Written by: Jonathan Chew
U-Insight spoke to two NTU medicine students on juggling between a challenging degree programme and taking on leadership roles for the sport they love.
For Tew Weibin, 22, and Ryan Chua Zhengshen, 20, getting into the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine just wasn’t enough. This academic year, the two second-year students also took up leadership roles as captain and vice-captain, respectively, of NTU’s Rock Climbing IVP team.
The two are no strangers to climbing, having started their journeys during their junior college days – Chua was from Victoria Junior College and Tew from National Junior College.
Tew had a personal and touching story behind his decision to enrol in medical school.
“Throughout my life, I’ve seen people close to me afflicted by numerous chronic illnesses and that can be really hard to swallow,” he said. “Doctors play a crucial role in helping families through such hardships, so that is what I strive towards.”
For Chua, his preference for an active job with human interaction and the study of science pushed him to study medicine. He added that his father’s wish for him to become a doctor also played a part in his choice to learn medicine.
Taking up the captaincy role has added more to their workload as students, such as administrative duties and leading the team during training sessions twice a week, which has led some to question why they would want to take it up in the first place.
Chua, who has been climbing for three and a half years, said: “I like to do my best in all my commitments, so for me, that meant taking up the role of vice-captain.”
Tew, however, has a more light-hearted reason behind this decision. He said: “Life is all about balance. I feel that a fun, community sport like climbing helps keep me sane when the academic year becomes more rigorous.”
Medical school usually holds a reputation for being a grindhouse, where students are all work no play. Surprisingly, however, Tew and Chua revealed that the first two years of medical school have not been too harsh on them.
Tew said: “The thing about studying medicine is that the schedule is almost always changing from week to week, and it can go from (as slow-paced as in) primary school to all-night marathons the next (week).”
He added: “In the end, there’s sufficient rest and I enjoy what I’m doing, so I don’t feel like I’m going through a hard time.”
However, sacrifices are inevitable, especially when it comes to juggling responsibilities between studying and representing the school on a national level.
Chua said: “The main sacrifice would be family time. In order to fit in both climbing and studies, I reach home at around midnight on training days.”
“Most of my free time is also spent studying so I have to sacrifice even more family time then,” he continued.
He mentioned that this was a cause of conflict and resentment from his parents in the past, as he had to commit time away from home.
“My father also used to be worried and tried to talk me out of (rock climbing) because he thought it would distract me from studying,” he said.
Today, however, his family has learnt to become more accustomed to his busy schedule.
The two students also shared some lessons they have gained through being in medical school and taking up captaincy of the school rock climbing team.
Tew said: “As medical students, we always need to have that desire to learn more, and have that constant drive to be the best physician we can be. Likewise, there’s a similar hunger for me to become the best climber I can be every training session, as I expect nothing less from my teammates.”
For Chua, the discipline he gained from having to manage such a tight schedule has helped him become a better captain. He also said that being able to work with people in the school team has been especially useful.
“In school, we work in teams for all lessons, so that helps me to adapt to different personalities in order to build more rapport with those around me,” he said.
Getting here has not been easy for Chua, who spoke about the times he felt like giving up.
Chua said: “When I compared myself with my friends, I realised that I had to put in much more time to study and did not have time for things I wanted to do. However, I knew these were just temptations and I would always remind myself of the reason I wanted to study medicine in the first place.”
Tew, however, only had one firm response when asked if he ever felt like giving up.