SINGAPORE – A love for Korean culture that started in primary school might see Ms Hailey Lin, 19, studying in a South Korean university – coronavirus pandemic or not.
The A-level school-leaver is among the Singaporeans who have to decide whether to stay in the Republic or go overseas for their university studies come the start of the new academic year in the third quarter of this year.
Overseas and local universities are in the midst of their application and decision periods.
Ms Lin, who has been learning Korean since she was in Primary 5, is applying to Seoul National University and Yonsei University to pursue an undergraduate degree in business administration.
She is proficient enough in the language to take some of her lessons in Korean.
While some like Ms Lin are not letting Covid-19 scupper their dreams of studying overseas, others are less optimistic.
More than half of the 12 students The Sunday Times spoke to had doubts about going overseas, despite having already secured university places. They cited concerns like having to do classes online, or growing racism towards those of East Asian descent in the West.
There is also the cost of having to pay overseas fees while attending virtual lessons in Singapore.
Some, like Ms Kate Tham, 18, are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Ms Tham and her parents have decided to defer her entry to the University of Bristol in Britain until next year. She said: “Although I would personally prefer to go this year, I agree with my parents that it would not be worth it if all my lessons are online.”
Her father, an information technology consultant in his 50s who wanted to be known only as Mr Tham, said: “We are concerned that should she fall sick, being a foreigner over there, will she receive enough attention?”
Others, like Ms Amanda Ng, 19 – who has a place to study medicine at Imperial College London – are worried about facing racially motivated violence.
Ms Ng said: “Although most of the bad news is coming out of the US, anti-Asian hate crimes are still quite worrying. I used to think it wasn’t a big deal, but I realised when talking to my friends that the possibility of injury is very real.”
She remains undecided, and has also applied to local schools for similar courses.
The greater availability of Covid-19 jabs here is spurring hopes that students may be able to travel abroad safely soon.
Associate Professor Yow Wei Quin, whose daughter Angie Ng, 18, has a place at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said: “I prefer her to go to Tsinghua physically once she gets vaccinated. University life is invaluable.
“Living there, understanding cultures, meeting new people, exploring and coming out of her comfort zone are important life skills.”
Her daughter will be pursuing a degree in visual communication design or information design.
Full-time national serviceman Dai Xiang Rong has an offer from Yale University in the US and intends to read computer science and economics. The 19-year-old said: “Recent incidents (of racial violence) have been utterly appalling. But I’m willing to take that risk to pursue my dream.”