Athirah Nurin Syakirah Binte Saleh, SIT Scholar, is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Civil Engineering, a joint degree programme between Singapore Institute of Technology and University of Glasgow.
With a diploma from a leading polytechnic and four years of interior design experience under her belt, Athirah Nurin Syakirah Binte Saleh had a successful start to her career by anyone's standards.
But never one to rest on her laurels, she aimed to diversify beyond her role as an interior designer. To that end, she went on to pursue a Civil Engineering degree programme at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).
While it may seem to be a significant change in discipline, Athirah was drawn by the versatility and broad nature of civil engineering. The 25-year-old explained: “After getting to know the built environment sector first-hand during my years working as an interior designer, I wanted to add a different dimension to my scope and expertise. With that, I thought about my options and decided to put my heart and soul into pursuing a civil engineering degree at SIT.”
“Besides, a degree in civil engineering would allow me to be exposed to both the theoretical and practical aspects of the sector. The field is also diverse and broad, which helps me to understand the different facets of a project. Naturally, I thought this was the best route to take.”
The Final Choice
The choice of university was not so straight forward for her initially. After carefully weighing the pros and cons of each university and course of study available to her, it was SIT's work-oriented curriculum and networking opportunities beyond the classroom that convinced her to apply for the Civil Engineering degree programme, jointly offered by SIT and University of Glasgow.
SIT's signature Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), a mandatory six to 12 months of fieldwork or work attachment, resonated particularly well with Athirah. “What appealed the most to me was the learning objectives, outcomes, and opportunities that I could potentially get out of it.”
Coming from the industry herself, she knew first-hand the importance of networking, and was grateful that SIT provided ample opportunities through the IWSP, as well as workshops and networking events organised by the university's Centre for Career Readiness.
“The IWSP allows us to build connections with people from the industry, which I found to be very important when I was working. The experience is also a chance for me to learn beyond the classroom. For one, you'll get assigned to mentors, who are able to provide invaluable insights into the industry.”
The Scholar's Path
Athirah was an active student leader back in polytechnic, participating in freshmen orientation camps and helping organise her school's open houses. In fact, she was awarded a “CCA Gold” for her extra-curricular efforts.
The first-year SIT student wants to be just as involved at SIT and being an SIT scholar – awarded for her excellent academic results and leadership quality – she will have plenty of opportunities to create a positive impact on her peers and community at large.
She is eagerly awaiting any chance to participate in school enrichment programmes, as well as networking events offered to SIT scholars, so that she can hone this set of soft skills and develop holistically.
“I've only just started studying at SIT, so I haven't got the chance to be completely immersed and involved yet. But if opportunities come knocking, I'm not one to turn them away,” she said.
Academically, she admitted to facing some challenge adjusting to the new rhythm of school after many years in the field. “When you come back to university, you have to really let go of whatever that you've learnt, and be open-minded to learning everything new that is taught to you,” she said.
“Being a very hands-on person, I had to take a step back and learn the theories behind some of these concepts taught to me. Coming from a design background and going into engineering is a big transition for me. I believed that things will surely turn out to be better, and they did.”
Evidently, Athirah has embraced one of the traits of the SIT-DNA, which is to be “Able to Learn, Unlearn and Relearn”.
The other traits of the SIT-DNA are being a 'Thinking Tinkerer', which encourages the application of knowledge beyond the classroom; 'Catalysts for Transformation', which nurtures graduates to find ways to improve and implement efficiency; and being 'Grounded in the Community', so that graduates can serve and strengthen the community through their skills and knowledge.
A Hands-on Approach
“I want to establish myself at SIT," declared Athirah. “I've proven that I was able to excel academically and at the same time, create a positive impact on my school environment as well as my peers, and I want to bring that energy and drive here.” That desire is at the core of why she chose SIT, a place that develops a student — fondly known as a SITizen — as a unique individual and encourages independent progress.
From the SIT-DNA, to opportunities like the IWSP and extracurricular activities, SIT provides a holistic, applied learning experience for its students. And for Athirah, this was exactly what she wanted.
She concluded: “I chose SIT because I believe that the curriculum and the learning environment at the university will not only imbue me with an industry-focused degree, but also aid my personal growth. If you want an academic upgrade to better your soft skills and would also like to be involved in the community, then come join me at SIT, a university with a unique curriculum that integrates work and study.”