How to save money abroad!

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Money was the one big thing I worried about when I was an international student. As an individual who took an education loan to pursue an overseas education (still worth every single penny, hands down!), I needed to come up with a plan to budget my expenses yet maximising my experience. 

1. Getting a part-time job 
Of course, this by far is my number one recommendation. With contact hours of about 16 -24 hours per week, that would leave students about 3 (sometimes even 4) days a week of leisure time! Use this additional time to look for a casual/ part-time employment. For tips and information, read my post on How do I get a part-time job while studying overseas?

2. Enjoy the simple things in your new life!
I would never encourage any students to coop up in the four walls of their room! Go out, be free, smell the fresh air of your new environment! You would be surprise how many interactive activities there are in your new surroundings that only requires the company of a few good friends. This would involve a day trip to the beach, a picnic (gather all your leftovers in the fridge) in a park, sightseeing and discover new lanes in your neighbourhood or enhance your history knowledge and go museum hopping – the options are plenty. 

3) Be smart about your social activities!
As an international student, you can sign up for the ISIC card – your passport to fantastic discounts and services at home and around the world.

On top of that, make full use of technology and download apps that will help you save on cafes, restaurants and events around you. Here are some apps that would be very useful on your education adventure: 

UK
Frugl – get local deals, weekend getaways and items on sale
Clubbable – get yourself in guest lists of amazing bars and clubs 
Dojo – an app of cultural activities around London

Australia
Scoopon – has expanded to more than just restaurants! They now include deals for getaways and events. 
Deals – similar to Scoopon

4) Get cashback on groceries and retail shopping
The few cents counts! Imagine how much you can accumulate when you start being smart about the way you spend. Be more particular and check out memberships that will allow you to get cashbacks!

UK
TopCashback earn money back when you shop online and in-store
Quidco – they partner with over 4,500 top brands to offer you cashback every time you shop

Australia
Cashrewards – CashRewards has numerous offers and cash back options, even for Woolworths, Apple and more
PricePal – It cost nothing to join and has thousands of cash back options
Honey – this site is an extension you add to your internet browser. Whenever you are shopping on the net, you can click on it and Honey will search for discounts, cashback options and anything else to make your purchase more affordable for you.

Studying abroad is a heavy investment, thus do your part and help your parents to save any funds possible!

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What courses are/ will be in demand in Singapore in the next five years?

As an education consultant giving advice to students in regards to quality overseas qualification, it is hard to answer specific questions (from parents and students) such as “Will I get a job when I come back to Singapore?”, “Will this University be recognised by the big multinational companies?” or “How much will be my starting salary?”.

There are no guaranteed answers, of course.

Assuring an employment is determined by an applicant’s ability to perform at an interview, and sometimes, even an aptitude test done by certain companies. You would also be surprised to know that most times, getting interviews at reputable companies requires networks. A salary varies from companies to companies, and the grades achieved by an applicant.

What this post can do though, is give an overview of what COULD BE lucrative in the coming years based on the market trends.

In this article, I shall discuss on 5 future careers that would be lucrative in Singapore and the rough gauge of salaries using a Payscale, an online platform that uses big data and unique matching algorithms to make fact-based compensation transparent. *Take note that these pay scales are based on the median of the number of participants.

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Cyber Security

Why is this in demand?
We are in an environment where protecting data bytes are as important as protecting one’s physical home. With so much valuable information stored online such as personal particulars, credit card details, and private government accounts, it is no wonder why security is a top concern for many. According to Forbes, the global cybersecurity market is expected to reach 170 billion by 2020. Singapore will also be setting up its first cyber security start-up incubation hub in April 2018 at Ayer Rajah Crescent. It will be known as Innovation Cybersecurity Ecosystem @Block 71 (ICE71), with funding to be provided for new inventions.

Who is this career for?
Those who are interested in fighting crime and who have an affinity for computer programming can choose to be experts in the field. The main aim is to tackle such security breaches and malware and keep networks secure from online attacks and threats. They will learn techniques used to protect the integrity of networks, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access.

