The Tempinis diaries

October 28, 2007

Studying in Singapore

Filed under: studying in Singapore — Tags: — toru @ 6:44 am

This is a continuation of my previous blogpost on furthering one’s education in Singapore after SPM or STPM.  There are a lot of reasons why some students in Malaysia have a lot of hesitation in furthering their studies in Singapore.  In fact, I was quite apprehensive of coming to Singapore after my SPM as well.  After scoring quite well in SPM, I chose not to apply for the ASEAN Scholarship and did the STPM instead.  In retrospect, that was a big mistake.  Doing well in SPM is not a guarantee to doing well in STPM.  The standards between both exams are quite different and having good teachers mattered a lot.  In contrast, the teachers in Singapore’s Junior Colleges are , I am told, really good.  Anyway, here is a FAQ for those people who are considering on furthering their education in Singapore.  As usual, I would be happy to provide any assistance in the comments box below.


1.  I don’t want to study in Singapore because Singaporeans are kiasu.

This is the stereotypical perception of Singaporeans.  Yes – it is true there are a lot of Singaporeans who are kiasu and look down on Malaysians.  They would say things like, “Oh, are you fresh from Malaysia?”.  Statements like this make one feel like fish from the daily catch or refugees fresh off the boat.   But to say all Singaporeans are kiasu is unfair and a simplistic generalisation.  I have met many kind people here in Singapore.  In every country, there are nice people and annoying people.  The trick is not to let the annoying ones bring you down and to make friends with the nice people.  Anyway, after a few years, most Singaporeans cannot distinguish between Malaysians and Singaporeans. 

2. Singapore is a pressure cooker environment.

Again, this is somewhat true.  You are constantly surrounded by very bright and talented people in Singapore.  This might be a rude shock to Malaysian students at first.  We, who are used to being top of the heap in our little schools in Segamat or Petaling Jaya, will suddenly find ourselves relegated to the third or fourth class in school.  It’s like the big fish from the small pond who is now suddenly the small fish in the big pond.   For some students, this is a total shock that they can’t recover from. 

The way to deal with this is to have a sense of perspective.  The island’s talent is concentrated in a few schools.  On top of the pre-existing local talent, there are a lot of brilliant students from China and India as well.  So, don’t freak out if you are no longer the first boy or first girl in your class.  You are now out of your kampung and competing globally.  To do well you not only have to be better than your next door neighbour but that boy/girl from China or India.  But take heart too that you don’t have to be the very best.  The local universities are big enough to accommodate thousands of people.  And best of all they don’t have a quota system!  So if you take it all in perspective, you won’t feel so pressurised.

On reflection, I suspect the pressure cooker environment is worse in Malaysia.  In Malaysia to even stand a chance of getting into a good course, it’s 5 As or bust.  Of course, 5 As nowadays are also no guarantee.   I remember I was so stressed about getting good grades all the time during the two years of Form Six. 

3.  I want to study medicine/law/pharmacy and it is really difficult to get into these courses in Singapore. It is better to stay in Malaysia so that I can apply to both Malaysian and Singaporean universities.

I guess this is a valid reason.  It is pretty difficult to get into these courses in Singapore.  But certainly not impossible.  Many Malaysians have done it before.  Also, I believe that the medical, law and pharmacy faculties in Singapore are head and shoulders above their Malaysian counterparts.  And there is no guarantee that one would do well enough to get into the Malaysian universities for these courses.  Even 5 As students get sent to weird places and courses nowadays. 

 If you aim to do engineering/sciences, then definitely come to Singapore.   The engineering and science faculties in the local universities are huge and excellent.

4.  I want to stay in Malaysia to work.

You can always come back to Malaysia after university.  All the Singaporean government requires you to do (if you take the tuition fee grant) is to work in Singapore for three years for any (private or public) company.  It is the Singaporean government’s plan to retain talent in the country (sure beats the Malaysian’s governments policies of driving away non-Bumiputra talent).  Anyway, three years is a short time and you will get invaluable training in a country like Singapore.

5. Studying in Singapore is expensive

 See posting here.

