Megan Soh Wan Ning
NParks Overseas Undergraduate Scholar
Bachelor of Arts (Geography/Environmental Studies)
– University of California, Los Angeles
T o balance nature and an urban environment within our island takes dedication, passion, and a cohesive plan. Singapore’s reputation as a City in a Garden would not have been possible without the hard work of the talented team at National Parks Board (NParks), who engages the community through programmes that make green spaces abundant in our concrete jungle. One of these talented individuals is 25-year-old Megan Soh Wan Ning, who shares more about how NParks has helped spur her growth.
What motivated you to pursue a career and scholarship with NParks?
When I was growing up, visiting the park with my family in the evening was the highlight of the day. It sparked my connection with the environment, and I held on to the importance of connecting people with nature all throughout my schooling years. I was drawn to classes and courses related to environmental issues, and it was my goal to pursue Geography in university. Knowing that NParks has a vision of making Singapore a City in a Garden made the organisation a natural fit for me, and I knew that receiving a scholarship from NParks would allow me to have a career that fuels my passion for connecting people with greenery.
What are the development opportunities that your scholarship has given you?
Studying Geography and Environmental Studies at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) allowed me to work with world-renowned professors who are experts in their fields. Being able to live and learn in a global city like Los Angeles and studying their environmental policies and city planning enriched my understanding of how urban areas can incorporate nature into the cityscape, and broadened my worldview as a whole.
Why do you think natural spaces are important in the midst of Singapore’s urbanisation?
Urbanised cities have long faced issues of their populations feeling entrapped and suffocated by the concrete jungles in which they live. Numerous studies have shown that incorporating green spaces into urban areas not only reduces stress and anxiety, but improves mental and physical well-being, and even improves life expectancy. In a high-paced, fast-growing city like Singapore, it is important to have green spaces where people can go to for rest and relaxation. This is why it is essential not just to have large parks and gardens in the country, but have green linkways and neighbourhood parks, and even skyrise greenery so that city-dwellers will always be surrounded by nature.
Tell us more about your current roles and responsibilities.
I’m a Lawn Manager at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, and I help to upkeep the lawns from Nassim Gate to Palm Valley. Aside from maintaining the health and aesthetics of the plants, I work with the various tenants of the lawns such as Corner House, and work with our Events team to coordinate weekly concerts at the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage. I also work on plant displays throughout the year at our Visitor Centre, thus celebrating our cultural holidays whilst showcasing the beautiful plants we have in Singapore.
What are some of the meaningful takeaways you had from your internships and career thus far?
I have seen how nature has become such an integral part of Singaporeans’ lives. My time working at the parks around Singapore’s neighbourhoods gave me a glimpse into how parks and gardens can be a space for everyday Singaporeans to build relationships over exercise and meals in cafes; I’ve also observed how parents are able to pass on their love for nature to their children.
At the Singapore Botanic Gardens, I am always encouraged when I see people from all walks of life out and about in the Gardens. Be it little children, the elderly, or visitors with special needs, the look on their faces when they step into the tranquillity of the Gardens is universal, and it makes all the hard work and maintenance worth it.
How have these experiences helped you excel in your career?
Seeing how much joy and enjoyment parks and gardens give to the community is what spurs me on in my career. My time with NParks has taught me that parks and gardens cannot merely be beautiful green spaces, but they must also be inclusive spaces that bring holistic value to visitors’ lives. This is what fuels me to think about how I can further improve my gardens and lawns and enrich the visitor experience.
How would you describe the working culture at NParks?
NParks is an organisation that encourages collaboration across departments and divisions, a culture which I am very grateful for. My colleagues and supervisors are always quick to lend a helping hand, and provide sound and valuable advice, whether it be about my daily work in the Gardens, or the projects under their care which I am helping with. My colleagues have truly made my workplace a welcoming and inclusive space.
What is your advice for aspiring scholars?
Try to reach out to people in the various
organisations you are interested in
working for. Nothing is more authentic
or valuable than personal experience, so
this will give you the best insight into
the culture of an organisation. Find an
organisation with a vision that aligns with
your passions, and you will be one step
closer to having a fulfilling career!