Expected salary in Singapore
MEDIAN as a Cyber Security Analyst: S$66,465

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Digital Marketing

Why is this in demand?
With everything going digital, from collection of data, providing operational support to improving security processes, it is understandable why companies are tapping on this vast network to interact with their customers and community. By just looking at the revenue and profitability of digital media giants Facebook (net profit spiked over 177 % to US$10.2 billion in 2016) and Alphabet, Google’s parent company (net profit rose more than 19.1% to US$19.5 billion), we can see that advertising dollars is flooding into this field. At present, Singapore has the highest internet penetration in the entire South East Asia region at 80% followed by Malaysia. According to The 2018 Hays Asia Salary Guide, “a number of digital roles will come to the market that cover key areas such as content, performance and video marketing. A number of firms are looking to evolve their online platforms into destination sites. By increasing headcount in these areas, companies are prepared to invest in talent to ensure their presence on these platforms is informative. As a result, Digital Content Designers are highly sought after and able to command a 10 per cent salary increase compared to less than a year ago.”

Who is this career for?
If you value creation and desire integrating marketing theory and technical proficiency, this may be the course for you. You will explore a range of digital tools that support marketing strategy and tactics including social media, viral marketing, display and search ads, inbound marketing, search engine optimization, and mobile/wireless technologies.

Expected starting salary in Singapore
MEDIAN as a Digital Media Specialist: S$42,000

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Building Services Engineer

Why is this in demand?
In 2009, the government launched a Green Building Masterplan that aimed for 80% of buildings in Singapore to be Green Mark certified by the year 2030. The goal to get 80% of buildings in Singapore to go green is a challenging one and the government has been pushing on the hiring for Building Engineers who specialises in green buildings.

Who is this career for?
Are you passionate in creating a sustainable environment while having an interest in building and developing? In this role, you will deal with a wide range of interesting tasks, such as making sure a building is managing its energy efficiently to the design of the solutions. You will deal with a wide range of interesting things to do every day, from planning a building’s efficient management of energy, ventilation, air-conditioning to using modelling, design and visualisation to solve engineering problems.

Expected salary in Singapore
MEDIAN as a Mechanical Design Engineer: S$40,505

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Health (Nursing, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapists, Nutritionist, Dietetians)

Why is this in demand?
A recent United Nations report on ageing reported that by 2050, 40.1% of Singapore’s population will be over 60 years old. With the rapid greying population, it is no surprise that demand for healthcare workers is also increasingly proportionately. If you have read my article “What are some of the Allied Health programs I can study?”, you would know that an estimated number of 30,000 more healthcare workers would be needed by 2020 due to the new hospitals and increased beds, with nurses forming the bulk of this figure. Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed at the start of December 2017 that healthcare spending is set to rise “quite sharply” over the next 3 to 5 years, reaching S$13 billion in 2020.

Who is this career for?
If you have the passion to contribute directly to the wellbeing of the community and provide seamless continuum of care to patients, these career pathways may be for you. Be prepared for the demands of the job (both physically and emotionally) but would be one of the most fulfilling vocations one can take.

Expected salary in Singapore
MEDIAN as a Registered Nurse: S$38,138
MEDIAN as an Occupational Therapist: S$43,857
MEDIAN as a Physiotherapist: S$41,184
MEDIAN as a Nutritionist: S$34,685
MEDIAN as a Dietitian: S$41,094

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Research for Drug Discovery

Why is this in demand?
With an ageing population, as well as new strains of viruses and diseases being discovered constantly, it is up to scientists and researchers to discover and innovate solutions for these concerns. Knowledge and skills that range across the whole spectrum of pharmaceutical development and manufacturing will continue to be in demand across time.

Who is this career for?
If you are into healthcare but is not comfortable to be on the frontline, consider being a research associate in drug development. With the evolving world and more fragile human immunity thanks to our dependence on supplements, researchers need to combat new viruses by coming up with the cure for it. If emerging viruses are not your interest, you could focus on existing conditions and perhaps find the cure to cancer. In this role, you will be involved in the research, development, design of drugs or even not-so-technical roles such as process development, operations, validations and regulations.

