The NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) is a development programme that gives students opportunities to work and study in leading entrepreneurial and academic hubs for 12-month stints.
For BBA Year 3 Rafikah Halim, attending the NOC programme in Silicon Valley, California, is an opportunity to further her dream of starting her own technology company.
“I have already made a decision to go for the NOC programme before I enrolled into NUS. My goal is to be able to experience working and living in an overseas environment, especially a tech and innovation haven like Silicon Valley,” said Rafikah, who will complete her programme mid-2017.
Rafikah had accumulated work experiences in a technology division of an advertising agency, market research firms and various start-ups. And as part of her NOC, she is serving her internship at Stellar Loyalty, a customer loyalty start-up.
“I have always had a passion for marketing and technology. Silicon Valley is the breeding ground for start-ups and innovation. So, the combination is definitely a no-brainer,” she said.
The culture of innovation at Silicon Valley, said Rafikah, has a pulling power. “I can feel the energy and hustle all around me, and I feel like I want to be challenged, I want to do more,” she said.
She sees Silicon Valley as a place for dreamers trying to find their passion and willing to work hard to make things work. And the opportunity to rub shoulders with like-minded entrepreneurs and founders is something she believes she can never experience elsewhere.
Even her modules gave her opportunities to network with leading Silicon Valley figures. For instance, The Spirit of Entrepreneurship module in Stanford University would have speakers share their experiences every week. The guests range from senior executives from start-ups or giants such as Facebook to thought leaders and authors.
“Not only was I able to obtain direct contact to these people, but I was also able to learn insights from them,” said Rafikah.
The 12-month NOC programme can be an intensive experience for students, who have to manage their studies and work while living on their own.
“To balance between studying, working and even working on a venture on the side in 24 hours isn’t the easiest. There is also having to live independently where you have to do everything from paying bills, running errands to making your own meals. There are some late nights where I question whether I am able to do this,” said Rafikah.
The key to staying ahead, according to Rafikah, is perseverance. “I had set goals for myself to achieve before I took off, and these have become the core skeleton of my entire experience here.”
She understands that time can pass very quickly with the work and school daily routine. “It is important to keep to the vision that you would like to achieve before you flew over,” she added.
It is not all work for Rafikah, as she managed to experience life in the US. “I went on many road trips around California and I even tried skydiving,” she said.
So what advice would she give to students who are looking to sign up for NOC?
“Take the plunge! When else would you be able to do this? Talk to the people who have been there, but also do your research about what it is like to live and work in the country you would be attached to. But ultimately, know very clearly why you want to go for this programme and prepare yourself for this amazing ride.”