If not for his thirst for travel and a longing to see the world, our de-facto premier in waiting would probably be a hotshot lawyer today.
Answering questions from some curious overseas Singaporeans on Saturday (Aug 6), Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong shared that he once had to decide between studying law at the National University of Singapore (NUS) or take up a Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarship and head to a university overseas.
Despite his wishes and wanderlust, Wong’s parents back then could not afford him to send him overseas, and told him the only way he could go abroad was to “get [his] own scholarship”.
“I was very tempted to go overseas,” said Wong. “At that time when I was a young boy, I had never gone beyond Malaysia.”
And apply for a scholarship he did.
“I suppose weighing NUS Law — which is good — but overseas, I’ve never gone on a plane before to see the world, and I thought ‘this is the chance of a lifetime.’ So I grabbed it immediately.”
The Victoria Junior College graduate eventually ended up studying economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US under the PSC scholarship.
Wong was taking part in “Ask Me Anything” segment of Singapore @ Home, a virtual extravaganza organised by the Singapore Global Network, an arm of the Economic Development Board.
With hosts Hossan Leong and Siti Khalijah, viewers were able to have a taste of National Day festivities with live music performances by local celebrities such as Joanna Dong and Taufik Batisah.
Playing in overnight bars
One overseas Singaporean based in Hong Kong also asked Wong if he had played any sports while he was in university, pointing out that the University of Wisconsin-Madison is known for producing many Olympians.
Responding to Chan’s question, Wong said: “I’m not someone who does a lot of sports, I suppose. Where I was studying in Midwest America, they used to have long winters. So I learned how to ski when I was in university.”
He may not have been an athlete, but the 49-year-old shared that he managed to develop one of his passions while he was in school — music.
“I brought my guitar when I went overseas to study. My roommate coincidentally happened to be a guitarist too. So we used to spend a lot of time jamming with one another. We’d even go out busking or playing in overnight bars.”
It seems like Wong’s efforts have paid off, as he recently became guitarist to former Singapore Idol winner Taufik who performed an acoustic rendition of this year’s National Day theme song Stronger Together.
With Singapore’s strong hawker culture, it was inevitable that someone would ask Wong about his favourite local cuisine.
Acknowledging that Singapore’s F&B culture is very vibrant, Wong admitted that he doesn’t follow the latest fads and inventions, but prefers to seek out local hawker fare after he’s back from overseas.
“My favourites are prawn mee, bak chor mee, oyster omelette… anything that’s in the local hawker centres, that’s my go-to food.”
To end off the segment, Leong asked Wong to say a few words to the overseas Singaporeans who were tuning in.
After thanking them for joining the celebration of Singapore’s 57th birthday, Wong added: “I just want you to know that wherever you are, anywhere in the world, you will always have a special place in Singapore, you are always going to be a part of our Singapore family.”
“Always remember that you are a valuable member of the Singapore family. And we look forward to your many contributions to shaping Singapore’s future together.”