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A scholarship with support for sports, studies and a future career

Ms Fong Kay Yian is a national diver, a SEA Games gold medallist, an aspiring Olympian, and a Sports Scholarship recipient at the Singapore campus of James Cook University, where she excels in both sport and academic work.

A scholarship with support for sports, studies and a future career

The JCU Sports Scholarship gave Ms Fong Kay Yian the support she needed to continue chasing her dream of becoming a world-class diver. Photos: James Cook University/Lim Swee Ming

While sports might just be a hobby to many, for dedicated athletes like Ms Fong Kay Yian, sports is a passion that has led to golden opportunities, achievements and perhaps unexpectedly, her chosen career field of psychology.

Though Ms Fong holds a Diploma in Sports and Leisure Management from Republic Polytechnic, she opted to study the Bachelor of Psychological Science programme at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU) in November 2018.

“I was inspired by my sports psychologist whom I’ve been working with throughout my sporting career,” she explained. “Also, in our fast-paced society, mental health support has been growing in demand.”

HELPING HER GROW AS A STUDENT AND SPORTSWOMAN

It was the same sports psychologist who told Ms Fong about JCU. Ms Fong’s family members also recommended the school to her.

Said Ms Fong: “When I was exploring the psychology programmes of different schools, many people gave me their opinion. What made me decide on JCU were the conversations I had with my family and the people from Sport Singapore.”

Photo: Singapore Swimming Association ​​​​​​​

As a diver who took home Singapore’s first gold medal in the women’s synchronised 3m springboard event at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), Ms Fong’s potential as a sportswoman was recognised by Sport Singapore. The organisation was the one that broke the news to her that she would be the very first recipient of JCU’s Sports Scholarship.

Receiving the scholarship gave Ms Fong the sports-oriented support she needed to continue chasing her dream of becoming a world-class diver, without having to worry about university tuition fees or managing schedule conflicts. Throughout her time at JCU, she has been able to keep up with her studies even when she had to miss classes to compete or defer a semester in order to focus on a major competition.

While the juggling act between studies and sport has been a challenge at times, Ms Fong managed to take home the silver medal at the 2019 SEA Games in the women’s 3m synchronised springboard event during her second year at JCU. Currently, she is training for the 2021 Olympic qualifiers scheduled to be held in Japan. Six times a week, for about four hours a session, she heads down to the pool to train.

“I am able to juggle academic work and diving without compromising much on both aspects,” she shared. “My professors and tutors are very supportive, and they will work something out to make sure that I am on track with my studies while still being able to train and compete – like having consultations with me before I leave or after I return. They also reach out to me without hesitation whenever I need help or have doubts about schoolwork.”

OPENING NEW DOORS IN PSYCHOLOGY

Ms Fong, who turns 25 this year, is expected to graduate from JCU with Honours in July 2022. In her opinion, JCU’s high standards make students work hard in order to get the grades necessary to earn a spot in the Honours cohort.

“For psychology, we go in-depth for each module, which is eye-opening, intriguing and opens a lot of doors for us. Also, we are always in small tutorial groups, which allows us to learn closely from our tutors.”

Studying psychology at JCU has opened more opportunities and possibilities than Ms Fong anticipated. While she initially considered becoming a hospital-based child psychologist, she has since broadened her interests and is looking into the different aspects of psychology in order to find her niche.

“JCU is like a stepping stone for what I would like to do in the future. Right now, I’m focusing on the Olympic qualifiers and I’m taking it one step at a time because of my hectic schedule,” she explained. “With the support from JCU, I can excel in both my studies and sporting career and be able to focus on training while not compromising my academic performance.”

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