Facing my new adventure
Singapore-based University of London alumnus, Lance Ng, talks about a whirlwind year in London which packed in study, sightseeing and LSE societies.
I have always wanted to go overseas to live for an extended period of time. Having only lived in Singapore throughout my life, I wanted a different perspective. As someone with a thirst for knowledge, I knew that the best way to fulfil both would be to study overseas. A master’s lasting just one year is not too expensive for what I wanted. I also wanted to know more about quantitative methods relating to statistics, optimisation and analytics.
I was accepted onto LSE’s MSc in Operations Research & Analytics, which had the exact course content I was looking for. Thankfully, I also received the UoL-SIM Regional Centre Master’s Scholarship which covered the tuition fees, as otherwise I would have needed to get a loan. My last remaining reservation was the COVID situation, and I was considering if I should postpone my studies for one year. Eventually, I decided to go ahead and accept the offer since it was still not clear if the pandemic situation would improve a year later.
In September 2021, I faced my upcoming trip to London with some trepidation and excitement. This would be the first time travelling overseas by myself. I was worried that I might miss out on some documentation or form that I had needed to fill out for my flight, especially during the pandemic. This was also the first time I was away from home for such a long duration and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to adapt to the new environment. When I finally touched down in London, I was nervous but also eager to face my new adventure.
As an avid fan of history, I was intrigued with the heritage behind many of the buildings lying in plain sight everywhere around London.
I arrived one week before the start of Michaelmas term, so had time to settle down before beginning my studies. I stayed at one of LSE’s student halls, Butler’s Wharf, which was situated not too far from the school campus in a quiet area near the popular tourist attractions, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Best of all, it was relatively affordable. That week, I also took the time to get to know London better by travelling to the various free museums and tourist attractions. As an avid fan of history, I was intrigued with the heritage behind many of the buildings lying in plain sight everywhere around London. Imagine! There were remains of a Roman temple and city walls not far away from my student accommodation.
After the Michaelmas term started, everything felt like a blur. My course had quite a few core modules covering operations research and statistics in the first term. Most of us were taking four modules, each with their own lectures, assignments and seminars. Every week felt busy as we were always catching up on the next piece of work that we needed to complete. Since this was my only year as a student at LSE, I managed to find the time to participate in some of the LSE societies such as the Muay Thai society and the Coding society. The term break at the end of the year was much needed and I took the time to not just work on a graded project, but also explore outside London for the first time.
The Lent term was less hectic, as I only took two modules. It was also when my course mates and I finally had enough spare time to meet up outside of lectures or seminars much more frequently. It was great meeting a group of people who shared a passion for mathematics-related topics. Before we knew it, it was the end of Lent term and all the lectures for our programme. However, our work did not end there. We still had to submit group projects for a data mining course and revise for our upcoming exams, which kept us very busy up until we were finally finished with our written exams.
The final piece of coursework after our exams was our dissertation/capstone project. For my programme, we had a choice of either doing a research dissertation or a capstone project with a partner company. I chose to do a dissertation since it was a rare chance to experience doing research for myself. It was a relatively low-stakes situation since we were not required to discover anything original within the limited time frame of three months, which can be quite tough in the field of mathematics.
I enjoyed the process of reading through multiple research papers revolving around the same topic, looking at how the state-of-the-art techniques have evolved throughout the years and how they differed from each other. I implemented one of the techniques based on a particular paper and discussed its pros and cons. The results were not as promising as I had hoped due to certain technical constraints, but nevertheless it was still a very enriching experience. Finally, I had to write out the dissertation, including the literature review, and discuss my implementation of the algorithm. It took much longer than I expected and throughout this process I had to get used to LaTeX, including its formatting and tools for including references, which can get frustrating at times.
I had the opportunity to meet and discuss a wide range of topics with people from around the world, ranging from politics in South America and Africa, to Native American history in North America.
After finally finishing my course, returning to Singapore and reflecting on my experiences it was clear that this experience was something I wouldn’t have traded for anything in the world. I have grown much from my year abroad, not just in terms of academics, but personally as well. For instance, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss a wide range of topics with people from around the world, ranging from politics in South America and Africa, to Native American history in North America. These are all valuable conversations that would not have been possible back home and have helped me in gaining a deeper appreciation of the world around us. I am also eager to apply what I have learnt about operations research and analytics in my next role.
Lance Ng gained a BSc in Business and Management degree with First Class Honours in 2017 while studying at SIM. In 2021, he completed a Graduate Diploma in Mathematics (Distinction) as a prerequisite for his MSc in Operations Research & Analytics at LSE.