Expected salary in Singapore
MEDIAN as a Research Analyst: S$46,787

I hope this article gave you ideas of future career paths.

The most important thing is to find out one’s strong subjects and interests in a field, rather than look at what pays the most.

Most people hop careers during their span and ultimately, one’s performance in the field determines the growing salaries. 

The deeper benefits of studying abroad

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I came across this video in Youtube explaining why Higher Education should incorporate studying overseas. 

Some takeaways –

  1. Exposure to a different culture and environment for a long period of time will enhance and complete the human experience 
  2. A contrasting academic exposure may strengthen one’s self-motivation, initiative and discipline in taking charge of one’s education
  3. Having a global experience will give you different perspectives of situations and circumstances
  4. Build qualities and transferrable skills such as critical thinking, communication and international teamwork, mastering a second language, systematical thinking in cultural fields
  5. Going overseas may not complete you as a person, but it adds up qualities that may give you access to a better future 
  6. Allows you to be more accepting of other people’s opinions 

Melbourne ranks the best student city in Australia and the third best student city in the world!

It has been officiated: according to the prestigious QS Best Student Cities 2018 QS Best Student Cities 2018, Melbourne ranks in the top three best student city in the world and the top in Australia.

This survey is based on diverse criteria which consist of: University Rankings, Student Mix, Desirability, Employer Activity and Affordability.

Why Melbourne?

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Melbourne City at night
Photo by Tim McCartney on Unsplash

Best in the world for Diversity!
Melbourne was identified as the best city in the world for international diversity which measures the number of international students and how well they are welcomed and included. More than 200,000 international students from 170 countries call Melbourne home, and are welcomed into our diverse and tolerant local community through a wealth of events and programs.

In addition, Melbourne host world-class institutions, of which seven universities ranked in the QS top 500, including the University of Melbourne, which is ranked the 41st best university in the world.

Quality living environment!
The city is known for its vibrancy – variety of cuisines and extensive nightlife, clean, beautiful beaches and a year-round calendar of major sporting and cultural events. With such a packed calendar, it is no wonder why Melbourne is the best in Australia for ‘student experience’. Students, of course, have even more choices with events help specifically for International Students in their own Universities as well as myriads of clubs and societies to be a member of!

Extensive Job opportunities!
Melbourne ranks as the 10th best city in the world for ‘employer activity’ and this makes it an attractive destination for international students looking to fund themselves through part-time work. Find out on tips of guaranteeing yourself a part-time job by ready by post: How do I get a part-time job while studying overseas?

Be here in MELBOURNE!

With world-class institutions, unbeatable lifestyle, a wealth of employment options and the world’s best student mix, we now know why it is the top city in Australia!

Want to study in Melbourne? Feel free to send me a message to know more!

How can I fund my overseas studies?

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One of the common reasons I hear as to why a student will decline offers from very renowned Universities is related to COST. Such circumstances are unfortunate, but we have to be open to the fact the an international education can be a heavy investment thus parents and students alike are required to know how much they are bound to spend should one pursue education overseas.

In this topic, I will explore some means of lowering your costs and funding your studies.

1) Scholarships/ Bursaries
If you are a high-achieving student, there may be scholarships you can apply for to lower your tuition fees. It can range from 10% – 50% and in some rare instances, a 100% scholarship. For example, Griffith University is awarding polytechnic students from Singapore a 10% scholarship for their upcoming intakes, as long as the student meets the minimum entry requirements to enter. They even have the Griffith Remarkable Scholarship that will finance 50% of successful students’ tuition fees. Curtin University is also awarding students with 25% scholarships if they have meet a certain GPA. Nottingham University is awarding high achieving IB Diploma students with scholarships of £2,500 to £15,000 towards your tuition fees.