October 26, 2007

Of Mongrel Strain

Filed under: food, friends, life — Tags: , , — toru @ 2:03 pm

Mrs. T thinks this blog thing is a good thing.  Instead of boring her with the same old stories, I bore the world instead.  More time for her to watch her favourite Korean shows.


Over lunch, one of my best friends, whom I have known since Form Five way back in Malaysia said to me, “We Malaysians are like cockroaches.  We are of the mongrel strain.  We are a lot more hungry than the average Singaporean.  That’s  why we do so well here.”  In a way, what he said was quite true.  Lots of Malaysians have done very well in this city state. My friend is now an extremely successful professional in town.  Both of us sure have come a long way from the days when we were schoolboys in our ratty white shirts and olive pants uniform.  But I thought that the statement about being of mongrel strain was pretty ironic considering that we were having lunch at the very posh Li Bai at Sheraton Hotel and eating decadent hairy crabs.   The hairy crabs were yummy by the way.

October 25, 2007

What to do after SPM/STPM?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — toru @ 3:15 pm

Most of my posts have been either about food or on my recent navel gazing depression.  A few days ago I decided to write on something positive instead.  So here goes.  I remember the last time I felt seriously depressed was when I was going to school in Malaysia – it was a time when I was uncertain about my future and whether I would make it to university.  Those were hellish days when I would work so hard not knowing whether I would (or could) make something of myself.  It certainly didn’t help being a Type A over-achiever only to have one’s confidence being shattered by the STPM.  Being a non-Bumiputra nothing less than 5 As would suffice to get into the course I wanted (even then it was not a guarantee).    More than 16 years have passed since those dark days and things have worked out for me wonderfully.  This post is meant to share my experience with anyone who is the same position.  You are not alone.  And things will work out for you or get better.  Trust me.


 If you are like me and your parents do not have the money to send you to a university overseas, please seriously consider studying in Singapore.  While I know many Malaysians have negative impressions of Singapore, the fact of the matter is that the education system here is way more superior than what is found in Malaysia.  There are a lot of things wrong with this small city state, but the bottom line is this –  this is a city where you can make something out of yourself if you are a bright and hungry young man or woman.   The qualifications that you get here will enable you to work in Singapore or branch out in this region.  There are so many Malaysians in Singapore who have done very well for themselves. 

If you have not taken your STPM or A-levels, do consider applying for the Asean scholarship.  The Asean scholarship provides an excellent foundation for tertiary education.  A common refrain that I often hear is how the STPM is the hardest exam in the world.  In fact, I was guilty of repeating this when I was a student.  On reflection, this sentiment is just complete rubbish.  STPM is a very difficult exam because in Malaysia we did not have good teachers nor good lab equipment (my teachers were nice people but they were not very good teachers).  No wonder STPM was so hard!   The junior colleges in Singapore are really excellent.  Two fine examples of the Asean scholarship alumni are Tony Pua and Kian Ming of   I found a student writing about her recent experience here

If you are a student who has taken your STPM or A-levels and did pretty well, you can apply to the three universities in Singapore, NUS ( ), NTU (  or SMU ( ).   All three universities are head and shoulders over any university that you might find in Malaysia.   Just go to any faculty in these universities and compare the qualifications and publication lists of the lecturers with the equivalent faculty members in a Malaysian university.  You will see that the faculty members in Singapore all have PhD qualifications from top universities and a good publication record in international journals.  There are also many opportunities offered in Singapore universities like exchange programmes which are simply not offered by universities in Malaysia.   The Singapore universities are very well funded by the Singaporean government whereas the Malaysian ones are not.  This makes a huge difference in terms of quality of faculty members, research and other facilities. 

It breaks my heart every year to read about news of top students (usually Chinese and Indians) with brilliant grades being rejected by Malaysian universities.  But what further puzzles me is why these students would eventually settle for courses like forestry in UPM or engineering in some unknown university in Trengganu.  Why?  Why?  If you have pretty decent grades, try applying to the three universities in Singapore.  You will have a much brighter future after graduation than studying in an unknown tertiary institution in Malaysia or pursuing some obscure course.

