of them and contribute to my medical education if it ever came to one, but there’s credit due for sparking something that hasn’t died in me till today.
My mother was my main caretaker before I got transferred to my grandparents, after which to an aunt, after which they put me in a girls’ home for about two years. All these while hoping for my father to take some actual responsibility in my upbringing. Despite so, my father has had plenty of failed businesses and not to my surprise at all, he was declared bankrupt some years ago. I started working since I was 15, eventually falling out of Junior College to pay bills and at one point, held three odd jobs and working 7-day weeks to barely make a decent stipend. My father is a only a permanent resident if I’m not mistaken, so I understand the only way he can get a flat is using my name under the family nucleus scheme. However after staying in for a couple of years, he started asking my then-boyfriend, current husband for rent for my bedroom. We felt obligated and moved out shortly after, but it did not feel right whatsoever asking me for rent for my own room to begin with. My father and I never kept in touch. What more with the rental we have been paying all these years has essentially became the opportunity cost I now find needed and could have been precious savings for my medical education, my virgin university experience, my career. My primary/secondary/Junior College school fees have always been borne by an uncle; meaning my father has never lifted a finger to fund through a complete education, nevermind most of my life.
At 26 I got married, and have now a decent stable job at a brokerage firm for the last three years. I studied at a private school the past two years for a diploma paid for by myself and my husband alongside my full-time job, finally getting accepted into SGU. I would also be the first physician qualified in my family. SGU has even given me a maximum international bursary to offset a significant chunk of the attendance cost, but I still need help of around 200k of loans, which the local banks do offer. One bank turned me down under five minutes after learning that I have nobody eligible to be guarantors, while another bank requires me to look for a Singaporean or permanent resident whom has high enough income ceiling to dispense the amount that I need, of which I also don’t have much luck in that department because most high earners around me are foreigners on work passes.
The downside that most of them require blood relatives as guarantors, to which I have none at all that I keep in touch much with since the last decade. My father, being 60 and a bankrupt, both deems him immediately ineligible to be a guarantor in any form. I have written to charitable foundations around Singapore, written to MPs/ministers, trying to find ways around it for any education loan/grant/scholarship, but I have not had any luck. Being extremely private, coming onto such crowdfunding platform is a huge slightly uncomfortable step for me but despite so, this quest is my highest personal goal. Unfortunately I only have my British husband as family, with my in-laws residing in Portugal, so it is just us two residing here and since he is only on an employment pass, neither can he be eligible for any joint loans be it here in Singapore or in the UK. The idea that my husband is Brit has given so many outlets to think that I’m naturally loaded, but are we really? Is it not a stunted reminder instead of how abject the poverty we experience here in Singapore - where people give up their aspirations and dreams just because we are trapped in our jobs, and having to stabilize due to commitment, unable to break through to have a better life?
Every workplace I have been in, my capabilities has always been a stunted reminder of how much more I can achieve. I have showed all of my bosses that I’m methodical, I’m not lazy, I learn quick and I have good work values and ethics to make sure I see to the end of each working day giving my all. It isn’t easy at all in Singapore to get a job in the medical fields without a diploma, let alone without a degree. So a brief shadowing with a GP in a private hospital was as close as I could get to be gratefully inside the four walls of a hospital.
Through all of my jobs, I find the learning curve on all of them slows towards the end and I start questioning myself if I’m satisfied doing my job at every equilibrium point for the next 40 to 50 years, or if I should pursue more. I have regretted leaving school everyday for years, and as much fun as looking back and reliving everything, replaying all unfairness, I’m thankful for the chance I get to consider a change a career and heading back to school.
Came across a newspaper article weeks ago stating that most medical, dental students come from higher income families, and that really hit home to me. But the sad truth is that I fall amongst this category of basically unable to breakthrough at all with much successes however much grit I may possess. I never asked to be born out of the wedlock, never mind having to pay for my parents’ mistakes and somewhat bereaved for having ambitions.
I won’t say I know exactly how I would feel in the shoes of a doctor on his worst and best days, but I have the resilience and maturity to deal with this career as rewarding and fruitful whatever comes. I have fallen and stood back up countless times, yet I’ve still to prove, perhaps since I was six, and I have never been more ready for something I want to learn from and to explore as much as university than I have now. I can only hope that this message reaches out to hundreds, thousands, million pairs of eyes because all I need is a dollar each to make a difference, to make a career, and for me to start being able to give back to the society and serve it in ways I desperately want to. I am aware that I can’t put an amount nor do I want to be valued based on my past, but the amount that can and will make a difference is the school fees I’m asking for.
That is all I’m seeking, not to settle with socio-economic problems but to finally make it to university for my first degree - my mother has always told me to. Can you help please, will you?