Bursaries are one-time off “discounts” given to applicant to lighten their financial load enable them to study in the Institution. UK Universities such as Queens University Belfast and Glasgow University are awarding £2500 – £5000.

2) Bank loans
If you do not have enough funds for your tuition fees, you might want to consider taking up an education or tuition fee loan. Of course, I never encourage an application to take up the full tuition fee as a loan; you might have difficulty paying back after graduation! The interest rate ranges from 4.35% to 4.88% depending on the amount of loan you are planning to take up and you would have to find guarantors to co-sign the credit agreement (guarantors are persons who agree to repay the borrower’s debt should the borrower default on agreed repayments). No longer are loans limited to just domestic education. Banks such as Frank by OCBC, RHB Bank and Maybank have options for students to take up loans to fund their studies overseas.

My recommendation is to limit the loan amount to half your tuition fees and make sure you also have enough fundings for your cost of living!

3) Part-time employment
Try to fund your cost of living by working the additional hours you have on hand!

Australia – 40 hours fortnightly and full-time during the holidays. According to Fairwork Australia, the minimum wage is AUD$18.29 per hour.
New Zealand – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays. According to New Zealand Government, the minimum wage is NZ$16.50 an hour if you are 16 years or over
United Kingdom – 20 hours a week and full-time during the holidays. According to the United States Department of Labor, the minimum wage is dependent on the state but the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Find out how to find yourself a job by reading my article on How do I get a part-time job while studying overseas?

Need to know more specific information about funding your studies overseas? Feel free to hit me up with a message!

Does University ranking matters?

pexels-photo-590020.jpegBefore we go in-depth to the discussion, it is important to know what the different University ranking measures. Each ranking organisation measures institutions in different ways, using different criteria, and different weightings of similar criteria.

1. QS World Ranking of Universities: this ranking organisation uses a consistent methodological framework, compiled using six simple metrics that it deems effectively capture university performance.
• Academic reputation (40%) – a global survey of more than 70,000 academics
• Citations per faculty (20%) – calculated by the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.
• Student-to-faculty ratio (20%) – the number of academic staff employed relative to the number of students enrolled
• Employer reputation (10%) – measured by a global survey of more than 37,000 graduate employers
• International faculty ratio (5%) – demonstrates an ability to attract faculty and students from across the world, and implies a high global outlook
• International student ratio (5%) – see International faculty ratio

2. Times Higher Education World University Rankings: this ranking measures Universities based on teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook using 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators.

The performance indicators are grouped into five areas:

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Photo courtesy of THE

3. Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) (previously known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong index): this ranking uses six indicators to rank world universities, including the:
• number of alumni winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (10%)
• number of staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals (20%)
• number of highly cited researchers in 21 broad subject categories (20%)
• number of articles published in Nature and Science (20%)
• number of articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index (20%)
• per capita academic performance of an institution (10%)

How then do University rankings assist a graduate?

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It gives you a headstart with Employees and Businesses at the beginning of your job search…

Increasingly, employers (especially multinational organisations) use rankings as a screening tool to qualify fresh job seekers for an interview. According to Channel NewsAsia, Commentary: The age-old question about university rankings, “For hirers screening thousands of resumes from candidates from unfamiliar countries, a knee-jerk coping response is to correlate the quality of the candidate to the pedigree of the university inferred through a recognised university ranking publication.”

There is this perception that coming from a highly-ranked university indicates that this person has potential and is poised for success because they beat many others to get into a top-notch school in their youth.

… but does not guarantee you a job.

Taking note of that, once you secured yourself an interview, getting a job offer from a company is purely dependent on how you fared during the interview and the aptitude test (in some cases). For those not in highly-recognised University, the challenge is how to score yourself interviews of your dream career. After which, your sheer force of personality and drive may be enough to convince employers that you are a catch, without needing a degree from a highly-ranked university to prove their worth.

With this in mind, should a student put emphasis on rankings?

Rankings is not everything, especially the overall rankings of Universities. If you already have a good idea of the subject you wish to study, then subject rankings might be a good starting point, but should not be the only means of determining the University to study.