A final word on finances.  Yes – studying in Singapore is expensive.  But it is not prohibitively so.  All students are entitled to borrow (interest free) 80 % of their tuition fees from local banks.  The banks only start charging interest upon graduation.  Also, many of the tertiary students make ends meet by giving private tuition.  Surprisingly, a lot of students can actually support themselves financially (but of course you have to work very hard in balancing your school work and work). 

 I would be happy to provide any assistance in the comments box below to anyone who is thinking of studying in Singapore.

October 21, 2007

Dinner with Mrs. T’s Folks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — toru @ 1:43 am


Had dinner with Mrs. T’s folks yesterday at Long Beach, East Coast.  Mrs. T’s mom, brother, sister and brother in law were there.  Mrs. T is still very surprised after all these years that I am able to have a conversation with her mom.  Mrs. T’s mom will usually call every night and we will talk about mundane things (is the papaya I gave you sweet?  what did you have for dinner?).  We can talk for half an hour about essentially nothing.   I find such conversation somewhat pleasant although why this is so leaves Mrs. T completely mystified.  In my current state, I have been thinking that what is important in my life is building relationships with people.  And what better way to start than with family.  The dinner was a belated birthday treat to Mrs. T’s mother.  Mrs. T’s mom seemed to enjoy the evening although she was not very good at eating lobsters and crabs.  She did enjoy the concept of a lobster dinner though. 


Every post seems to be somehow about food.  This post is no different.  Dinner at Long Beach was quite tiring.  Difficult to get parking and you have to work very hard to get the lobster and crab meat out.  The restaurant was also extremely crowded and noisy so much so that I had a headache when I left.  But I can understand why the restaurant was packed.  The food was quite good.  Although the cooking was not ‘fine’ like Lei Garden or Li Bai at Sheraton, the food was very imaginative.  The Mango Roll was unusual – deep fried mango custard – a combination of hot and cold.  Portugese style lobster was very tasty as well.  The stir fried vegetables with pine nuts was a nice twist and really refreshing.  Of course, the chilli crab was dependable and the sauce tasted great when eaten with the deep fried man tou.  The ambience of this restaurant was not so good – dont think I will return soon.  If I have to bring a guest to eat seafood, I will probably go to their branch in IMM or their yet to be opened branch in Dempsey.

October 19, 2007

Savage Chickens

Filed under: death, depression, exercise, mortality, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — toru @ 4:25 pm


This cartoon sort of sums out how I have been feeling since my father died.  Makes me wonder what is the point of life, really.  Coupled with  inexplicable waves of sadness (which usually comes over me especially when I am exercising) and periodic anxiety attacks about death.  It’s really strange – I haven’t felt like this or thought about death since I was 10.

On a less depressing mode, I had a huge 3 hours working lunch today.  Loads of details discussed and too much food consumed.  I didn’t want to eat so much but I thought my hosts would be offended if I didn’t finish my food.   Hopefully, my colleague will follow up on the details and I won’t have to do too much.  I was so stuffed I could hardly eat dinner.  Had a bowl of Myojo Chicken Abalone instant noodles for dinner.  Before dinner I went jogging around Bukit Batok Nature Reserve today.  I ran from Jalan Jurong Kechil all the way up to Rail Mall and looped back from Hillview.  The weather was cool but the air way too moist.  No wonder the condominiums around this area are really mossy.   Before coming back, I did some pull ups, dips and push ups at the exercise corner in the Nature Reserve.  But it was really dark so I didn’t linger and jogged back home.

October 18, 2007

First post!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — toru @ 12:27 pm

I have been feeling depressed and down recently.  My mood has even slightly affected my appettite and sleeping habits.  Yesterday I only ate just a slice of toast with cheese, anchovies and red peppers on top with a glass of milk for dinner.  That’s very little for me.  And this morning I woke up at 6.45 am and couldn’t fall back asleep.  Surprisingly, I was pretty OK at work today although I didn’t get that too much done.

 A friend told me to set short term goals to get myself out of this blue mood.  And hence the existence of this blog. Maybe writing would prove to be catharthic for me.  Who knows?  Just thought I would give it a go.

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