A story of 2 sisters and 1 commencement

Commencement signifies the start of a new journey.
FASS celebrates the achievements of 2 of our students – Thilanga Dilum Wewalaarachchi and her sister, Sakunika Vinindu Wewalaarachchi.
Thilanga Dilum was our Valedictorian at Ceremony 10, graduating with a PhD in Psychology and her sister, graduating with a Master of Social Sciences.

This July, we are thankful and relieved not only to have been able to complete our graduate studies, but even more so to have had the rare opportunity to face this phase of our lives, together, as sisters. Looking back today, decked in matching robes and having shared eight years at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) together, it is a little surprising to remember that there was once a time when the prospect of graduating together from FASS would have seemed impossible.

For one thing, we had always opted for completely different subject combinations throughout our secondary and tertiary education – while one of us turned to the study of Literature and Theatre Studies, the other chose to pursue Physics and Chemistry. For another, our parents had very much aspired for us to walk in their footsteps and complete degrees in science and engineering. Being first-generation immigrants with no established paths to follow, enrolling at FASS as undergraduate students marked a significant departure from family tradition and expectations. Now, some nine years later, we are both immensely grateful to have had the privilege to chart our own path and been given by our loved ones the opportunity to take this leap of faith.

Of the many things that we take with us from our graduate training at FASS, the growth in our development as young researchers in particular, has been transformative. NUS places a strong emphasis on producing high quality research. As graduate students, this meant that we had several opportunities over the course of our candidature to work with our supervisors on book chapters and academic manuscripts. We have also been able to attend several workshops and academic conferences where we could network with like-minded individuals and share our research with international colleagues.

FASS gives its students opportunities to embark on independent research projects that are both locally relevant and internationally recognised. We were able to pursue our diverse research passions, exploring the interplay between gender and family, and the impact of childhood bilingualism on language acquisition in Singapore. Doing research at FASS has thus afforded us the freedom to answer questions that matter to Singaporeans, and has equipped us with the tools to disseminate these findings with a global audience.

This year, closing the chapter on our student life after about a decade spent in university, we look forward to starting careers as social scientists in our respective fields. Although our time with FASS has come to an end, we will take the lessons learned during this time, both as academics and as young adults, with us as we commence on our next adventure.

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