A recommended way to know more about the University is to take the time to do a campus tour or attend one of their Open Days. This initiative will allow you to meet academics, current students and alumni. It will also give you the opportunity to see the types of facilities, academic support and to speak to a representative in regards to questions you may have about career prospects, industry links and learning structures. In short, this will allow you to decide if the University is right for you.

Major global rankings are less likely to highlight these important features; thus, it is important to not place a huge emphasis on rankings alone.

More questions? Feel free to send me a message!

From a T to a Pi: A lesson on learning and career development

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Photo courtesy of Coursera Mindshift

Recently, I took up a free MOOC Class called Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential by Barb Oakley and Terry Sejnowski, professors from by McMaster University in Coursera. If you are unfamiliar to the term, a MOOC is short for Massive Open Online Course, a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. I started on Week 3 class, and there is this particular lesson that made such an impact on my realisation.

It is the approach/concept of categorising individuals
as a T-shaped individual or Pi-shaped invididual

I have no idea of who came up with this concept and my search on the net seems to be futile. It seems as well that there are many other shapes to categorise individuals such as the comb-shape, but this two are the one that connects with me the most.

Let me elaborate on these two shapes further:

T
Photo courtesy of Tom Wessel, 2013: 
The Life of Pi: Moving Beyond T-Shaped Skills for Agile Teams 

A T-shaped individual is a person who has deep knowledge and skills in a particular area of specialization (represented by the horizontal line and marked specialist) with enough general, superficial knowledge and skills of other things to complement your specialisation (represented by the vertical line and marked generalist/ broad knowledge). Barb put herself as an example, by mentioning that she learnt to speak extremely fluent Russian since Linguistics was her interest. She then took up a smattering of other skills like driving a truck and learning how to type. This of course allowed her to be a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers up in the Bering Sea, but after which, she found herself in a challenging position of not having enough opportunities when she wanted to move on. This relates to many of us in many ways, especially since most of us are taught to niched yourself in a certain area, like computer science, or linguistics. 

What then can we do to maximise our opportunities and enhance our development journey? 

pi.pngPhoto courtesy of Tom Wessel, 2013: 
The Life of Pi: Moving Beyond T-Shaped Skills for Agile Teams 

Apparently an approach popularised by our very own Patrick Tay, an elected member of Singapore’s Parliament, we should aim to be a Pi-shaped individual. The concept is to second-skill oneself in another field that may be directly related or may be quite different from the first. Why have a second skill? As Barb puts it: 

“Much as I love the Russian language, I had put my focus on developing one single skill without thinking about how much that skill was really needed in the working world and without thinking about whether other skills might complement and enhance my ability to get the kinds of jobs I wanted to have.”

Having a second skill gives one a little more balance. An individual can bring a second skill into his or her work because this is a passion, or simply because it complements one’s first specialisation. One does not have to choose on just one niche. In fact, this choice of pursuing a passion/ second skill can greatly enhance one’s creative ability in the other skill. 

What then I would encourage is for students out there to choose a program that would allow you pursue both a myriad of programs. In Australia, there are Universities that will encourage you to pick up two majors in a course. In Universities such as the University of Western Australia, they have generalised their Undergraduate degree that allows you to explore outside your expertise by taking a major in a different faculty. Needless to say, there are options to do a double degree (such as ANU Flexible Double Degree, University of Sydney Bachelor of Commerce/Science/Visual Arts etc and a Bachelor of Advanced Studies) that would strengthen your journey towards becoming a Pi-shaped individual.

In the UK, there are options to do a Joint/ Combined Honours degree. University of Leeds for example offers a Bachelor of Science in Philosophy and Physics. University of Exeter offers a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science Flexible Combined Honours. Other notable Universities would be University of Durham, University of Southampton, Newcastle University, and the list can go on. 

Ultimately, the aim is to enrich and enhance your learning and career journey by looking at the real world and work to both follow and broaden your passions. 

Good luck!